Big Thompson Canyon construction named national “Best of the Best” — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

Damage to US 34 along the Big Thompson River September 2013. Photo credit: CDOT

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

The reconstruction of U.S. 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon was chosen from 820 construction projects nationwide to be named Best of the Best by Engineering New Record.

Several partners in the project — Kiewit Construction, Colorado Department of Transportation, Jacobs, the engineering firm, and a handful of subcontractors — are named on the award that was presented Friday in New York City.

“You would not believe the projects it beat out — vertical construction, a new cadet building for the Army, other just very complicated projects,” said Doug Stremel, project manager with Jacobs.

“It’s really exciting … It was a collaborative effort for CDOT, Kiewit and Jacobs and the others. It was a team effort. We’re happy to share in it, but it really was a collaborative effort.”

USACE Omaha District: Corps provides updates on current levee breaches and damage assessments #Flood2019

Here’s the release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District (Capt. Ryan Hignight):

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District continues to work with state, local, and tribal governments to repair damaged levees from the 2019 unregulated runoff event. There are over 350 miles of levees on the Missouri, Platte and Elkhorn rivers and tributaries that have experienced significant flood damage. Due to the magnitude of damage along these levees, repair efforts will take an extended period of time. The Omaha District is initiating efforts to perform damage assessments as water recedes and access to the levee system becomes available.

Omaha District Commander Col. John Hudson visited Pierre, South Dakota and met with state emergency management officials. They discussed flood forecasts as well as Omaha District’s ability to respond to state, county, or tribal requests for assistance. Col. Hudson also met with South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Congressman Dusty Johnson. Col Hudson provided them with a situational update on Omaha District’s capabilities regarding the upcoming spring thaw and potential rains. He also discussed the Army Corps’ technical assistance in Sioux Falls, South Dakota concerning high flows and snow melt concerns.

The District is sending notification to levee sponsors in the PL 84-99 program on Monday, March 25 with information on how to request damage assessment and levee repairs. Levees must be active in the Public Law 84-99 program to be eligible for repairs.

Much of the levee system remains compromised due to the record inflows surpassing their designed protection levels.

As of noon today, there were 47 confirmed breaches at L611-614 (South of Council Bluffs, Iowa), L-601 (South of Glenwood, Iowa), L-594 (near Fremont County, Iowa), L-575 (Fremont County, Iowa), L-550 (Atchison County, Missouri), L-536 (Atchinson County, Missouri), R-613 (Sarpy County, Nebraska), R-562 (Nemaha County, Nebraska), Western Sarpy (Ashland, Nebraska), Clear Creek (Ashland, Nebraska), Union Levee (Valley, Nebraska), and R-573 (Otoe County, Nebraska). In addition, levee 550 remains overtopping.

The Omaha District is initiating efforts to perform damage assessments as the water recedes and access to the levee systems becomes available. The District has already begun initiating underwater surveys of scour holes along the Missouri and Platte rivers as well as collecting aerial imagery to support these efforts.

Omaha District’s focus remains on ensuring the safety of citizens and communicating the conditions on the river systems to all of our partners and stakeholders. The Corps continues to provide flood fight assistance to state, local, and tribal government agencies.

The Omaha District has distributed approximately 227,000 sandbags, 2,020 super sandbags, 9,930 feet of HESCO barriers, seven pumps and 21 poly rolls.

The first source of information for citizens is their local emergency managers. For questions or concerns you can call 211, which is a national resource hotline and website geared to local area needs.

#ColoradoRiver: [With regard to demand management], “We don’t know what voluntary, compensated and temporary means yet” — Jim Pokrandt #COriver #DCP #aridification

From The Montrose Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

After roughly seven years of work, Colorado River Compact states have reached an agreement for drought contingency plans that would maintain levels at lakes Powell and Mead.

The contingency plans allow Colorado and the other Upper Basin states (New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) to control their own destiny, Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association Manager Steve Anderson said.

“It, one, gives us the right to use the storage in the Colorado River Storage Project Act reservoirs to help with the level of Lake Powell. That’s a big win,” he said…

According to a March 19 letter the seven Colorado River Basin states sent to Congress, requesting legislation necessary to implement the new drought contingency agreement, 2018’s runoff was the second lowest since 2000 and there is no significant trend indicating these conditions will improve, even if runoff turns out to be above-average this year.

The recent agreement needs Congress to pass legislation directing the Secretary of the Interior to implement it. Under the drought contingency plan, the Lower Basin states have agreed to a schedule of curtailments, or shortages, when levels at Mead reach certain points.

Such trigger points are established and specific, “no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” said Jim Pokrandt, community affairs director with the Colorado River District.

The situation is different in the Upper Basin.

“The three legs of the stool for the Upper Basin, one leg is to increase cloud-seeding and the eradication of tamarisk. The second leg of the stool is to use the Aspinall Unit reservoir (Blue Mesa), the Navajo reservoir and the Flaming Gorge reservoir to be able to send a slug of water from one or all of the reservoirs down to Powell,” Pokrandt said.

The involved states must now plan to determine how much water can come out of those reservoirs to bolster levels at Lake Powell, in the event the drought contingency plan needs to be enacted.

“The third leg of the stool is a ‘plan to make a plan’ with demand-management,” Pokrandt said.

Demand-management means reducing water use so the savings can be sent on to Lake Powell to keep the power turbines turning. For Western Colorado, this means finding a way not to use water, he said.

“There are two key ways. One would be a mandatory curtailment, which would be an economical, social and environmental disaster for Western Colorado,” Pokrandt said.

“The other way would be to come up with a voluntary way with producers and water users. What we call that is ‘voluntary, compensated and temporary.’ This is where we have a plan to make a plan. We don’t know what voluntary, compensated and temporary means yet.”

At present, there is neither policy nor money for this purpose.

“Bomb cyclone” recap via the @ColoradoClimate Center

From the Colorado Climate Center Twitter feed:

Last week’s “bomb cyclone” set records for low pressure and winds across eastern Colorado, including a new state record for sea level pressure. Here is our summary of the records that we’ve been able to confirm!

Graphic credit: Colorado Climate Center

Gail Schwartz joins a majority of women on Colorado’s state water board — @AspenJournalism

Gail Schwartz, a resident of Basalt, is poised to represent the Colorado River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. She’s the first woman to do so, and she’ll be a part of the first CWCB board, since 1937, to have a female majority. Photo credit: Gail Schwartz

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Former state Sen. Gail Schwartz is expected Wednesday to join the board of directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state agency established in 1937 to protect and develop the state’s water supply.

In doing so, Schwartz will become part of the first female majority on the CWCB board, and she’ll be the first woman to represent the Colorado River Basin on the board.

Schwartz moved to Aspen in the early 1970s, lived in Snowmass Village when she served in the state Senate for two terms (2007 to ’15) and then moved to Crested Butte. While there, she lost to Rep. Scott Tipton in her race for Congress in 2016. She has since moved to Basalt and has now volunteered for a three-year term on the CWCB board.

Schwartz and two other women — appointed by Gov. Jared Polis and now slated to be confirmed on March 20 by the state Senate — are expected to be sworn in Wednesday at a CWCB meeting in Fort Collins, and then six of the 10 voting members of the CWCB board will be women.

And if the board’s five nonvoting members are added to the mix, it means eight of its 15 members will be women.

Will a majority of women on the CWCB board help solve the water challenges facing Colorado and the Colorado River system?

“I think it will change the conversation,” Schwartz said, noting her experience in the state Legislature, where about 40 percent of the lawmakers were, and are today, women.

“Women are about looking for solutions,” Schwartz said. “They go into public service or elected office to serve, and it’s not a power grab, and what I found at the state level is that women are willing to compromise, they are willing to seek resolution and they draw less of a hard line on issues.”

And Schwartz won’t be alone in making state water history this week.

Jaclyn “Jackie” Brown of Oak Creek will become the first woman to hold the CWCB seat allocated to the Yampa, White and Green river basins in northwestern Colorado.

Brown is the current chair of the Yampa, White and Green river-basin roundtable, and she is one of only two women on it. She also is the natural resource policy adviser for the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association.

“The water industry is moving in a direction where there is more diversity,” Brown said. “And I do think that matters. I think every board does better with more diversity.”

That said, Brown said her goal in serving on CWCB is to represent all the water users in the northwest corner of the state.

Also joining the board this week is Jessica Brody, the general counsel for Denver Water, who will be representing the seat allocated to the city and county of Denver.

Brody said she’s proud to follow in the footsteps of Patricia Wells, who was also the general counsel for Denver Water and served on the CWCB from 1996 to 2000 and from 2012 to this past January. She noted that Wells also was the first female city attorney for the city and county of Denver.

And Brody will be the fourth woman to represent Denver on the CWCB board, following Wells, Barbara Biggs and Carolyn McIntosh.

“It’s really to be celebrated that there are so many incredible women rising to prominence in this industry and in this sector,” Brody said. “Obviously, we all bring our own unique perspective, and gender may influence our perspective, but honestly, it’s just a thrill to be part of this new class and to get to share this moment with so many incredible women, and men.”

Of the remaining six voting members on the CWCB board appointed by the state’s governor, three are women. They are Curran Trick, the first woman to represent the North Platte River Basin; Heather Dutton, the first woman to represent the Rio Grande River Basin; and Celene Hawkins, the fourth woman to represent the San Miguel, Dolores and San Juan river basins in southwestern Colorado.

The other three appointed voting members on the CWCB are Steven Anderson, who represents the Gunnison River Basin, which has never had a female representative on CWCB; Jim Yahn of the South Platte River Basin, which has previously had two women on CWCB; and Jack Goble of the Arkansas River basin, which has not had a woman on the CWCB since Vena Pointer, who was a founding board member and served from 1937 to 1948.

Of the nine appointed voting members, four (Schwartz, Brown, Brody and Hawkins) are Democrats, four (Curran, Dutton, Anderson and Yahn) are Republicans and one (Goble) is unaffiliated.

There also is one ex-officio voting seat on the CWCB board reserved for the director of the Department of Natural Resources, which brings the number of voting seats to 10. Dan Gibbs now holds that seat.

And there are five nonvoting seats, two of which are currently held by women: Rebecca Mitchell, the director of the CWCB and the agency’s second female director, and Kate Greenberg, who is the first female commissioner of agriculture in Colorado since the office was created in 1949.

As such, here’s how the gender math works out: Six of the 10 voting members are women, and eight of the 15 members are women — a female majority in each case.

For Mitchell, the CWCB director, the gender makeup of the board is not as important as the ability for the board members to work together to further the agency’s mission, which is “to conserve, develop, protect and manage Colorado’s water for present and future generations.”

Still, Mitchell recognizes the gender milestone being reached.

“It is historical, and being an engineer, the numbers are the numbers,” Mitchell said. “But it wasn’t a goal — it’s just the way it turned out.”

However, the water sector in Colorado is still dominated by men — including many older white men — so the first female majority on the CWCB board is notable for those who follow the agency.

“It’s about time that we have this level of representation on our most important water board in the state regarding water policy,” said Tom Cech, co-director of the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

He, along with William McDonald, wrote “Defend and Develop: A Brief History of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s First 75 Years,” published in 2012.

“I’m very pleased to see this change occurring on the CWCB because it provides a different outlook and voice to our important water issues of the day,” Cech said. “That said, our next challenge is engage more people of color in this conversation and as members of boards like the CWCB, because then we get a true voice of the people in the state of Colorado.”

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in the Colorado River basin in collaboration with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the Vail Daily, the Summit Daily, and the Steamboat Pilot. The Times published this story on Tuesday, March 19, 2019.

Webinar: Invasive Mussel Genomics: Innovations for Control Methods

Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

Click here to go to the Invasive Mussel Collaborative website:

This webinar is part of a miniseries on the genomics of invasive mussels hosted by the Invasive Mussel Collaborative. Part one of the miniseries covers the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s prize competition “Eradication of Invasive Mussels in Open Water.” The first prize awarded in this competition proposed a novel genetic modification-based method for control…

Sherri Pucherelli: Invasive Mussel Prize Competition
Steve Suhr: Eradication of Invasive Quagga and Zebra Mussels using Engineered Disseminated Neoplasia

#Drought news: “Epic” #snowpack — @GovofCO

From The Colorado Sun (Jessee Paul):

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported on Thursday that there are no more extreme or exceptional drought conditions in the state, which plagued the Four Corners region after the dry 2018 winter and summer. Three months ago, nearly 30 percent of Colorado was listed under that status.

As of Thursday’s report, only 46.13 percent of the state was listed in some kind of drought status. That’s down from 83 percent last week.

Colorado Drought Monitor March 19, 2019.

Gov. Jared Polis, in a Facebook live video with snow experts, called the state’s snowpack “epic.”

Colorado Statewide Basin High/Low graph March 21, 2019 via the NRCS.

[Joel] Gratz said the last time Colorado’s spring snowpack was anywhere near as solid was 11 years ago. But you have to go back to the 1996-97 season to really match this year’s levels.

A wall of snow towers above the bulldozer on south Red Mountain Pass. (Provided by the Colorado Department of Transportation)