Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Friday, July 13, 2007

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National Park officials are questioning the compromise legislation for wilderness designation for Rocky Mountain National Park because of the exemption for the Grand Ditch, according to The Denver Post. From the article:

A political compromise uniting the Colorado congressional delegation behind wilderness designation for Rocky Mountain National Park ran into trouble Thursday from the Bush administration. The carefully drawn plan omits the Grand River Ditch from the wilderness- area boundaries. The ditch is a 17-mile water-diversion project that supplies water to farmland in Larimer and Weld counties. A National Park Service official told the Senate subcommittee on national parks that the compromise would undermine the park's legal protections if the 17-mile ditch fails or floods. "This could set a dangerous precedent for all national parks and other public lands, with implications far beyond the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park," said Katherine Stevenson, acting assistant director of business services for the agency. Her concern is that the measure, introduced jointly by U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, both Colorado Democrats, would ease the legal liability for operators of the ditch and require the park to prove negligence if there is a breech or other serious problem. "In cases where negligence could not be proven, the United States would pay for response and repair costs associated with damage caused by operation of the ditch," Stevenson said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:25:25 AM    

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Here's an update on Durango's application for a Recreational In Channel Diversion for their whitewater park from The Durango Herald. From the article:

Negotiations over a legal challenge to Durango's kayak park are scheduled to continue in August, delaying a Colorado Water Conservation Board's decision about whether to grant the city's request for recreational water rights. The city of Durango wants water rights for a 1,183-foot stretch of the Animas River that runs through Santa Rita Park, a run that includes the popular Smelter Rapid. The application drew 53 objections, mostly out of concerns that Durango could keep people upstream from using water. The Colorado Water Conservation Board - the state's chief agency for water policy - announced last July that it was opposing Durango's application for a so-called recreational in-channel diversion. The two sides were set to fight it out in court two months ago, but they postponed a trial in favor of out-of-court, multiparty negotiations, which began Wednesday in Durango. Ted Kowalski, a program manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, who was negotiating in Durango on Wednesday, said further negotiations on Durango's request for recreational water will be delayed until a planned meeting on Aug. 6.

Negotiators in Durango came to a realization Wednesday evening that several technical issues must be addressed before talks can continue, Kowalski said. Negotiators want to clear up the percentage of time during the year when the city of Durango will make a call for water rights, and they want a clearer idea of what the potential impacts those calls would cause to upstream users, Kowalski said. Until those issues are more clearly researched, negations are pointless, he said.

Category: Colorado Water

6:17:58 AM    

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Residents of the Denver area have been cautioned against swimming in the South Platte River for years now. There was a sewage spill yesterday (100,000 gallons) from the Englewood wastewater treatment plant so everyone should be even more cautious. From The Rocky Mountain News: "The spill happened Tuesday after a mechanical failure led to tank overflows that sent sewage flooding into the plant and storm drains that lead to the river. It lasted about 20 to 25 minutes, said plant manager Dennis Stowe. A regulator at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the sewage was quickly diluted by strong flows in the river. Bacterial levels in the river were actually higher upstream of the plant than a half-mile downstream of the spill, he said."

Category: Colorado Water

6:10:52 AM    

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Here's a report about silt and other problems for Denver Water resulting from the Hayman Fire in 2002, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

When there isn't enough ground cover, soil erodes, and the shedding brown has created a budgetary black hole for Denver Water. Traps designed to stop the soil from pouring through Goose and Turkey creeks into Cheesman Reservoir are catching more soil this year than ever. The annual $300,000 budgeted to clean the traps won't cover the job this year, Kevin Keefe, who supervises reservoir operations for the utility, said this spring. In the fall of 2005, the utility cleaned 28,000 cubic yards from the trap at Turkey Creek. Last fall, the amount rose to 60,000, and it took Denver Water more than 1,100 truckloads to haul all the sediment away.

The utility continues to fight sediment pouring into Strontia Springs reservoir, 11 years after the nearby Buffalo Creek fire. It plans a dredging project next year expected to cost more than $20 million. So much erosion continues five years after Hayman because of two things: big rains, particularly in 2006, and not enough ground cover to hold the soil.

Category: Colorado Water

6:03:09 AM    

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The voluntary flow management program for the Arkansas River may kick in next week if it doesn't rain. The Pueblo Chieftain reports that flows are dropping along the river. From the article:

Reclamation runs operations for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which brings water from the Fryingpan River on the Western Slope into the Arkansas River basin. In 1990, the program began through a cooperative agreement among the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, rafters and water agencies to keep flows at a minimum level for rafters until mid-August, when they are reduced to protect fisheries. The Southeastern district limits releases of Fry-Ark water to 10,000 acre-feet...

The trigger for the program is the Wellsville gauge, located about 5 miles downstream of Salida. Flows are maintained when readings there drop below 700 cubic feet per second. This week, flows have been hovering between 700 and 720 cfs. Reclamation releases Fry-Ark water stored in Turquoise and Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo, keeping the upper Arkansas River supplied with rapids...

Even though the Arkansas River has been running below average for about one week, thanks to an early yet prolonged runoff, there hasn't been the need to run additional water, Musgrove said. That's because the Pueblo Board of Water Works has been running about 50 cfs per day as it drains Clear Creek Reservoir in northern Chaffee County. Pueblo is storing the Clear Creek water in its excess-capacity account at Lake Pueblo or leasing the water from Clear Creek. The water board is emptying the reservoir in anticipation of repairs this fall. There's no danger of the water board running out of water as it drains Clear Creek, which itself still has 5,300 acre-feet of water...

The water board has 45,390 acre-feet of water in storage among its accounts in Lake Pueblo, Clear Creek, Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake. It has bulked up storage as both a cushion against drought emergency and to fill its contract with Xcel when a third unit of the Comanche Power Plant southeast of Pueblo goes online in 2009. Meanwhile the Fry-Ark Project is still bringing water through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake. Flows in the tunnel were at 46 cfs this week, but are expected to taper off soon, Musgrove said...

All told, 53,400 acre-feet of water have been brought over through Boustead this year, which is about 3,600 acre-feet more than Reclamation estimated on May 1. That probably won't change Southeastern's allocations of 35,700 acre-feet - not all of the water brought over is available for use - and the additional water will carry over into next year's project allocations, Musgrove said.

Category: Colorado Water

5:57:46 AM    

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Here's an opinion piece about a new idea for funding the Arkansas Valley Conduit from funds obtained through storage contracts in Fry-Ark facilities, from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is flirting with a deal with the devil as a way of helping fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit, a proposed pipeline to deliver relatively clean water from Pueblo Reservoir to communities east of Pueblo.

In this case, the devil is the Bureau of Reclamation. Based on an idea advanced by Reclamation, the Southeastern board is considering applying future payments for long-term storage contracts in the reservoir to the conduit. Now, if the plan were to apply those funds from payments by entities within the Arkansas River basin, the idea might have merit.

However, the Bureau intends to issue a 40-year contract for water storage in Lake Pueblo to Aurora, which is not in this basin. This is simply another iteration of a proposal by Reclamation to wheel water around the West.

Lake Pueblo is part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, approved by Congress in 1962. The Fry-Ark Project was built with the express purpose of moving excess West Slope water into the semi-arid Arkansas Valley for use in this valley. It was not built in order to accommodate cities in the South Platte Basin, and it was not built to make it possible for those cities to suck water out of this basin.

Category: Colorado Water

5:49:53 AM    

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Here's Part VI of The Denver Post's series on recreation opportunities in the South Platte Basin. Today they're looking at the Big Thompson and Poudre tributaries. From the article:

All told, 75 miles of the South Platte's longest tributary are protected by the federal designation. Although it's supplemented by eight structures drawing water from other river basins, no new dams or diversions can be built within the designated corridor. Future water development can, however, be considered along any portion not designated by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. "The momentum is for more storage. They don't care much about the recreation side," said Stafford, citing Colorado's Statewide Water Supply Initiative. "Three different reservoir projects are being discussed right now." By the time the Poudre passes Fort Collins and reaches its flatland confluence with the South Platte just east of Greeley, its character shifts from scenic recreation more toward agriculture and industry, although many of the lowland storage projects double as recreational amenities for hunters and warmwater fishermen.

Category: Colorado Water

5:43:41 AM    

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