Hermosa Creek: Management plan shows the value of consensus building

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From The Durango Herald (Megan Graham):

This latter approach was the one employed in the Hermosa Creek Workgroup process that, after 22 months of debate, discussion, compromise, blood, sweat and tears, produced a set of recommendations that everyone involved supports. This was no small feat, given the range – and diversity – of interests who engaged in the process, and the fact that everyone involved had to give up something important to them and yet still can stand behind the outcome makes it impressive indeed.

More Hermosa Creek coverage here and here.

Colorado State University’s World Water Day events

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University:

Colorado State University to Feature World Wildlife Fund Officer at World Water Day March 22

CSU will host a celebration of World Water Day on March 22 in conjunction with Hydrology Days, an annual CSU conference focused on hydrologic sciences and closely related disciplines.

World Water Day at CSU is sponsored by the Office of Outreach and Strategic Programs, Office of International Programs, the Colorado Water Institute, CSU Libraries, and CSU Environmental Governance Working Group and will highlight local, regional, and global educational and outreach programs.

John Matthews, senior program officer of the freshwater program for the World Wildlife Fund, will give the keynote address at World Water Day. Matthews will highlight the lessons of emerging best practices for freshwater climate adaptation from the World Wildlife Fund staff to groups such as the World Bank, government development agencies, and key nongovernmental organization partners.

World Water Day at CSU will include a fair with displays hosted by various organizations, workshops, demonstrations and community service projects. The event is free and open to the public. A lunch and special Borland Lecture are $15. To register for World Water Day, and/or Hydrology Days, visit http://www.globalwater.colostate.edu. The overall event will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Lory Student Center; the World Water Day Fair will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Matthews will speak at 9:30 a.m. in the student center. He has worked with WWF’s global network since 2007, and supports staff all over the world as an internal consultant for freshwater conservation and economic development. His current scientific research focuses on how shifts in precipitation patterns are altering the freshwater communities and bird migration pathways within the Great Basin of North America. He has a doctorate in ecology, evolution, and behavioral ecology from the University of Texas at Austin, and is an expert in climate adaptation, freshwater conservation, and economic development.

This year marks the American Geophysical Union’s 30th Hydrology Days event at CSU. The American Geophysical Union is an organization that has been conducting research in the field of geosciences for more than 90 years. The organization’s focus is on Earth and space science research that is used for the benefit of humanity.

Colorado River District and the Northwest Council of Governments kick off program to educate Front Range residents about their impact on western slope streamflow

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From the Summit Daily News (Julie Sutor):

“It’s the same water. Conserve it!” the billboard reads, across images of lawn sprinklers, a snowy mountain and a woman taking a shower. The billboard is the first tactic in a new campaign by local governments in northwest Colorado to remind Front Range water users of their impacts to the state’s western rivers…

The new campaign, a collaborative effort by the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, hopes to make the connection for folks. More billboards and signs at bus stops will pop up throughout the Denver-metro area in coming months. All the promotional efforts will direct people to a website, www.itsthesamewater.com, or a smartphone page where they can learn about where water comes from, the impacts of diversions and how to conserve.

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.

Monte Vista: Not all residents content with town’s chlorination plans

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From The Monte Vista Journal (Dianne James):

The state of Colorado has already mandated chlorination and, in recent months, the City Council decided to fight that order.

Residents are concerned about the health effects of chlorination as revealed by research in recent years that correlates chlorine to cancer and other illnesses. They also noted Monte Vista’s 60-year history of mostly good test results, as well as the cost and bad taste of chlorinated water.

A few residents wanted to go along with what the state mandates, but the majority had grave concerns about chlorination…

You could almost hear the resolve leaving those in opposition, almost like a collective sigh, after City Manager Don Van Wormer stood up and said the state has already decided this. He asked if the city wants to have a possible outbreak (of some water-borne illness) and have to face the financial consequences of that.

More water treatment coverage here.

Montezuma/Dolores County: Bureau of Land Management files for water rights in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

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From the Cortez Journal (Kimberly Benedict):

Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co., Montezuma County and Dolores County have filed letters of opposition to the application of water rights by the BLM for access to 13 springs within the monument.

The bureau maintains that use of the springs will support monument management purposes and is water already in use but the rights have not yet been clarified. “In the presidential proclamation that created the monument, two of the purposes that were identified were providing wildlife habitat and continuing historic grazing operations,” said Roy Smith, BLM water rights coordinator for Colorado. “The springs are already used for those purposes and we are seeking water court confirmation of those uses.”[…]

Among other concerns held by MVIC is the hesitation over whether or not return flows will ever be involved. “BLM is claiming that they are filing these water rights to protect the water for livestock, yet at the same time, they say they are never going to demand return flows coming from the irrigators to keep those springs alive,” Siscoe said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

At the heart of the debate is the concern for livestock that graze the monument as well as additional water rights. “The water could be used for riparian restoration and used for wildlife,” said Montezuma County Federal Lands Coordinator James Dietrich. “But then that’s a concern that it is a nonconsumptive use which leaves the water to run downstream. “Consumptive water use in the state is a really big deal. We are a use-it-or-lose-it state. That is where a lot of these issues come into play. If you are running water down stream you may not be able to get it back at all.”[…]

For the three parties involved in the opposition, the arguments boil down to the singular issue of individual rights. “It is about protecting private property rights,” said MVIC President Randy Carver…

The next step in the process is a review of the springs in question by the Colorado Division of Water Resources. A consultation report will then be sent to the water court. Eventually, a proposed water rights decree will be put before the water court for consideration and approval. Representatives from both sides believe the issue will be easily resolved, although there is some resentment regarding the methods the BLM used to seek the water rights.

More San Juan Basin coverage here and here.

HB 10-1188: Rafting bill faces uncertain outcome in State Senate

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From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

“I think the opponents are gaining ground in the Senate,” said Curry, a Gunnison lawmaker who left the Democratic party this winter and is now unaffiliated. There are 17 lobbyists working to defeat the bill, according to Curry’s count earlier this week. “That’s one for almost every ‘no’ voted needed,” she said. Eighteen votes would kill the bill in the 35-member state Senate. The measure passed the House 40-25 in February. The bill was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Debate is expected to start in mid-March. Curry said there is really nothing she can do but let the debate play out. She has lobbied for it as best she can. “At this point I’m like a worried mother hen or something,” she said.

Curry believes the controversy is unnecessary. She intended to simply clarify existing law, but the bill has sparked a debate over private property rights. She wants people — senators and anyone interested — to simply read the wording. She feels they won’t feel threatened…

Curry said she believes foes are making a strategic mistake if they kill the bill. They know what they are getting with her bill, she said. Commercial outfitters will likely force a ballot initiative if the bill fails, she said, and foes cannot be certain if it will expand the power of floaters beyond what Curry is seeking. In other words, the foes might give up more if the issue goes to a statewide vote. “They may win the battle on this one but they’re going to lose the war,” Curry said. She believes Colorado voters would approve a ballot question in support of commercial rafting.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Snowpack news

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Update: From The Mountain Mail (Sue Price):

The March 1 survey conducted by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows overall snowpack at 88 percent of average. The increase is stronger in the Arkansas River Basin, up 6 percent, for a total of 95 percent of average. Porphyry Creek, near Monarch Pass, jumped to 96 percent of average from 78 percent Feb. 1. Fremont Pass remained steady at 80 percent of average, while Brumley is at a season high of 104 percent of average…

Percentages in the 72-79 percent range in the Colorado, Yampa, White and North Platte river basins in northern Colorado are the lowest since the 2002 drought year, Green said.

Update: From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The latest surveys show Colorado’s snowpack well-below average, with only a slight increase last month. Water suppliers are anticipating weak runoff in the Colorado, Yampa and Platte river basins…

Overall, statewide snowpack is the lowest since the drought year of 2002. The probability of snowpack improving to near average by the end of winter is less than 10 percent, officials said.

Update: From The Denver Post:

Most of Colorado’s reservoirs are in the mountains. If normal weather continues the next two months, Denver Water’s reservoirs should fill up with the spring runoff, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said…

February was 4 degrees colder than average and collected a half-inch less than the average of snowfall of 6.3 inches, according to weather records.

From 9News.com (James Joliat):

This year’s snowpack continues to lag well behind last years at this time, with the March 1 readings only 82 percent of last years totals on this date, according to Allen Green, state conservationist with the NRCS. Another trend in this year’s snowpack pack data is the variability across the state that has been driven by the 2010 El Niño storm track which has favored the southwestern U.S…

At this time, only two basins in the state are tracking at above average levels. Those include the Rio Grande, at 109 percent of average, and the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel at 106 percent of average.

Other nearby basins, which are tracking at just slightly below average, include the Gunnison and the Arkansas, both at 95 percent of average.

Across northern Colorado, snowpack percentages remain well below average, having not tracked at these percentages since the drought year of 2002. Those basins include the Colorado, Yampa and White, and the North Platte. These basins, along with the South Platte, range from 72 to 79 percent of average.

From The Aspen Times:

The statewide snowpack increased to 88 percent of average on March 1 from 86 percent on Feb. 1, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The statewide average is only 82 percent of last year’s total at the same time…

The local snowpack is 90 percent of the 30-year average measured between 1971 and 2000. It varies drastically in different parts of the basin. The conservation service’s Independence Pass site, east of Aspen, showed a snowpack Wednesday that is 96 percent of average. Three sites in the Fryingpan Valley show drastic differences, based on elevation. The site at Ivanhoe Lake, more than 10,000 feet in elevation, showed a snowpack of 97 percent. Lower in the valley it’s only 73 percent of average at the Kiln site and 71 percent of average at Nast Lake. The snowpack is more consistent in the Crystal Valley: 94 percent of average at Schofield Pass; 92 percent at McClure Pass; and 87 percent at North Lost Trail outside of Marble…

Northern Colorado basins have their lowest snowpack levels since the 2002 drought, the agency said. Water users depending on sources in the Colorado, Yampa and White, and the North Platte basins should be prepared for significantly less water than in the last two years.

From the Pikes Peak Courier:

The Woodland Park office of the Natural Resources Conservation Service reports that snow pack measurements for March 1 readings at seven local snow courses were slightly above normal. These snow courses on the South Platte and Arkansas river watersheds measured 119 percent of the depth and 88 percent of the snow water content compared to the 30-year long term average…

The Pikes Peak watershed, based on data from the Colorado Springs Water Resources Department, had 116 percent of the Long Term Average snow depth on the North Slope and 122 percent of the Long Term Average on the South Slope.

From The Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson):

Statewide, February’s snowpack is at 88 percent of the long-term average, up slightly from 86 percent in January. Water content of the snowpack in the northern mountains hasn’t been this low since the drought of 2002, said state conservationist Allen Green. Officials estimate there is less than a 10 percent chance that water availability will improve to near average in those basins by the end of the snowpack accumulation season in mid-April.

From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

“Normally by this time of year we would have gotten 101 inches, and we’ve gotten 80,” said National Weather Service observer Rick Bly, who records snow amounts in the town of Breckenridge. He said much of this season’s snow fell in October and quickly melted. November through February amounts were about 64 percent of average. February’s snowfall total in Breckenridge was 20.4, down from the average of 23.5 inches. January’s total was 14 inches compared with an average of 22.4 inches. “We’re below average and that’s not good,” Bly said. “Hopefully March will make up for it; March is kind of an unusual month.”[…]

The local snowpack continues to lag well below normal, with the Colorado River Basin at 79 percent of average relative to a statewide average of 88 percent…

However, the past couple years of high runoff have helped fill reservoirs in basins which have received less snowfall this year — leaving them with higher-than-average storage levels, according to the press release. “That helps for the water users below those reservoirs,” Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor with NRCS said in a phone interview, adding that irrigators along small streams and tributaries may “see pretty low water availability, especially late this summer.” The level of Dillon Reservoir is 107 percent of what it was this time last year.