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Colorado: Not much love for proposed new water diversions

EPA raises questions about compliance with Clean Water Act

Denver Water plans to increase transmountain diversions through the Moffat collection system will be up for comment at a pair of upcoming meetings.

Denver Water plans to increase transmountain diversions through the Moffat collection system is not drawing rave reviews, as numerous entities have expressed significant concerns about impacts to water quality. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For all the detailed information in the 16,000-page study for Denver Water’s proposed new water diversions from the Western Slope, there are still more questions than answers, according to formal comment letters filed in the past few weeks.

As currently configured, the proposal to shunt more water from Colorado River headwaters streams to the Front Range could worsen water water quality in many streams that are already feeling the pain of low flows, EPA water experts wrote in a June 9 letter. Continue reading

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Colorado: Statewide snowpack way above average

South Platte Basin snowpack at 315 percent of average

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Big snowpack lingers in Colorado Rockies. bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Rivers in northern Colorado will continue to flow at high levels for several more weeks, water watchers said last week, releasing the results of the June 1 snowpack survey. While runoff season is well under way, the remaining snowpack in the Colorado River Basin is still 223 percent of median and 80 percent higher than last year’s snowpack on June 1.

The most snow lingers in the South Platte Basin, where the snowpack is at 311 percet of median. All basins north of the Gunnison are well above average, but the state’s southern basins have nearly melted out, continuing a run of drought conditions and heightening concerns about this summer’s fire season. The Rio Grande Basin and the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel basins are at 59 and 39 percent of median, respectively. Continue reading

Colorado: More lip service, but no action on water conservation

Snake River melt-off.

Snake River melt-off.

Gov. Hickenlooper vetoes measure that could have benefited all Colorado water users, including the environment

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado’s old-school water buffaloes are more than willing to pay lip service to conservation, but when they actually have a chance to walk the walk … well, it’s business as usual.

Bowing to pressure from agricultural users, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week vetoed a bill that would have encouraged voluntary conservation measures and given incentives for private investment in conservation. Continue reading

Colorado: Wrangling continues over proposed new transmountain diversion, reservoir enlargement

Boulder County gets high-level backup on request for comment period extension on major new transmountain water diversion

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Will the public get more time to review and comment on the final environmental study for the largest proposed water project in years?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Boulder County’s request for more time to comment on the proposed Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion got some high-level backup this week, as Sen. Michael Bennet formally asked the federal government for an extension.

Denver Water’s proposed new diversions from Colorado River headwaters in Grand County, specifically the Fraser River, are under federal scrutiny as the Corps considers issuing a permit for the enlargement of Gross Reservoir in Boulder County. The federal agency released the final version of a massive environmental study in April, setting a June 9 deadline for comment.

The agency received about 400 requests for an extension, many of them via a form letter. Boulder County also requested an extension, citing the need for more time to read the detailed technical reports and other documents that are part of the study, but regional Corps of Engineer Commander Joel Cross decided not to provide more time. Continue reading

Environment: Feds won’t extend public comment period on plan to divert more water from Colorado River

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Colorado water wars may heat up as feds refuse to extend comment period Denver Water’s plan to gulp yet more water from the Colorado River. bberwyn photo.

Massive environmental study hard to digest in just 45 days

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — If you were hoping to comment on the entire massive environmental study for Denver Water’s proposal to divert yet more water from the Colorado River to the Front Range, it’s time for some some speed reading.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said last week that there will be no extension of the formal comment period despite a slew of requests for more time. And it’s not just environmental groups that asked for an extension. Boulder County, where there will be major impacts from the expansion of Gross Reservoir, requested more time to comb through thousands of pages of technical reports and data, but to no avail. Continue reading

State of the river: Winter snows dispel some Colorado drought woes

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Will El Niño bring a wet summer to Colorado?

Most northern reservoirs expected to fill with above average snowpack and runoff; southern basins, southeastern plains still under drought gun

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Reservoirs in the northern and central Colorado high country will fill on schedule this year, water managers said Tuesday at the annual Summit County state of the river meeting, outlining their expectations for river flows and runoff volume in the Blue River Basin, a crucial water source area for both sides of the Continental Divide.

Most speakers focused was on these headwaters, but statewide maps also showed much of Colorado’s southern tier with below to well-below average snowpack — down to 50 percent in the Upper Rio Grande Basin, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Colorado snow survey program.

The dry conditions in parts of the eastern San Juans are part of regional Southwest drought footprint, which is increasing demand for this year’s runoff. Southeastern Colorado’s plains are still experiencing Dust Bowl conditions, along with parts of the adjacent south-central plains.

Troy Wineland, water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, said headwater streams in the Blue River Basin are flowing at twice their average volume for this time of year, with peak runoff yet to come. Generally, the Blue River and its tributaries reach peak flows some time in mid-June, though the exact timing is weather-dependent, Wineland said. The state of the river meetings continue the next few weeks with sessions up and down the Colorado River. Details here. Continue reading

Colorado: A tale of two snowpacks

This is an unfiltered iPhone shot, showing that, if the light is good to begin with, you don't need a lot of technical tricks.

A deep snowpack in late March along Tenmile Creek, in Frisco, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Snowpack bountiful north, a little sparse in the San Juans

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A persistent weather pattern across the U.S. in March once again benefited Colorado’s northern and central mountains, as a steady stream of storms brushed down the northern Rockies before roaring into the Midwest.

In the northwestern part of the state, the snowpack increased in the Colorado and Yampa river basins. The South Platte River Basin is at a near-record level. similar to 2011, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which released results of the all-important April 1 snowpack survey.

By contrast, southwestern Colorado is on the eastern edge of a large area that’s very dry, including near-record drought in California. The snow survey showed  snowpack conditions across the southern mountains tracking below normal for the third consecutive month.

Continue reading

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