Trout Unlimited unveils the Eisenhower Reach of the Fraser River | SkyHiNews.com

Trout Unlimited unveils the Eisenhower Reach of the Fraser River

A stretch of the Fraser River extending from the Rendezvous bridge to County Road 8 was dedicated on Saturday, July 14, as the Eisenhower Reach by Trout Unlimited and Fraser Mayor Peggy Smith. “This is a great day for Fraser,” said Smith. President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower, who vacationed and fished in the Fraser Valley, will receive recognition across the state and this will help to preserve the history of the valley, she said. Thanks were given by the speakers at the event to the sponsors of the state resolution which created the Eisenhower Reach, state Rep. Randy Baumgardner and state Sen. Jeanne Nicholson. The resolution passed through both the Senate and House of Representatives without a single nay vote, according to Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited. Trout Unlimited officials hope the dedication of this stretch of the river will allow them to pursue a point of interest sign on US Highway 40 as well as additional signage including a map of the Eisenhower Reach and other signs to be posted throughout the town park. Trout Unlimited officials also hope that the additional signs and the dedication of the stretch of river will encourage visitors to walk the trail on the river and keep the history of Ike’s visits to the Fraser Valley alive. While the dedication of this stretch of the river might help to keep the history of the river alive, it might not do as much to keep the river itself alive and flowing. Future of the Fraser The dedication was lighthearted and fun, but the elephant in the room seemed to be the Moffat Firming Project. Denver Water’s Moffat Firming Project has been in the works since 2003, and the approval process is nearing completion, according to Klancke. As of now, about 60 percent of the natural flows of the Fraser River are diverted to the other side of the Continental Divide. The Moffat Firming Project would increase to 80 percent, Klancke said. There has already been some work done on the Fraser River including the rechannelization of flows to create a sustainable habitat for aquatic life and to try to cope with lower flows and rising temperatures. While the rechannelization has helped to create a better fishery, Trout Unlimited is pushing for more mitigation to be completed on the river if the Moffat project were to go through. Trout Unlimited is not totally opposed to supplying more water to the Denver area; however, they are asking for certain mitigation efforts to be undertaken if the Moffat Project is approved. “We aren’t opposed to Denver’s offers but we want the right protections in place,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “I would rather see a healthy Fraser Creek than a dead Fraser River,” he said. The proposed mitigations Trout Unlimited wants to see as part of the deal include: • Management of water supply to ensure adequate flows with seasonal flushing to clear out sediment and to keep the temperature of the river cool; • Funding to deepen the river channels and add streamside plants for shade; • Intensive monitoring of the river and aquatic life in order to prevent and respond to negative changes in trout and other aquatic species; • And a bypass around Windy Gap Reservoir to help restore the Colorado River’s flow and overall health below the Windy Gap Dam (to offset reduced flows from Windy Gap diversions). Trout Unlimited has proposed that $10 million will be needed to complete river work in order to mitigate the existing damage to the Colorado River and the potential damage to the Fraser River basin. Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates that Colorado River work will cost $500,000 per mile, while Trout Unlimited estimates there are 20 miles of river that needs work, giving them the $10 million figure. Cost to water consumers Western Resource Advocates, a non-profit environmental law and policy organization based in Boulder, has estimated the cost to Denver Water consumers would equal 54 cents per year, per household, per $5 million if charged as water rates and $129 per tap, per $5 million if charged as tap fees. Klancke has published the Impacts of the Trans-Basin Diversion in Grand County in which he discusses some of the possible threats of the diversion of 80 percent of Grand County’s native river flows and also some of the possible solutions that could be utilized. Two things that were mentioned by Klancke in both the publication and in person were: Water that is diverted to Denver much of the time is used to water lawns with grass species that are non-native to Colorado and therefore require much more water (60 percent of all residential water use goes to keeping outdoor landscapes alive); and that 90-95 percent of water that is used in Grand County, usually for farming and ranching operations, is returned to the waters of Grand County while none is returned when the water is diverted to Denver. “Saving water means keeping it in the streams where it belongs,” said Larry Quilling, president of Boulder Flycasters, a Colorado Trout Unlimited Chapter. “We strive to make sure that water that is diverted goes to the right usage while water that is saved stays here,” he said. More information about Trout Unlimited, the project, and how to get involved is available at http://www.coloradotu.org or at http://www.defendthecolorado.org.

Agreements add water to the Fraser and Colorado Rivers

Even though the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement has not been executed by all parties, Denver Water and the Colorado River Water Conservation District have provided some of the benefits promised. The U.S. Forest Service “bypass” flows to the Fraser River can be reduced if Denver Water institutes restrictions. In April, Denver Water enacted a Stage 1 drought calling for customers to voluntarily reduce their water use. Under the Cooperative Agreement, Denver Water has agreed not to reduce Forest Service bypass flows unless it institutes “in-house” only restrictions. The Cooperative Agreement is not in force yet, awaiting execution by a few remaining parties, but regardless, Denver Water, in the spirit of a new way of doing business, did not reduce bypass flows. As a result, more water stayed in the Fraser River. In this year of historically low runoff, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating to add flows to the Colorado River for the benefit of irrigation, fish and rafting from the Williams Fork confluence with the Colorado River beyond the Grand County boundary. The additional water is the result of the Shoshone Outage Protocol, a part of the Cooperative Agreement . The Protocol is designed to add water to the Colorado River when the Shoshone Hydro Plant in Glenwood Canyon is not using its senior water right due to operational issues. The Shoshone water right normally would have the river flowing at 1,250 cubic feet per second (cfs) at Dotsero. The week of June 10, the three reservoir operators (Denver Water, the Conservation District, Bureau of Reclamation) increased river flows by about 450 cfs through releases from Williams Fork Reservoir, Wolford Mountain Reservoir, and Green Mountain Reservoir. Flows in Glenwood Canyon were boosted to around 1,100 cfs. The 71-year average of flows for this time of the year in Glenwood Canyon is more than 6,000 cfs. The additional flows provided by the Outage Protocol helped lower water temperature levels in the river to help trout survive. “The Shoshone Outage Protocol made a real difference in the river,” said Colorado River District general manager Eric Kuhn. “Since we started, you can see by the gauge that the temperature of the water has come down 4 degrees Fahrenheit.” The added water also greatly benefited rafters riding the river from the popular Pumphouse put-in to State Bridge, an economic benefit to Grand County as local rafting companies from Winter Park to Kremmling rely on this summer business. According to the Colorado River Outfitters Association, commercial rafting on the Upper Colorado in 2011 generated an estimated $3.8 million, with a $9.7 million economic impact for the area. Statewide, the 2011 economic impact of commercial rafting totaled $150 million. In mid-July, flows in the Colorado River at Palisade were low enough that Grand Valley irrigators exercised the Cameo call – a senior water right that requires water-users upstream to curtail their diversions. Before the Cameo went into effect, the Shoshone Outage Protocol maintained healthy flows along the Colorado River from Parshall through Glenwood Canyon and all the way to Palisade. Once instituted, the Cameo call provided the same benefit as the Shoshone Outage Protocol, which was stopped when the Cameo call came on line. “This is a good example of how the (Cooperative Agreement) was envisioned to work; everybody pitching in to help the river in a time of need,” said James Newberry, Grand County Commissioner. “This is exactly why we all came together to sign the (Cooperative Agreement) – to provide benefit to the Colorado River,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/Manager of Denver Water. “Denver Water is proud to be part of an effort that fulfills our goal to operate our system in a way that benefits the environment.” For more information, call the Grand County Board of County Commissioners, 970-725-3347, or visit http://www.co.grand.co.us.

Study to assess wildfire potential near water supply " Grand County

Hit hard by watershed clean-up costs in the wake of past wildfires, the Denver Water Board is launching efforts to protect crucial water supplies from future wildfire. Denver Water is launching a study of problem areas in the Upper Colorado region. “(The study will) look at what would happen if there were a wildfire in the watershed,” said Don Kennedy of Denver Water, listing among the concerns possible flooding and erosion. The Watershed Assessment and Prioritization, conducted in two phases, will be taking a critical look at both the East Slope and West Slope watersheds. For the West Slope, the study will include Summit and Grand county areas, including the Blue River and Colorado River, Williams Fork, Fraser River, Willow Creek, Colorado River out of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Troublesome drainage and Muddy Creek. The analysis is tailored to large-scale watersheds 10,000 to 40,000 acres in size, and will conclude just outside of Kremmling. It is hoped the study will point out what areas are most threatened and are in need of forest treatments, such as sediment traps, firebreaks, erosion control or measures such as pre-permitting to quickly do what’s necessary to protect water supplies during a catastrophic fire. With six fires spanning from the Buffalo Creek Fire in 1996 to the Hayman Fire in 2002 ” the epic fire that destroyed 138,000 acres and debilitated the Strontia Springs Reservoir ” Denver Water spent $8 million on post-fire restorations and plans to spend another $25 million in 2010 to remove sediment out of the Hayman-affected reservoir. Where water flows into the reservoir, more than one million cubic yards of material accumulated from the aftermath of that fire, Kennedy said. Denver Water is initiating the legwork for upcoming watershed assessments along with the Northern Water Conservancy District, the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Springs Utilities, the City of Aurora, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Conservation Service. The Upper Colorado phase of the study will cost $27,340, with both East and West Slope watershed assessments coming in at $56,756. Denver Water has contracted with forest hydrologist Brad Piehl of JW Associates of Breckenridge to work on the study and has gained commitments for financial support from the Town of Winter Park, Grand County, the Winter Park Resort through the Clinton Ditch and Reservoir Company, Grand County Water and Sanitation Number One, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District. A Feb. 5 public meeting on the project at Winter Park Resort was well received by those who attended from Grand County, Kennedy said. With changes in climate and the onset of the mountain pine beetle compounding the ill health of the regions’ forests, “We must be more involved in the planning process to protect our drinking water supply,” Kennedy said. It’s estimated the assessment, which will include data from plans already completed such as local Community Wildfire Protection Plans, will last six months before completion. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.

Even with ‘historic’ agreements, water still divisive issue in Colorado

Water officials in Grand County and on the Front Range are heralding a "new area of cooperation" with protecting water resources, but not everyone is on board. At a celebration lunch on April 24 at Devil's Thumb Ranch in Tabernash, representatives from Denver Water, the Colorado Governor's Office, Grand County and Trout Unlimited spoke in favor of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. Nearing its one-year anniversary this September, the agreement coordinates efforts between 18 interest groups to both protect West Slope watersheds while providing future water supplies to Denver customers. The celebration came in the wake of the latest development in the proposed Moffat Collection System, Denver Water's latest trans-mountain water project. "(Our) overall goal is to protect the watershed and economies in the Colorado River Basin and help provide additional water security for those who live, work and play on the West Slope and (for) the customers of Denver Water," said Jim Lochhead, CEO and Manager of Denver Water, at the lunch celebration. The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement helps protect river flows in western watersheds, including the Fraser River, through projects and permitting. Past trans-mountain diversions in Grand County and other West Slope communities have reduced flows in rivers and streams, impacting water clarity and aquatic life. Denver Water will pay out $1.95 million in Grand County for watershed, water treatment and river habitat improvements. It will send another $2 million to Summit County. The agreement is being called "historic" for its unprecedented work in bringing together a wide range of interests throughout the state and for its "learning by doing" program of adaptive water management. "Working together, we were able to resolve historic conflicts through a holistic approach to resolving Colorado water disputes," Lochhead said. According to John Stulp with Gov. John Hickenlooper's office, the unprecedented water cooperation will also be used as a model for the statewide Colorado Water Plan, set to be ready by December 2014. "Part of the concerns we have, and why we need a water plan, is based on many of the same principles you had in this cooperative agreement," Stulp said at the lunch. "Important … building blocks that went into this cooperative agreement (are) having good people with a broad vision of the future beyond their own community." Some not convinced Still, the agreement hasn't eliminated all controversy. Part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement negotiations is that West Slope parties must agree not to oppose any permits for the Moffat Project, the latest trans-mountain diversion plan to move water from the Fraser watershed to the Denver-metro area. "The bottom line is, the Moffat Project will remove even more water out of the headwaters of the Colorado River and the Fraser (River) in Grand County," said Gary Wockner with the Save the Colorado River Campaign. "You can't make a river healthier by taking water out of it." The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released its final Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Project last week. It's a massive document — the table of contents alone is over 60 pages and Wockner said it has around 11,000 pages total. So far, however, he said he hasn't seen anything in the study to address the negative impacts to river systems in Grand County. Other environmental interests have also said even with the environmental impact statement, the Moffat Project is "far from a done deal." "This project should not be approved unless the long-term health of the river is assured and our nation's environmental standards are met," said McCrystie Adams, a Denver-based attorney with Earthjustice, in a press release. "We and our partners are committed to keeping the Colorado River flowing." Geoff Elliott, an earth scientist with the local firm Grand Environmental Services, said Denver Water presented bad data to begin with, stacking the numbers in its favor. "Their data is skewed to show more water in the Fraser Headwaters than now exists," he said. "My problem is no one is doing math. Denver gets out with everything it wants." Elliot said according to his analysis so far, the Moffat Project's proposals compared with U.S. Geological Survey data on actual water flows means it could take 90 percent or more water out of the Fraser. "Now, we get hit by a 12,000-page Final EIS that requires an army to review," he said. "This is Big Brother Denver Water hitting Grand County hard, and we are told we should be happy with vague platitudes, scraps of water and lawyerly agreements for more closed-door meetings." The public comment period for the EIS is open until June 9, but Wockner, Elliot and others with the Save the Colorado River Campaign will ask for an extension so they can conduct a full review. "I expect this controversy to drag on for a long time into the future," Wockner said. Instead of more trans-mountain water diversions, both Elliot and Wockner said they'd like the Front Range to focus on its local water supplies through water conservation, water reuse and water sharing agreements with farmers. "We can't fix the problem by creating another problem by draining our rivers," Wockner said. Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.

The Friday Report – Fixing Ma Nature’s mistakes

Scientists tell us that there’s the same amount of water around as there was way back when the first dinosaur lumbered through Highland’s Ranch. Scientists also tell us that the good news is that the earth has lots of fresh water. The bad news is that the water is not where we want it. We insist on living in dry, sunny spots where there’s not too much of that pesky rain – California, for example. California is the tenth largest economy in the world, much of it based, in some way or another, upon the use of water. But, unfortunately, 80 percent of California’s water consumption is in the southern part of the state while 70 percent of the available fresh water is in the north. California has constructed more than 2,000 miles of canals to correct this oversight of Mother Nature and is in final planning of the 10 billion dollar ditch known as the Peripheral Canal, the final pipe needed to suck all the moisture out of the north to hydrate the development in the south. Who knew Mother Nature needed so much help! Monday’s Mexico-centered earthquake might have been a wake-up call and reminder to southern California’s 24 million residents that a mild, but well-placed earthquake along the San Andreas Fault could leave two-thirds of them without water or sewage. Think Haiti times ten. We choose to live in arid places, yet we insist on lush lawns and water-intensive horticulture. More than 70 percent of the water consumed in Southern California goes to lawns and other outside, non-essential uses. The innocuously named Colorado River (Moffat) Firming Project (who wouldn’t want a firm Colorado River?) is another example of Man Fixing Mother Nature’s Mess. If she’s so smart, why didn’t she put the headwaters on the Front Range, then Denver could run the Colorado River directly through their toilets instead of having to poke straws through the mountains to sip us to death slowly. But wait – hope may come from the other direction as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finishes up a study of a $3 billion proposal to tap a quarter million acre-feet annually from Wyoming’s Green River, just above the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, pipe it across the southern desert of Wyoming and on south to Colorado’s Front Range. “It’s a plan to channel endless water to the metropolitan areas of Colorado,” says Aaron Million, pipeline promoter. “No, it’s not,” say proponents of the Colorado-Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project. “It’s a plan to channel a quarter billion dollars a year into Aaron Million’s pockets.” The CWCWSP is a group of municipal water suppliers from the south Denver Metro area and Wyoming with a similar but alternate plan. They announced last Thursday at the Capitol that they’re banding together to study a project that competes with Aaron Million’s 500 mile pipe dream and calls for new reservoirs to be built in Larimer County, somewhere east of the foothills. Participants in the plan include Castle Rock, Colorado Springs, Parker, Douglas County, Laramie County, Wyoming, and the Wyoming cities of Cheyenne, Torrington and Rawlins. Each party will share in the funding study and while the two concepts seem similar, Million’s project is a private venture with lots of enthusiasm but little support whereas the Colorado-Wyoming plan has the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and would only serve municipal water utilities in the two states. Oh, if Mother Nature had only gotten it right, Denver could be three times the size it is now. Wouldn’t that just be splendid!

Climate change scholars: Change is natural

To the Editor: Two people have responded to my letter on the global warming hoax. Both authors quoted papers for manmade global warming. However, for every one, there are papers that argue against. For example, Climatologist Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama quotes on his blog that "evidence from my group's government-funded research … suggests global warming is mostly natural and the climate system is quite insensitive to humanity's greenhouse gas emissions." This viewpoint by Dr. Spencer fits in nicely with the statement I made that manmade CO2 is in not the prime driver of climate change. In my letter I mentioned that based on the detailed temperature records for the last 113 years there is a very poor correlation with CO2 and temperature increase. The reference for that article is Joseph D'Aleo, executive director of International Climate and Environmental Assessment Project. The best statistical fit for the last 113 years of temperature data is the 30-year ocean cooling cycle. He predicts 20 more years of cooling. The best summary of the debate for me is Fire, Ice and Paradise, by H. Leighton Steward. In his book he gives a geologic perspective to the problem. Based on the 600 million fossil record there is no correlation of CO2 and temperature. The book also documents that there has never been a constant climate. There have been more than 20 glacier cycles in just the last 2 million years. In the last 400,000 years, we have good ice core data that documents four major glacial cycles. In those cycles there is a correlation of CO2 and temperature. However the details of those cycles show that the increase of CO2 lags behind the temperature increase. If CO2 were the cause of these cycles, it would have to increase before the temperature went up. The cycles of the last 400,000 years are widely accepted as being caused by the elliptical shape of the earth's orbit and not by CO2. Steward's book and the 2008 article by David Archibald documents one of the strongest arguments against the global warming theory. Archibald's research shows the effect of CO2 on the atmosphere decreases as the CO2 increases on a logarithmic scale. In simple terms, that means the first 20-ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere has a greater effect than the next 400 ppm. If this is research alone is correct – it's a hoax. Tim Schowalter Granby

Grand County: Mitigation will address EPA Moffat concerns

Official comments from the Environmental Protection Agency on the Moffat Collection System Project have been critical of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' methodology in determining environmental impacts from the project. But Grand County Commissioner James Newberry said Denver Water's proposed mitigation and enhancement would address those concerns. "The EPA is just reiterating what they said from the very start, and basically, what's going on with that is those are a lot of the same comments that Grand County had," Newberry said. "These are the same comments that have been going on. What we did with the mitigation and enhancements and the Colorado River agreement addresses those questions." Denver currently diverts a large amount of water from the Fraser River through the Moffat Collection Tunnel. The current project proposal seeks to triple the capacity of the Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. Denver water currently diverts 60 percent of the upper Fraser River's flows, and the project would see even more water drawn from the river. The cost of the project is expected to be around $360 million. The EPA's 22-page letter to the Corps of Engineers contains a number of recommendations, including expanding proposed mitigation of the project's impacts on the Fraser and Colorado rivers. "As mentioned throughout this comment letter, the documentation of proposed mitigation for project impacts is inadequate to determine compliance with this section of the Guidelines," the letter states. The EPA recommended additional mitigation measures such as adding additional bypass flows during low-flow periods, replacing riffle-pool complexes in affected rivers, and moving diversion structures lower in the watershed to increase wetted habitat. The county's comments, contained in a two-page letter, also criticized the Corps of Engineers' conclusions on environmental impacts, though it stated that understanding impacts was "fraught with uncertainty." "Because of these inherent uncertainties, the County would like to emphasize its support for the general approach to mitigation embodied in Denver Water's Conceptual Mitigation Proposal that includes measures described as mitigation and additional environmental protections," the letter states. The letter also touts Denver Water's participation in Learning By Doing, an adaptive management process that could see mitigation measures change in order to prevent declines in river health and improve conditions in certain areas. The project has drawn lots of criticism in recent months, and not just from the EPA. A Boulder County Commissioners meeting in June was dominated by voices critical of the project's impacts on Boulder County. But Newberry said those involved need to move on. "Why argue about (the data)?" Newberry said. "Let's get into the river, get the scientists in the river, and get started on fixing this thing. That's our mantra." Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

Letter: Newberry has done much good for Grand County

To the Editor: These pages have seen so much vitriol hurled at James Newberry over the past few weeks that I wonder how the worst of it can actually be coming from Grand County. As Shakespeare wrote: "The evil that men lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones." We are all human; none of us is perfect. I understand the anger some people are expressing, but we should also not forget James' good work as county commissioner over 18 years, greatly improving Grand County and the lives of all of us who live here. I will not give a long laundry list of everything he has on our behalf (although I could), but instead focus on one issue of importance to most Grand County residents: Water. We all know that about 80 percent of the snowmelt in our county that makes it into the Fraser or Colorado rivers goes to be used, often wasted, in places like the Front Range or California. Most also know that the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, which James tirelessly spearheaded, is our single best protection against further water loss. (For those who don't, check out last year's Sky Hi News article: http://www.skyhinews.com/news/10272033-113/river-colorado-district-compact). While I am pessimistic about the long-term fate of our county's water, this agreement gives our rivers legal protections they never had, and pushes the day that they dry out further into the future. In my opinion, for this reason alone, we owe this man a debt of gratitude many times larger than the few thousand dollars that some are obsessing about. I ask the haters: What have you done for Grand County over the last 18 years? If you really think it's more than James has done, then by all means continue your vicious attacks. (Those inclined will probably do so regardless.) For the rest of us, let's continue to love and enjoy the magnificent lakes and rivers of this place we call home, especially now that summer seems to have finally arrived. And let's not forget to treat our neighbors with respect. Rick Edelson Fraser

East Slope-West Slope water agreement aims for ‘peace in our time’

In the valley of Devil’s Thumb, where legend has it the Ute and Arapaho Indian tribes once resolved differences after years of battle, East and West Slope water negotiators announced their own historic peace treaty. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who as former mayor of Denver helped to instigate Colorado water talks, praised negotiators for their efforts during a roll-out event at Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash on Thursday morning.”Collaboration can move mountains, and move water wars,” the governor said. “We are interconnected in a way that demands this type of approach.”Hickenlooper said he first became aware of the value of the state’s water as a restaurateur in Denver, in the making of beer.The water compromise – heralded by a panel of Colorado River District representatives, county commissioners and other leaders – can be compared to “looking at the state budget,” the governor said.”No one is going to be perfectly happy. No one gets everything that they want. But you end up with an agreement that has lasting significance.” The long talked-about list of “enhancements” to protect West Slope rivers was officially rolled out after five years of negotiations among as many as 34 parties, including those with agreements with Denver Water, those tied up in litigation with the utility, water users and permitters.Negotiations were made possible with the help of professional mediator John Bickerman of Washington, D.C., who is also mediating negotiations between the West Slope and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, with its pending Windy Gap firming project in Grand County. The Denver Water-West Slope “Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” if signed by all parties involved, creates protections for the Fraser and Blue Rivers, certain tributaries and the upper and middle rivers of the Colorado River to the Grand Valley (Grand Junction).The deals hashed out in this 50-plus page agreement are an “all or nothing” proposition, according to Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran. And all of it is contingent on approval of the Moffat Collection System expansion permit sought by Denver Water. Thursday was the first time the public had the chance to see this side proposal, which had been kept confidential due to the sensitivity of court cases. One lawsuit involves Denver Water and its use of the Blue River and Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs. “This became a mechanism to settle those issues without having to litigate,” Underbrink Curran said.”Coloradans of the West Slope have watched our water flow uphill, flow toward money, flow to the Front Range,” said Summit County Commissioner Thomas Davidson, during his speech at the event. “As leaders on the West Slope, we’ve had lots of times when our constituents have come to us and asked, ‘what are you doing about it?’ I think it’s really important to say to all the folks on the West Slope: With this agreement, we’ve really done something about that.””This is the start,” said Grand County Commissioner James Newberry, adding a lot of loose ends still need to be sorted “to ensure implementation.””I think it’s too good of a thing to let die on the vine,” he said. The pending West Slope agreement with Denver Water aims to address “past sins” that created river deficiencies from a long and checkered history of trans-mountain diversions. Experts agree the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers have been severely depleted and damaged by this history.In its obligation to serve 1.3 million users and visitors in Denver, said Denver Water CEO / Manager Jim Lochhead during the event, Denver Water “also needs to put that obligation into a context. We have an obligation to the rest of Colorado, including our neighbors on the Front Range, on the West Slope and to the environment.”Seeking to address many environmental and water supply challenges on the Western Slope, the agreement throws money at some of the problems. But perhaps most importantly, the agreement creates a framework for continued West and East Slope relations – a management plan termed “Learning by Doing.” Committees comprised of scientists and water leaders would be bound to take stake in the health of the rivers on an annual basis, Underbrink Curran said. The county manager is most proud of the “global” solutions the document introduces.”There are three pretty enormous things, that, over time, I believe will become more and more important,” she said. (See first three proposals listed in the side bar.)For the water utilities in Winter Park and Fraser, the proposed agreement outlines minimum flows at the Fraser headwaters that can be counted on, according to Mike Wageck of the Winter Park Water and Sanitation District. The deal could answer the question: “How much do we really have to take from the river to provide for customers and the community if we don’t know if Denver can play around with it?” he said. The deal would also provide 1,000 acre-feet of bypass flows from Denver’s yield used to improve the quality of the river, allows use of Denver’s infrastructure to move water owned by ditch shareholders such as Grand County, and provides 375 acre feet of water for the towns of Winter Park, Fraser and Granby. In all, $11 million would be put toward rivers in Grand County for aquatic environment, nutrient loading and other projects that would benefit the Fraser River. Another $11 million would be directed to Summit County. “The package is actually better than the alternative, in my opinion,” said Bruce Hutchins, manager of Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1. “Otherwise, it would be business as usual, and that is unacceptable.”Aside from the Colorado Cooperative proposal, still coming down the line as part of the Moffat Collection System permitting process are separate fixes that may become conditional to the official permit, such as those recommended from the Colorado Wildlife Commission. Many recognize the deals may work out several contentious and emotional water conflicts in Colorado. “When we started this five years ago, (then-Denver Mayor) John Hickenlooper had several appointments to make to the Denver Water Board,” Grand County’s Underbrink Curran said. “He appointed people that certainly understood what Denver needs, but also had environmental concerns and were willing to step in and say, ‘these are statewide issues.’ It was a huge philosophy shift, and it allowed us to step in.”Denver Water repeatedly expressed the need to create “peace in our time” -or freedom to operate the projects without fervent opposition from the West Slope, the county manager said. “Over time, I think everybody that was in it was very dedicated to making something good happen, but it was not a process that was not without pain or fright,” she continued.”I’ve never been in negotiations this big, that lasted this long, that had this many players that were very skilled at all levels.” The Grand County government budgeted for water experts and the drafting of the Stream Management Plan, a scientific river health document that may become a guiding document for future decisions as part of “Learning By Doing.”Yet even though Denver Water’s proposed Moffat project would take water predominantly in peak times, no matter which way one slices it, there will still be “a limited supply of water,” in the river, Hutchins said. “Is it enough water?” Wageck said. “No. It’s never going to be enough water.”Opposition to the negotiations have called for a “not-another-drop” mentality, a bolder stance from the West Slope that might ultimately persuade Denver Water to find its future shortfall in water conservation rather than a pursuit of more.Although Underbrink Curran said such a perspective is “valid,” she pointed out that such a stance would mean rivers would continue to suffer from current problems, the cost of taking on Denver Water would be an unknown, and so would the outcome. Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado Headwaters chapter in Fraser, praised West Slope stakeholders for their push for river protections. “They realized that a healthy river is the basis for healthy communities and local economies,” he said. “They realized that if we don’t save our rivers, we’ll lose the heart and soul of this magnificent place.”But the overall outlook of Colorado’s Trout Unlimited is cautious.”Some have called this deal a ‘global solution,’ but it certainly isn’t global in scope, as it does not address the future impacts of the pending Moffat and Windy Gap expansion projects,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, in statements released on Wednesday. “Nor does it involve the single largest user of Upper Colorado River water -the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District.””Windy Gap needs to be a team player in all this,” said Jim Polkrandt of the Colorado River District, “that’s the missing element.”Negotiations with the Front Range utility’s northern municipal subdistricts are ongoing, according to Underbrink Curran, and talks are “going well.” Northern is keeping a close eye on how the West Slope talks with Denver Water are playing out, she said.The result of Northern negotiations should paint a clearer picture of what other West Slope benefits could be made specific to the endangered Upper Colorado stretch from Windy Gap to Kremmling.Yet many still worry about the prospect of resuscitating rivers, when a projected 80 percent of flows might be diverted to the Front Range by both the Moffat and Windy Gap/Big Thompson systems. Cooperation may help the area’s “flatlined” rivers, said Ken Neubecker of the Western Rivers Institute and a member of the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, “but what the river really needs are high flows in the spring.”The river advocate hopes negotiators never lose sight of pronounced environmental deficits. “We’re still getting a net major loss out of the Fraser,” he said.”A river is a living thing. If we don’t have the water and seasonal rhythms, it’s not going to be much of a river anymore.”- Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603

Grand County agenda focuses on water issues, beetle kill mitigation

Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Lake Granby have been deemed “high priority” in the state for taking action to prevent infiltration of non-native zebra mussels ” and that may mean implementing a boat inspection program when funding becomes available, according to Colorado Division of Wildlife Area Wildlife Manager Lyle Sidener. Sidener made a presentation about zebra mussels during a public information meeting Saturday in Grand Lake, hosted by the town and Grand County commissioners. “Just about everything that depends on water can be affected by these. Agriculture, fisheries, power production, recreation ” and all of those are right here in Grand County, obviously,” Sidener said, adding that the economic impacts of mussels if introduced to the area would be “devastating.” It’s estimated $138 billion is spent each year trying to control the spread of the one-inch Eurasian mollusk. Considered adaptive to fresh-water and formidable survivors, they can multiply rapidly. They adhere to any hard surface in water with byssal threads, encrusting docks, boats, ramps, rocks, even other aquatic creatures. Native mussels can be distinguished from zebra mussels by their lack of those attachment threads, Sidener said. The mussels spread from water body to water body by attaching themselves to any part of a water craft. Native to the Caspian and Black seas, zebra mussels have already taken over lakes in Europe and were introduced to America in 1988 by ballast water from ships in the Great Lakes. Lake Havasu, Lake Powell and Lake Mead are infested, Sidener reported, and last February, zebra-mussel larvae were confirmed to have been found in Colorado’s Pueblo Reservoir. The Colorado State Assembly and Gov. Bill Ritter passed legislation this year to provide funding for lake protection, which will be available in July. In the meantime, the Division of Wildlife is launching its educational message to “Clean your boat, drain your boat and dry your boat” before trailering it to another lake. “Signs should be up before the end of the month on all boat ramps to get the message out,” Sidener said. “Drying can kill the mussels; the problem is, when you go today to Lake Granby, Williams Fork the next, then maybe Wolford the next, that boat is not going to be dry,” he said. “So there’s some things that we need to take into account.” A nationwide campaign called the 100th Meridian Initiative, which began to try and prevent the spread of the mussels past the 100th Meridian, notes that the average boat-drying time in Colorado is up to 40 days during the cooler days of spring and three to five days in mid-summer. Boats must be thoroughly washed with 140-degree water to try and remove the aquatic hitchhikers. The DOW is monitoring what it considers high-risk lakes that have multiple boat ramps, marinas and boats coming from areas affected such as from the Midwest or lakes Mead, Powell and Havasu. “Monitoring has stepped up for the high-priority lakes in the state,” Sidener said. “Inspections can be implemented. We’re hoping when money becomes available in July, there is money for the Division of Wildlife for temporary employees to do inspections on lakes. I don’t know how that’s going to apply statewide, it’s limited money and a limited number of people who we could use for those inspections. I would think there is going to be some level of inspection in the Three Lakes Area, but I can’t say what that might be,” he said. Multiple subjects Zebra mussels weren’t the only topic of interest at Saturday’s meeting. The gathering of mostly a Grand Lake-area crowd covered water matters, forest health issues, erosion/sediment control and emergency management with presentations by county division heads and spokespersons from agencies such as Rocky Mountain National Park, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Forest Service. Rivers Grand County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran explained county taxpayers’ interest in water matters, such as the Denver and Windy Gap firming projects poised to transport more water out of the county, the Wild and Scenic Designation of the Colorado River from Kremmling to Dotsero, the Lower Blue Management Plan, the Vail Ditch and the county-driven Stream Management Plan now entering its third and final phase. The county will have spent $1 million on the Stream management Plan by the end of this year. “So your tax dollars are going to protect the water resources and the things that bring us to Grand County, keep us in Grand County and the things we’re proud of,” Underbrink Curran said. Grand County is in negotiations with both Denver Water and Northern regarding West Slope river health. “Grand County has always believed that with the cooperation of Denver, Northern and the Bureau of Reclamation and all the spigots and pipes that could be connected or could be utilized in conjunction with each other, that we could do a better job at keeping water in the streams at the time that it’s necessary,” Underbrink Curran said. “Denver, Northern and the Bureau of Rec. have agreed that that is something that we should look at as part of the Colorado River Basin proposal.” Lakes The audience was told what many already knew from a Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake algae scare last year: Some algae produces toxins. Last year toxic-algae levels measured by the Grand County Water Information Network were considered beyond safe-drinking standards set by the World Health Organization. This year, the lakes will undergo weekly sample tests, Grand County Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris said. “This year we hope blooms won’t be as bad as in 2007 because we’re two years out from the Shadow Mountain Reservoir drawdown,” she said during a slide show. The county will be testing weekly during bloom season in five water bodies, and an emergency response plan is being developed for drinking water and recreational use. Moreover, according to Morris, samples will be analyzed this year for the chemicals carbaryl and permythrin, pesticides used to fight off mountain-pine beetles. The testing will be done in Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain, Granby and Windy Gap reservoirs, as well as the mouth of the North Fork of the Colorado River. Also regarding lakes, Northern Water Deputy Manager of Operations Brad Wind said the 56-day drawdown of Shadow Mountain Reservoir cost $137,000 in energy to pump water back into Lake Granby two years ago. The drawdown took place on 500 acres to kill off pervasive weeds in the shallow lake. Due to snow cover, some plants survived, but from one assessment, weeds have been reduced, Wind reported. “The algae problem is a concern here; I recognize that, Northern Water recognizes that,” Wind said. “But it’s a concern to users who ultimately receive that water as well. We support the monitoring here, but also monitoring as that water cascades through the Big-Thompson system into the terminal reservoirs.” As Grand County and other organizations fight for an official water-quality standard for Grand Lake at a state-level hearing today, Jaci Gould of the Bureau of Reclamation said Saturday that a pipeline loosely proposed by West Slope lake advocates to divert water to the East Slope, circumventing Grand Lake altogether, is not something the Bureau is considering due to the challenge of acquiring “appropriations from Congress and the authority to do the analyses.” “We are not actively pursuing that as an agency,” she said. Forest health Shadow Mountain residents of Grand Lake didn’t hear what they’d hoped for about treatment plans on the south-shore slope of Rocky Mountain National Park land. They learned there aren’t any. Mark McCutcheon, Park Colorado River District ranger, informed residents that although the Park is doing tree work in high-use areas of its territory, Shadow Mountain, considered the visible “poster-child” of mountain beetle devastation, is a place that both logistically and economically cannot be marked for tree-removal. It is, however, a place targeted for primary fire response, McCutcheon said. “We will, with partners, try to put out that fire,” he said. “There’s only so much we can do with Shadow Mountain,” he said. Park policy has been to treat backcountry territory as wilderness, “to allow Mother Nature, who is kicking our keister, do what she does, and she happens to be weeding her garden right now,” McCutcheon said. An update from U.S. Forest District Ranger of the Arapaho National Forest, Craig Magwire, said the Willow Creek tree-removal project, which would comprise of 18,000 acres of harvesting and hand work, is going to be considered this fall. Meanwhile, the U.S. Forest Service is concentrating on other district projects and is taking out older trees around camping areas. As many as 4,000 trees were removed just this spring in campgrounds, and another 12,000 are planned for removal, Magwire said. “It’s an expensive job to do, as many of you know.” On the county front, Division of Natural Resources Foreman Jennifer Murray told the audience that the beefed-up burn program saw 113 burn days out of 159 available last season with an estimated 5,500 piles burned. That amounts to 13 million cubic-feet of woody debris, Murray said. Federal agencies burned another 1 million cubic-feet, she said. During the peak pile-burn time before the Christmas holiday, 250 piles were burned daily, she reported. The burn season is now closed, save for campfire-sized burns 3 feet-by-3 feet-by-2 feet. Murray also announced that the county’s tree-removal project is in full swing, with priority roads that connect to highways its principal target. County tree-removal in the Grand Lake area will follow the evacuation plan from north to south, taking out all lodgepole trees greater than 4 feet in diameter or standing-dead of another variety, Murray said. “Our goal is to have all primary roads completed by 2010.” ” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@grandcountynews.com.