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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Project Healing Waters

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

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Here's an update on the work at the Stevens Dam, from Sheila Berger writing for the Pagosa Sun. From the article:

Assisted by a prolonged dry autumn, Weeminuche Construction Authority crews completed the final work on the Stevens Reservoir dam on Nov. 24. Upon final approval by the State Engineer's office, and given typical precipitation, the reservoir could be filled up to 350 acre feet this winter. As a comparison, this is slightly more water than is held in Lake Forest. Ultimately, after completion of wetlands mitigation work next spring and summer, the reservoir will hold approximately 1,780 acre feet of water. The project, which raised the previous dam 10 feet and lengthened it to nearly 2,000 feet, began with land acquisition 20 years ago. Cost of the enlargement project is projected to be $5.66 million, although final costs will not be known until the wetlands work is complete.

The Dutton Ditch Enclosure, completed by the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District in 2006 at a cost of an additional $3.83 million, is a closely-associated project. The Dutton Ditch conveys raw water from Four Mile Creek to Stevens and Hatcher reservoirs. The ditch was enclosed in pipe in order to maximize water delivery to the enlarged reservoir during periods when the district has priority water rights. Together, the two projects should provide the district with an adequate water supply to meet current demand during a one-year drought. A filled reservoir will facilitate a PAWSD board decision to lift the nearly 10-year moratorium on inclusions of new service areas into the district. This moratorium, put into place due to lack of raw water supply, could be lifted in late 2009 or early 2010, given adequate precipitation and stream flows next year.

Meanwhile here's Part Five of Bill Hudson's series "Funny Smelling Water Facts" from the Pagosa Daily Post.

Category: Colorado Water
8:14:26 AM    

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Here's a recap of the first meeting of the newly approved Yuma County Water Authority Public Improvement District, from Tony Rayl writing in the Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

The Yuma County Commissioners convened for the first time as the Yuma County Water Authority Public Improvement District, last Wednesday during its regular end-of-month meeting. Commissioners Robin Wiley, Dean Wingfield and Trent Bushner passed a resolution authorizing a $9.595 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (see last week's Pioneer). They passed another resolution to assume the purchase agreement from the county for the purchase of water rights from the Laird Ditch and the Colorado portion of the Pioneer Irrigation Company. Closing on the CWCB loan, the selling of bonds, closing on the surface water purchase, and leasing the rights for 20 years to the Republican River Water Conservation District, is all scheduled to take place this month.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:11:51 AM    

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Here's an update on efforts to control Russian Olive and Salt Cedar (Tamarisk) on the North Fork of the Republican River, from Tony Rayl writing in the Yuma Pioneer From the article:

This week began the effort to eradicate Russian olives and salt cedar trees along the North Fork of the Republican River. It could result in as much as 1,500 to 2,000 acre feet of water per year available to the North Fork, instead of being sucked up by the non-native trees./p>

Fred Raish, general manager of the pest control district, said 350 acres are mapped out for the project. The plan is to wipe out Russian olives and salt cedar trees up to 100 feet on both sides of the North Fork. Raish said he hopes crews will be able to get all the trees from the North Fork's headwater to the state line, as well as along all the tributaries. A study in other states have shown the trees drink as much as 4.35 acre feet of water annually per one acre of trees. Raish said it is not known how much the trees take in water in northeast Colorado because such a study never has been done here. Besides less water being pulled from the surface water by the trees, Raish said eradication could benefit wildlife, as the Russian olives and salt cedar grow too thick to serve as habitat to many species, and also help stream flows, which could help wildlife such as endangered minnows found in the streams...

Numerous entities have partnered with the pest control district and RRWCD on the project to form the Republican River Watershed Weed Management Area. The partners are: Cope Conservation District, Yuma Conservation District, Yuma County Conservation District, NRCS -- Yuma, Wray and Akron, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado Division of Wildlife, 3 Rivers Alliance, Colorado State Parks, The Nature Conservancy, Kelly Uhing -- State Weed Coordinator, Cindy Lair -- Colorado State Conservation Board Program Manager, Kristi Gay -- East Central RC&D, Colorado State Land Board, U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation, Colorado State Forest Service, Colorado Agriculture Preservation Association (CAPA), Ducks Unlimited, Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, and Colorado Water Conservation Board. Raish said the partnership has been formed in order to get input on how it should be done, and also provide assistance. Raish said the partnership also will help with attaining grants...

It is a cost-share program, with the pest control district covering 75 percent of the $300-per-acre cost, and the landowners paying the other 25 percent ($75 per acre). If landowners would like more information, they can contact the Yuma County Pest Control District at 848-2509 or the Yuma County Conservation District at 332-3107. Eradication entails cutting down the trees, piling them up, and spraying the stump with a herbcide that kills the stump and the root system The work began earlier this week and will last through the winter. The first phase targets the North Fork and its tributaries. H & S Habitat Enhancement out of North Platte, Nebraska, is the contractor. Future phases will target eradication along the South Fork of the Republican River and the Arikaree River. Raish said it will all get done as funding becomes available, and also would like to get parts of Kit Carson County and Washington County involved.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:07:19 AM    

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From the Fairplay Flume (Lynde Lozzo): "The Town of Alma is looking at several options to fund its water and sewer departments, which are running at a "bare minimum," according to Town Administrator Nancy Comer. At the Alma Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 2, Comer presented a balanced budget for 2009 but said that any equipment breakdowns could have serious financial implications. The town is looking at options that include raising fees for water and/or sewage by $5 a month or increasing taxes. Options will be discussed at the next town meeting."

Category: Colorado Water
7:58:45 AM    

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From the Center Post Dispatch (Teresa L. Benns): "Center residents, homeowners and rental owners who owe past utilities to the town received notices last week that tax liens have been filed against homeowners who have neglected to pay their water and sewer fees. Notice of the lien came to the County Clerk's office Nov. 21 in a letter signed by Town Clerk Bill McClure. State Statute 31-20-105, allowing Center to collect on past due utilities reads as follows: "Any municipality, in addition to the means provided by law, if by ordinance it so elects, may cause any or all delinquent charges, assessments, or taxes made or levied to be certified to the treasurer of the county and be collected and paid over by the treasurer of the county in the same manner as taxes are authorized to be by this title."

Category: Colorado Water
7:55:34 AM    

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Here's an update on Colorado Springs' current activities related to their proposed Southern Delivery System, from Chris Woodka writing in the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Colorado Springs is moving ahead with engineering studies below Pueblo Dam that will be used in the design phase of the Southern Delivery System. Workers from CH2MHill, Colorado Springs consultants on SDS, took core samples last week from both the north and south side of the Arkansas River downstream from Pueblo Dam on federal land, said Kara Lamb, Bureau of Reclamation public information officer. The core samples were taken about 100 feet down to determine geological and soil conditions for installing an anchor valve on the north outlet works which feeds the Arkansas River from the dam. This week, the engineers will return to dig test pits, Lamb said.

The work is not associated with either the draft environmental impact statement or Pueblo County's land-use evaluation, said John Fredell, SDS project director. "There's no construction," Fredell said. "We're developing the engineering to move the project along and not slow anything down." The north outlet works project has been a component of SDS since late 2005, Lamb said.

Colorado Springs proposes a system of pipes that would provide an intake for the SDS pipeline, feed the river, offer the possibility of a cross-connection across the face of the dam with the joint use manifold on the south side of the dam and provide hydroelectric capability. In October, Colorado Springs suggested it would move the construction of the north outlet works ahead in its schedule for SDS, and county staff is recommending construction of the north outlet works as a condition for a 1041 permit. The construction would reduce concerns about capacity in the joint use manifold, which is already dedicated to Pueblo's future water needs, the Fountain Valley Pipeline, Pueblo West and the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit...

Capacity on the joint-use manifold was raised as a major concern by the Pueblo Board of Water Works in Reclamation's draft environmental impact statement. Construction of the north outlet works portion of SDS reduces those concerns, said Alan Hamel, executive director of the water board.

From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): "Pueblo County commissioners this week will begin their own evaluation of a pipeline project that has stirred issues of land use in Pueblo West and increased flows on Fountain Creek...Hearings on the project are scheduled at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Sangre de Cristo Arts and Conference Center. The lineup for the first night includes presentation of testimony and evidence by Colorado Springs Utilities in support of the project as part of the county's land use regulations under 1974's HB1041. Colorado Springs' presentation will be followed by county staff reports on the application for a permit. Public comment will not begin until the second night of the hearings, at 6 p.m. Thursday, if county staff has concluded its presentation. The commissioners will hear comments from those who sign up in the order they are received, with those supporting the project first, those with concerns or information next and those opposed last. If time runs out, the hearings would continue in January. Written comments may also be provided to commissioners either night of the hearings."

More coverage highlighting some of the comments on the SDS EIS, from the Pueblo Chieftain.

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

Category: Colorado Water
7:50:52 AM    

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Here's another look at the recently released State of Roaring Fork Watershed report, from Brent Gardner-Smith writing in the Aspen Daily News. From the article:

The report, produced by the Roaring Fork Conservancy and sponsored by the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, provides close-up views of nine sub-watersheds in the Roaring Fork River watershed. The sub-watershed just upstream from Aspen is called the Upper Roaring Fork sub-watershed and includes the headwaters of the Fork down through Aspen, but above the confluence with Castle Creek. It also includes Hunter Creek, Lost Man Creek, Lincoln Creek, Difficult Creek and other smaller streams. The area drained by this section of the Fork is among the nearest and dearest to Aspenites...

While much of the upper sections of the Fork and the higher streams are still in a high quality state, virtually everything mankind does in the area -- building roads, diverting water, recreating and building homes -- has a negative effect on the streams and rivers above Aspen. "Instream habitat quality has been altered by historic and recent development including mining-related activities; installation and operation of a dam and other water diversion structures; the Highway 82 roadcut; degradation of riparian and streambank vegetation related to trails, campgrounds, and residential development; and agricultural development that has included channel straightening, drainage of wetlands, irrigation diversions, and conversion of native habitat to hay meadows," according to the report. "Consequently, instream habitat quality, as measured by the ability of the stream to sustain aquatic wildlife, has diminished over much of the sub-watershed: 36 percent of stream habitat is high quality, 13 percent is slightly modified, 25 percent moderately modified, 12 percent heavily modified and 14 percent severely degraded."

One of the biggest factors that shapes the Upper Roaring Fork sub-watershed are the transmountain diversions that send water from the Fork and other high mountain streams under the Continental Divide and ultimately onto fields and into homes near Pueblo and Colorado Springs. "Almost all of the major headwaters streams of (the) Roaring Fork River are heavily influenced by transmountain diversions, with Difficult Creek being the exception," the report states. "The magnitude, frequency, duration, and year-to-year variation in the natural flow regime has been dramatically altered in the sub-watershed."

Much of the water is diverted through the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System, or IPTDS, and includes diversions from the Upper Fork, Lost Man Creek, New York Creek, Tabor Creek and Brooklyn Gulch. The Independence Pass diversion typically diverts about 38 percent of the flow from the Roaring Fork River's headwaters, according to the report.

This does not include water taken out of Hunter, Midway and No Name creeks, which are diverted to the Eastern Slope as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. From 2002 to 2006, this project took an annual average of 29 percent of Hunter Creek's waters, according to the report.

Another factor influencing the health of the river is the amount of stormwater runoff from the city of Aspen. About 85 percent of the stormwater runoff from the paved portions of Aspen still run directly into the river, which is not good. Aspen voters passed a tax in 2007 that will help pay for more stormwater management systems like the one that was recently installed at Jenny Adair Pond behind the Aspen post office. That system includes a sedimentation vault used to trap dirt and pollutants generated during heavy rainstorms before they reach the river. In six months, the vault removed 80 tons of sediment not discharged into the Roaring Fork River.

One bright spot in the Upper Fork sub-watershed is the North Star Nature Preserve, which "provides essential breeding habitat for a large diversity of native wildlife (including birds...), and important groundwater hydrologic system, and a popular location for outdoor recreation activities."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:40:32 AM    

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Local control of water resources is the motivation behind several organizations who oppose Wild and Scenic designation for stretches of the Colorado River. Here's a report from Dennis Webb writing in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

Local control is the goal of a broad coalition that is seeking an alternative to federal wild and scenic river designation for portions of the Colorado River upstream of Glenwood Springs. The question is whether groups in the coalition can agree on how to provide adequate water flow for protection of the river without the need for a federal designation. The coalition involves water agencies, recreation and conservation groups, upstream counties and other entities...

The BLM has identified 27 stream and river segments as being eligible, including seven portions of the Colorado River between Granby and Glenwood Springs. The Forest Service identified two eligible segments of the Colorado River on forest land in Glenwood Canyon, as well as two segments of rugged Deep Creek on the canyon's east end. The agencies will make recommendations on any wild and scenic designations to Congress. Only Congress or the secretary of the Interior Department can make such a designation, which would result in the federal government filing for a state water right to try to protect a waterway's flows. That right would be junior to existing water rights.

Mike Eytel, a water resources specialist for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, based in Glenwood Springs, said coalition participants instead want protections that are locally controlled, with the blessing of federal agencies. The coalition's alternative focuses on the Colorado River between Kremmling and Glenwood Springs. Eytel said a challenge is coming up with target flows that are sufficient to protect the river and yet still will be supported by Front Range water entities that divert Western Slope water. Alan Berryman, assistant general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which serves communities north of Denver, said the question is whether target flows "would kind of tie up the river for any future growth, be it East Slope or West Slope."[...]

Federal officials have said they are willing to consider the coalition recommendation as one alternative to recommending wild and scenic designation.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:13:41 AM    

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