Glenwood Springs: Michael Palmer paddles to a third-place junior men finish at freestyle trials

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From the Vail Daily (Jeff Caspersen):

The 18-year-old Glenwood Springs resident had more than a few fans on hand at the U.S. Freestyle Kayak Team Trials on Sunday, fans the hometown hero delighted by notching a third-place finish in the junior men division. Palmer stuck a points-heavy first run that carried him to a bronze finish. He finished behind first-place Jason Craig and second-place Dane Jackson. All three junior standouts will represent the United States at the Aug. 31 through Sept. 6 ICF Freestyle World Championships in Thun, Switzerland.

Punching his ticket at his hometown water park only sweetened Palmer’s accomplishment. “It’s my home wave,” a grinning Palmer said. “It’s the best wave in the country. It’s great. It’s my hometown.”

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Animas-La Plata project management

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From CBS4Denver.com:

Federal officials are negotiating with tribal and local officials in southwest Colorado and New Mexico on the cost of operating and maintaining a new water storage and distribution system. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is in talks with the governments involved on how the Animas-La Plata system will be run. Negotiations started in March and resume this week.

More coverage from The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is scheduled to resume negotiations Tuesday with Animas-La Plata Project beneficiaries, including the city of Durango, on several issues – including how much each partner will pay for operations and maintenance of the potable-water project. On the table also will be the level of oversight of the federal agency (which owns the project), what facilities and equipment will be transferred to the operator and the timing of certain events.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Colorado to pay Lend Lease $4.5 million

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From the Denver Business Journal:

The state of Colorado agreed Monday to pay $4.5 million to Lend Lease Lowry Range LLC in a settlement between the company and the State Land Board over development of the former Lowry bombing range east of Aurora. Lend Lease, a division of Australian developer Lend Lease Corp. Ltd., was chosen in December 2006 to develop a planned community on 3,900 acres of the 26,000-acre bombing-range site. But it backed out this January, saying it couldn’t locate a sustainable water supply at a reasonable cost for the new community.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.

Runoff news: Dillon Reservoir full

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From the Vail Daily (Bob Berwyn):

Flows in the Blue below the Dillon Dam are currently spiking as high as 1,550 cubic feet per second and could top the 1,800 cfs mark, said Denver Water’s Bob Steger. That’s the level at which the river sometimes spills out of its banks, he said…

This year’s early runoff filled the reservoir on May 25, one of the earliest dates on record…

For now, Denver Water can’t divert water through the Roberts Tunnel because all of its Front Range reservoirs are full, Steger said. That means all the water flowing into Dillon Reservoir — from the Snake River, the Blue and Ten Mile Creek — has to flow out through Silverthorne and into the Lower Blue. How long the reservoir continues to spill is weather dependent, but Steger said he anticipates high flows in the Blue for the next month or so.

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The current elevation of Blue Mesa Reservoir is 7513.84 which is about 5.5 feet from full and inflow continues to remain high. In order to control the fill rate of the reservoir, Reclamation is compelled to increase releases by another 400 cfs this week. Releases from Crystal will increase 200 cfs on Tuesday, June 2 and another 200 cfs on Wednesday June 3rd. This will bring total Crystal release to 3,300 cfs. Currently, 800 – 900 cfs is being diverted through the Gunnison Tunnel. This will leave approximately 2,500 cfs in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon.

From the Vail Daily:

Gore Creek above Red Sandstone Creek was running at 950 cubic feet per second Monday, according to the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The historical average for Gore Creek this time of year is about 680 cubic feet per second, according to the district. The Gore Creek historically peaks this week, according to district statistics.

The Eagle River near Minturn was running at 687 cubic feet per second Monday, the district reported. This year, it peaked around May 20 at 826 cubic feet per second. The Eagle River below the Avon wastewater plant was running at 1,680 cubic feet per second Monday. That was below the historical average of about 1,900 cubic feet per second for this time of year.

Michael Connor gets senate nod for Reclamation commissioner

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Here’s the release from Reclamation:

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today lauded the U.S. Senate’s confirmation of Michael L. Connor as Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“Mike Connor’s extensive experience with water management issues in Congress and the Department of the Interior will be invaluable as we work on climate impacts, water efficiency and conservation and drought mitigation,” Secretary Salazar said. “Mike is a dedicated and talented public servant who will strengthen our leadership team as we address the water challenges facing the communities we serve.”

As Reclamation Commissioner, Connor oversees the largest wholesaler of water in the country, bringing water to more than 31 million people and providing one out of five Western farmers with irrigation water for farmland that produces much of the nation’s produce. Reclamation is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the western United States with 58 power plants. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits.

Connor has more than 15 years of experience in the public sector, including having served as Counsel to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee since May 2001. In that position, Connor has managed legislation for both the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey, developed water resources legislation and handled Native American issues that are within the Energy Committee’s jurisdiction.

From 1993 to 2001, Connor served in the Department of the Interior, including as deputy director and then director of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Office from 1998 to 2001, where he represented the Secretary of the Interior in negotiations with Indian tribes, state representatives, and private water users to secure water rights settlements consistent with the federal trust responsibility to tribes. Before that, he was employed with the Interior Solicitor’s Office in Washington, D.C. and in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He began his Interior career in the Solicitor’s Honors Program in 1993.

Connor received his Juris Doctor degree from the University of Colorado School of Law, and is admitted to the bars of Colorado and New Mexico. He previously received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from New Mexico State University and worked for General Electric.

Legislation that would authorize Aurora to use Fryingpan-Arkansas facilities to move water out of basin would also fund study of expansion for Turquoise Lake and Lake Pueblo

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The $8 million study of storage in the Arkansas Valley is actually the primary stated purpose of suggested legislation by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District and Aurora that is meant to settle a federal lawsuit the Lower Ark has filed against the Bureau of Reclamation. “The additional storage space is crucial to Pueblo and the future of this valley,” said Bud O’Hara, division manager for water resources for the Pueblo Board of Water Works at Thursday’s town hall. O’Hara said the proposed legislation also provides water quality monitoring and fosters cooperation among all water users in the valley…

The legislation being proposed now also would allow other users in the Arkansas Valley outside Southeastern’s boundaries – which take in most cities, towns and farmland in tightly defined parts of nine counties – to enter excess-capacity contracts. Those types of contracts also have been issued for years by Reclamation as well. The Southeastern district presently has no beef with either type of contract, said Jim Broderick, executive director. “Those contracts are allowed, at a higher rate than for users within the district,” Broderick explained. The legislation guards against the increase of diversions from the Colorado River basin, but it does not explicitly limit future diversions from the Arkansas River basin. Aurora is limited in how much water it can take in the next 37 years by the 2003-04 agreements. An agreement with the Lower Ark district extend those limits beyond 2046. The proposed federal legislation does not speak to whether other water users could tap into the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project to move water out of the valley – neither authorizing nor expressly prohibiting others outside the basin who may seek excess-capacity contracts. That could leave the issue of where water is moved open to the interpretation by Reclamation, as it has interpreted past acts of Congress in making its rules.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Climate change: Have we reached the ‘tipping point’ in the Arctic?

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From Chronogram Magazine (Bill McKibben):

Sooner or later, you have to draw a line. We’ve spent the last 20 years in the opening scenes of what historians will one day call the Global Warming Era—the preamble to the biggest drama that humans have ever staged, the overture that hints at the themes that will follow for centuries to come. But none of the notes have resolved, none of the story lines yet come into clear view. And that’s largely because until recently we didn’t know quite where we were. From the moment in 1988 when a NASA scientist named James Hansen told Congress that burning coal and gas and oil was warming the earth, we’ve struggled to absorb this one truth: The central fact of our economic lives (the ubiquitous fossil fuel that developed the developed world) is wrecking the central fact of our physical lives (the stable climate and sea level on which civilization rests). For a while, and much longer in the US than elsewhere, we battled over whether this was true. But warm year succeeded warm year and that fight began to subside…

It was September 2007 that the tide began to turn. Every summer Arctic sea ice melts, and every fall it refreezes. The amount of open water has been steadily increasing for three decades, a percent or two every year—it’s been going at about the pace that the hairline recedes on a middle-aged man. It was worrisome, and scientists said all the summer ice could be gone by 2070 or so, which is an eyeblink in geologic time but an eternity in politician time. In late summer of last year, though, the melt turned into a rout—it was like those stories of people whose hair turns gray overnight. An area the size of Colorado was disappearing every week; the Northwest Passage was staying wide open all September, for the first time in history. Before long the Arctic night mercifully descended and the ice began to refreeze, but scientists were using words like “astounding.” They were recalculating—by one NASA scientist’s estimate the summer Arctic might now be free of ice by 2012. Which in politician years is “beginning of my second term.”[…]

The key phrase, really, was “tipping point.” As in “I’d say we are reaching a tipping point or are past it for the ice. This is a strong indication that there is an amplifying mechanism here.” That’s Pål Prestrud of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research-Oslo. Or this, from Mark Serreze, of the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado: “When the ice thins to a vulnerable state, the bottom will drop out…I think there is some evidence that we may have reached that tipping point, and the impacts will not be confined to the Arctic region.”

“Tipping point” is not, in this context, an idle buzzword. It means that the physical world is taking over the process that humans began. We poured carbon into the atmosphere, trapping excess heat; that excess heat began to melt ice. When that ice was melted, there was less white up north to reflect the sun’s rays back out to space, and more blue ocean to absorb them. Events began to feed upon themselves. And in the course of the last year, we’ve seen the same thing happening in other systems. In April, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a report showing that 2007 had seen a sudden and dramatic surge in the amount of methane, another heat-trapping gas, in the atmosphere. Apparently, one reason is that when we burned all that fossil fuel and began raising the temperature, we also started melting the permafrost—melting eight times more of it in some places over two decades than had thawed for the previous 1,000 years. And as that frozen soil thaws, it releases methane; enough of it now bubbles out to make “hot spots” in lakes and ponds that don’t freeze during the deepest part of the Siberian winter. The more methane, the more heat, the more methane. Wash, rinse, repeat.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here.