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

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Monday, September 10, 2007

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Check out Ed Quillen's essay about the Arkansas River, in this month's issue of Colorado Central Magazine. He writes, "The river bed often lacked flowing water in eastern Colorado and western Kansas. So it might be more accurate to speak of two rivers. One rises in the Rocky Mountains and dissipates on the plains. The other picks up around Dodge City, and by the time it gets to Tulsa, Oklahoma, it has enough water to carry barge traffic. Sometimes the two rivers connect, but frequently they don't."

Category: Colorado Water

7:40:51 PM    

Say hello to Our blog pal Jason Bane writes over there. We hadn't noticed it before. Thanks for the link y'all. Here's their RSS Feed.

6:11:00 PM    

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The argument against socialism got a boost recently. A study from the University of Colorado showed that 5 of 9 populations of Greenback cutthroat trout, being used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the recovery of the species, are really the more common Colorado River cutthroat, according to The Denver Post. From the article:

A 20-year government effort to restore the population of an endangered native trout in Colorado has made little progress because biologists have been stocking some of the waterways with the wrong fish, a new study says. Biologists called the finding a setback and a potential black eye but said there is still hope for restoring the greenback cutthroat trout because at least four pure populations of the fish have been identified. The three-year study was led by University of Colorado researchers and published online in Molecular Ecology on Aug. 28. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is heading the recovery effort, said it is reviewing the findings. The study said that out of nine populations of fish believed to be endangered greenback cutthroat trout that were descendants of survivors, five were actually the Colorado River cutthroat trout, which look similar but are a separate and more common subspecies. The other four populations were greenbacks.

The recovery effort by Colorado and federal biologists was thought to be close to its goal of 20 self-sustaining populations of at least 500 fish each. Bruce Rosenlund of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Denver said federal and state agencies working on restoration believed the fish were found in 142 miles of waterways, including in Rocky Mountain National Park. Researchers, though, said that based on genetic test results, the greenback cutthroat trout's range is only 11 miles of streams. The study said the results imply that the effort has "failed to improve the species' status." Rosenlund said other scientists will read and comment on the research. He said biologists working on restoring the greenback trout want to see "the science played out."[...]

The study's lead author, Jessica Metcalf, who recently completed her doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, said scientific advances continue to shed new light on the program. She said there's reason for optimism about the findings. "Four of the native populations appear to be pure greenback cutthroat trout," Metcalf said in an interview from San Francisco, where she was set to present the research Thursday at an American Fisheries Society meeting. Greenback cutthroat trout were historically found in the drainages of the Arkansas and South Platte rivers in Colorado and a small part of Wyoming. They were declared extinct in 1937 due to overfishing, pollution from mines and competition from nonnative fish. Researchers said remnant populations were found in the 1950s in tributaries and provided brood stock for fish raised in federal and state hatcheries and released in their native habitat. The fish was added to the federal endangered species list in 1978...

The greenback, the Colorado River cutthroat trout and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout all evolved in Colorado. A fourth subspecies, the yellowfin cutthroat, is believed to be extinct. Metcalf said although the greenback and Colorado River cutthroat are closely related, they've likely been different subspecies for about a half million years. One of the challenges facing biologists, she said, was the lack of baseline information about the greenback, which was already "in major decline" when first described in detail in the late 1800s. In June, federal officials rejected efforts to designate the Colorado River cutthroat trout as endangered, citing a substantial increase in the number of known populations.

More coverage from The Environmental News Network.

Category: Colorado Water

7:09:10 AM    

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The Bureau of Reclamation's Eastern Colorado Area has a new manager, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Mike Collins of Billings, Mont., has been appointed to replace Fred Ore as Eastern Colorado area manager for the Bureau of Reclamation...Collins will be responsible for managing 20 water-storage dams and seven power plants that are part of the bureau's Colorado-Big Thompson and Fryingpan-Arkansas projects. The area office is located in Loveland...Collins has been manager of the Resource Services Group in the Great Plains Regional Office in Billings since September 2004. Prior to that he was deputy area manager for the Yuma, Ariz., area office. His background includes electronic support, field research and desalination projects. Ore's new position is special assistant deputy commissioner for policy, administration and budget in Washington, D.C.

Category: Colorado Water

6:57:20 AM    

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Florence is trying to wrap up a deal for shares of the Union Ditch, according to The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

An attempt to convert ditch shares into part of Florence's water supply appears to be close to settlement after eight years in water court. "We thought we had finally reached settlement with the Southeastern Water Conservancy District last year. We thought they were the cop on the river, but then the Pueblo Board of Water Works came out of the woodwork," said Florence City Manager Tom Piltingsrud Thursday. Florence is buying part of the Union Ditch, which flows for about three miles through the city. The city has long purchased rights in the ditch as it expanded onto nearby farm land. In a 1980 case, it converted 2,793 of about 30,000 shares in the ditch to municipal use from agricultural use. In 1999, along with Williamsburg and Coal Creek, Florence sought to convert another 1,000 shares, and since then about 500 shares have been added.

Southeastern objected to the possibility that other shares in the ditch, largely owned by Rocky Mountain Steel Mills, might expand the water right outside the area. The 1861 water right on the Union Ditch is among the oldest on the Arkansas River, is always in priority and could potentially divert more water, lawyers argued. A stipulation was reached last year with Southeastern to satisfy those concerns, but the Pueblo Board of Water Works filed a motion on a point of law that was rejected. For more than a year, water board and Florence lawyers have been in discussion over settlement of the case. "I think we'll have it resolved in 30-45 days," said Alan Hamel, executive director of the water board. Hamel said the water board's concerns are similar to Southeastern's...

Rocky Mountain Steel owns about two-thirds of the shares in the Union Ditch, leasing a small amount for irrigation, according to court records. Of the more than 20,500 shares in the ditch owned by Rocky Mountain, about 17,500 are labeled as industrial and flow to Pueblo through the Minnequa Canal, which has its own set of water rights and is also owned by Rocky Mountain Steel. Union's 1861 decree calls for diversions 48 cubic feet per second, which could, theoretically, generate 35,000 acre-feet per year, for agricultural use. The amount is far greater than needed for the 1,200 acres near Florence that have historically been irrigated. Engineering in the case showed that 761 acres were irrigated on average from 1983-99. By 2005, the estimate was reduced to about 380 acres, as Florence, Williamsburg and Coal Creek continued buying shares. Municipal use under the proposed decree would be about 20 cfs (based on 32 percent consumptive use) for about 12,500 shares, or all the nonindustrial shares in the ditch. In its engineering reports, Pueblo argued it should be less...

The city traditionally relied on three ditches from the Wet Mountains, Newlin, Mineral and Adobe, for water, but they are not reliable year-round, Piltingsrud said...

Florence also faces water pressure from lack of storage. For several years, the city has been looking at a flood-control and storage reservoir on Oak Creek west of the city. Recently, the Army Corps of Engineers estimated the cost to build the reservoir would be $93 million, rather than earlier estimates of $18 million. Florence has signed up under the Preferred Storage Options Plan for both excess capacity storage and enlargement in Fryingpan-Arkansas Project reservoirs in hopes of gaining storage space as well and Piltingsrud frequently has expressed frustration in delays of PSOP. Lake Pueblo could offer the city exchange possibilities in Lake Pueblo and reliable long-term storage if Turquoise Lake is enlarged.

Category: Colorado Water

6:48:52 AM    

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Here's a update on the closure and repairs at Clear Creek Reservoir, from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A nearly empty Clear Creek Reservoir is closed to fishing while maintenance work is done to the dam. Water levels have been slowly drawn down during the past few weeks. The water will remain low until repairs are completed by the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which owns storage rights in the reservoir. Muddy shorelines and safety concerns related to the heavy equipment used for repairs are the primary reasons the reservoir is closed to anglers...

More coverage from The Pueblo Chieftain. They write:

The reservoir has been drawn down completely and closed to fishing or other recreational uses for the past month. There is still a flow of 65 cubic feet per second flowing down Clear Creek and the water is being collected during non-construction period to allow sediment to settle, since the flow is too high to simply filter with straw bales...

The water board is replacing hydraulic lines and repairing gates that were installed in 1909, O'Hara said. The hydraulic lines were put in back in 1970...

Work is being undertaken this year in preparation of an increase in water demand, expected in 2009 when Xcel brings the third unit of the Comanche Power Plant online. The water board leases about 8,000 acre-feet of water to Comanche each year now, but the demand is expected to increase by about 5,000 acre-feet in 2009, when the third unit is scheduled to begin operation. "By doing the work this year, we can make sure everything is in order. That gives us a year to fill it up," [Bud O'Hara, water resource manager] said. Pueblo has increased its storage requirements to 40,000 acre-feet from 15,000 acre-feet prior to the drought of 2002. Part of the reason was to provide a better cushion for future droughts, and the water board also wanted to make sure there was enough water to meet the Comanche demands. Pueblo uses roughly 28,000 acre-feet of water in its potable system annually.

It also has a long-term lease agreement with Aurora for 5,000 acre-feet through 2013, and a paper trade agreement for a minimum of 4,000 acre-feet through 2011. There are more than 20 smaller long-term leases for about 3,000 acre-feet. Pueblo also leases water through one-year competitive bids. All told, the leases bring in more than $4 million a year, or about one-sixth of the water board's operating revenue. Pueblo also has two storage accounts in Pueblo Reservoir, as well as Twin Lakes and Turquoise Lake. The dam across Clear Creek was built in 1902 by the Otero Ditch Co. The Pueblo water board purchased it, along with the transmountain Ewing Ditch northwest of Leadville, from Otero in 1954.

The water board has filed an application in Division 2 water court to expand Clear Creek to 30,000 acre-feet, but the current work is not related to the expansion, O'Hara said. Improvements on Clear Creek Dam now will allow it to remain in operation when a larger dam is constructed essentially on top of the existing dam, O'Hara said. That work isn't expected to occur until about 2023.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water

6:38:18 AM    

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