Snowpack news

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Snowpack totals around the state also climbed as reported by automated SNOTEL sites, with the deepest reading, 89 inches, at Schofield Pass, between Crested Butte and Aspen, which passed the Tower site (85 inches), northeast of Steamboat along the Continental Divide — that’s about eight feet of snow on the ground.
Interestingly, the Zirkel site, west of Walden, reported 65 inches of snow on the ground, even though it’s been generally dry east of the Divide. The Spud Mountain site, just south of Silverton, reported 75 inches. A little closer to home, the Grizzly Peak SNOTEL station, reported 53 inches, with 41 inches at Copper Mountain and 46 inches at Fremont Pass.

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Kathrine Warren):

The Telluride Ski Resort reported three inches of new snow between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, and 6 inches total between Sunday morning and Tuesday morning. Others have been in the path of the storm as well. Crested Butte had received more than two feet of snow by Tuesday. Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs reported 50 inches between Saturday and Tuesday with more snow on its way. Ramey blames the huge discrepancy on the characteristics of this unique weather pattern. The storm is bringing tropical moisture from the southwest, off the coast of Hawaii, a pattern that is known as “Pineapple Express.” “This is real unusual, to get this moisture right off the Pacific,” [Joe Ramey, a forecaster and meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Grand Junction] said. “That deep tropical moisture that slowly gets cold as it approaches — that’s pretty unusual for a La Niña year.”

Therefore southwest facing slopes and valleys are receiving the brunt of this storm, whereas Telluride’s valley, which points due west, isn’t the ideal orientation to catch this storm’s wrath. The direction of the storm has left Telluride in a snow shadow while just on the other side of the mountains, on Coal Bank Pass, two feet of snow fell as of Tuesday afternoon.

Colorado’s population tops five million

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From (Jeffrey Wolf):

Colorado’s population now stands at 5,029,196, an increase of 16.9 percent from 2000 when the population totaled 4.3 million. That year, Colorado gained a congressional seat after seeing a growth rate of 30.6 percent in the 1990s. The seat is the 7th Congressional District in suburban Denver currently held by Democrat Ed Perlmutter.

Elizabeth Garner, Colorado’s demographer, said the state’s growth rate this decade may have been affected by the economic slowdowns brought by the 2001 dot-com bust and the Great Recession. Other states that have seen big growth in the West, like Arizona and Nevada, have benefited from having a large retiree base. Arizona grew by 24.6 percent and Nevada by 35.1 percent, the highest in the country…

[Andrew Goetz, the head of the geography department at the University of Denver] says during the 1990s, Colorado’s population grew by 30 percent. He says the 17 percent increase is easier to handle. “I would say 17 percent is sustainable, at least in the short run. There are some longer run issues that we’re going to have to deal with – water being one of them,” he said. “Accommodating the growth in a more sustainable way is a challenge, but it’s not a new challenge. It’s something that we’ve known about, we’re planning for it.”

Snake River: Rising levels of zinc may be due to climate change

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From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjun):

Nearly 2,000 miles of waterways in Colorado are affected by acid rock drainage, said Diane McKnight, who co-authored the study. “Spring runoff is happening longer,” Shaw said, which means the water runs slowly into the ground instead of along its surface in one spring melt. It passes over mineralized rocks, leeching the minerals into the streamflow as it moves. Crouch said the earlier snowmelt also means drier streambeds in September and October, which could increase metal concentrations. It’s a smaller scale of what was observed during the 2002 drought, in which prolonged dry conditions allowed the harmful chemical reactions to occur in areas where water once was, and will be again.

More Snake River coverage here and here.

Nebraska: Platte River Recovery Implementation Program update

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From the Associated Press via the Bloomberg News:

The Central Platte Natural Resources District said it is nearly done with a plan to buy water rights for the Six Mile Canal near Gothenburg. The canal is being filled in with dirt and retired after 116 years of use. The canal’s closing will help Nebraska comply with a three-state agreement to improve wildlife habitat along the Platte. The project is expected to return an average of 2,377 acre-feet of water to the Platte River annually…

More than 30 land owners agreed to sell their rights to water from the canal and convert their farming operations over to groundwater irrigation. The farmers will benefit by being able to use modern irrigation technology to manage how much water they use…

The agreement requires the Central Platte Natural Resources District to restore about 3,400 acre-feet of water to the Platte River annually. After closing this canal, the Central Platte NRD will be returning about 3,000 acre-feet of water to the Platte.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Precipitation/snowpack news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 12 new inches of snow Tuesday afternoon, bringing the storm total to 71 inches…Officials at Monarch Mountain reported 10 inches of new snow Tuesday, bringing the ski resort’s base to 60 inches of fluffy white stuff.

From The Aspen Times (Kristen Wyatt):

“We’ve had 22 inches of snow in the last 24 hours,” said Mark Esper, editor of the Silverton Standard. “It started out as a wet, slushy snow and now it’s all nice and fluffy.”[…]At Aspen/Snowmass, the Aspen Skiing Co. was reporting close to a foot of new snow at both Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk at about noon Tuesday. Both ski areas had 11 new inches, along with 8 inches at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain. The Skico was reporting 19 inches of new snow at Highlands in the past 48 hours, and 15.5 inches at Buttermilk over the same period. Snowmass had 13 inches over the previous 48 hours and Aspen Mountain picked up 10 inches, the company reported.

From Steamboat Today (Nicole Inglis):

Steamboat Ski Area has reported 3 feet of snow in the past seven days, and the city of Steamboat has received about 2 feet…Art Judson, an unofficial weather observer for the Na tional Weather Service, said he’s logged 18 inches of snow at his home on Anglers Drive since Friday. The National Resource and Conservation Center, which runs SNOTEL data sites, re corded 55 inches atop Buffalo Pass in the same amount of time. And this isn’t any Champagne Powder, Judson said. The snow at his house is about 11 percent water; Steamboat averages about 7 percent…

SNOTEL reports the snowpack about 6 miles north of Steamboat Ski Area at about 170 percent of average as of Tuesday.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Reclamation record of decision could be ready in two years

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

developed for the conduit and a master storage contract being sought by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. The report lays out a timetable to develop and analyze alternatives for the conduit and develop a draft EIS by the end of next year. Public hearings on the EIS are scheduled for early 2012. The record of decision, which will choose the preferred route for the conduit, would be complete by December 2012 or January 2013, under current plans…

The EIS will differ from past studies of water in the Arkansas River basin by taking into account cumulative impacts of water projects and the possibility of climate change over the next 50 years. Issues identified as important during public meetings in August include water quality, environmental justice, invasive species, wetlands and water conservation…

The 135-mile conduit could follow any of four alignments, and would provide between 14 million and 20 million gallons per day. The master contract for excess-capacity storage would be for 40 years, the maximum time frame under Reclamation policy. Between 28,000 to 32,000 acre-feet would be stored.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.