Denver Water’s dams are designed to spill water when needed; see this awe-inspiring experience.
Here’s a historical look at the Colorado River Compact and Delph Carpenter’s influence from Eric Kuhn that’s running on InkStain. Click through and read the whole post for Eric’s insights. Here’s an excerpt:
The 1922 compact as it was signed in November 1922 was not the compact Carpenter wanted when the negotiations began in the previous January. He was a fierce advocate for state sovereignty over all the waters that originate or flow through a state, but Carpenter knew he might be on the wrong side of the United States Supreme Court on the matter…
In the early 1900s, A Colorado developer proposed a project that would divert water from the Laramie River Basin into the adjacent South Platte River Basin. In 1911, Wyoming went to the U. S. Supreme Court to protect water rights that had already been perfected in the Wheatland area. As the Colorado River negotiations began, the case had been through two oral arguments, but had not yet been formally decided. Carpenter feared that since both Colorado and Wyoming were prior appropriation states, the court would apply the doctrine to the Laramie on an interstate basis, undermining his cherished state sovereignty and, on the Colorado River, giving the advantage to faster growing lower river states.
The Laramie case loomed as representatives of the seven Colorado River Basin states came together to negotiate what would become the Colorado River Compact.
After joining Utah commissioner R. E. Caldwell during the sixth Compact Commission meeting to block a proposal to apportion water to individual states based on the amount of irrigable acreage within each state, during the seventh meeting, Carpenter made his move. Carpenter’s proposal was relatively simple. He suggested that the lower river states should allow the upper river states to develop and use water within the basin unimpeded by the states of the lower river –“the construction of any and all reservoirs or other works upon the lower river shall in no manner arrest or interfere with the subsequent development …of the upper states or the use of water therein….”
In return, Carpenter said, the upper river states would do the same- “give you absolute free unbridled rights, all objections withdrawn…” The upper river states would not litigate or oppose in Congress, any development in the lower river. Carpenter made the case that due to the canyon and mountainous topography, climate (limited growing season), and because of return flows, water use within the upper part of the basin would have little impact on the supply of water to the lower river- “the areas which may be irrigated and the consumption …. so limited by nature, that the states of origin will never be able to beneficially use even an equitable portion of the waters …. of each.” When pressed by Commission Chairman Herbert Hoover, Carpenter acknowledged that because exports out of the basin were fully consumptive the upper river would agree to limit the amount water moved across the continental divide. In Silver Fox of the Rockies, historian Daniel Tyler suggests that Carpenter and his fellow upper river commissioners would have accepted a limit of 500,000 – 600,000 acre-feet per year, about 25% less than the current exports.
Commissioners from the lower river rejected Carpenter’s proposal countering that without an overall limit on upper river use, they would not have the certainty necessary to finance their proposed projects. In June 1922, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of Wyoming and applied the concept of prior appropriation to the Laramie River as a whole, confirming Carpenter’s fears. The decision forced him to change tactics. When the commissioners reconvened in Santa Fe in November 1922, building on a proposal by the Reclamation Service’s Arthur Powell Davis (now Bureau of Reclamation) to create a compact among the two basins, Carpenter made a new proposal which became the framework for the compact that was ultimately approved. Carpenter proposed the basins be divided at Lee Ferry (a mile downstream of Lee’s Ferry), the Upper Basin would, in Carpenter’s words, “guarantee” a 10 year-flow at Lee Ferry (the negotiated number ended up at 75 million acre-feet), and each basin would share any future treaty obligation to Mexico…
In theory, new export projects out of the Upper Basin to meet the needs of the booming Colorado Front Range and Wasatch Front could be a driver for new consumptive uses, but reality suggest otherwise. There are currently only three export projects in the planning or permitting process; Denver Water’s Moffat System Expansion project, Northern Water’s Windy Gap Firming project, and the State of Utah’s Lake Powell Pipeline. The net additional consumptive of the first two projects is small, no more than about 20,000 acre-feet per year. The Lake Powell Pipeline will divert about 80,000 acre-feet per year to the St. George area, but it may not really be an export project. The water it diverts will be used in the Lower Basin. Like overall Upper Basin consumptive uses, since 1988 the trend for exports has been flat or slightly declining…
The current situation on the river raises the basic question of equity between the two basins that Carpenter recognized a century ago. The Lower Basin is using more than its 8.5 million acre-feet apportionment under the 1922 compact. The Upper Basin is using far less than its 7.5 million acre-feet, about 4.3 million acre-feet per year. Yet, with fixed obligations to the Lower Basin and Mexico under the 1922 compact, the Upper Basin still bears the brunt of the climate change risk.
Eric and his co-author, John Fleck, have written a new book Science be Dammed: How Ignoring Inconvenient Science Drained the Colorado River. Most Colorado River watchers have the book on their wish list. Click here to pre-order. Publication is slated for later this summer. Here’s a blurb from the Tattered Cover Bookstore website:
Science Be Dammed is an alarming reminder of the high stakes in the management—and perils in the mismanagement—of water in the western United States. It seems deceptively simple: even when clear evidence was available that the Colorado River could not sustain ambitious dreaming and planning by decision-makers throughout the twentieth century, river planners and political operatives irresponsibly made the least sustainable and most dangerous long-term decisions.
Arguing that the science of the early twentieth century can shed new light on the mistakes at the heart of the over-allocation of the Colorado River, authors Eric Kuhn and John Fleck delve into rarely reported early studies, showing that scientists warned as early as the 1920s that there was not enough water for the farms and cities boosters wanted to build. Contrary to a common myth that the authors of the Colorado River Compact did the best they could with limited information, Kuhn and Fleck show that development boosters selectively chose the information needed to support their dreams, ignoring inconvenient science that suggested a more cautious approach.
Today water managers are struggling to come to terms with the mistakes of the past. Focused on both science and policy, Kuhn and Fleck unravel the tangled web that has constructed the current crisis. With key decisions being made now, including negotiations for rules governing how the Colorado River water will be used after 2026, Science Be Dammed offers a clear-eyed path forward by looking back.
Understanding how mistakes were made is crucial to understanding our contemporary problems. Science Be Dammed offers important lessons in the age of climate change about the necessity of seeking out the best science to support the decisions we make.
About the Author
Eric Kuhn [@R_EricKuhn] , recently retired, worked for the Colorado River Water Conservation District from 1981 to 2018, including twenty-two years as general manager. The district is a water utility and policy agency covering most of the Colorado River basin within Colorado.
John Fleck [@jfleck] is director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program. A Colorado River expect, he wrote Water Is for Fighting Over and Other Myths About Water in the West.
“Highly significant for understanding the present water supply issues of the southwestern United States.”—Victor Baker, Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona
From The Cortez Journal:
The Cortez Sanitation District contracted with Four Corners Materials for the construction, which will include replacing 1 mile of sanitary sewer line and manholes along with reconnecting sewer services between North Ridge Drive, North Market Street and West Empire Street.
From The High Country News (Liz Weber):
Sparked by a lightning strike in August 2017, the Milli Fire burned for more than a month, sweeping over 24,000 acres near Sisters, Oregon. A nearby Forest Service road, along the margins of the burn area, was a stark example of the benefits of wildfire management practices. One side of the road was charred and ashen. But on the other side, the forest, which had been thinned through prescribed burning, was largely unscathed.
Yet, for Sisters, a rapidly growing town located near the Three Sisters Wilderness area, the blaze — within nine miles of city limits — served as a wake-up call. While land-use planning and wildfire management previously worked in silos, communities like Sisters are integrating the two and creating a comprehensive plan to combat the dangers wildfires present.
“You can throw firefighters at the problem as a defensive measure all day long, but the way to solve this problem is through land-use and building codes,” said Doug Green, fire safety manager with the Sister-Camp Sherman Fire District.
The 2017 fire season, at 665,000 acres burned, was the worst Oregon had seen, according to the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. The next year, a community coalition of city council members, fire managers and city planners from Sisters enrolled in the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program (CPAW), a federal program designed to reduce wildfire risk through improved land use planning.
Through a coordinated team of land-use planners, foresters, economists and wildfire risk modelers, CPAW, funded by the U.S. Forest Service, integrates land-use planning with fire management to help communities draft a customized plan to reduce wildfire dangers.
Community fire adaptation has been one of the more popular approaches the Forest Service has funded and promoted in the past decade, according to Pam Leshack, the national program manager of the agency’s fire-adapted communities and wildland-urban interface programs. The federal government has moved away from solely educating communities about fire dangers and towards a holistic, localized approach, she said.
“Education is good for awareness. It’s not effective for motivating change,” Leshack said. “There is no one silver bullet.”
But this combination of land-use planning and forest management can be an effective tool for mitigating the wildfire damage to a community, according to John Bailey, professor of fire management at Oregon State University. Communities can be at the mercy of fires without local urban planning and forest management, with support from the state and federal level, Bailey said. “We’re going to have to make changes,” he said. “You have to acknowledge that’s where you’re living and plan for it. Then we can adapt.”
In the past year, more than 20 communities across the country applied to be a part of the CPAW program. Four were accepted. For the counties and towns not chosen, CPAW tries to host educational forums and attended regional conferences. But the scale of these wildfires is still an issue.
To tackle wildfires on the federal level, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., introduced a series of bills since May aimed at creating resilient communities and offsetting the economic damage that often accompanies these disasters. “These fires cause public health risks and economic damages,” Merkley said. “We have to take on this challenge.”
Back in Sisters, an example of what a wildfire-resilient community might look like continues to evolve. Last year, the community updated space and building code requirements and started to develop a map documenting the ‘hot spots’ where a wildfire is likely to spread. Ahead of the 2019 fire season, CPAW also recommended an inventory of wildfire risk to water supplies, public buildings and utilities.
“We’re in it together. When we get into these dry, windy conditions and embers are flying everywhere, you need to stand as one or fall,” Bailey said.
Liz Weber is an editorial intern working in Washington, D.C., for High Country News and a student at American University. Email High Country News at email@example.com or submit a letter to the editor.
“These calculations are not just opinions or wild guesses. These projections by the IPCC are backed up by Scientific fact…We need to start living within the planetary boundaries. This will be a drastic change for many, but not for most, because most of the world’s population is already living within the planetary boundaries.” — Greta Thunberg
Here’s the release from the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (Tanya Ishikawa):
Sweetwater revival: High water and Sugar & the Mint return to 2019 Ridgway RiverFest
Festival goers and river racers are in for a sweet time this Saturday at the 12th annual Ridgway RiverFest due to high river flows and the return of 2018 crowd-pleasing band, Sugar & the Mint. Plus, Ute cultural presenter Regina Lopez-White Skunk, the River Rat Marketplace (silent auction) with great deals, snow cones by Voyager Youth Program, beer from Colorado Boy Brewery, margaritas from The Liquor Store, and all the food and fun of past festivals will be back at Rollans Park in Ridgway.
One of the RiverFest’s highlights is the Junk of the Unc homemade watercraft race, at about 1:30 p.m. when competitors build and ride their crafts down a short stretch of Class I river with style, ingenuity and speed. Competitors will be eligible to win as long as they start and end the race on their crafts, and awards are given to fastest, most original design, best use of recycled materials, and best in youth.
The River Races from the park to the Ridgway Reservoir will be particularly exciting this year with the increased runoff from the record-breaking snowpack this year. River runners are encouraged to come compete in the hard shell, inflatable and stand-up paddleboard categories. The top team that finishes the fastest in each category will be awarded one of the coveted RiverFest trophies, with a new design this year created by Ridgway artist Joann Taplin.
“The high river flows mean less rocks to navigate around but more large rapids over the top of rocks. We won’t be allowing inner tube entries this year due to the high, swift water and the still very cold temperatures,” said RiverFest Coordinator Tanya Ishikawa. “We welcome kayaks and rafts. Canoes and SUPs are also allowed this year, but we recommend only advanced riders on those due to conditions. Wet or dry suits are also a good idea this year. You can see race rules at ridgwayriverfest.org.”
Another planned river activity is the Safety Rope Bag toss contest where a “willing victim” hangs out in the middle of the Uncompahgre as contestants attempt to toss a safety rope bag to them, practicing an important river rescue skill. This event as well as the Rubber Ducky Race may be cancelled if conditions are deemed too difficult to keep the “victim” safely in the water or to capture all ducks at the end of the race.
“The Ouray Mountain Rescue Team will be on boats in the water and on the banks, ready to assist as necessary, but we want everyone to practice safe river etiquette, so we continue our accident-free festival record,” Ishikawa added. “Parents need to watch their children at the river’s edges. Anyone getting in the river must have a PFD (personal flotation device aka life jacket) and helmets are recommended (as well as being required of racers).”
Besides the river activities, the live band performance from 3 to 6 p.m. is always a highlight of the RiverFest. The 2019 headlining band, Sugar & the Mint from Prescott, Arizona, is being brought back by popular demand. The five-piece band’s music is informed by everything from bluegrass to baroque to current pop and country. It was the first-place winner of the Band Contest at the 2017 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and were invited back to perform at the 2018 Bluegrass Festival. Since then, they have been traveling nationally and recorded a second album.
Ute Mountain Ute Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk and her father Normal Lopez will provide a cultural presentation from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Lopez-Whiteskunk advocated for land, air, water and animals from an early age, and has traveled extensively throughout the nation presenting and sharing the Ute culture through song, dance and presentations. Lopez, her father who will play flute, has been a student of life and carries great respect for the land, environment and Ute way of life. He learned to make flutes by his grandfather and uncles from the hearts of the cedar trees, has played the traditional style, from his heart. The birds and wind inspire his unique sounds.
Festival sponsors include Double RL Ranch at Class V and five Class IV sponsors: Alpine Bank, BEP EarthWise Foundation, Ridgway Mountain Market, Town of Ridgway, RIGS Adventure Co., and San Miguel Power Association. The radio sponsor is MBC Grand Broadcasting: 92.3 The Moose, Magic 93.1, KNZZ, 96.1 K-star, The Vault 100.7, 95.7 The Monkey, The Team Sports Radio 101FM-1340AM, and 103.9 The Planet
Festival information: https://ridgwayriverfest.org
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The drought resiliency grants will help communities in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that 18 projects will receive a total of $9 million to prepare for drought. These projects will provide more flexibility and reliability for communities while reducing the need for emergency actions during a drought. The funding provided is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program.
“While the water supply in the western United States improved this year, it’s important for communities to remain proactive in building long-term resiliency to drought,” Commissioner Burman said. “These projects help communities protect themselves from the next drought by increasing water supply reliability and improving operational flexibility.” There were 18 drought resiliency projects selected in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas to receive funding. They will be leveraged with local cost-share to fund $166.2 million in projects.
The A&B Irrigation District in Idaho will receive $250,000 to implement, in coordination with the Twin Falls Canal Company, the Mid-Snake Recharge Injection Wells Project near the cities of Paul and Murtaugh, Idaho. They will construct six deep injection wells to recharge the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The project will protect against drought for groundwater and surface water users and enhance the storage availability in Reclamation’s Minidoka and Palisades projects.
The Pueblo of Zia located in Sandoval County, New Mexico, will receive $750,000 to modernize the Zia Flume over the Jemez River and install associated buried PVC pipe. The Zia Flume brings irrigation water from Zia Lake to the Pueblo’s agricultural lands. It is critical infrastructure for the Pueblo and has experienced damage in the past that was exacerbated by an extreme flood event in 2016. This project is also supported by the Pueblo’s Drought Contingency Plan.
The Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County, California, will receive $749,999 to install pipe in residential streets and easements, upgrade an existing pump station, repurpose an existing force main, and upgrade 35 existing water meters. This project will allow recycled water to be used instead of potable water for irrigation. It is supported in the district’s 2015 Urban Water Management Plan and an adaptation strategy identified in Reclamation’s Santa Ana Watershed Basin Study.
The other projects selected are:
Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board, Santa Barbara ($750,000) City of Fullerton, Orange County ($300,000) Long Beach Water Department, Los Angeles County ($750,000) Pala Band of Mission Indians, San Diego County ($298,380) Rancho California Water District, Riverside County ($750,000) San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, San Bernardino ($750,000) Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, Ceres and Turlock ($750,000)
Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Ouray County ($106,000)
[ed. emphasis mine]
Snake River Valley Irrigation District, Basalt ($299,910)
Lower Loup Natural Resources District, Eastern Nebraska ($750,000)
City of Las Cruces ($262,453) Santa Fe County ($291,520)
North Unit Irrigation District, Jefferson County ($122,485)
City of Celina ($750,000) Texas Water Development Board, Austin ($360,631)
To learn more about the projects selected, please visit Reclamation’s drought website at https://www.usbr.gov/drought.
Reclamation’s drought resiliency projects are a component of the WaterSMART Program.
Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with States, Tribes, and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts. Visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart for additional information about WaterSMART.