Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

Subscribe to "Colorado Water" in Radio UserLand.

Click to see the XML version of this web page.

Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

A picture named waterriverscreeksleopold.jpg

NewMexiKen asks, "Read any good books lately?"

Coyote Gulch has. We recently read Luna B. Leopold's fine primer on water entitled, Water, Rivers and Creeks. All of you water nuts out should read the book.

We're sure that everyone with an interest in water will get something from Mr. Leopold's work. You'll learn about the physical forces driving the hydrologic cycle. You'll get a picture of how streams and rivers interact with the alluvial aquifers. There is insight into distribution and treatment, water law and public water policy.

For those of you that already have studied all the subjects Mr. Leopold can teach you to present ideas succinctly and clearly. Mr. Leopold's style is conversational, friendly and authoritative. The book reads so well you'll find yourself wanting to finish it in one sitting.

Mr. Leopold passed away in 2006.

Category: Colorado Water

10:02:38 AM    

A picture named anteroreservoir.jpg

Here's a short article about Antero Reservoir's re-opening on July 12th, from They write:

One of the most popular trout fishing lakes in the state will reopen for public fishing on July 17. Antero Reservoir was drained 2002 but now it's refilled and restocked. The Division of Wildlife has restocked the reservoir with rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout, as well splake, which is a hybrid of brooke and lake trout.The opening of Antero Reservoir was pushed to July to give the fish a chance to grow...

The re-opening of Antero Reservoir also means a new channel of the south fork of the South Platte River. In 2000, the DOW used prison labor to dig out what is believed to be the original river channel. This channel meanders for about 3,100 feet and includes habitat structures for the trout. A gate controls the water from the damn [sic] allowing for a constant flow. Fishermen must use artificial flies and lures and that reach of river is catch and release only.

Category: Colorado Water

9:16:23 AM    

A picture named fryingpanarkansasproject.jpg

The Pueblo Chieftain has more coverage of Friday's meeting of the Water and Power Subcommittee of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. From the article:

Members of Congress Friday asked the Bureau of Reclamation to provide a legal opinion in writing for its authority to contract with Aurora to use the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the Arkansas Valley. "It doesn't take much common sense to know that if you take water for the top of the basin, you'll harm water quality in the lower end," Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., scolded Reclamation's Great Plains Area Manager Mike Ryan. "If you did that in my district, I'd be all over you."[...]

Ryan used much of his testimony to defend Reclamation's 22-year history of granting annual "if-and-when" contracts to Aurora, as well as users within the Arkansas River basin. He said such contracts make use of reservoir space that is empty and do not harm the Fry-Ark Project. "Because excess capacity contracts are exercised only when the service can be provided without harm to the project or those receiving water from the project, Reclamation believes making excess capacity available to store non-project water for Aurora, Colorado Springs and others is an efficient and beneficial use of existing project features," Ryan said...

It was the Aurora contract, however, that congressmen drew a bead on. Rep. John Salazar cited a 2001 Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District legal brief that questioned Reclamation's authority to issue contracts outside the Fry-Ark service area. He said Reclamation never provided a legal opinion to back up its assertion of authority. Salazar later asked Ryan whether Reclamation's decisions violated the 1911 Warren Act regarding sales and transfer of water. Ryan responded the authority for contracts was granted under the 1962 authorization, as well as earlier reclamation acts. Both Napolitano and Salazar asked for written legal opinions from the federal solicitor's office confirming that authority...

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., asked Ryan why Reclamation had refused his request to perform a full environmental impact study on the Aurora contracts. "This is on track to end up in the courts," Udall said...

Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer claimed Aurora has been involved with the Fry-Ark Project since 1965, when it contracted to use space in the project for Homestake water. Its current request would use the project to move water from rights it purchased in Crowley and Otero counties that now make up about one-third of the city's water supply. Tauer touted a long list of intergovernmental agreements and mitigation measures Aurora has undertaken to mollify water interests in the Arkansas Valley. He cited payments Aurora has made and will make in the future to the Bureau of Reclamation. He said Aurora's contracts obey Colorado water law...

[Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District] said the provision for exchanges in the contract puts Aurora at the head of the line in the Arkansas Valley. "Aurora should never have been allowed into the Arkansas Valley through a federal project before all of the needs of the valley were satisfied," Winner said. Southeastern President Bill Long said "there's no question" some board members still believe the points in the 2001 legal brief are valid, but said a 2003 agreement with Aurora was aimed at settling "unease" over Aurora's involvement in the Fry-Ark Project. "There is a 'gray area' with Aurora," Long said. "But we absolutely believe the project did not give authority to anyone to use the project to move water out of the valley."

The congressional subcommittee also heard testimony on the effects of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project has had on the management of Fountain Creek, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

The growth of Colorado Springs and its impact on Fountain Creek was tied squarely to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project during a congressional subcommittee hearing in Pueblo Friday. Two of the witnesses at the hearing, Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera and Pueblo District Attorney Bill Thiebaut addressed the issue of Fountain Creek head-on. "As our cities have grown, tremendous strains have been placed on our water infrastructures," Rivera told the panel in his written remarks. "In Colorado Springs for example, we have in years past seen catastrophic weather events and even vandalism plague our wastewater system, resulting in sewer overflows into Fountain Creek." Rivera noted the city has spent millions on capital projects to repair nearly 1,500 miles of sewer lines and to protect them from storms. He went on blame part of the degradation of Fountain Creek on agriculture, citing U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports, but cited ways in which Colorado Springs is trying to work with farmers.

Thiebaut sees it differently. "Instead of being an amenity for downstream communities, Fountain Creek is more like an open sewer running through Pueblo," Thiebaut told the committee...

"We must recognize the value of preserving high-quality waters, stop gutting the power of water quality administrators and provide adequate funding and teeth for enforcement," Thiebaut said. "The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project must be managed and evolved to support these goals, not work to defeat them." Asked to expand on that remark by Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., Thiebaut replied: "What I'm experiencing is that our state regulators are sitting down with the polluters to try to fix the problems," Thiebaut said. "I find it odd there is no public engagement until only after a deal is cut."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here, here, here, here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

9:01:29 AM    

A picture named millionpipelineproject.jpg

The Denver Post is running an article about Aaron Million's Region Watershed Supply Project, the proposed pipeline from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range. From the article:

Time will tell whether Aaron P. Million's plan to bring water from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range will make him a legend in Colorado water lore or just another wild-eyed, big-talker with a water scheme...

It is a solution for a growing state with a dwindling water supply threatened by climate change and drought, according to Million. Or it is a complex, expensive, potentially environmentally dubious plan that could jeopardize downstream water-sharing agreements and may never happen anyway, according to other water experts and environmentalists. "It strikes me as the latest in a long line of magic bullets," said George Sibley, a Western State College professor. Million says all relevant issues have been addressed and the project is on a fast track. Permitting has begun and financial institutions are lining up to help pay for it, Million said. "This project, in the end, is nothing more and nothing less than a water transportation project," Million said. "Our biggest hurdles? We don't have any. This thing is over."

The project requires no new dams or congressional approval and would run side-by-side, 42-inch-diameter pipes down an existing energy corridor. It is privately funded, so the project avoids federal funding roadblocks. Energy costs could be between $65 million and $95 million a year for pumping water over the Continental Divide with turbines fueled by natural gas already in place, Million said. Water coming down the pipelines could generate hydropower. Energy costs would be paid for by water users. The pipeline would tie into existing and future reservoirs in Wyoming and Colorado, allowing storage that could reduce the threat of water shortages in drier years, he said...

The [Green River's] 41-mile jog into Colorado allows for a legal filing and appropriation of water for use in Colorado. Moreover, it meant water could be used out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir - which holds back 3.8 million acre-feet of the Green River fed by glaciers and snowmelt from the Wind River Mountains. Million made the project his master's thesis. He formed the Million Conservation Resource Group and gathered water attorneys, engineers and former water officials. He met with the state's major water users - Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Aurora Water and Denver Water and state officials - seeking comments...

"The biggest question about this project and all other projects of similar sort is how much water do we have left?" said Eric Kuhn, director of the Colorado River Water Conservancy...

They fear if Colorado takes too much water with projects like Million's, lower basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada could shut down Colorado's water projects - known as a "compact call." In a compact call, senior water rights would trump junior ones. Front Range utility officials worry where Million's project would fall in the hierarchy. "None of the utilities want to see that project move forward if they put their existing systems and water rights at risk," said Chips Barry, general manager of Denver Water. Million said his project will likely get a 2007 water right or a 1957 priority based on the authorization of the reservoir, both junior to Front Range utilities.

Other critics fear Million's project could threaten endangered fish species on the Green River - specifically the Colorado pikeminnow. "Taking that amount of water out is not something that can be done," said Dan Luecke, environmentalist with the Upper Basin Fish Recovery Program. "To think all of that water is going to be taken out upstream and the environmental community doesn't have a problem with that, I just don't think that is so." A study last year said releases from Flaming Gorge should mimic pre-dam flows, control water temperatures and create backwater habitat in the Green River for the fish. Million says his project would not alter that process. And the project will undergo a thorough environmental study before it is built, he said.

Million is now waiting for an answer from the Bureau of Reclamation on his formal request for a water supply contract out of the Flaming Gorge, which is expected within the next month.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:47:14 AM    

A picture named coalfiredpowerplant.jpg

The U.S. Senate failed to pass requirements for the Corp of Engineers to consider climate change with regard to projects, according to U.S. Water News Online. From the article:

The vote was 51-42 in favor of the amendment to a water projects bill, falling nine short of the 60 votes needed to approve it under the rules set for the debate. But sponsors of the proposal, led by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said it was significant the Senate was finally facing the issue head-on. It was the first time in this session of Congress that climate change had reached a vote on the Senate floor, Kerry said. "Tonight we got a majority of senators to stand up and demand that climate change be taken seriously," he said. With the vote, he said, the Senate "has gone on record about global warming and sent a statement that its impact must be considered in our public policy debates."

The proposal would have directed the Army Corps, in drawing up future projects, to use the best available climate science to account for climate change on storms and floods. Wetlands and floodplains act as buffers between hurricanes and other severe storms and coastal communities, said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., another sponsor. "When Corps projects destroy these and other types of natural barriers, they may put lives at risk." Kerry said the current guidelines for Corps project planning were written in 1983, long before scientists were focused on whether human activities were contributing to the warming of the planet.

Opposition was led by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee and the Senate's leading skeptic of human-induced global warming. Inhofe said that theory was being perpetrated by "environmental alarmists who want to scare people." He said the Kerry amendment was "clearly aimed" at moving the Senate toward a tax on carbon or other government efforts to limit carbon output.The committee chairman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she had received assurances from the Corps that they have long taken into account the possible affects of climate change on such phenomena as sea level rises.

The global warming measure had the strong backing of environmental groups, including American Rivers, Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation. Chelsea Maxwell, legislative director of the National Wildlife Federation, said it was unfortunate that senators let their enthusiasm for passing legislation filled with hundreds of pet projects for their home states "get in the way of something important like the global warming amendment."

Category: Colorado Water

8:23:45 AM    

A picture named sanluisvalley.jpg

Here's an article about SB 07-220, Concerning an Increase in the Powers of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, and, in Connection Therewith, Specifying the Establishment, Operation, and Financing Procedures of Subdistricts of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, from the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A new state law has given a nudge to the three-year push to create groundwater subdistricts in the San Luis Valley. Another important step will come June 26 when the Rio Grande Water Conservation District hosts a public hearing on the water management plan for the first subdistrict. The proposal for the subdistrict states that overdevelopment of the aquifer and drought have caused declining water tables, loss of well productivity and other problems for irrigated agriculture. To restore the balance between supply and demand the plan calls for taking approximately 40,000 acres of irrigated land out of production...

The subdistrict's area, known as the Closed Basin, extends from the valley's western foothills to a boundary just east of Colorado 17. The southern edge of the subdistrict runs to the Rio Grande River, while its northern limit begins near La Garita. Vandiver said the area includes between 1,500 to 1,600 sprinklers pumping water from the aquifer. The law signed by the governor last week will make it easier for the subdistrict to collect fees in the early going. Vandiver said the original legislation that created the subdistricts would not allow for assessments until a management plan had been approved. That framework didn't provide a way to pay for the engineering, legal and administrative costs that went into the front end of the plan.

The subdistrict's water management plan calls for an administrative fee of $5 per irrigated acre. A second fee of $12 dollars would put up a local match for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. The program, which would provide an 80 percent match from the federal government, would pay property owners to retire their land. The third fee would charge up to $75 per acre-foot for the difference between groundwater and surface water use at a given farm. Vandiver said the fee, called the "variable fee" in the plan could be readjusted by the subdistrict board.

Vandiver said proponents of the subdistrict idea have suggested anywhere from five to nine subdistricts across the valley. Some areas in the valley have formed working groups to come up with a draft plan. Those groups would still have submit a draft to the RGWCD board, petition well owners within their respective boundaries and go to district water court for preliminary approval. Those steps would be followed by final approval from the RGWCD board, the court and the state engineer's office. Vandiver said one of the main motivations for the subdistricts is to avoid any mandatory shutdowns by the office of the state engineer, as happened in May 2006 along the South Platte River.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here. Thanks to SLV Dweller for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

8:11:49 AM    

Click here to visit the Radio UserLand website. © Copyright 2007 John Orr.
Last update: 7/1/07; 7:58:33 AM.
June 2007
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
May   Jul

e-mail John: Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.