Archive for August, 2008

Aug 31 2008

Water leasing, in perspective

Published by under water leasing

The western states news blog New West on August 31 published a review of the subject of water leasing, which it suggested could be one avenue toward keeping more water in western streams.

From the story:

And although leasing has its share of critics, the results have been encouraging. MWP and MWT have negotiated about three dozen leases in basins on both sides of the Continental Divide, from the Clark Fork, Blackfoot, Bitterroot, and Flathead to the Madison, Missouri, and Yellowstone. Besides increasing in-stream flow and improving fisheries throughout the region, they also are developing a promising model for stream restoration, one that stresses cooperation over confrontation, capitalizing on the interests of traditional landowners rather treating them as an obstacle. “Putting water back into streams is a new discipline,” says Stan Bradshaw, staff attorney for MWP. “We’re feeling our way along.” What they’ve found, Bradshaw explains, is that “how water fits into the overall ecosystem is more complicated than it seems.” That’s largely because the “fit” depends as much on lifestyles and longstanding habits as it does on cubic feet per second, fish counts, and water temperature.

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Aug 29 2008

ID: Developer application challenged

Published by under Idaho

One of the largest developers in southwest Idaho, M3 Companies, planning to build (north of the cities of Boise and Eagle) about 7,100 homes plus schools, space for business along with other amenities, needs substantial water rights – involving taping into a nearby aquifer – to carry out its development. In late August, however, a group of Boise-area residents filed a challenge to that water rights request.

The Idaho Statesman newspaper reported that about 50 letters of protest had been received by state officials.

It quoted one resident, Allison Gilbreath of the Eagle area, as saying, “We need the aquifer studies and long-term monitoring in place first, so the Treasure Valley doesn’t become the next Atlanta, which over-allocated and is now suffering the economic consequences.”

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Aug 27 2008

CO: Trinidad buys rights

Published by under Colorado

The small city of Trinidad, Colorado, in August said it would buy 213 acre-feet of water for $507,000. The water would come from the John Flood Ditch.

Some of the water would be leased back to current owners, but the purchase gives the city the ability to use larger amounts than at present for a new water filtration plant expected to be in operation within a decade.

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Aug 22 2008

CA: Expanded Valley Recharge Facilities

Ground was broken August 22 at Coachella Valley Water District’s newest full-scale groundwater recharge facility, which will replenish 40,000 acre-feet annually into the eastern Coachella Valley’s aquifer. This amount of water is equal to what is used each year by about 85,000 residents and will alleviate the overdraft of groundwater supplies throughout the eastern valley.
Representatives from all levels of government, other water agencies, agriculture and business were among those who attended the brief ceremony at the facility, located west of Monroe Street, between Avenues 60 and 62 in La Quinta.
The Dike 4 Groundwater Recharge Facility is named due to its proximity to the Dike 4 flood control berm. The facility takes advantage of existing pipes currently used to deliver Colorado River water from Lake Cahuilla, at the terminus of the Coachella Canal, to farmland. Thirty-nine recharge basins are being built at the facility and will cover nearly half of the project’s 163 acres.
Replenishment is among the most effective methods available for preserving local groundwater supplies, reversing aquifer overdraft and meeting demand by domestic and commercial water consumers.
CVWD and Desert Water Agency have been cooperatively recharging the upper Coachella Valley at Windy Point, west of Palm Springs, with their entitlements to State Water Project water for 35 years. Additional replenishment began at Mission Creek about five years ago. Since 1973, the aquifer has been replenished with more than 2 million acre-feet of imported water. Overdraft in the valley amounts to approximately 5.1 million acre-feet annually.
CVWD launched two pilot projects to ensure that meaningful replenishment was possible in the eastern valley. Replenishment at Dike 4 began in 1997, and through last year nearly 25,000 acre-feet had been recharged there; at Martinez Canyon, recharge began in 2005, with replenishment exceeding 4,150 acre-feet in 2007.
Scientific studies concluded these were suitable locations in the eastern valley for effective aquifer recharge. A clay aquitard allows for the drilling of wells in the eastern valley, but thwarts the use of conventional groundwater replenishment techniques on the valley floor. Water cannot percolate directly through the clay layer into the lower aquifer, in which most of the water suitable for domestic and irrigation purposes is located.
Along the edges of the eastern valley, however, the absence of the aquitard and the presence of more permeable materials make replenishment feasible. The aquitard actually enhances the distribution of replenishment water because it creates pressure that pushes recharged water throughout the lower aquifer.
To date, $43 million has been budgeted for the Dike 4 recharge facility; $6 million for the pump plant, $10 million for the recharge basins and $27 million for land acquisitions.
Coachella Valley Water District Contact: Dennis Mahr,, (760) 398-2651 Ext. 2352; Jack Porrelli,, (760) 398-2651 Ext. 2355; Heather Engel,, (760) 398-2651 Ext. 2353

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Aug 21 2008

Re-injection in Santa Ynez

The California Legislature has passed, though Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may veto, a bill which would allow the Santa Ynez River Water Conservation District, Improvement District No. 1, to inject water into the ground so as to allow for some limited water banking.

The bill (Assembly Bill 2686) was not controversial (it passed the Assembly with no opposition votes), and provides for only a few changes at the district.

The governor has indicated he would veto all bills until a state budget is passed. Some advocates have hoped he may exempt this bill since it does not affect the state budget.

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Aug 20 2008

Reclamation Names New Tribal Liaison Officer

The Bureau of Reclamation has selected a new Tribal Liaison Officer for the Pacific Northwest to represent Reclamation in working directly with the Tribes and other partners in implementing new agreements and related interagency programs benefitting Columbia River Basin fish stocks, effective September 2, 2008.

Ron Eggers, who presently serves as the area manager for Reclamation’s Lower Columbia Area Office based in Portland, Ore., will take on this challenging program and also serve as a point of contact between the regional Tribal interests and the Commissioner’s Office of Native American and International Affairs.

“Ron’s technical background and varied career experience make him ideally suited to be the Regional Tribal Liaison,” said Bill McDonald, Reclamation’s Pacific Northwest Regional Director. “In particular, there is an immediate need to move forward with the Tribes who joined with us in signing the historic Columbia Basin Fish Accords and to build on the partnerships which were developed in the course of negotiating the Accords.”

The Accords provide for 10-year commitments by the Federal agencies for actions that will benefit fish, particularly Columbia River Basin salmon and steelhead stocks. The Accords signal the development of an historic regional partnership between the Federal agencies and the Tribes and States, and are integral to addressing the recovery of ESA listed fish species in accordance with the new biological opinions on the operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System and Reclamation’s Upper Snake River Basin projects.

Eggers has a degree in fisheries biology, and started his career as a fishery biologist with the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission in the 1980s. He subsequently was on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s staff and also served with the Bureau of Indian Affairs as the Fisheries Program Administrator for their Northwest Region.

Prior to becoming the LCAO Area Manager, where he has had extensive experience with the Endangered Species Act, he was the special assistant to the regional director for Native American Affairs in Reclamation’s Great Plains Region. Jerry Kelso, Area Manager of the Upper Columbia Area Office in Yakima, Wash., will temporarily assume the management and oversight of the LCAO. Kelso will divide his time between the Portland and Yakima offices.

Pacific Northwest Region Contact: Diana Cross (208) 378-5020 August 20

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Aug 20 2008

SD: Mni Wiconi Project Sees First Delivery

The Oglala Sioux Tribe along with the Bureau of Reclamation held a celebration on August 20 to celebrate the delivery of water to the community of Wanblee, S.D., from the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply Project.

The public is invited to attend the celebration that will be held at Crazy Horse School in Wanblee, S.D. The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. with Mr. Frank Means serving as Master of Ceremonies; Oglala Sioux Tribe President John Steele will provide opening remarks followed by keynote speaker, Bureau of Reclamation’s Commissioner Robert Johnson. In addition to numerous honorary speakers, guest speakers include South Dakota’s Congressional Delegation, Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux, Lower-Brule Sioux Tribe President Mike Jandreau and former West River / Lyman-Jones manager Mr. Mike Kurle.

Prior to the construction of the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply Project most people in southwestern South Dakota had serious water quantity and water quality problems. Fortunately some people had the foresight of a regional rural water system to address those problems. Many more people worked together to get this Project authorized, to get it funded, to design and build it, and to maintain it.

The Bureau of Reclamation credits Tribal, state and local officials and agencies for having the vision to bring water to the Pine Ridge Reservation; that vision is now a reality. The Mni Wiconi project is a true testament that people can work together to develop a solution and overcome a common problem. The Mni Wiconi project would not have happened if it were not for the cooperative efforts of all of its sponsors. When completed, the Mni Wiconi Rural Water Supply Project will supply water to the Lower Brule, Pine Ridge, and Rosebud Reservations as well as the West River/Lyman-Jones Rural Water System. West River/Lyman-Jones serves the people located in nine counties outside of the reservations.

For more information regarding the celebration, contact Willard Clifford at 605-455-1367 or Paul Little at 605-455-2767.
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Great Plains Region August 18; Contact: Willard Clifford (605) 455-1367 or Patience Hurley (701) 221-1204

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Aug 20 2008

TX: Trinity aquifer planning

The Trinity Aquifer faces devastating depletion unless local groundwater managers plan conservatively for growing population and development demands. Groundwater management area 9 (GMA 9) will meet this month in Kerrville to discuss new groundwater data to develop “desired future conditions,” a goal local groundwater managers set for how they want the stressed aquifer to look in the future.

“Frequent drought, combined with population growth, means that we must proceed with great caution in planning for the future of the Hill Country and its groundwater resources,” said Laura Marbury, Texas Water Projects Director for Environmental Defense Fund. “GMA 9’s decisions at this meeting, and moving forward, will impact not just the Trinity Aquifer’s future, but also the springs, creeks, and wells that depend on the aquifer.”
“Now is the time for Hill Country residents to engage in this process and help ensure GMA 9 acts to preserve and protect aquifer levels,” said Marbury.
GMA 9 sits atop the Trinity Aquifer and covers the heart of the Hill Country area, encompassing all or parts of Kerr, Blanco, Hays, Kendall, Bandera, Medina, Comal, Travis and Bexar counties. It also includes the Sabinal, the Medina, the Blanco, the Pedernales, and the Guadalupe Rivers, plus countless springs and creeks lined with fishing spots and swimming holes. These areas have seen a rapidly growing population that is projected to continue growing well into the foreseeable future.

Environmental Defense Fund Contact: Laura Williamson 512.691.3447-w 512.828.1690-c

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Aug 20 2008

OR: $3 million for pipeline work

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has agreed to provide a $3 million loan to the Hood River-based Farmers Irrigation District for design and construction of a long-life pipeline to convey water throughout the district and replace the district’s open ditches and antiquated pipes in the Hood River Watershed. The district serves about 1,700 users and covers 5,800 irrigated acres.

Installation of a high-quality pipeline is expected to significantly improve water quality and water availability for fish habitat and irrigators in the area. The open ditches and canals that the district currently uses are exposed to chemical contamination from farm and household runoff, and from airborne pesticide spray drift. In addition, the district’s aging canals – some of which are more than 100 years old – are prone to slope failure, which could cause large amounts of sediment and debris to run off into the Hood River and its tributaries, degrading fish habitat and burying fish spawning grounds.

The $3 million, low-interest loan, offered through DEQ’s Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, is one of several that DEQ issues each year to communities and entities dealing with water quality improvement issues. Most of the funds from the loan will be used to install pipelines to replace remaining open ditches and canals throughout the district’s collection and distribution system. Most design work for the project has already been completed. An estimated completion date for the project has yet to be determined, as it is dependent on the district obtaining additional funding sources.

Improving water quality in the Hood River Basin is a priority for DEQ. The agency’s Hood River watershed pollution reduction plan (Total Maximum Daily Load) identifies the lowering of temperature and pH (acidity) levels in the watershed. Replacing the ditches with high-quality pipe will eliminate seepage and evaporation and will allow for more water to be returned to Hood River at a critical habitat section of the river; the increased water flow will decrease river temperature and improve habitat.

DEQ Clean Water State Revolving Fund program loans have ranged from $7,000 to $35 million, and DEQ has made loan agreements totaling more than $600 million to borrowers since the program was established in 1990. The program is supported financially from annual grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), loan repayment and state-issued bonds.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality August 19 Contact: Shanna Olson, Water Quality Program, Pendleton, (541) 278-8681; Mike Kleinsmith, Farmers Irrigation District, Hood River, (541) 386-3115; Brian White, Communications & Outreach, Portland, (503) 229-6044

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Aug 20 2008

McCain wades into water rights

Republican presidential nominee-presumptive and Arizona Senator John McCain stirred a desert hurricane in mid-August when he remarked that the current Colorado River agreement should be renegotiated.

In a telephone discussion with the Pueblo (CO) Chieftain, McCain said that the original Colorado River water agreement (dating from 1922) was undertaken at a time when the southwest was a dramatically different place. He then was quoted as saying:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt the major, major issue is water and can be as important as oil. So the compact that is in effect, obviously, needs to be renegotiated over time amongst the interested parties. I think that there’s a movement amongst the governors to try, if not, quote, renegotiate, certainly adjust to the new realities of high growth, of greater demands on a scarcer resource. Conditions have changed dramatically, so I’m not saying that anyone would be forced to do anything because I’m a federalist and believe in the rights of states. But at the same time there’s already been discussion amongst the states, and I believe that more discussion amongst the governors is probably something that everybody wants us to do.”

The reference to renegotiation led to an eruption in Colorado (although McCain did say later he did not intend the downstream states take more of the river’s water). He also backed off further later, saying his statement was “mistakenly construed as a call to rescind the Colorado Compact.”

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, noting that the agreement had most recently been re-developed as recently as last year, said “It would be sheer folly to re-open the compact at a time like this when all of the states are working cooperatively on this issue.”

Democratic Colorado Senator Ken Salazar said the deal would be renegotiated “over my dead body.” Bob Schaffer, a Republican running for the state’s other Senate said, said it would happen “over my cold, dead political carcass.”

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