Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

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Instream resdidents are getting some help from BuRec. From email from the Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb): "Tomorrow morning, before noon, we will increase releases from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River by 40 cfs. By noon, flows in the Fryingpan should be around 299 cfs. The reason for the increase is to provide water for the endangered fish under an agreement with the Fish and Wildlife Service."

Also from Ms. Lamb:

Green Mountain releases to the Lower Blue went up this afternoon in two increments of about 75 cfs. each for a total increase of 150 cfs. This means that by this evening, there should be about 700 cfs in the Lower Blue.

The details from the water order are as follows:

Due to the lack of a Shoshone Powerplant call and the steadily declining basin runoff, the flow in the Colorado River is dropping to below normal levels. In an effort to assist in partially offsetting the lower than normal Colorado River flow, discretionary power releases of approximately 150 cfs will be made from Green Mountain Reservoir. This 150 cfs increase in release rate will occur in two steps this afternoon. With the current release rate being 550 cfs, today's increases should result in a flow of approximately 700cfs at the Blue River gage below the dam by this evening.

Category: Colorado Water

9:44:59 PM    

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From today's Rocky Mountain News, "Tap water is off-limits to drink in the small Western Slope town of Paonia because of excessive turbidity. Turbidity is defined as cloudiness or haziness of water caused by air bubbles or small organic materials. becoming suspended in the water."

Category: Colorado Water

7:14:21 AM    

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Here's an update on proposed funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, from The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Great Outdoors Colorado will spend $100 million this year on open space, wildlife and parks across the state, the largest effort in the agency's 15-year history. Preliminary plans call for $66 million to be spent protecting large-scale scenic regions. The remaining $34 million will pay for things the agency always funds: outdoor recreation projects, trails and new park and wildlife programs. Approved by voters in 1992, GOCO, as it is known, uses lottery proceeds to fund its grants...

Among those likely to be considered: The Rio Grande Initiative - a proposal to protect 14,000 acres along the Rio Grande in Rio Grande, Alamosa, Conejos and Mineral counties; The Upper White River Watershed Project - an effort to protect 11,000 acres in Rio Blanco County.

Category: Colorado Water

7:11:23 AM    

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U.S. Representative Maryilyn Musgrave is watching Powertech's proposed uranium operation in Weld County, according to Forbes Magazine. From the article:

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave sent a letter asking atomic energy regulators to consider water quality as they decide whether to allow uranium mining in Larimer and Weld counties. Musgrave, R-Colo., said she's heard from residents concerned about water quality as a Canadian company prepares to prospect for uranium near the town of Nunn...

Musgrave sent her letter Tuesday to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in advance of two public hearings planned in Casper, Wyo., and Albuquerque. "I vehemently oppose any effort by the NRC to usurp the authority of state health departments and the Environmental Protection Agency over water quality," she wrote, adding that: "mining operations must not be allowed, under any circumstances, to flaunt either state or EPA water quality standards." Her letter asks the NRC to consider the issue as it prepares a Generic Environmental Impact Statement for uranium milling facilities.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

6:47:16 AM    

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Here's a look at Gore Creek from The Vail Trail (free registration required). From the article:

Despite, and because of, its popularity, Gore Creek faces plenty of challenges on a valley floor that has been rapidly developed over the past 40 years. It's been channeled and redirected. In some places, it's clogged with sand. In other places, trees have been cut down and shade lost. Elsewhere, dirt from construction sites flows into the river...

Traction sand from Interstate 70 on Vail Pass has been collecting in Black Gore Creek for decades. The Colorado Department of Transportation puts sand on the interstate on Vail Pass during the winter to make the roads safe. But sand eventually finds its way into Black Gore Creek, where it settles on the bottom. That destroys the homes of sensitive insects that live in the river. Some of the insects are food for the fish that live in the river, and some insects are valuable algae eaters. Traction sand is making its way down Black Gore Creek into Gore Creek, says Brian Healy, a biologist with the town of Vail. Even in spots past the East Vail interchange, you can see the sand building up in the creek, he says. And he's finding fewer of those sensitive bugs -- stoneflies, caddisflies and mayflies -- in that part of the creek, he says. "The aquatic insect community is pretty indicative of an impaired stream," he says. A plan is now being developed to clean some of the 150,000 tons of sand out of Black Gore Creek. The Department of Transportation has been asked to get rid of at least 6,400 tons of sand a year, and the department has approved funds for cleaning out the "Basin of Last Resort," a sediment trap near Gore Creek that's supposed to catch sand in Black Gore Creek...

Downstream a bit is the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District plant, which treats much of the sewage that's produced in Vail. The water district removes a summertime average of about 3 million gallons of water a day from the creek, says Linn Schorr, director of technical services for the district. The water is taken from wells around town as well as from a small plant near the confluence with Black Gore Creek. The wastewater comes back to the plant, where it's treated and eventually released into the river as effluent, which contains nitrates and phosphates. The effluent must meet federal standards of what it's allowed to contain. "There shouldn't be anything in it that would make you sick, like bacteria or viruses, but I wouldn't drink it," Schorr says.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:40:15 AM    

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Here's a look at the agreement to supplement water flow in the Colorado River in light of Xcel's Shoshone Power Plant being shutdown for repairs, from The Aspen Daily News (free registration required). From the article:

Whitewater rafters on the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs and fish in the river near Grand Junction are both going to get the water they need to stay wet through Labor Day. Eleven organizations with significant water rights on the river agreed this week to supply at least 1,200 cubic feet of water in the wake of the Shoshone hydroelectric plant being down for repairs, according to the Colorado River District...

Now, thanks to an agreement signed off on by 11 different entities, there will be at least 1,200 cfs of water flowing through Glenwood Springs and there will be at least 810 cfs flowing through the 15-mile stretch between Palisade and the Colorado River's confluence with the Gunnison River in Grand Junction...

The parties involved in the agreement include major water owners on both sides of the Continental Divide. On the Western Slope, that includes irrigators near Grand Junction, such as the Grand Valley Water Users Association. When the Western Slope irrigators exercise their water rights and demand that a certain amount of water come downstream, it is commonly known as "the Cameo call." On Eastern Slope, one of the biggest players is Denver Water. That organization was critical to the agreement to keep water flowing in the Colorado this summer, because without the Shoshone call in effect, it had options other then sending water downstream as it normally does...

The different Western Slope organizations that are part of the agreement include the Grand Valley Water Users Association, the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, and the Orchard Mesa, Palisade and Mesa County irrigation districts. The irrigation entities agreed to manage their water in Green Mountain Reservoir in such a manner that both irrigation demands and fish flows can be met throughout the season, according to the Colorado River District. Eastern Slope organizations participating in the agreement include Denver Water, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and Colorado Springs Utilities. Other entities involved were the Colorado Division of Water Resources, which serves as a "referee" when it comes to water rights in the state; the Bureau of Reclamation; and the Colorado River District, based in Glenwood Springs.

The water to float both boats and fish will come down the river from Green Mountain Reservoir and Granby Reservoir, from Wolford Mountain Reservoir and from the Williams Fork Reservoir. Water will be released at the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation.

More coverage from The Denver Post. They write:

The water providers have agreed to release excess water from Wolford, Green Mountain and Reudi reservoirs in a sequence to maximize flows, said Alan Martellaro, a water engineer for the state. "There's a lot of things to balance here," he said. "We're trying to help the rafting industry in any way we can," Martellaro said. Xcel plans to repair and reopen the power plant, but no timetable has been set, said spokeswoman Ethnie Groves. The agreement was easier for the parties because it's been a fairly wet year with good spring runoff and timely summer rain, meaning the reservoirs are in good shape. "It's really a goodwill gesture to come together and administer the river in the absence of the Shoshone (demand for water), and nobody is just hanging out there," Pokrandt said. It also marks the latest sign of cooperation between often- warring organizations over how the high-demand water in the river is doled out. "Some of this is, for lack of a better word, public-interest type things instead of just focusing on water rights," Martellaro said.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:29:15 AM    

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

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable Wednesday put off a decision on asking for state funds to continue a study of a "Super Ditch" concept until September amid a flurry of questions about how it might affect other water users in the valley. While many of the 32 roundtable members who attended the meeting were supportive of the concept of a water management program being promoted by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, some were cautious about the possibility of using state funds to provide research for one side of a court case they might have to enter in the future...

As envisioned, 65 percent of ditch owners on seven large ditches east of Pueblo would pool water by fallowing 25 percent of their land each year. Wet and dry years would be averaged by storage. Cities would gain a dependable long-term supply at lower cost and less disruption of the rural economy, possibly creating better jobs in agricultural areas, Winner said...

[Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Ark District] asked the roundtable to approve a $150,000 state grant toward the studies. The concept of the grant was first presented to the roundtable in February, but was tabled. The roundtable was unable to reach consensus Wednesday and will vote on it at the September meeting. A three-quarters majority is required for approval...

Winner was doing a little broken-field running on his own at Wednesday's roundtable meeting, as questions about the process peppered discussion of the Super Ditch. He acknowledged the eventual water court action required to form Super Ditch could be "the mother of all change cases."

"My opposition to this is not the lease-fallowing program, but to make sure the numbers are right," said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. Scanga said his district would be among objectors in water court, and a like amount of funding should be made available to develop opponents' arguments to protect water rights that might be injured by a Super Ditch. Another alternative would be to find common engineering to address all concerns, he said...

"These are some of the same ditch companies who opposed our in-stream flow application for the Pueblo Legacy Program," Florczak said. "Would the Super Ditch agree (to minimum Pueblo flows) or not?" La Junta Water Superintendent Joe Kelley said the roundtable should be eager to get the information sought in the Super Ditch study, because it is being presented as an alternative to permanent water sales to the cities...

Fowler banker Jonathan Fox said the High Line Canal lease agreement with Aurora in 2004-05 showed cooperative efforts can work. "It made farming more profitable," Fox said. "It benefitted the cities and gave the farmers some cash to supplement their income."[...]

While the scope of work for the next phase of study does include preparation for the water court change case, the application could be written to avoid including those elements in the grant, Winner replied.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:20:34 AM    

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Here's Part II of The Greeley Tribune's (free registration required) series on property rights issues along the South Platte River. From the article:

In 1969, the state legislature passed the Water Rights Determination and Administration Act. This was the beginning of the bureaucratic nightmare that now ensnares well pumping along the South Platte. It provided that irrigation wells be included in the priority system of the river and that augmentation water be provided to the surface stream to offset any depletions to the river that well pumping might produce. This was done despite the warnings of Robert E. Glover of Colorado State University in a commissioned study by the state. Glover, whose work is still cited, said that the groundwater movement was too sluggish to be considered along with surface water and that to do so would be dangerous. In 2002, the Colorado courts removed the state engineer from regulating the river and the court took control by issuing decrees. This court action, along with the 1969 Act, has resulted in numerous lawsuits and settlements to where now the amount of water needed to augment a well has gone from 5 percent to 100 percent.

New demands have been made which require that one must predict how much the aquifer will be depleted in the future from current pumping and provide for that water currently, even though there is no scientific evidence that such a depletion will ever occur. In addition, former Gov. Roy Romer in 1997 made Colorado a part of the Three States Agreement in which Colorado is obligated to supply 28,000 acre-feet of water per year to Nebraska for endangered species. As a consequence of these demands, there is simply not enough water available in the river to supply the augmentation water required to operate the wells. Plus, they have been either drastically curtailed or shut down outright.

Under our former river regulation, the system worked. The Morgan County Economic Development Corp., through a CSU study, estimates that the direct loss to agriculture is going to be $2 billion to $3 billion. Because each farm dollar is filtered through the economy at least seven times, a conservative loss to the Colorado economy for 2007 will be $12 billion to $21 billion.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:07:42 AM    

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