@CWCB_DNR: June 2017 #Drought Update

Click here to read the update. Here’s an excerpt:

May was characterized by wet and cool conditions, particularly in southeast Colorado. The first 20 days of June were a drastic change characterized by hot temperatures and little rainfall. In most parts of the state, streamflow forecasts throughout the summer season are projected to be near normal to above normal and reservoir storage remains high. These conditions leave municipal suppliers generally feeling comfortable with current levels of supply and demand in their systems.

  • After an early peak snow accumulation across the state, snow has melted out in most areas.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 109% of normal.
  • After receiving 132% percent of average precipitation in May at Snotel stations, June precipitation to date statewide is only 30% of average as of June 21.
  • Long-term forecasts for the summer season are not suggesting any major departure from normal conditions across Colorado.
  • Per the June 20 U.S. Drought Monitor, only 6 percent of Colorado is classified as abnormally dry (D0), the same as last month, with no other drought classification area in the state.
  • @EPA, U.S. Army Move to Rescind 2015 #WOTUS

    Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

    Here’s the release from the Environmental Protection Agency:

    The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Army, and Army Corps of Engineers (the agencies) are proposing a rule to rescind the Clean Water Rule and re-codify the regulatory text that existed prior to 2015 defining “waters of the United States” or WOTUS. This action would, when finalized, provide certainty in the interim, pending a second rulemaking in which the agencies will engage in a substantive re-evaluation of the definition of “waters of the United States.” The proposed rule would be implemented in accordance with Supreme Court decisions, agency guidance, and longstanding practice.

    “We are taking significant action to return power to the states and provide regulatory certainty to our nation’s farmers and businesses,” said Administrator Scott Pruitt. “This is the first step in the two-step process to redefine ‘waters of the U.S.’ and we are committed to moving through this re-evaluation to quickly provide regulatory certainty, in a way that is thoughtful, transparent and collaborative with other agencies and the public.”

    This proposed rule follows the February 28, 2017, Presidential Executive Order on “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” The February Order states that it is in the national interest to ensure that the Nation’s navigable waters are kept free from pollution, while at the same time promoting economic growth, minimizing regulatory uncertainty, and showing due regard for the roles of Congress and the States under the Constitution. To meet these objectives, the agencies intend to follow an expeditious, two-step process that will provide certainty across the country.

    The proposed rule would recodify the identical regulatory text that was in place prior to the 2015 Clean Water Rule and that is currently in place as a result of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s stay of the 2015 rule. Therefore, this action, when final, will not change current practice with respect to how the definition applies.

    The agencies have also begun deliberations and outreach on the second step rulemaking involving a re-evaluation and revision of the definition of “waters of the United States” in accordance with the Executive Order.

    “The Army, together with the Corps of Engineers, is committed to working closely with and supporting the EPA on these rulemakings. As we go through the rulemaking process, we will continue to make the implementation of the Clean Water Act Section 404 regulatory program as transparent as possible for the regulated public, ” said Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

    For the pre-publication Federal Register Notice and additional information: http://www.epa.gov/wotus-rule

    @ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

    Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through June 26, 2017 via the Colorado Climate Center.

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

    Reducing Algal Blooms at Barr Lake

    Your Water Colorado Blog

    unnamedBy Amy Conklin, the Barr Lake and Milton Reservoir Watershed Association

    Have you ever taken a picnic or gone for a hike at one our local lakes only to find it a green, stinky mess because of all the algae?  Did you think, ‘Why doesn’t someone do something about this?’  Well, they are.

    Since 2002, the Barr Lake and Milton Reservoir Watershed Association (BMW) has been working to identify what causes the stinky algal blooms and find ways to prevent them.

    What BMW found is that excessive nutrients coming from human activities are feeding the algae and creating the excessive blooms.  This process is called cultural eutrophication.  It means that the products of urban living, stormwater, wastewater and other runoff, act like fertilizer on a lawn and turn Barr Lake green.

    At Barr Lake, one result of all the algal blooms is high pH (an alkaline condition) and low dissolved…

    View original post 568 more words

    #Colorado outdoor recreation industry = $28 billion per year economic impact

    Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

    From The Denver Business Journal (Monica Mendoza):

    Outdoor recreation in Colorado is a $28 billion-a-year industry with more than 70 percent of the state’s residents participating every year.

    That’s according to a report today from the Outdoor Industry Association, a Boulder-based trade association and title sponsor of the twice-a-year Outdoor Retailer trade shows.

    Their report says that 229,000 jobs are tied to the outdoor recreation industry in Colorado, and all of that recreating contributes $2 billion in state and local tax revenue…

    The report, which was completed by Florida-based Southwick Associates, says that the 229,000 jobs tied to the outdoor recreation industry meant $10 billion in wages and salaries.

    The firm tracks annual spending by Americans in pursuit of outdoor recreation in 10 activity categories, including camping, fishing, bicycling, water sports, hunting and snow sports. It will release reports on all 50 states July 26 at the summer Outdoor Retailer trade show in Salt Lake City, Utah…

    Across the country, outdoor recreation in a $887 billion industry creating 7.6 million jobs, according to Southwick Associates.

    Outdoor recreation is a powerful economic sector, said Luis Benitez, director of Colorado’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. In comparison, the oil, gas and mining sector had 58,000 jobs in Colorado…

    The report was commissioned to increase advocacy for government programming on outdoor recreation.

    For example, in Colorado, the report is calling on lawmakers to develop and plan urban areas in a way that means every citizen can get outside and recreate within 30 minutes of their home and support policies that encourage people to start an outdoor recreation business.

    Edwards said the state-by-state reports are meant to jumpstart discussions with policy and lawmakers in hopes that outdoor recreation is top of mind when doing urban planning or renewal and when recruiting new businesses to the state.

    U.S. Supremes pass on #NM #GoldKingMine lawsuit against #Colorado #AnimasRiver

    The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

    From The Albuquerque Journal (Dan Boyd):

    While Colorado’s attorney general cited the ruling as proof the lawsuit should not have been filed, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas indicated the legal fight may not be over yet.

    “The Supreme Court’s ruling only limited the venue in which the state of Colorado can be sued for the harm done to New Mexico children, families and businesses,” AG’s office spokesman James Hallinan said.

    The lawsuit, filed roughly a year ago, alleged Colorado was too lax in its oversight of groundwater contaminated by decades of mining and should be held responsible for the fallout of the Gold King Mine spill.

    The U.S. Supreme Court, on an 8-1 vote, denied a motion to hear the case. The nation’s highest court did not provide a reason for its decision, but has also opted not to intervene in other recent interstate disputes, including a 2016 lawsuit filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma against Colorado’s legal marijuana laws…

    In addition to the lawsuit against Colorado, New Mexico has also filed a lawsuit in federal court against the EPA and the owners of the Gold King Mine that seeks more than $136 million in damages. That amount would include money to pay for economic losses the state attributes to the mine spill, specifically in the tourism, recreation and agriculture sectors.

    From ColoradoPolitics.com (Peter Marcus):

    The New Mexico Attorney General’s Office and the state Environment Department announced last year that it filed a complaint against Colorado with the U.S. Supreme Court. It sought damages and demands that Colorado address problems at draining mines in southwest Colorado.

    Former New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn alleged that his water quality researchers rejected assertions from Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Colorado environment officials that the Animas River quickly returned to safe pre-event conditions after the August 2015 spill of toxic heavy metals.

    Flynn and attorneys for his department at the time suggested that Colorado is liable for the incident, which spilled 3 million gallons of sludge into the Animas in Durango, turning it a mustard yellow color. The spill fouled rivers in three Western states with arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.

    The EPA acknowledged fault in the spill, in which sludge flowed into creeks and rivers during restoration work at Gold King. The flow headed into the San Juan River in New Mexico and Utah…

    The Supreme Court was an appropriate venue for the case against Colorado, as it involved two states suing each other. But the high court declined to hear arguments in the case, though it did not issue an opinion explaining the decision. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would let the lawsuit move forward.

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    New Mexico’s petition to hold Colorado responsible for the Gold King Mine spill nearly two years ago was denied Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.

    “Because it was the EPA and not Colorado that caused the Gold King Mine disaster, I have said from the beginning that New Mexico should not have sued Colorado in the Supreme Court,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said in a prepared statement.

    “Now that my office has won the Supreme Court case, I hope the conversation can focus on the EPA and its promise to take full responsibility for its actions.”

    […]

    In its lawsuit, New Mexico claimed the Gold King spill was the “coup de grâce of two decades of disastrous environmental decision-making by Colorado, for which New Mexico and its citizens are now paying the price.”

    The complaint specifically called out a decision reached by the state of Colorado and Sunnyside Gold Corp. to shut down a water treatment plant in favor of placing bulkheads at the entrance of the American Tunnel, Sunnyside’s drainage point.

    It’s believed among most researchers familiar with the Animas watershed that the bulkheads caused the mine pool of the Sunnyside Mine to back up and cause other mines to discharge acidic water, namely the Gold King.

    Regardless, Coffman, in response to the filed complaint, said she tried to resolve the matter without litigation, calling New Mexico’s lawsuit against the state “unfortunate.”

    “It’s unclear to me how suing Colorado furthers the states’ mutual goal of holding the EPA to its promise to ‘take full responsibility’ for turning our rivers yellow,” she said…

    “The Supreme Court’s ruling only limited the venue in which the State of Colorado can be sued for the harm done to New Mexico children, families and businesses,” James Hallinan, spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, said in an emailed statement.

    “Attorney General Balderas will continue to fight for economic, social and environmental justice until New Mexico is compensated appropriately by all parties responsible for the horrific impacts of the Gold King Mine Spill.”

    The Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss New Mexico’s petition is the latest lawsuit to fail in the long line of litigation in the wake of the spill.

    On Jan. 13, the EPA rejected $1.2 billion in claims of damages from private businesses and individuals, citing federal law that encourages “government agencies to take action without the fear of paying damages in the event something went wrong while taking the action.”

    To date, the EPA has spent more than $29 million in response to the Gold King Mine spill, with most of those funds used to stabilize the mine adit and mitigate ongoing acid mine drainage through a temporary water treatment plant, Amy Graham, an agency spokeswoman said Monday.

    A total of $3.7 million has been awarded to state, tribal and local governments for emergency response costs, and another $2 million was provided to states and tribes for water quality monitoring, Graham said.

    From the New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

    The problem of toxic waste from abandoned mines flowing into rivers isn’t limited to just the Gold King Mine.

    In Colorado alone, more than 200 abandoned mines collectively leak over a million gallons of wastewater every day. The pollution includes things like heavy metals, arsenic and sulfuric acid.

    Last week, the Denver Post reported that EPA officials are trying to stop contamination of the Animas River from the abandoned Red and Bonita Mine, which currently discharges 300-gallons per minute of wastewater into the Animas River…

    There are more than 15,000 abandoned mines across New Mexico, according to the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

    According to that agency’s website, “The numbers of abandoned mines in the state are so numerous that one can only guess at the quantity. Some of them are small and not considered dangerous. Others are extremely dangerous.”

    James Hallinan, spokesman for New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, emailed a statement:

    “The Supreme Court’s ruling only limited the venue in which the State of Colorado can be sued for the harm done to New Mexico children, families and businesses. Attorney General Balderas will continue to fight for economic, social and environmental justice until New Mexico is compensated appropriately by all parties responsible for the horrific impacts of the Gold King Mine Spill.”