Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

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The town of Berthoud has decided to pull out of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, according to the Longmont Daily Times-Call. From the article:

Town officials have cut themselves free from the growing price tag of the Northern Integrated Supply Project and will look at other areas where the money is needed more. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously June 12 to remove the town of Berthoud from the water-storage project, which plans to build two major reservoirs in northern Colorado...

The Northern Integrated Supply Project was introduced in 2003 as a way for participating jurisdictions to secure water in the future. Berthoud was one of the original participants. The project would consist of two reservoirs. The proposed 177,000-acre-foot Glade Reservoir, to be built northwest of Fort Collins near Ted's Place, would provide users 40,000 acre-feet of water a year. Junior water rights on the Poudre River would be used to fill Galeton, a 40,000-acre-foot reservoir to be built northeast of Greeley...

Berthoud's contribution would have made up about 3 percent of the project, said Brian Werner, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District spokesman. "They weren't a real large part," Werner said. Berthoud would have received about 1,300 of the 40,000 acre-feet from Glade Reservoir each year. Some of the remaining 15 municipalities are hoping to acquire more water from the project and may be interested in taking Berthoud's share, Werner said...

Karen Stockley, a Berthoud resident and member of the Sierra Club executive committee, said she supports the decision to pull out. "I was really happy to see that Berthoud dropped out of NISP," she said. In addition to the possible damage that Glade Reservoir could do to the Poudre River, Stockley said, the town was paying for anticipated growth, not for current residents. "Growth is supposed to pay its own way," she said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

8:53:59 AM    

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Here's an in-depth look at the proposed "Super Ditch" and agriculture in general on the lower Arkansas River from the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The ditch is nothing special, just a short stretch of cut earth running through a cow pasture from the High Line Canal to the wide, muddy Arkansas River. But the Arkansas Valley farmers who built it -- and the city folks who benefited from it -- say the nondescript ditch is a harbinger of the future, a way to preserve Colorado's agriculture, yet sate the thirst of its booming cities. The small ditch and other infrastructure was built to allow Aurora and Colorado Springs to lease millions of gallons of water from the High Line Canal during the depths of the drought in 2003 and 2004. The cities diverted most of the leased water higher on the Arkansas and used the ditch to transfer a smaller portion, as required by water law, from the High Line Canal to downstream users on the river. In exchange, shareholders in the 120-year-old High Line Canal who leased the water received $16 million. That was a badly needed windfall in the middle of several grim years for farmers in the Arkansas Valley, said Dan Henrichs, general manager of the High Line Canal Co. and a cattle rancher...

The temporary water transfer, aided by recent changes in Colorado water law, was the largest in Colorado history and may serve as a template for future leasing deals. In fact, there is a growing consensus among both farmers and municipal water suppliers that such leasing agreements - and even grander, more permanent leases now in the works - could be the way to head off an imminent clash over water between urban and rural Colorado. Leasing, rather than buying, ag rights also could quell the fear of small towns that depend on agriculture that they will be sacrificed to the Front Range's voracious appetite for Big Box stores and endless subdivisions...

Water suppliers are looking at various options short of using ag water to bridge the gap, but none is particularly attractive. Most think the era of large transmountain diversion projects -- the kind that supplies Colorado Springs with most of its water -- is over. Water conservation in one form or another has been adopted by many communities, but the savings won't make up the shortfall between supply and demand, experts say. Water reuse -- treating waste water to drinking standards -- remains an option, but it is expensive and fraught with public relations problems. That leaves agriculture. Because farmers and ranchers in Colorado own about 90 percent of the water in the state, it doesn't take a divining rod to know cities are eyeing the water now running in their ditches...

Water suppliers such as Colorado Springs Utilities say they are approached weekly by farmers wanting to sell water rights. Still, such sales are hugely controversial. Communities in farm country say buying up ag water is like cutting open a vein, drawing blood and leaving the patient to die. The loss of water, they say, results in dried up farms, lower land values, less revenue to governments, schools and businesses and, eventually, ghost towns. Cities aren't particularly wild about buying ag water themselves. In the best case, the farm goes along with the water, and water managers say they aren't interested in getting into the ag business. In the worst case, the water is separated from the land, and the land often reverts to weed-filled prairie...

...the idea of leasing water to cities while bringing in sure revenue remains appealing to farmers. Another water group, the Upper Arkansas River Water Conservancy District, recently indicated it may revive the idea of a water bank. A similar group, the Lower Arkansas River Water Conservancy District, is proposing another water bank that it calls the "Super Ditch." The scheme calls for shareholders in eight Arkansas Valley canal companies = but not the High Line - to offer long-term leases, 25 to 40 years, to other users in the Arkansas River basin. Jay Winner, general manager of the district, said the super ditch would be owned and operated by farmers, who would decide how much of their water they wanted to lease. Winner said the program is patterned after successful water banks that have operated for years in California, Idaho and Utah. He expects the water bank could begin operating by 2008 to 2010, supplying water only to users in the Arkansas River Basin. Organizers have been approached by a group of small water districts in northern El Paso County that want to pipe water from the lower Arkansas River to recharge the Upper Black Squirrel alluvial aquifer that is being rapidly depleted by rural subdivisions. Winner thinks that pipeline could be in place as soon as 2012 if things go well. Winner, though high on the promises of leasing, said grudges between canal companies and between farmers and towns and water organizations must be smoothed over. He also said leased water must be cheaper to potential customers than simply buying the water outright...

And, he said, all the talk about leasing as the future clouds a fact some in the Arkansas Valley are loathe to admit: Farming is, in the end, a business. And a farmer who wearies of low crop or livestock prices, devastating weather, or encroaching urban growth eventually may sell out. That's been happening at an alarming rate. Colorado ranks third in the nation in the loss of agriculture land since 1992 -- 2.89 million acres, according to a recent report by Environment Colorado. The state is projected to lose another 3.1 million acres by 2022. Wayne Vanderschuere, water resource supply manager for Colorado Springs Utilities, said critics who accuse urban water suppliers of plotting the death of rural Colorado are being disingenuous. He said the shortfall in urban water supplies by 2030 is only 5 percent of the 90 percent of the state's water owned by agriculture. He said the effects of buying or leasing that amount of water would be negligible compared to such forces as the aging of the farm population, the growing demand for recreational water or global economic forces in agriculture.

Category: Colorado Water

8:45:57 AM    

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U.S. Senator Ken Salazar is trying to break the logjam around more storage along the Arkansas River, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

Sen. Ken Salazar hopes a simpler path will finally lead to federal funding for a stalled feasibility study on whether more water can be held behind dams in the Arkansas River Basin. Government agencies throughout the region have argued for years about how stored water will be bought and sold by those who hold rights to it, putting the brakes on a study of whether more water can be stored. Salazar's compromise, offered at a meeting here Saturday, would study storage concerns and not delve into what he described as "intractable" problems of how that water would be used. Warring sides of the water issue say Salazar's plan will likely refloat a water storage plan that's been beached for a decade...

Under Salazar's plan, the federal Bureau of Reclamation would study a pair of existing water storage proposals to expand dams at the Pueblo and Turquoise reservoirs and would also examine building a dam on Fountain Creek, south of Fountain. He said damming the creek could provide flood control and water storage while also helping to improve the quality of water reaching Pueblo by blocking sediment. Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Larry Small said he's behind Salazar's plan. "It would get us focused on supply and storage," he said...

Salazar said the bickering among local governments has delayed a study of something that everyone acknowledges they need -- more water storage. "Let's just do a simple study," he said. "I can't believe it's taken us 10 years."

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

Salazar suggested a new approach Saturday that would allow a feasibility study of enlargement of Lake Pueblo and Turquoise Lake, as proposed by PSOP, but without any of the intergovernmental agreements attached. Additionally, he wants to study the feasibility of building a multipurpose - flood control, recreation and water supply dam on Fountain Creek. "It may be a good time to for us to move forward with legislation that's separate from the IGAs," Salazar said. "We can make it happen in Washington, but what it requires is direction from you. Let's step back and make this a simple study."

If the group is willing to support his plan, Salazar would work to get backing from other members of the Colorado delegation. The delegation is now split between a bill sponsored by Reps. John Salazar, D-Colo., and Marilyn Musgrave R-Colo., that includes a $10 million impact study, and a bill by Reps. Doug Lamborn and Tom Tancredo, both R-Colo., that is closer to the PSOP committee's 2004 agreements. Sen. Salazar wants to add a study of a dam on Fountain Creek as a way to provide flood control, while helping to fulfill his "Crown Jewel" vision for a recreation corridor. He also suggested a new reservoir could tie into water supply.

An Army Corps of Engineers plan developed after the devastating 1965 flood showed there were suitable reservoir sites on Fountain Creek. It was endorsed by former Colorado Gov. John Love and the state of Kansas at the time, Salazar said. He compared the possibility of a dam on Fountain Creek to the Cherry Creek and Chatfield dams, which with the Bear Creek dam were constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect downtown Denver. Those dams also provide recreation opportunities and Chatfield is being studied as a potential water supply source for numerous water users in the South Platte basin...

Salazar voiced strong support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit at Saturday's meeting, saying he hopes both a storage bill and the conduit can be authorized in this session of Congress. He said the approval of a $60.6 million loan by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and state Legislature this year is a huge step that should get attention in Washington.

Salazar also heard a litany of concerns about PSOP negotiations, which were launched at a meeting in Pueblo in January 2005. Among them:

- Southeastern PSOP Committee Chairman Harold Miskel reviewed the decisions that led to shelving PSOP. The PSOP committee will meet Aug. 10 to review the impact on IGAs. Southeastern President Bill Long assured others the district plans to live up to all of its agreements in the IGAs.

- Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Larry Small reviewed the city's sewer and stormwater projects, its involvement with the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force and its negotiations with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. "We've gotten away from positions and are focusing on objectives," Small said.

- Pueblo West Utilities Director Steve Harrison said the growing community needs more water storage, preferably through Lake Pueblo enlargement, because the size of the community is expected to double to 60,000 in years to come.

- Pueblo Board of Water Works Director of Operations Terry Book said it is having trouble negotiating with the Lower Ark District over the issue of a proposed "Super Ditch" lease management-fallowing program the Lower Ark is promoting. The water board wants to purchase its own water rights rather than participate in a third-party leasing program, Book said. Also, the Lower Ark does not support agreements the water board is legally bound to follow.

- Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen asked for Salazar's help in converting Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake to state parks. Salazar suggested the state look into the possibility, following the model of Lake Pueblo. Recreation at the lakes currently is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Lake County commissioners believe plans have never been fully developed.

- Aurora Mayor Ed Tauer said the city is "not making as much progress as anyone would like" in its negotiations with the Lower Ark. A major issue is whether Aurora can obtain equal footing with in-basin entities in the proposed Super Ditch. The Lower Ark has publicly challenged Aurora's proposed water storage and lease contract with the Bureau of Reclamation. "Testimony (at a June 1 congressional hearing) made litigation seem like a foregone conclusion."

- Pueblo City Council President Judy Weaver said the city's main concern remains assurance that new water activities would not diminish flows through Pueblo. She said controlling storm flows on Fountain Creek is of primary importance. "If we don't do that, your Crown Jewel and other efforts of the Vision Task Force can't be accomplished," Weaver told Salazar.

- Fountain Utilities Director Larry Patterson said the city pulled out of the plan to study Lake Pueblo expansion in favor of buying up local ditch rights nearly three years ago. The rapidly growing community is also working with other entities to control stormwater, Patterson said.

- Colorado River Conservation District External Affairs Manager Chris Treese said the major issue remains assurance that future users of Fryingpan-Arkansas Project facilities will properly compensate the basin of origin. The Fry-Ark Project is overseen by Southeastern and brings Fryingpan River water into the Arkansas River basin. Those concerns were addressed through PSOP IGAs.

- Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager Fred Ore said his agency's concern is maximizing the benefits of existing facilities, particularly Lake Pueblo. He said the pending contract with Aurora is an example of how that can be done.

- Lower Ark Chairman John Singletary said the district has reached conceptual agreement on Fountain Creek and is working toward finding consensus on the Southern Delivery System. "I told them I would support SDS if they gave us the same quality of water that is taken at the Pueblo Dam where Fountain Creek comes into the Arkansas River," Singletary said. The Lower Ark is pursuing its own projects on Fountain Creek as well. Singletary acknowledged talks with Aurora are moving slowly. He also defended the Super Ditch concept as the first study of water's value in the valley from the agricultural water rights holder's point of view.

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

Category: Colorado Water

8:00:24 AM    

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Here's an update about the new Dry Creek Reservoir from the Greeley Tribune (free registration required). From the article:

But with the growth, the [Central Weld County Water District] was not able to use its full allotment of CBT Project, Colorado River water, which comes to Carter Lake in a trans-mountain diversion operated by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District from Granby Lake on the Western Slope. Two years ago, it joined forces with the Little Thompson Water District of Berthoud to build the Dry Creek Reservoir east of Carter Lake. When completed in two years, the reservoir will hold 10,000 acre-feet of that water, supplementing what can be stored in Carter...

In all, the updates have cost Central Weld about $20 million -- $13.6 million on Dry Creek Reservoir and $7.2 million on the filter plant. The district borrowed almost $9 million of that from the Colorado Water Conservation Board to help fund the reservoir, the remainder was funded from the district's reserves, said John Zadel, the district's general manager who has been with Central Weld for 33 years. The district has eight full-time employees plus a part-time engineer...

The expansion of the Carter Lake Filter Plant will increase Central's capability to treat an additional 30 million gallons of water per day, or nearly double what has been possible from the two plants operated by the two water districts. The new plant uses a submerged membrane technology and is the only plant in the U.S. to install that new method, Zadel said. Membrane technology provides a high efficiency of treatment of raw water out which currently comes out of Carter Lake and will eventually take in water from Dry Creek as well, once it is at capacity sometime in 2009. The filtering system uses a siphon process which pulls water through filtration by gravity, eliminating the need for high-horsepower pumps typically used. The process is expected to save about $80,000 a year in operational costs, and noise levels in the new plant are minimal compared to typical treatment facilities.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:47:30 AM    

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