Humpback Chub numbers increasing

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Here’s a release from the USGS:

Adult endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) in Grand Canyon, Arizona, increased by about 50 percent between 2001 and 2008, according to analysis recently conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. The upward trend reverses population declines from 1989 to 2001. The estimated number of adult chub in the Grand Canyon population is between 6,000 and 10,000, with the most likely number being 7,650 individuals.

The humpback chub is a freshwater fish that may live up to 40 years and is found only in the Colorado River Basin. The humpback chub was placed on the Federal list of endangered species on March 11, 1967. Only six populations of humpback chub are currently known to exist, five above Lees Ferry, Arizona, and one in Grand Canyon, Arizona.

“USGS scientists and their cooperators are actively pursuing research that will increase our understanding of why native fish populations are increasing,” said Matthew Andersen, USGS supervisory biologist. “Experimental flows from Glen Canyon Dam and above average water temperatures as the result of drought conditions may have supported native fish. Removal of some nonnative fish species in select locations may also have helped.”

It is not easy to determine what is causing the rebound because several natural and human-caused changes have taken place between 2000 and 2008. The primary factors thought to be contributing to the findings are as follows:

The experimental removal of large numbers of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and brown trout (Salmo trutta) from the area near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers may have benefited humpback chub. Rainbow and brown trout are thought to prey on young fish and compete with humpback chub for food. Between 2003 and 2006, the rainbow trout population in the Colorado River near the Little Colorado River, the area where most Grand Canyon chub are found, was reduced by more than 80%.

Native fishes, including humpback chub, are thought to have benefited from drought-induced warming beginning in 2003. Before 2003, water temperatures in the main channel of the Colorado River have been too cold for humpback chub to successfully reproduce near the Little Colorado River. Humpback chub require a minimum temperature of 16°C (60.8°F). As the level of the Lake Powell has dropped, warmer water found closer to the surface of the reservoir has reached the release structures. In 2005, water temperatures in the mainstem Colorado River near the Little Colorado River exceeded 17°C (62.6°F), the warmest temperatures recorded in this section of the river since the reservoir filled in 1980.

A series of experimental releases from Glen Canyon took place between 2000 and 2008 that may have benefited humpback chub and other native fish. Humpback chub hatched in 1999 may have prospered as the result of substantial in-stream warming as the result of the 2000 low summer steady flow experiment. As a result of the experiment, peak water temperatures in lower sections of Grand Canyon exceeded 20°C (68.5°F) in the summer of 2000, compared with typical peak temperatures of 15-18°C (59-64°F).
Grand Canyon native fish populations have experienced recent improvements, which is not the case elsewhere in the Colorado River Basin. In addition to humpback chub, the flannelmouth sucker (Catostomus latipinnis) and bluehead sucker (Catostomus discobolus), both native Colorado River fish, are stable, appear to have increased in the reach upstream and downstream from the mouth of the Little Colorado River. In this area, scientists have found juvenile and adult fish of both species, suggesting that more successful reproduction is occurring.

“The Grand Canyon is the one bright spot in the Colorado River Basin for native fishes, which is excellent news,” said Matthew Andersen, USGS supervisory biologist.

The likely factors that contributed to the historical decline of Grand Canyon native fish include changes in flow and reduced water temperature resulting from the regulation of the Colorado River by Glen Canyon Dam, the weakening of young fish by the nonnative parasites such as Asian tapeworm (Bothriocephalus acheilognathi), and competition with and predation by nonnative fish species.

Specific recovery goals for humpback chub in Grand Canyon are currently being established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has jurisdiction over the humpback chub as a federally endangered species.

The USGS Southwest Biological Science Center’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center (GCMRC) is responsible for the synthesis and analysis of fish data collected by a number of cooperating entities, including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arizona Game and Fish Department. These activities are undertaken as part of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program, which is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

More information is available by visiting the Status and Trends of the Grand Canyon Population of Humpback Chub factsheet and open file report.

Runoff news

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From the Vail Daily: “The flow of the Eagle River near Minturn rose from 83 cubic feet per second on April 20 to 307 cubic feet per second Monday, according to measurements from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The historic average since 1990 for this time of year is about 139 cubic feet per second…There was 26.4 inches of ‘snow water equivalent’ on the mountain. The historic average for this time of year is about 23.7 inches.”

Fort Collins: City council okays exploration of agreements with water districts

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The City Council last week approved a pair of resolutions authorizing the city manager to investigate options for cooperative agreements to provide service to the Boxelder Sanitation District and area water providers known as the tri-districts. Council members said they support the concepts of regional cooperation and consolidation of services, but they want to make sure any potential agreements would protect the city’s interests. Those interests should go beyond financial considerations, Mayor pro-tem Kelly Ohlson said. The city also has an interest in land-use patterns and water conservation. Any agreements should be good for the city, the districts and the region, he said, but not pertain “just on the dollars.”[…]

The Boxelder district provides sewer service to portions of Fort Collins as well as parts of unincorporated Larimer County and Timnath. In time its services could stretch in to Weld County.

The tri-districts – the East Larimer County Water District, the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and the North Weld County Water District – own and operate the Soldier Canyon Filter Plant, which is next-door to the city’s water treatment facility on LaPorte Avenue near Horsetooth Reservoir.

Growth in their service areas is likely to force the districts to eventually enlarge their facilities or build new ones, officials say. By consolidating services, the districts could save money and the city could get help covering its costs.

The city’s larger water and wastewater facilities have enough capacity to handle the additional flow because of successful water conservation programs, officials said. Steve Comstock of the city’s wastewater division told council members the Boxelder district, which operates a treatment facility downstream of the city wastewater plant on East Drake Road, might be able to get by without building another facility along the Poudre River.

Grand County: State of the river

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From email from the Colorado River District (Mandi Ebeler):

Grand County State of the River

Thursday May 14th 6:30 – 8:15 p.m.
Mountain Parks Electric, Inc. Building.
321 W. Agate Avenue (U.S. 40), Granby

Breckenridge hopes to tap Miners Creek for supply

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From the Summit Daily News (Bob Berwyn):

The town of Breckenridge has revived a decade-old plan to claim water rights on a historic ditch that diverts water from Miners Creek, near Frisco, to North Barton Creek, a small drainage near Peak 7. U.S. Forest Service rangers said Monday the agency will extend a comment period on the plan. The Forest Service is involved because Breckenridge needs to build a headgate and flume on national forest land to control the diversion. The Forest Service issued a scoping notice for the proposal in late March, with an Wednesday comment deadline. But Frisco officials and other residents in the area said they hadn’t received any formal word from the agency as late as Monday. As a result, District Ranger Jan Cutts said the Forest Service will release information on an extended comment deadline in the next few days.

Delta hires URS for treatment plant upgrade design

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From the Delta County Independent:

Five firms responded to a recent request for bids for the river diffuser system. Those bids were presented to city council members Tuesday, April 8, with a recommendation from public works director Jim Hatheway that the bid be awarded to URS Corporation. Although the bid of $98,043 was not the lowest of the five received, Hatheway said city staff felt URS could provide the most qualified team and the most favorable schedule to complete the work this year. Hatheway said URS has on staff an expert on endangered species, as well as a former employee of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment who is familiar with the state’s permitting process. A number of fish in the affected portion of the Gunnison River are considered endangered. Hatheway said a large portion of URS’ fee is allocated to bidding and construction support. He told council members the city will bid the project itself to save costs.

Ginter Grove Domestic Water Corporation looking at $300,000 for repairs

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From the Delta County Independent:

In 1972 the Ginter Grove Subdivision was approved by Delta County, based upon the Town of Cedaredge’s approval of Resolution 9183-R, authorizing the town to furnish domestic water to the residents of the Ginter Grove Subdivision. The property owners were required to pay all costs of installation of the necessary infrastructure and to form a non-profit corporation (GGDWC) to administer water. The problem is that pipeline is now more than 30 years old. There have been several leaks discovered over the past several years. It has been determined the pipeline needs to be replaced, and the water delivery system upgraded, at an estimated cost of $300,000. Currently there are 31 lots, 29 paid taps and 27 taps in use. GGDWC owns the pipelines and other equipment necessary to deliver water to each user and, under the current agreement with the town, is responsible for the cost of maintenance and repair of the main pipeline, distribution lines and fire hydrants. The town owns the meter (master and individual) and is responsible for their maintenance.

According to the GGWDC “The 31 lot owners are not in a position to afford the cost of replacing the pipeline and the necessary upgrade to the water delivery system . . . without financial help in the form of grants and low interest loans.” And, according to the GGWDC, the most affordable of these types of loans are available only to local governmental organizations.

Energy policy — oil and gas: Methane pollution

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Here’s an in-depth look at methane pollution in groundwater from Abrahm Lustgarten writing for Pro Publica. From the article:

Industry spokesmen also oppose making the precautionary cementing practices mandatory. “For one thing it is very costly,” said Lee Fuller, vice president of government relations at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “At the same time if you try to put in too much cement you can risk collapsing the well. So it’s drawing a balance between protecting the groundwater” and “protecting the well that you are constructing.”

At the bottom of the hill on Carter Road, Richard Seymour runs a certified natural farm that ships produce across the state. His well is running red and turbid, and bubbles with so much gas that he fears he’ll lose that agricultural certification. If there’s a technology, like cementing, that can protect his water, then shouldn’t it be required in every case, he asks? “We feel pretty alone on this, pretty frustrated,” Seymour said. “I assumed the DEP, EPA, the state — the government — would protect our land. We didn’t know that as a landowner the burden was on us.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Colorado Foundation for Water Education — annual river basin tour: Rio Grande Basin

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From email from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (David Harper):

We are happy to announce that the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s annual river basin tour will take place on June 18th and 19th in the Rio Grande basin. Tour registration information, draft itinerary and brochure are attached. You can also access additional information and registration materials at There are additional recreational options for this year’s tour including a rafting trip and an acequia tour on Wednesday, June 17th. It is shaping up to be one of our most informative and entertaining tours to date. We look forward to seeing you there.

Center for Native Ecosystems: Critterthink

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Say hello to Critterthink the weblog from the Center for Native Ecosystems. From email from Andrea West, Development Director:

Greetings from Center for Native Ecosystems, a non-profit conservation organization based in Denver, CO. We work to protect endangered species and their habitat throughout the Rocky Mountain region. I wanted to let you know about an exciting new blog series we recently launched to celebrate our 10th anniversary called “From Where I’m Standing: Perspectives on Conservation in the American West.” Thus far, we’ve recruited about 40 all-star guest bloggers to write on the question “What is the greatest conservation opportunity currently facing our region or our nation?”

We’ve had a great response thus far, recruiting folks from photographer John Fielder to CU Professor and author Patty Limerick to Golden, CO mayor Jacob Smith and State Representative Claire Levy. The series was picked up by Westword (a weekly Denver news magazine) in their “Best of Denver” edition as the “best tenth anniversary present to Denver.” We are honored to be recognized for our contribution to our hometown, and thrilled to be hosting the conversation on some of the most pressing issues facing our region. Check out the series at

We posted a new entry every day for the first thirty days, and the blog will now feature weekly guest entries interspersed with blogs written by our staff. We’ve recruited some exciting guest bloggers for the coming months, including Denver mayor John Hickenlooper and author Terry Tempest Williams.

Click through and give them a look.

Larimer County: Invasive mussel regulations

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Here’s an update on boating regulations for Larimer County to combat the spread of invasive mussels, from Miles Blumhardt writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

To combat the potential spread of these exotic mussels that can cause significant damage to waterways, Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake and Boyd Lake have started conducting inspections of boats before they can be put into these waters. Also, Larimer County has restricted boating hours on Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake to allow for the inspections. Boating hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Sept. 30 with reduced inspection hours thereafter. Boat launching will not be allowed outside of those hours.

Larimer County and state parks staff said there will be minimal delays in launching boats due to the inspections, which they said take less than 5 minutes. To reduce the inconvenience, boaters can have their boats inspected when they come off the water. If the boat and trailer are found to be clean, they will be tagged and allowed to bypass having the boat and trailer inspected on the next outing.

Larimer County is hoping to have off-site inspections up and running before the busy Memorial Day Weekend.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

State of the Roaring Fork Basin

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From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

State of the Roaring Fork River Basin

Tuesday May 12 — 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Eagle County Community Center, El Jebel