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Colorado River water users juggle rights to up storage

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A deal between Xcel Energy and Denver Water and other water users to relax the Shoshone hydorpower water right will enable more storage in Dillon, Williams Fork and Green Mountain reservoirs this spring. Photo courtesy Xcel.

Shoshone hydropower water right ‘relaxed’ in collaborative response to 2-year drought; agreement enables about 20,000 acre feet of additional upstream storage early in the year

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Some key players in the Colorado River Basin have worked together to “relax” a senior water right near Glenwood Springs, enabling more water — about 20,000 acre feet — to be stored in upstream reservoirs.

“We expect to gain about 8,000 acre-feet each in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs as a result of the relaxation,” said Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney.

The 1,250-cfs water right for the Xcel-owned Shoshone hydropower plant dates back to 1902, making it one of the most senior rights on the river.

When Xcel exercises that water right, it affects other water users all the way up the river because it’s administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir. Continue reading

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Water: Scrambling to sustain Colorado River flows

Cooperative releases from headwaters reservoirs will help sustain environmental and recreational values

A NASA satellite captured this image of the Colorado River flowing through Utah.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With some of the lowest stream flows on record for this time of year, Colorado water managers are wrangling every last drop and trying to make them all count.

Upstream storage and diversions have exacerbated the low flows resulting from a meager snowpack and early runoff. As a result, water temperatures in parts of the Colorado River recently have already reached temperatures close to 60 degrees, which is borderline dangerous for trout. Those temperature readings were measured at a gage in the Pumphouse area, according to Jim Pokrandt, communications specialist with the Colorado River District.

Average Colorado River flows through Glenwood Canyon this time of year are about 6,000 cfs, but this year, the river has been flowing at less than 20 percent of that, at about 1,100 cfs.

Looking to raise stream flows, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating under the Shoshone outage protocol, which helps sustain flows along the Colorado River mainstem with water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir — even when Xcel’s Shoshone power plant isn’t exercising a senior water right that historically keeps at least some water in the river during dry seasons and years. Continue reading

Colorado: Plan to restart solar rebates gets PUC hearing

Solar rebates from Xcel could be back on track after a March 18 Colorado Public Utilities Commission hearing.

Settlement gives industry some stability and addresses Solar*Reward program’s cash flow and debt issues

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Flexing its growing economic, social and political muscle, Colorado’s burgeoning solar energy industry pushed back when Xcel last month suddenly announced it would slash rebates for solar energy systems.

After several weeks of negotiation, the sides have reached a settlement that gives the industry some predicability and stability and also addresses the program’s cash flow issues and reduces the program’s $100 million debt load.

The settlement for the Solar*Rewards program is up for a hearing today in front of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission. If it’s approved, the rebate program should restart this month. Continue reading

Commentary: Path to renewable energy requires care

Community advocates want more focus on distributed solar power generation

Photovoltaic panels at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

Editor’s note: Saguache County resident Chuck Tidd delivered this comment at the March 6, 2011 BLM public meeting to gathering public input on the Solar PEIS proposal to open 128,000 acres of public lands in Colorado (mostly in the San Luis Valley) and 22 million acres across six western states, for industrial solar development. Chuck is an off-grid resident, owner of Southern Colorado Appraisal Services and a member of the San Luis Valley Renewable Communities board of directors.

By Chuck Tidd

By putting forward a plan to approve large scale solar developments on BLM land, the BLM is implicitly endorsing an energy paradigm whose time has come to an end.

This is the paradigm of large power generating facilities that transmit the electricity produced over thousands of miles of transmission lines.

This paradigm makes sense when talking about conventional forms of power generation – coal, natural gas, nuclear. But when talking about generating power from sunlight, this paradigm becomes far less efficient. It will destroy intact ecosystems on tens or even hundreds of thousands of acres of land, and it fails to use the built environment for point-of-use energy production.

Not only will the lands on which these projects be affected, but they will mandate the construction of expensive new transmission lines, which are not addressed in the PEIS, further unnecessarily degrading our open space. And who will pay for these expensive boondoggles? Electricity rate payers, that’s who. Continue reading

Forest health and water supplies are closely linked

Meadow Creek at peak runoff, June 2010. Some research suggests that runoff from beetle-killed forests will increase in the short-term.

March 10 Forest Health Task Force meeting to focus on the critical connections between forest management and water supplies

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The dramatic changes in the local forest landscapes have implications far beyond visual impacts. The death of nearly all the mature lodgepole stands in the area could very well alter the way the winter snowpack builds up, and subsequently, how it melts off in the spring.

Ranchers in the Lower Blue have already reported anecdotally on some of the changes they’ve seen in the past few years, and Forest Service researchers at the Fraser Experimental Forest also have a full slate of studies under way to determine how those changes will play out. Click here to read more about some of these potential changes.

The upcoming March 10 meeting of the Summit Forest Health Task Force will focus on the critical connection between forest health and water supplies. According to task force organizer Sandy Briggs, the goals of the roundtable are to increase awareness about the importance of forest vitality on local water supply and quality, to encourage discussion on what forest management practices would best achieve water supply and quality objectives, and to promote collaboration and understanding among stakeholders. Continue reading

Xcel looking at new sites for Silverthorne substation

Info on new sites, Q & A at Aug. 12 open house

Concerns about environmental impacts, property values and viewsheds have slowed the process of building a new substation for the local electrical grid in the Lower Blue.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Xcel Energy officials say they’ve widened their scope in the search for a substation location and will provide some information on potential new sites at an Aug. 12 open house at the Silverthorne Pavilion, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The power company has been working with the community for several years to find an acceptable location. Xcel officials say there’s been a huge surge in demand for power in the area, creating a need for improvements to the distribution network. Continue reading

Blackout hits Frisco — again, Xcel says ravens to blame

Power outage in Frisco -- again.

SUMMIT COUNTY — For the third time in as many weeks, the power went out in Frisco Wednesday morning at about 11:15 a.m. Community service officers directed traffic at key intersections, while commerce shut down, with Safeway, 7-11 and most other businesses closing their doors just before the lunch hour.

Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said the blackout started at 11:04 a.m.and is affecting about 6,300 customers. Power was back on after a one-hour outage.

At first, Xcel reps said the blackout was due to a broken insulator, similar to the February events. Later, Stutz said the company traced the problem to an errant bird.

Stutz explained the blackout via e-mail:

“Today’s outage was caused by a raven getting into the one of the transformers at the (Frisco) substation; it had nothing to do with what caused the first two outages, other than it was in the same substation,” he said. Continue reading

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