Grand County: No Colorado-Big Thompson stimulus dough for water quality

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Stimulus money granted to the Colorado-Big Thompson project will not be used to study water quality in Grand County’s Three Lakes, according to a May 1 letter to the county from Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager Michael Collins. The BuRec informed Grand County officials that it is unable to fulfill the county’s request. The county had asked that about $100,000 or more out of a $14 million stimulus grant be directed to a Colorado Big Thompson Project study that would launch finding a solution to Grand Lake’s water-clarity problems.

S. 787: Clean Water Restoration Act

Here’s a look at S. 787 the Clean Water Restoration Act, from Gary Harmon writing for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. From the article:

The bill by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., would reduce the role state and local officials play in making decisions about water, Club 20 Executive Director Reeves Brown said. The upshot, Brown said, “is that the federal government takes everything, and the state and local governments are also-rans.” Feingold’s bill, S. 787, would extend the reach of the act, which was approved in 1972 to cover all navigable waters. The revision would encompass all the waters of the United States: interstate waters, intrastate lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, mud flats, sand flats, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playas and natural ponds, as well as tributaries to those waters. The measure, said Chris Treese of the Colorado River Conservation District, would affect “everything that is wet, ever was wet or ever might be wet.” Both Colorado senators, Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, said the bill was overly broad, and they couldn’t support it as written. It “could block access to waters for sportsmen and fishermen who have proven to be excellent stewards of our lands,” Bennet said in a statement. Udall said he was “encouraging stakeholders to develop compromise language.”

Runoff (snowpack) news: Crystal River near flood stage

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Here’s the link to the USGS Water Watch map for Colorado for your surfing pleasure.

From the Aspen Daily News (David Frey):

The peak runoff is expected within days, and the Crystal River at Redstone is within inches of overflowing the bank. Early Tuesday morning, a gauge station near Avalanche Creek showed the river running at 4.5 feet. Carbondale Deputy Fire Chief Carl Smith said flooding is expected to occur at 5 feet. “We’re right below that,” Smith said Tuesday afternoon…

The Crystal is running at record-high levels for the date. On Tuesday afternoon, it was flowing at 1,680 cubic feet per second. That’s nearly double the average of 874 cubic feet per second over 53 years of record keeping. The last record flow for May 19 was 1,500 cfs, set in 1997. The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a flood advisory for the Crystal above Redstone, warning that minor flooding in low-lying areas could come by today.

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

With unusually warm weather and dirty snow, the rivers in the San Luis Valley have peaked early this year so irrigators will have to look to summer rains for additional moisture. Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 3 Division Engineer Craig Cotten said the Rio Grande peaked on May 8, about a month earlier than usual. “Most of the SNOTELs [Snowpack Telemetry] on the Rio Grande are showing dry right now,” he said. “We have only got two of the SNOTELs on the upper Rio Grande Basin that are showing any water content at all.”

The two sites still showing some snowpack are the Upper San Juan and Wolf Creek Summit. Everything else is at zero or very close to zero, Cotten said. He said traditionally the Rio Grande experiences two peaks between May 15 and June 15 with the early snow coming off during the middle of May and the higher snows melting off the first part of June. This year the peak period is already over…

Cotten explained that the early snowmelt does not mean the water was lost to the Valley. In fact some ditches that would not normally receive water this time of year were able to get water because the system had so much of it at one time. The reservoirs on the Rio Grande and Conejos have also come into priority this year, something that does not happen every year. “That’s a fairly good indicator we have some good flows through the system,” Cotten said. The downside of the rivers peaking early could occur later this summer according to Cotten. “It does cause some concern especially that we may not have the amount of water we traditionally are used to later on in the season.”[…]

Curtailments on irrigators are holding steady if not less than earlier predicted. The curtailment represents the amount of water local irrigators are not allowed to use so it can be sent downstream to meet the state’s water obligation to New Mexico and Texas through the Rio Grande Compact. Cotten said the water division began curtailments of 12 percent on the Rio Grande on April 1 and was able to lower that to 10 percent currently. Curtailments on the Conejos River system began this year at 28-29 percent and have decreased to 20 percent, a far cry from last year’s curtailment that was above 50 percent on the Conejos at the beginning of the irrigation season. Cotten said he will look at the numbers again at the end of the month and may lower the curtailment on the Conejos River even further. Cotten said that during the high water peak the Conejos system was able to send more water downstream because the ditches that had called for water were taking it, Platoro Reservoir was in storage “ and we were still delivering a fair amount to the downstream states.”


No homes have been jeopardized by flooding in Georgetown so far, but Clear Creek, which runs through the center of the small community, has risen four feet in the last week. The bigger concern is north of Georgetown where a 40-year-old water filtration plant has had to be shut down almost every day. The town’s water supply has been cut in half. The rushing water carries too many types of sediment to safely be processed.

From the Vail Daily (Scott Condon):

The Crystal River near Redstone was flowing at 1,580 cubic feet per second, according to a gauging station maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey. The median flow for that date is 809 cfs, and the previous peak for that date in the past 53 years was 1,450 cfs in 1966. The National Weather Service on Monday issued a flood advisory for low-lying areas of the Crystal River upstream from Redstone. The advisory will continue until Thursday afternoon. No problems from flooding were reported to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The Roaring Fork River also is flowing well above average. The river near Emma was at 2,400 cfs Monday afternoon. It’s median for May 18 is 842 cfs. Its prior high flow was 1,320 cfs in 2007…

Warm temperatures and the dust have combined to consume the Roaring Fork River basin’s snowpack. It was at just 43 percent of average Monday afternoon.

Climate change: Particle makeup in clouds

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From environmental search web (Liz Kalaugher):

“Understanding cloud processes is key to reducing the uncertainties associated with climate change,” Kim Prather of the University of California, San Diego told environmentalresearchweb. “One of the largest unknowns is which particles form cloud seeds. Our measurements are some of the first measurements to characterize the size and chemistry of the individual cloud seeds in real-time.”

Prather and colleagues from Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming, Naval Research Laboratory, National Centre for Atmospheric Research, Oregons State University and the University of California, San Diego, took measurements from a plane about 8 km high on 7 November 2007 during the Ice in Clouds Experiment – Layer Clouds. They used aircraft-aerosol time-of-flight mass spectrometry (A-ATOFMS) of the residue remaining after water had been evaporated from the cloud’s ice particles. This resulted in the first aircraft-based, single-particle, dual-polarity mass spectrometry measurements.

The team found that mineral dust made up around 50% of the individual ice-crystal residues, and biological particles made up roughly 33%. The remainder was salts such as potassium and sodium chloride, organic carbon mixed with nitrate, and soot. The use of dual-polarity mass spectrometry enabled a clear differentiation between biological particles and carbonaceous inorganic and non-biological particles.

Around 87% of the dust particles were phyllosilicate clays, which are known to be ice nuclei. It looks like the particles had mixed with biological material, as 60% of them contained both organic nitrogen and phosphate, which may have increased the particles’ ice nucleation efficiency.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.