Western & Colorado Water Project Staff Notes

January 2008  

The Clean Water Restoration Act is legislation that TU would like Congress to pass. Over the last year, Colorado’s delegation has been lobbied heavily by the Farm Bureau and developer interests who are staunchly opposed to ensuring that there will be Clean Water Act permitting requirements in the small streams of the West. We’ve been spending some time trying to figure out whether the bill’s opponents are simply against it, period, or whether there might be room for compromise. We have two public speaking engagements on this topic (both point-counterpoints) later this month. 

The Nature Conservancy is pitching a big Colorado River restoration project. So, with TU Conservation Success Index maps in hand, we sat down with TNC staff to see about how we might be able to collaborate on an Upper Colorado River restoration effort that would focus on Colorado River cutts as well as terrestrial and plant species of concern for TNC. 

We spent a day in meetings trying to move the ball forward on Colorado’s effort to map, prioritize and quantify flows for environmental needs. Consultants discussed the methodologies available to do both reach specific and stream type quantifications. There was supposed to be an additional meeting with the whole Inter-Basin Compact Committee on this topic, but that meeting was cancelled because of snow, so what isn’t clear is what folks think about the process. Meanwhile, we are working with CTU and others on an effort to map the priority reaches where water acquisition will be necessary to protect instream values. 

The fact that the regulation of water development is entirely separate from the regulation of land development is becoming a more and more obvious problem in the West. Interestingly, it isn’t mostly the conservation community that’s voicing concerns over the lack of coordination in the two. A Colorado legislator will be running a bill this session to increase integration a tiny bit. 

We welcomed John Gerstle to the Boulder office. John has spent the bulk of his career working as a water consultant in the private sector, and recently he has consulted for TU on coal bed methane water quality regulations in Wyoming and two of our successful water rights oppositions in water court. He will continue to work on produced water issues for TU. In addition, he will work with water project staff in Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming on a variety of water matters. We’re excited to have him here. 

The water court judge in the Dry Gulch remand has ordered the parties to submit briefs outlining positions on how the case should be decided. 

TU and the other parties to the Colorado water court proceedings to quantify the Black Canyon reserved water right are engaged in mediation. The court has stayed proceedings to allow negotiations to continue. 

At the request of the Evergreen Metro chapter, we have been working to determine how best to respond to the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s decision to remove Bear Creek from the 303(d) list. An analysis of the fishery data indicates that the stream has substantially recovered. This analysis was substantially similar to the conclusions reached by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Based on it we chose not to oppose delisting the stream but are nonetheless voicing our continuing belief that the stream is precariously perched and that temperature remains a serious threat to the continued health of the fishery. 

We are conversing with The Nature Conservancy and providing input on their efforts to develop flow regime for the North Fork of the Poudre. This regime is being proposed as part of the shared vision process for the Halligan-Seaman expansion. Because TNC has land on the stretch of river between the two reservoirs, they have taken the lead on developing the flow regime target. We are reviewing their work and providing comments in the hope that we can speak with one voice when their vision of what a flow regime should like is presented. 

We are also working to advance the instream flow recommendations TU brought forward last year with the Division of Wildlife and which will be voted on later this month. In addition, we are working to prepare some new recommendations with the Division of Wildlife and with the Bureau of Land Management. 

We are analyzing existing temperature data to help the Colorado Water Quality Control Division improve their map of summer stream temperatures. This map is used to help predict what species are expected to occur in the various streams of Colorado and thus what water quality standards are applicable. 

We continue to prepare for the upcoming basin-wide temperature hearings. Although state-wide standards were developed last year, they are being applied in a basin by basin process that begins with the Colorado River Basin.

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