2010 Colorado elections: Ed Quillen tries to piece together the facts around the state Attorney Regulation Council’s ruling about Scott McInnis’ plagiarized articles

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Click through and read the whole column from Ed Quillen writing for the The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

McInnis blamed his researcher, retired water engineer Rolly Fischer of Glenwood Springs, and even faxed a confessional letter for Fischer to sign, which Fischer didn’t. Now the state Attorney Regulation Council has decided McInnis can keep his law license because at some point he advised the Hasan Foundation that he was getting some help from Fischer, even though he was supposed to be doing the work himself. You’d think he could have pointed that out in the summer of 2010, when it might have mattered.

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Runoff news: Garfield County is starting to prepare for possible runoff flooding

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Most officials contacted for this story now predict that peak runoff, which normally would be happening in late May, will not arrive until the latter part of June. “The water’s peak should have been about a week ago,” said Tanny McGinnis, spokeswoman for the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office. Now she expects it to fall in the middle of June…

She said free sandbags are available at the county’s road and bridge facility near the Garfield County Regional Airport, where they were delivered a week ago…

In general, however, she said the county is expecting to get some warning from its neighboring counties upriver once the snow begins to melt in earnest. “The high water will hit Routt County and Eagle County before it gets to us,” she predicted. “We’ll have several hours of notice, at least.” The confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers, she said, “are the areas they’re really keeping an eye on right now,” because the confluence area has been known to flood in the past…

Estimates of the snowpack in the mountains above the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys range as high as 400 percent of normal, according to recent news reports. But such numbers can be deceptive, according to Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado. He explained that the “percent of normal” statistics relate to comparisons of the current snow depth to the average depth of the snow at a certain point in time. But as time passes, the average historical snow depth decreases sharply, so that in a year such as this one, the percent of normal increases to really high values simply because it’s being compared to a much lower number that is more typical for late May. But, he said, “That’s still a lot of water, a lot of snow.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

“In spring, creeks and streams can be particularly dangerous as flows are often higher and faster than they are during the summer months and the water temperature is just above freezing,” said county emergency manager Joel Cochran…

“The rivers are deceptively dangerous this time of year,” said Sheriff John Minor. “During spring runoff, there is an incredible amount of debris in the water, and some of it is just under the surface” he said.

From the National Weather Service via the Cortez Journal:

Spring snow melt has caused high flows on many rivers and creeks in western Colorado and eastern Utah. However, cooler weather this spring has delayed the snow melt and kept copious amounts of snow at higher elevations especially in northwest and west central Colorado, as well as in northeast Utah. Therefore, river flows have not yet peaked. At higher flows, river banks can quickly become saturated and unstable. Caution is urged near waterways, as river banks can erode or collapse unexpectedly. Do not let children play near high flowing rivers, creeks, and canals.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Reid Armstrong):

The weather should start clearing Monday as the jet stream dips down over California, causing it to bow above Colorado, pulling warm dry conditions into the mountains, according to the Weather Service’s La Niña guru Mike Baker. Grand County could see temperatures start to warm up pretty fast with nighttime temperatures remaining above freezing for most of the week, Baker said. This is good if you’re a river raft guide, but maybe not so great if you’re a town manager worried about flooding…

As La Niña weakens in coming weeks, the jet stream should begin moving north, Baker said, leaving Colorado out of its path.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

“We’re looking at all-time-high flows,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water. “Our minimum (estimate) would be an all-time record.” That means plenty of water for farmers and residents, the danger of possible flooding and both highs and lows for outdoor recreation…

Water and safety officials are worried about flooding if record snowpack disappears quickly, along with rain runoff. The snowpack is at 254 percent of average for this time of year, when snow typically already is melting…

Both Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir will be full by the end of June.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The Poudre River is expected to remain low for most of the next week with almost no risk of flooding, but after that, all bets are off. “The next few days are fine because the temperatures are going to remain cool,” said hydrologist Treste Huse of the National Weather Service in Boulder.

From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

“If we can get through the Fourth of July we’ll be really pleased,” said Lisa Reeder, operations manager for Eagle-based Timberline Tours. “This year we’re pretty much guaranteed to get there, and we could see good water on the Eagle until Aug. 1.”

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported May 1, snowpack statewide was 135 percent of average, the highest since 1995, and the snowpack in the Colorado River basin was 151 percent of average, the highest since 1993…

John Van Oort, district 14 and 15 water commissioner for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said the snowpack started to make its way downhill a couple of weeks ago, but stopped because it turned cold again. He said only Mother Nature knows when the frigid water will make its way down to the Arkansas River.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Pat Ferrier):

Snowpack near the top of Poudre Canyon is more than 2½ times greater than last year when water ran higher and faster than it had in almost two decades…

A delayed, steady runoff – like manna from heaven – can sustain a rafting season well into August, and sometimes until Labor Day, said Pat Legel, owner of A Wanderlust Adventure, celebrating its 30th year of rafting the Poudre. Current conditions are similar to 1995 when spring was cool and rain fell 60 out of 61 days, Legel said…

Conservation: Northern Water is offering landscaping and irrigation seminars through July 27

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From The Greeley Tribune:

In its second year, the series will focus on water efficiency. That includes irrigation scheduling and budgeting, selecting grass types and plants, and the seven principles of Xeriscape. The sessions are open to homeowners and professionals and will be conducted in Northern Water’s Conservation Gardens at the district’s headquarters north of Berthoud…

The 90-minute seminars will start Wednesday and continue every Wednesday through July 27, with the exception of July 6. Each will be offered at 3 p.m.. and some are repeated at 6:30 p.m. While walk-ins are welcome, registration is available [by email] at registration@ncwcd.org or by calling (970) 622-2220. Those attending will be given handouts and have the possibility of winning a rain gauge.

More conservation coverage here.

Animas River watershed: Acid mine drainage mitigation has caused water quality to deteriorate due to increased metal loading in the river

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From The Durango Telegraph (Will Sands):

“Unfortunately, it’s not looking so good for the Animas,” said Bill Simon, coordinator of the stakeholders. “We were making really good progress through remediation efforts. However, the metal loading in Cement Creek has radically increased in the last five years. The loading has overcome the gains we’ve made, and the pollution is back to where we were when we started off.” Simon explained that pollution levels between Silverton and Baker’s Bridge are as bad as they have been since 1990. Last fall, the stakeholders conducted a fish survey at the Animas River’s confluence with Cascade Creek. In just a few years, three species of fish had disappeared from the section, and only hardy brook trout remained. “I assume that we can expect these impacts to find their way to Durango as well,” Simon said.

Ironically, the culprit behind this pollution was an attempt to fix mine drainage. In 2004, Sunnyside Mining heeded a court decree and plugged its American Tunnel at the head of Cement Creek. However, the tainted water backed up, found its way to other openings and is now leaching out into the creek and running downstream to the Animas. “The water’s now coming out of a bunch of other mines, and it’s nasty,” said Simon. “The new discharges are leaching presumably because of the bulkhead that was placed in the Sunnyside Mine.”

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Whitewater news: Still waiting for runoff

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From The Denver Post (Jason Blevins):

That record-breaking snowpack — with the Colorado, Yampa and White river basins nearing 200 percent of their 30-year average and several others near 150 percent — harbors both a blessing and a curse for Colorado’s commercial rafting outfitters, who last year hosted more than 507,000 paddlers. When the weather warms, that initial surge of cascading snowmelt will certainly close stretches of steep and swollen rivers for commercial rafting and elevate the difficulty of traditionally mellower stretches. But that same bountiful snowpack also promises raging rafting deep into summer…

The last time the Eagle River ran deep into summer, in 2008 with the Colorado River Basin 146 percent of average in early June, the upper portion of the river hosted more than 4,300 commercial rafters. Last year, with a sudden early surge stealing all the flows and whittling the Colorado River basin to 57 percent of average in early June, the upper Eagle saw fewer than 1,100 commercial rafters.

More whitewater news here.

Good luck Bill Jackson

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I didn’t get a chance to meet Mr. Jackson in person but his articles have been cited on Coyote Gulch (both the current weblog and in the archives) nearly a hundred times over the years. He is moving on and I’ll miss his work. Here’s his goodbye from The Greeley Tribune. He writes:

The big events come to mind easily — the farmer protests and tractorcades of the 1980s when interest rates were sky high and commodity prices bottomed out; the attempt by sugar beet farmers to buy the bankrupt Great Western Sugar Co.; the day Kenny Monfort called and said he’d just sold Monfort of Colorado, and would I like to come up to his office and discuss the sale (ya think?); the rumors leading up to the final announcement by the city of Thornton that bought some 100 farms in northern Weld and Larimer counties for the water on those farms; the purchase of the Western Sugar Co. by a farmer-owned cooperative from Tate & Lyle that had outbid farmers.

Then there were the drought years of the early 2000s and the shutdown of irrigation wells along the South Platte River that remains a point of contention for many yet today.

And there’s the ongoing process of trying to build more water storage, which will be critical to the future of agriculture in northern Colorado — and which, it feels like at times, has been going on for centuries.

While those events are important, the most important part of my job over the years has been the people — the farmers and ranchers of Weld and northern Colorado, who have been the stewards of the land since the start of agriculture in the area. Those are way too numerous to name because as sure as the crops come up in the spring and are harvested in the summer and fall, way too many would be skipped.

Good luck to y’all. Vaya con dios.

Drought news: Southeastern Colorado still in drought

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From the Associated Press (Sheila V Kumar) via The Durango Herald:

Mark Svoboda, a climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, said about 30 percent of Colorado has been classified as experiencing severe drought conditions. Seven percent of Colorado has been experiencing extreme drought conditions: Baca, eastern Las Animas, most of Bent and Prowers, parts of Otero, Crowley and Kiowa counties. “An extreme drought means these conditions happen about once every 20 years. One way to equate it is if I had 100 years of data, in 95 of those 100 years (we) are better off than we are now,” Svoboda said…

Bruce Fickenscher, a range and livestock agent for the southeast area, said rain gauges scattered around counties indicate there has been less than 2 inches of rain in the area since October. The little bit of green growth they saw has since died and withered away. “Range conditions for pastures are way past serious. Livestock has started to leave because there are no range grasses to speak of. And hay is becoming very hard to find,” Fickenscher said.

Estes Park: Historic Fall River hydroelectric plant open May 31

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From EstesParkNews.com:

The Historic Fall River Hydroplant, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built by F. O. Stanley to provide electric power to the Stanley Hotel when it opened in 1909. It not only provided electric power to the Stanley Hotel, but was the exclusive source of electricity for the Town of Estes Park until the 1940s. Visit the Hydroplant to learn the details of its fascinating story. Located at 1754 Fish Hatchery Road, it will open for the season on Tuesday, May 31. Hours are 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. daily except Mondays. Admission is free. Private tours are available for a small fee by calling 970-577-3762. For more information, visit www.estes.org/hydroplant.

More hydroelectric coverage here.

Colorado Division of Water Resources: Third meeting for Division 1 Well Measurement Rules set for May 31

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From email from the DWR (Jonathan Hernandez):

The Greeley meeting has been set for May 31, 2011 at 6pm:

Greeley – May 31st, 6pm
Island Grove – 4-H Building
525 N 15th Ave (Approx.)
Greeley, CO

More groundwater coverage here.

Arkansas River basin: The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District approves funds for water quality study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The U.S. Geological Survey monitors the entire Arkansas River in Colorado from Leadville to the Kansas state line through a series of stream gauges and testing stations. The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board voted [May 18] to continue funding of a water quality station below John Martin Reservoir and seven stream gauge stations for $31,500. The USGS picks up $18,100 of the cost.

The major water quality issue on the Arkansas River remains salinity, which increases from less than 100 parts per million at Granite, near the headwaters in Lake County, to more than 3,000 ppm at the state line, said David Mau of the Pueblo USGS office. “We also have 120 wells to monitor groundwater levels and look at changes in the aquifer,” Mau said. “That gives us information as there are changes in water and land use.”

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

San Juan Basin: ‘My water comes from the San Juan Mountains’ water curriculum in use for third to fifth graders

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From The Durango Herald (Emery Cowan):

The program, designed for third- through fifth-graders, is called “My Water Comes From the San Juan Mountains” and includes a storybook, lesson plans and activity kit. The project was a collaboration between the Mountain Studies Institute, San Juan Public Lands, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Fort Lewis College. The books and activity kits were introduced into classrooms last August, said Randy Boyer, executive director of the San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which helped get the curriculum into schools. In all, teachers in 15 elementary schools from Pagosa Springs to Dove Creek were given the book, lesson plans and a tub of the supplies needed to produce about 30 hands-on experiments for students. The experiments allow students to explore topics such as life in local creeks, how water runs through the San Juan Mountains and the dynamics of the Animas River, said Marcie Demmy Bidwell, executive director of Mountain Studies Institute…

One of the most effective resources in the kit was a relief map of the San Juan Mountains that students could pour water on to simulate rainfall and the way water runs through the mountains, [Linda Wilkinson a teacher at Park Elementary School] said.

More education coverage here.

Sanchez Reservoir: The Rio Grande Basin roundtable approves $95,000 for improvements

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From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

The mechanism that keeps the water flowing when it should and contains it when it shouldn’t is a tower only accessible by a cable and gondola across the water. Although a tramway engineer inspected the cable and said it was safe, he and the folks who operate it would like to see some improvements for safety purposes.

As part of a first rehabilitation phase, the Sanchez Ditch & Reservoir Company sought funding this month from the Rio Grande Roundtable to perform a gondola and tramway feasibility study, make operational and safety repairs and install an automated hydraulic system. The district requested $10,000 from local basin funds and $85,000 from state water funds, which will go before the Colorado Water Conservation Board for ultimate approval. The reservoir company is putting $33,160 of its own money into the project as well…

He described the 150-foot-high tower in the reservoir that controls, through a series of valves and gates, the flows in and out of the reservoir. The tower was designed in 1910. Robinson said the system currently is labor intensive, and the reservoir company would like to make upgrades that would make it more efficient. For example, if the company had an automated system, adjustments to water levels could be made without physically going to the tower. Cutting down the trips back and forth to the tower would decrease the safety risks of using the cable and tramway system, he added…

The budget for this phase includes: $6,160 for cylinder repair/upgrades; $4,600 for gondola/tramway evaluation; $22,400 for gondola repairs/upgrade; $10,000 for feasibility study; $40,000 for the hydraulic system; $25,000 for solar system for alternative power to the generator that is currently used for power; $5,000 for vandalism prevention; $9,600 for supervision/administration; and $5,400 for contingency.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here.