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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Saturday, January 17, 2009

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From CHN Online (Fran Farris): "Fees associated with Erie's water and wastewater utilities will increase in 2009...A chart which lists the new proposed user rates for the next five years shows, for example, a monthly service charge increase of $1.88 per month in 2009 for a water customer with a one-inch residential tap; another $1.98 increase in 2010; $2.08 increase in 2011; $2.18 increase in 2012; and, $2.29 increase for the fifth year in 2013. In addition to the monthly service charge increase, residents will see an average increase of $2.88 per month volume charge based on water use."

Category: Colorado Water
9:30:58 AM    

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell): "A simple agreement between Black Range Minerals and Uranium One may form the basis of a powerful joint venture to mine a combined 80 million pounds of uranium ore from the Tallahassee area. BRM, the Australian company currently drilling exploratory holes in the controversial Taylor Ranch Project, said it has entered into a letter of intent with Uranium One Inc. to jointly pursue the development with the adjoining Hansen Project. Uranium One is a uranium mining and exploration company based in Canada with holdings in South Africa and Australia."

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Debbie Bell): "TAC President Jim Hawklee said Tuesday the group relies on the county's land use decisions to protect residents but is uncertain that protection is infallible. Water rights remain front and center in TAC's opposition to the project.

"'A full-scale mining operation will de-water the entire region,' Hawklee said. 'The loss of water to the Tallahassee Creek system is unacceptable, and would harm the State of Colorado's in-stream flow rights along with numerous other water-rights holders.'"

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Climate Change News
9:16:54 AM    

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From the Cortez Journal (Joe Hanel): "Mancos water officials finally won approval from the U.S. Senate on Thursday to repair the canal from Jackson Gulch Reservoir."


However, the Congressional struggle is far from over for Gary Kennedy, superintendent of the Mancos Water Conservancy District. "This is a big hurdle out of the way. It still has to go through the House," Kennedy said.

The bill authorizes $8.25 million for repairs. But Congress needs to take a separate vote to actually appropriate the money. Kennedy and three board members will go to Washington next month to start making the case for the appropriation.

The canal provides municipal water for Mancos and Mesa Verde National Park and irrigation water for area farmers. In past years, the Department of the Interior has resisted spending money on the canal, Kennedy said. He hopes that Salazar's pending appointment to head the Interior department will help Mancos get the money.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
9:00:12 AM    

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From the Aspen Times (Marija B. Vader): "The town of Palisade has dropped its plan to build a whitewater park on the Colorado River. The U.S. Corps of Engineers had requested more information about the plan from the town. "We said couldn't do any more. We didn't feel it was necessary or financially responsible to do more," said Tim Sarmo, town administrator. To date, Palisade has paid some $125,000 on plans and engineering work as it studied two different sites for a potential kayak park on the river. The town had raised nearly $1 million in donations and grants to build the park. Sarmo said this week the town will ask two state agencies to "deauthorize" the money, freeing the funds for use on other projects that will move forward."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:53:45 AM    

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Here's a look at HB09-1006, Concerning Standards for the Establishment of Rates by Municipalities for Sewerage System Service Provided to Users Outside Municipal Boundaries in Urban Areas Where Such Users Comprise More Than Fifty Percent of All Users] (pdf), from Holly Cook writing for the Littleton Independent. From the article:

A failed attempt to rein in Littleton's sewer-fee increase during the final days of the 2008 legislative session has led lawmakers to try again with the start of 2009. State Sen. Mike Kopp, R-Littleton, and state Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Littleton, introduced House Bill 1006 on Jan. 7, which attempts to combat differential increases of sewer rates for users outside municipal boundaries. The bill is a counter attack to the City of Littleton's recent decision to increase sewer fees by 20 percent for residents outside city limits, mainly unincorporated Jefferson County, while keeping rates for city residents unchanged...

House Bill 1006 sets the standards for establishing sewerage system rates by municipalities with more than 50 percent of users outside city lines...

HB 1006 requires municipalities to base the rates on the actual cost of providing the service, as well as prohibits cities or towns from imposing arbitrarily higher rates on owners of property located outside of the city. Municipalities also are required to conduct a public hearing prior to fixing, changing, revising, or imposing a revised sewerage system rate, according to the bill...

"I'm frankly pretty irritated with the PUC," Kopp said. "Is the sanitation district a utility? Yes. Is it a monopoly? Yes. Is it regulated? No. Put those three facts together, and you realize the constituents in South Jeffco are not being treated fairly under current law."

Littleton Mayor Doug Clark justified the sewer fee increase during an April 15 city council meeting, based on census data stating an average of 2.76 people live in each dwelling unit outside the city, compared to 2.24 inside, a 23.2 percent difference. The assumption is that every one of these people is using their toilets, thus providing more sewage to treat outside the city.

Category: Colorado Water
8:44:14 AM    

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Here's an update on the East Cherry Creek Valley Water District's plans for the brine left over from their proposed new treatment plant in Weld County, from Gene Sears writing for the Brighton Standard-Blade. From the article:

The wastewater, a byproduct of a proposed reverse osmosis treatment facility northeast of the Bridge Street/I-76 interchange, would contain elevated levels of nitrates, sodium, sulfates and chlorides filtered from groundwater destined for users in the city of Centennial. It's a proposal that is sitting poorly with regional farmers, many of whom feel victims of another municipal bait-and-switch of unincorporated Weld resource rights, many with historical lineages going back over 100 years. Those same farmers, demanding a public meeting on the discharge permit process, squared off with ECCV officials, representatives from consulting firm CDM and public relations from Denver-based Webb PR.

At issue was considerable confusion over the process intended for treating the wastewater, with the proposed permit seemingly at odds with statements made by ECCV. According to the ECCV but not noted in the permit itself, the waste byproducts will be mixed in a 7:1 ratio with untreated Barr Lake water to reduce toxicity levels to those matching the water currently in the Beebe Draw aquifer. "What we have, by blending those seven parts of lake water to one part RO return, that equals existing ground water quality," noted CDM consultant Kelly Dinatalie. "So, the overall result here is, the plan is, to increase the water supply into the Beebe Draw, especially during drought. If this plan is operating, we can bring more in more water supply, we have a more firm supply for FRICO agricultural users, including their well users, in the Beebe Draw."[...]

Although ECCV assured those present that their project would not degrade existing water quality, farmer David Dechant said he isn't willing to take the risk. "We can't stand any water that is more saline than we've already got. I don't want to see any water introduced into the Beebe Draw that is more saline than that if we can help it. This water is hard on our crops, hard on our equipment." Dechant played a slideshow of equipment damage following 13 years using high total dissolved solids groundwater, noting that the water, while carrying destructive saline content, was still within state groundwater standards. "I don't know where the state is coming from, that they think we can stand this much salt," Dechant said. "Their groundwater standards are all screwed up."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:31:09 AM    

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From the Wet Mountain Tribune: "Some 50 Valley residents gathered in the community room at Cliff Lanes bowling center last Thursday to address their concerns regarding Round Mountain Water and Sanitation District's proposed lease of 20 acre feet of water to the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District...Following the public hearing, the RMW board unanimously signed an amended letter of agreement with the UAWCD. That amended letter states RMW will continue to negotiate the lease of 20-acre feet of Johnson Ranch water to the UAWCD. The letter is now in the hands of the UAWCD for its approval."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:19:47 AM    

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Here's an update about snowpack, from the Leadville Herald. From the article:

According to the latest snow surveys, conducted by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the state's snowpack is 120 percent of average. With the 2009 totals topping last year's Jan. 1 readings, the current snowpack is the highest since 1997. Additionally, this year's snowpack marks only the third time that above-average January totals were measured across the state in the 12 years since 1997, according to Allen Green, State Conservationist with the NRCS...

As the new year begins, reservoir storage is in good condition statewide. With no basins showing any potential shortages, the statewide totals are at 98 percent of average and are 101 percent of last year's storage volumes.

Category: Colorado Water
8:13:54 AM    

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Here's an update on the naturally occurring aluminum pollution in Lake Creek, from Kristen Wells writing for the Leadville Herald. From the article:

High levels of aluminum coming from Red Mountain East and Red Mountain West above Twin Lakes have caused water quality issues in Lake Creek leading to Twin Lakes. To combat the contaminated water supply, LCOSI has suggested a watershed plan that will include characterizing the issues and applying for grants for the planned improvement of water quality in Twin Lakes.

One tributary in Peekaboo Gulch leads to the south fork of Lake Creek from Red Mountain West. This creek has a pH of 2.17, compared to distilled white vinegar at a pH of 2.4, according to Mike Conlin of Lake County Open Space Initiative. Conlin stated that Sayer Bowl, a tributary leading from Red Mountain East to the south fork of Lake Creek, also has a high acidity. When the water from these tributaries mix with the neutral water in the north fork of Lake Creek, the aluminum comes out of solution and becomes solid, explained Conlin. This solid then rests on the stream bed or is carried downstream to Twin Lakes...

Although finding funding might prove to be difficult, Jim Gusek of Golder Associates in Lakewood presented some passive treatments of the unwanted chemicals. Passive removal does not require any chemicals or power and takes little to no human interaction. Instead, passive removal relies on natural elements such as plants and microbes. Many of the ideas presented focused on kick starting a natural system that maintains pH without human interaction. Passive systems use wood chips, limestone sand, bugs, and/or manure from cows and goats. In order to use any of these passive systems, more data about the south fork of Lake Creek such as the chemicals in the water and the water-flow rate must be gathered.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
8:09:51 AM    

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Here's an update on the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project, from Steve Porter writing for the Northern Colorado Business Report. From the article:

If the $426 million Northern Integrated Supply Project - which already has $5 million and more than five years of work invested in it - is shot down by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, it would have devastating consequences for Northern Colorado agriculture, farm proponents say. "Without NISP, I think you'll see thousands of acres (of farmland) going out of production and failing cities without that water," said Crystal Korrey, state affairs director for the Colorado Farm Bureau...

Brian Werner, the district's spokesman, said NISP has gained strong support in the agriculture community and farmers and ranchers are counting on it coming to fruition. "Basically, all of the ag organizations in the state are in support of it, so that says something right there," he said, noting that a minimum of 40,000 acres - between 80 and 100 square miles of farmland - could be lost in the region over the next 20 years without NISP...

Area farms are already selling off water rights to developers and cities and towns thirsty for new water supplies to accommodate growing populations. The city of Thornton, for example, has reportedly purchased more than 100 Northern Colorado farms over the last 15 years. Without large storage and supply reservoirs like the proposed 170,000-acre-foot Glade and 40,000-acre-foot Galeton to provide irrigation in times of drought, the pace of struggling farms selling off their water rights will likely accelerate. Robert Winter, a farmer in the Windsor area, said he's sold farmland and water rights to local municipalities to keep his ag operation going. "The municipalities have to have water and they're going to go out and buy it," he said. "Everybody's looking for a way to survive and keep farming." Winter, a lifelong Northern Colorado resident and a member of the Weld County Farm Bureau, said he hopes the NISP proposal can overcome its critics and criticisms to provide the water that agriculture needs to continue to be viable in the northern Front Range. "In a drought you just can't get (any water)," he said. "We need those reservoirs, because storage is the only thing that's going to help us."[...]

A broad coalition of ag organizations have gone on record in support of NISP, including Colorado Farm Bureau, the Colorado Livestock Association, Colorado Pork Producers Council, Colorado Dairy Farmers, Colorado Egg Producers and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. Mark Sponsler, director of the Greeley-based Colorado Corn Growers Association, said his organization also strongly supports NISP. Sponsler said Colorado farmers have long supported water supply projects because those projects have resulted in agriculture contributing an estimated $17 billion annually to the state's economy...

Water district spokesman Werner said the days of relatively cheap Colorado-Big Thompson water are nearly gone, with no more than a seven-year supply left. "If C-BT water isn't available, what's the next option?" he asks. "You continue to buy up farms. We don't want that to be the only option."

The editorial staff of the Northern Colorado Business Report opposes NISP. From the editorial:

The flaws that the EPA analysis found in the draft EIS are so numerous, and so intricately detailed, that we doubt they can be fixed. There can be no worse economic damage that could be done to this region than to allow environmental quality, especially the health of our rivers, to be degraded.

What Northern Colorado needs most now is a renewed effort to address the region's water-supply problems that will only worsen with the passage of time. The crux of the issue is how growing cities, with populations rising at a rate of about 1.5 percent annually, can coexist with an agricultural economy that consumes 90 percent of the region's water.

NISP is a mistake we can't afford to make. Let's begin work on alternatives.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:55:49 AM    

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From the Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney): "The Wiggins Town Council on Wednesday unanimously approved applying a zinc coating to the inside of the town water storage tank. Colorado Springs-based Norvell Construction offered a bid of $53,663 for the zinc-based coating or $50,163 for a coating without zinc, Town Administrator Bill Rogers said. The zinc coating should last about 50 years, he said. Rogers said the town would need to drain the water tower before the coating is applied, and officials have already conducted tests to assure the town's water will continue to flow from town wells. He expects the project to start early next month and be finished by the end of February."

Category: Colorado Water
7:47:34 AM    

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From the Steamboat Pilot & Today: "[Senator Jim] Isgar's committee Thurs day took about two minutes to approve a bill [SB 09-015, Concerning Removal of the White River Drainage Basin from the Jurisdiction of Water Division 5 to Water Division 6] (pdf) that moves the White River drainage basin from Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs to Division 6 water court in Steamboat Springs. There was no testimony on the bill, which had the unanimous recommendation of last summer's Water Resources Review Committee. It was put on the Senate's 'consent calendar,' which is reserved for noncontroversial bills that don't require debate. "It just aligns the water court with the water division,' Treese explained. 'Nobody's really going to know the difference unless they have to go to water court. They will just drive to Steamboat instead of Glenwood Springs.'"

Category: Colorado Water
7:37:33 AM    

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Pete Fowler): "The Glenwood Springs City Council voted Thursday night to indefinitely postpone a decision about whether to seek water rights for the city's whitewater park. The cost for a recreational in-channel diversion in 2009 could be as much as $300,000, and additional costs could add $200,000 more, City Manager Jeff Hecksel said in a memo to the City Council. There's nothing budgeted in the 2009 budget for the legal and engineering work necessary, and taking the cash from the general fund wouldn't be a good move during the recession, the memo said."

Category: Colorado Water
7:24:59 AM    

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Here's a recap of this week's meeting of the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A funding request for a plan to study water availability in the Upper Arkansas River watershed squeaked through the Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week, as several members wanted to see conditions placed on the proposal. "What we are trying to determine is how much water there is available that could be sustained," said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District. "This will aid in land-use planning." The Upper Ark district wants $180,000 of state money, through the Water Supply Reserve Account, to assist in a $407,000 study of the area's "water balance."

The study would identify groundwater recharge rates in Chaffee, Lake, Custer and Fremont counties, providing data needed for county land-use decisions and augmentation plans. It could also begin to identify where water could be stored underground. The study would dovetail with the proposed decision support system by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. But the roundtable was concerned about the timing of the request, the source of funds and the value of the data in fulfilling the goal of reducing the statewide water supply gap in years to come...

Funding from the U.S. Geological Survey, about one-third of the total, would be jeopardized if action is not taken by the CWCB in March, said Pat Edelmann, of the Pueblo USGS office. Edelmann said funds dedicated to the project could be used elsewhere within the USGS...

The CWCB has the final say on roundtable requests and funds are broken out in basin accounts. Since 2005, the Arkansas basin has received $3.7 million in total funding, but is reaching the limits in the account dedicated solely to the basin. Roundtable members put a condition on the proposal to require the funds come from the statewide fund and only after projects previously approved by the roundtable are approved. "There's no guarantee to fully fund this project," added Reed Dils, the basin's representative on the CWCB. "There's a good chance it will be only partially funded." Scanga said full funding is needed for the project, although Tom Young, an Upper Ark board member, noted the project will take three years to complete, so a reasonable guarantee of funding is needed over time.

Category: Colorado Water
7:17:40 AM    

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Here's a recap of this week's meeting of the proposed Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District which hasn't actually been chartered yet by the state legislature, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The board is the creation of an intergovernmental agreement signed by Pueblo and El Paso counties last week, with the intention of carrying on work started by the Fountain Creek Watershed Plan and Vision Task Force, both of which have concluded their efforts. This week, Colorado Springs, Fountain and Manitou Springs all signed the agreement as well. Other key players, including the City of Pueblo, the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and other incorporated cities in El Paso County are expected to consider the IGA in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Fountain Creek board will continue to meet in anticipation of state legislation creating a special district on Fountain Creek. So far, only members from the two counties, Fountain and Colorado Springs have taken their seats. Pueblo and the Lower Ark (through an appointment by Pueblo County) would also get seats if they sign on. Three other members would be seated to bring the board to its full strength of nine members. Members who were seated Friday were El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, Colorado Springs Vice Mayor Larry Small and Fountain Vice Mayor Gabriel Ortega. The legislation is still being drafted, and is expected to be introduced next week by state Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo...

Attorneys for both counties and state lawmakers have been discussing the legislation, but have reached a sticking point on the boundaries in which service fees could be charged. The problem is that El Paso County lawmakers are concerned that most of the property in the 932-square-mile watershed is north of the county line, said state Rep. Sal Pace, who attended Friday's meeting...

A service fee could be used only for a specific service, but is an issue for El Paso County residents. Colorado Springs voters in November reaffirmed a stormwater fee over a challenge by tax crusader Doug Bruce. Two of the county's five commissioners voted against the IGA on Dec. 15 over the unresolved issue of fees. The district eventually would be able to impose a mill levy on all property owners in both counties, but a vote would be required.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Category: Colorado Water
7:10:40 AM    

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Here's an update about the sale of shares of the Bessemer Ditch to the Pueblo Board of Water Works, from Chris Woodka writing for the Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The chief of the Pueblo water board and president of the Bessemer Ditch say shareholders who decide to sell and those who don't will be treated fairly and pledged to be open as a sale progresses. "The sale continues to move forward," said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo water board. "This would be a valuable asset to the Board of Water Works and the people of Pueblo County."

The water board is considering buying about 7,000 shares of the Bessemer Ditch at $10,150 per share, Hamel said. To fund the purchase, the water board will try to sell the Columbine Ditch for $32 million, enter into new contracts for long-term leases of water and issue about $40 million in bonds. The board also has about $12 million in a water development fund. Early next week, the water board intends to send a letter to all shareholders on the ditch explaining the details of the sale. In early March, a special meeting of shareholders will be called to discuss the sale and changes in bylaws that would be needed in order for the water to be used outside the Bessemer Ditch. The water board has used an agent to line up shares for purchase - rather than the more direct approach it used in a failed attempt to purchase a majority of shares last year - in order to target those who wanted to sell, Hamel said. The decision to use that approach was made after the water board learned El Paso County water interests were offering contracts...

Hamel said no one will be forced to sell, and the water board will allow farmers who sell to continue farming with the water for up to 20 years, depending on individual cases. The board is also committed to making improvements on the ditch to help those who continue farming and properly revegetating land, Hamel said. "We're committed to doing what we say. That's why we're sending a letter to the shareholders at this time," Hamel said. "Some want to sell, but want to farm for another 5, 10 or 15 years. We need the water 20 years out or more."

More details about the potential sale of shares from the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

[Leonard DiTomaso] also is concerned about water leaving the Bessemer Ditch, and possibly the basin, as a result of sales of shares. There are conservation easements on the Bessemer Ditch that tie some of the water to the land, but there may not be enough "push" on some laterals to deliver water to those who choose not to sell...

DiTomaso recognizes that some farmers no longer use the water and may be looking to sell. The price apparently being offered on the Bessemer Ditch is lower than what water is selling for in other parts of the state, however. For example, the Pueblo water board wants to sell the Columbine Ditch for almost $25,000 per acre-foot, based on its expected yield of about 1,300 acre-feet annually and price tag of $32 million...

About 2,000 shares of the Bessemer Ditch already are being converted to domestic use by the St. Charles Mesa Water District, said manager David Simpson. The district has no plans to raise its rates to compete with the current water board offer, because it usually acquires water by accepting Bessemer shares as land is subdivided. The district's offer for water outside its service area is $3,000 per share. After the water board's 2007 offer, however, five shares of Bessemer Ditch water were sold for $6,500, about $2,000 more than the previous high sale on the ditch...

The district also is concerned about the potential of shares on the ditch being sold to Pueblo. "What bothers us is the issue of the water going out of the ditch someday," Simpson said. That's what is at the heart of DiTomaso's drive to get on the Bessemer board. The ditch, running from the Pueblo Dam to the Huerfano River 30 miles east, was begun in 1888. It was rebuilt after the 1921 flood. DiTomaso is afraid that water sales could leave it high and dry, as was the case with the Colorado Canal in Crowley County and the Booth Orchard Ditch, which was purchased by the Pueblo water board in 1970. "They gave their water away and got very little in return. They are sorry now," DiTomaso said. "The Bessemer Ditch is a marvel. It's worth protecting."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water
6:52:27 AM    

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Here's a recap of this week's meeting of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District boad, from Ruth Heide writing for the Valley Courier. From the article:

The San Luis Valley Irrigation District board this week voted unanimously to sponsor an effort that will give area water officials one more tool to more accurately predict snow runoff and curtailments to water users based on those predictions. Irrigation District Superintendent Travis Smith explained to the board that satellite imagery modeling efforts to help with forecasting began in this area last year. He said this year he received a commitment from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) for about $80,000 in additional funds to assist with this snow forecasting model. The CWCB is contracting with Riverside Technology to perform the work. Riverside Technology has performed similar work on the Colorado River system for four or five years, Smith said, so the company has a proven track record...

Smith, who serves on the CWCB, said he has told the state board for years that the Rio Grande Basin needs help with forecasting, so the CWCB was willing to put up the $82,000 for this effort. A local cost share will be required, however, Smith explained. (He said last year CWCB funded the entire amount of $25,000 but wants to see a local commitment this year.) Smith said he will be asking the Rio Grande Water Conservation District Board next Tuesday for the $24,000 local cost share. The total amount of the contract will be $106,000. Smith said the Rio Grande Water Conservation District represents the Conejos and Rio Grande river systems, and this modeling effort will assist the entire basin, not just the Rio Grande. It will also help the Conejos with forecasting. "That's the effort, to try to get more tools to help with river administration for the Compact, hopefully get our curtailment flattened out and not deal with under estimation or over estimation," Smith said.

He told the board that although he will be asking the Rio Grande district for the cost share, that district cannot receive the CWCB funds because the district is subject to TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) restrictions, so he asked his board, the SLV Irrigation District, to serve as the contracting entity to receive the CWCB grant money and administer it to the contractor. The irrigation district is not restricted by TABOR. The district would have a work order with CWCB to receive the money and would serve as the contracting entity with Riverside Technology that will actually perform the work, Smith explained.

He said Riverside will take the random satellite information and develop a model run from that information using regression analysis and some ground truthing. Smith said he expected this type of work to be ongoing over a period of years with the project gaining more and more credibility as it accumulates data over multiple years.

Category: Colorado Water
6:40:11 AM    

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