Archive for December, 2012

Dec 28 2012

CO: Forest Services file on LaPlata rights

The U.S. Forest Service has filed an application to perfect a portion of the Animas Service Area water right owned by La Plata County and the Southwestern Water Conservation District. The application was filed in District Court, Water Division 7, on November 29th as confirmation of a number of historic existing water uses in the Animas River basin on the San Juan National Forest, Columbine Ranger District.

The Animas Service Area water right is a unique Colorado water right acquired in response to the recreational in-channel diversion water right owned by the City of Durango for whitewater recreation. A settlement between the City of Durango, La Plata County and the Southwestern Water Conservation District allowed for water to support a whitewater park on the Animas River, while setting aside two large water rights that are senior to the city’s allotment for current and future development.

The Animas Service Area water right is for the beneficial uses of irrigation, wetlands and wetland irrigation, domestic, municipal, pond, reservoir, water feature and other evaporation, industrial, manufacturing, power, geothermal, commercial, gravel and other mining, stock, wildlife, firefighting, recreation, snow and ice making, fisheries, recharge of aquifers, and augmentation and exchange to protect other water right holders.

The U.S. Forest Service filing will confirm 153 water rights for the San Juan National Forest, representing a cumulative total of about 2.3 cubic feet per second (cfs) of flow amounts in springs, and an additional 57.8 acre-feet of storage in Henderson Lake. To put the amounts into perspective, approximately 1 cfs of water per year is typically used to irrigate 30 acres of land in the Animas Valley. An acre-foot of water is enough water to cover one acre of land to a depth of one foot.

Most of the Forest Service claims are for surface-water rights to protect water for livestock at 137 small natural springs on National Forest grazing allotments in the Animas Basin. These uses have been in effect on the National Forest since the early 1900s, and altogether represent a cumulative total of almost 2.2 cfs.
Other claims being filed by the Forest Service will protect existing domestic water use and lawn watering at cabins on the National Forest. These represent only about 0.13 cfs cumulative total. Claims are also being filed to confirm the ability of the Forest Service to provide drinking water to campers at South Mineral Campground (0.0043 cfs) and to continue to provide for recreation and fisheries at Henderson Lake (57.8 acre feet).

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Dec 27 2012

AZ: No impact on Surprise program

Reclamation issued a Finding of No Significant Impact following the December 2011 completion of an environmental assessment on the City of Surprise’s proposed plan to expand its existing recharge system utilizing reclaimed water.

Reclamation announced a $1 million WaterSMART Water and Energy Efficiency Grant for the City of Surprise in May 2011. Through this grant, the City intends to construct and operate 15 additional vadose zone wells, increasing the amount of reclaimed water that can be recharged annually by about 6,049 acre-feet annually (AFA). This $4,517,600 project would enable the City to recharge up to a total maximum of 8,049 AFA of reclaimed water that would be stored underground for later City use.

Established in February 2010 by Secretary Salazar, the WaterSMART program facilitates the work of all bureaus of the Department of the Interior to pursue a sustainable water supply for the nation. It establishes a framework to provide federal leadership and assistance on the efficient use of water, integrating water and energy policies to support the sustainable use of all natural resources, and coordinating the water conservation activities of the various Interior offices. The Bureau of Reclamation plays a leading role in the WaterSMART program as the Department’s water management agency.

The FONSI and EA are available on Reclamation’s Phoenix Area Office website, www.usbr.gov/lc/phoenix. A hard copy or CD version is available by calling the Environmental Resource Management Division at (623) 773-6251, or by e-mailing jharagara@usbr.gov.

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Dec 24 2012

CA: State sets water allocation for 2013

Published by under California

The Department of Water Resources on November 29 announced an initial allocation of 30 percent of requested deliveries to State Water Project contractors in calendar year 2013.

The initial allocation – or water delivery estimate – is always conservative because it is made early in the storm cycle. The state normally receives more than 90 percent of its snow and rain from December through April and today’s allocation is expected to increase as more storms roll in.

“This week’s storms are giving us an early water supply boost, while at the same time putting our flood center on alert,” said DWR Director Mark Cowin.

Today’s allocation is largely based on reservoir storage – being boosted by the current storms — hydrologic history and projections.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir with a capacity of 3.5 million acre-feet, is at 50 percent of capacity, 81 percent of normal for the date.

Shasta Lake north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project’s principal storage reservoir with a capacity of 4.5 million acre-feet, is at 54 percent of capacity, 88 percent of normal for the date.

The mountain snowpack – which normally provides approximately a third of California’s water supply as it slowly melts into streams, reservoirs and aquifers in spring and early summer — today holds 58 percent of average water content for the date. Just a normal winter will significantly increase today’s allocation of 30 percent of the slightly more than four million acre-feet requested by the 29 public agencies (State Water Project Contractors) that supply SWP water to more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.

The final SWP allocation this calendar year was 65 percent of requested deliveries. The final allocation was 80 percent in 2011, up dramatically from the initial allocation of 25 percent. The final allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in 2007. The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish – was in 2006.

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Dec 22 2012

CA: State estimates larger delivery

Published by under California

Thanks to early season storms, the Department of Water Resources on December 21 increased its water delivery estimate for calendar year 2013 from 30 to 40 percent of requested State Water Project water.

Today’s delivery estimate – or allocation – of SWP water is expected to further increase as more winter storms roll in. The state normally receives more than 90 percent of its snow and rain from December through April.

Storms last month and those currently sweeping California have replenished reservoirs and deepened the mountain snowpack that normally provides a third of our water as it slowly melts in the spring and early summer.

Lake Oroville in Butte County, the State Water Project’s principal storage reservoir with a capacity of 3.5 million acre-feet, is at 67 percent of capacity, 107 percent of normal for the date.

Shasta Lake north of Redding, the federal Central Valley Project’s principal storage reservoir with a capacity of 4.5 million acre-feet, is at 68 percent of capacity, 109 percent of normal for the date.

The mountain snowpack today holds 93 percent of average water content for the date.

Just a normal winter will significantly increase today’s allocation of 40 percent of the slightly more than four million acre-feet requested by the 29 public agencies (State Water Project Contractors) that supply SWP water to more than 25 million Californians and nearly a million acres of irrigated farmland.

The final SWP allocation this calendar year (2012) was 65 percent of requested deliveries. The final allocation was 80 percent in 2011, up dramatically from the initial allocation of 25 percent. The final allocation was 50 percent in 2010, 40 percent in 2009, 35 percent in 2008, and 60 percent in 2007. The last 100 percent allocation – difficult to achieve even in wet years because of Delta pumping restrictions to protect threatened and endangered fish – was in 2006.

Electronic reservoir level readings may be found at http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cgi-progs/products/rescond.pdf

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Dec 21 2012

UT: Beryl Enterprise groundwater plan set

Published by under Utah

Utah State Engineer Kent Jones on December 21 adopted a new groundwater management plan for the large Beryl Enterprise area in the southern part of the state, located mostly in Iron County, to the west of Cedar City and just east of the Nevada border.

“The objectives of this groundwater management plan are to limit the
groundwater withdrawals to safe yield, protect the physical integrity of the aquifer, and protect water quality. The intent of this plan is to provide specific management guidelines for this area under the statutory provisions within Section 73-5-15 of the Utah Code,” he said in explanation. “The safe yield for the groundwater basin has been determined to be approximately 34,000 acre-
feet per year. The current average depletion from the groundwater system is estimated at approximately 65,000 acre-feet per year. The total reduction needed to return the withdrawals to safe yield is estimated as 31,000 acre-feet per year of depletion. The groundwater withdrawals in this area have for over 40 years consistently exceeded the safe yield of the aquifer making this a critical management area as defined in section 73-5-15 of the Utah Code.”

From the planning document:

“For purposes of the groundwater management plan annual depletions from irrigation will be calculated using an annual crop survey prepared by the distribution system commissioner. The crop survey will tabulate irrigated acres for every crop type in the management plan boundary. It will include acreage supplied by both surface and underground sources. The crop survey will be published every year in the “Beryl Enterprise Water Distribution System Annual Water Report.”

“The total depletion from irrigation will be calculated by multiplying the number of acres of crops irrigated by the estimated crop consumptive use values from the Enterprise/Beryl Junc. Station published in “Consumptive Use of Irrigated Crops in Utah, Research Report 145.” The State Engineer will consider the use of scientifically verified studies that provide more accurate crop consumptive use values. Any reduction in use by either a decrease in acres or through the irrigation of less consumptive crops will be accounted for as a reduction from the total depletion. The baseline for irrigation from which future reductions will be calculated is the amount of irrigation from 2012, 29,278 acres, multiplied by the consumptive use value for alfalfa, 2.4925 feet, which equals 72,975 acre-feet. This baseline accounts for acreage supplied by both surface and underground sources. …

“If there are reductions in irrigation because water use is changed to new use through the application process, then the baseline for irrigation will be adjusted to reflect the decrease in irrigation rather than the decrease in depletion. If a decrease in depletion from the system results from the change application then this decrease will be accounted for by the State Engineer. Accounting procedures adopted under this plan for decreasing the irrigation depletion by growing less water consumptive crops may not be construed to authorize acreage to be expanded under a water right. The procedures are applicable only as a groundwater management tool in the Beryl Enterprise basin.”

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Dec 21 2012

IL: Army Corps talks low water actions

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mississippi Valley Division Commander Maj. Gen. John Peabody and St. Louis District Commander Col. Chris Hall met with state and local representatives December 20 in Alton, Illinois, to discuss current and future actions the Corps will take to maintain a safe and reliable navigation channel during low water.

The meeting, which was led by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), was also attended by Capt. Byron Black, U.S. Coast Guard commander of the Upper Mississippi River Sector, Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon (D-Ill.) and river industry representatives.

“We’ve been preparing for this since early summer, which means continuous collaboration with our partners the U.S. Coast Guard and the navigation industry to help provide a safe and reliable channel on the greatest, navigable watershed in the world,” Peabody said.

Peabody explained the removal of 890 cubic yards of limestone that began this week near Thebes, Ill., is just one phase of the action the Corps is taking to improve the navigation channel for the river industry. With the removal of the rock, Peabody said, the Corps’ expects that restrictions on barges will not be necessary at this time.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that if we do have any interruptions, it will be short in duration as we continue to maintain a safe and reliable navigation channel,” Peabody said.

The Corps also began increasing releases from Carlyle Lake December 15 to help provide the depth necessary for river commerce to pass Thebes before the rocks can be removed. The full extent of the releases is expected to reach Thebes by Dec. 24. This will provide an additional six inches of depth in this critical reach of the river. Releases will continue if needed until the river level increases through precipitation, or until Carlyle Lake reaches its winter pool elevation. With the additional release schedule, Carlyle Lake is expected to reach its winter pool level in approximately three weeks.

Peabody said the Corps is also looking at the possibility of additional releases from other reservoirs, if that becomes necessary.

During the meeting, Hall explained the dredging actions the Corps is undertaking and plans to continue through the low water. “The Dredge Potter has dredged more than 6 million cubic yards of material on the Upper and Lower Mississippi since it began operations in June.”

“We will continue dredging problem areas, conducting channel patrols and surveys to keep commerce safely moving on the Middle Mississippi,” Hall said.

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Dec 18 2012

NE: None of the basins over over-appropriated

Published by under Nebraska

A long-term state report in Nebraska released in December on water availability has some good news for the people in that state: By its estimates, the key water sources for the state are over-appropriated.

Its summary said that “The Nebraska Department of Natural Resources (Department) has evaluated the expected long-term availability of surface water supplies and hydrologically connected groundwater supplies of the Blue River Basins, the Lower Niobrara River Basin, and the Missouri Tributary Basins, and has concluded that none of the basins or any of the subbasins or reaches within the basins are fully appropriated at the present time. The Department did not evaluate the Lower Platte River Basin or Niobrara River Basin upstream of the Spencer Hydropower facility in this year’s evaluation pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. § 46-713(1)(a). The Department conducted an additional evaluation of the long-term water supplies with no additional constraints on groundwater and surface water development in the Blue River Basins, the Lower Niobrara River Basin, and the Missouri Tributary Basins using the best available science and methods. The results of this evaluation indicated that the preliminary determination would not change based on reasonable projections of the extent and location of future development in the basins.”

The report focused on the Blue River Basins, Lower Niobrara River Basin, and Missouri Tributary Basins. “The Department did not evaluate the Lower Platte River Basin or Niobrara River Basin upstream of the Spencer Hydropower facility in this year’s evaluation pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 46-713(1)(a) and 46-714(12)(a). However, the natural resource districts (NRDs) within these basins have developed rules limiting new irrigated acres within their respective districts and the Department has continued to limit the permitting of new appropriations for surface water irrigation within these basins (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 46-714 (12)). The Department will be required to evaluate the Lower Platte River Basin in next year’s evaluation,” it said.

The provision of regular comprehensive reports on the state of water resources in Nebraska is built into state law.

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Dec 17 2012

OK: Water the biggest issue?

Ahead of everything else, the Oklahoma City Oklahoman newspaper opined on December 17, water may be the top issue for the area in 2013.

The paper noted that “The city’s top decision-makers said resolution to a water rights lawsuit filed against the city and state in 2011 is close, and that they are optimistic a settlement agreement will be reached in 2013. Two prominent tribes — the Chickasaws and Choctaws — sued the city, state and other entities in 2011 over water rights in a broad swath of southeast Oklahoma that provides more than half of the drinking water in Oklahoma City and the rest of the metro. The tribes’ claim extends to the pipeline that actually transports the water into central Oklahoma. The lawsuit remains pending, but the parties are engaged in a parallel path of mediation.”

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Dec 17 2012

WA: New water right issuance plan tried in Chelan

Published by under Washington

Water may soon be available for new projects in the Wenatchee River Basin under a program being launched by the Washington Department of Ecology and Chelan County Department of Natural Resources.

Letters have been sent to 150 water right applicants inviting them to participate in a fee-based program designed to expedite the processing of their request for water. The program provides applicants the option to reimburse Ecology for hiring a state-approved contractor to process pending water right applications.

Chelan County and local municipal water purveyors are the first to take advantage of legislation passed in 2010 allowing batches of water rights to be processed under a coordinated cost reimbursement program. The program will take advantage of a reservation of water set aside in the Wenatchee River for new uses.

“Our goal is to help resolve a backlog of new water right applications in part by accessing the reservation of water set aside in the Wenatchee Instream Flow Rule,” explained Mike Kaputa, Chelan County Natural Resources director. “Many of these purveyors have existing applications in line waiting to be processed, and the Wenatchee basin as a whole will benefit from increased economic development as a result of making this water available as intended when the instream flow rule was updated in 2007.”

Contractors will do the groundwork needed to identify what impact a new water withdrawal might have in the basin and whether water is available without harming another user’s rights – tests that must be met for water rights to be issued in a basin. Final approval rests with Ecology.

Participation in the program is optional. Those that don’t participate will keep their place in line, while others may move forward with their application.

“The four cubic-feet-per-second reservation provides opportunities for those eligible to gain new water rights until the reservation is depleted,” explained Kelsey Collins, a cost reimbursement project manager for Ecology. “Applicants also may be able to receive water rights using mitigation options other than the reserve on a case-by-case basis.”

Costs will depend on how many applicants participate, with fees being reduced if more people opt into the program. Cost estimates range from $5,000 to $15,000 per application, depending on the number of applicants and the scope of their application.

“By processing an entire basin, we believe that the cost per application will be lower than if an individual stepped forward to have a right processed alone,” Kaputa said.

Applicants are asked to indicate their interest in the program by Jan. 25, 2013. More information will be available this spring, following outreach to the applicants.

As initiators of the coordinated cost-reimbursement process for the Wenatchee Basin, Chelan County selected Aspect Consulting, LLC (Aspect) as Ecology’s pre-qualified consultant to lead the project. Those with questions may contact Bill Sullivan at 509- 888-5766 or email at bsullivan@aspectconsulting.com. More information is available online.

Reduced funding levels for water right-processing, increased legal complexities and growing competition for limited water resources has slowed Ecology’s efforts to address water right applications statewide. Cost-reimbursement provides the agency with more tools to manage water rights processing.

“This provides a new way to process water rights that achieves economic benefits for the Wenatchee area and protects streamflows in the Wenatchee River,” said Mark Kemner, Ecology water resources manager in Yakima.

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Dec 14 2012

TX: Brazos users warned of possible cutoffs

Published by under Texas

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality sent letters on December 14 notifying some junior water rights holders in the Brazos River Basin that their water diversions may be suspended or adjusted if they do not take significant action to conserve. They may also be subject to enforcement.

On Nov. 19, in response to a senior priority call, the executive director issued an order that was sent to water rights holders in the Brazos River Basin below Possum Kingdom Lake suspending water rights dated 1942 or later with the exception of municipal, domestic, and power generation users. These exceptions were made in the interest of public health, safety and welfare even though they had rights junior to 1942. The Commission affirmed and modified that order on Dec. 5.

As part of this notification, these users were asked to respond to a questionnaire about their water use. Letters sent on Dec. 14 direct municipal water systems, which have not already taken steps to implement mandatory water use restrictions, to issue the mandatory restrictions in their drought contingency plans. Power generators and non-exempt domestic users have also been asked to conserve. The letters reiterate that suspensions, adjustments, and/or enforcement action may be taken against rights holders who do not respond by the deadlines given.

Drought conditions are worsening and no substantial relief is projected. Forecasts for early 2013 include below normal rainfall and above normal temperatures.

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