South Platte River: Benefit for the urban river ‘South Platte Pro-Am Carp Slam’ August 27

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Here’s the website. The event is sold out.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Add Utah’s Uintah County to the list of critics of the proposed project

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From the Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

“If this project moves forward, we’re afraid that whatever water rights we have left (on the Green River) will be a paper water right without any wet water,” said Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee…

As planned, Million said the project would generate 70 megawatts of hydropower from in-line storage and another 500 to 1,000 megawatts from pumped storage — an energy source he says could shore up intermittent renewables such as wind and solar that are in demand to become a larger player in Colorado’s energy portfolio.

Million said he is framing the water-use requirements around a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation preliminary analysis that shows even when future Utah and Wyoming water depletions are factored in from the Green River, Flaming Gorge has an available surplus of 165,000 acre feet a year. Another 75,000 acre feet would be diverted per year from the Green River above Flaming Gorge…

Utah’s Uintah County joins another line of critics, who aside from other accusations, describe the proposal as an “if we build, it they will come” project because of questions about the financing and customer base.

Million says the viability of the project is backed by multiple water supply studies that show sharp contrasts between Colorado’s available water supply and demands in the decades to come. That is backed by letters of interest he says he has received that represent an annual need for 400,000 acre feet of water — nearly twice what the project would deliver.

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Wastewater: The Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation District to break ground on their Northern Treatment Plant tomorrow

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From the Metro district via the Commerce City Sentinel:

The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, which treats wastewater for most of the Denver area, will break ground for its new treatment plant at U.S. Highway 85 and Weld County Road 2 1/2 at 10 a.m., Aug. 17. The $475 million plant marks the first satellite treatment facility for the district, and it coincides with the district’s 50th anniversary, which will be incorporated into the program…

The facility is scheduled to go online in 2015. It will serve portions of Aurora, Brighton, Commerce City and Thornton and have the capacity to serve other communities in the northern end of the metropolitan area.

The district’s service area is about 715 square miles. The main plant at 64th Avenue and York Street treats about 140 million gallons of wastewater per day.

More wastewater coverage here.

Wastewater: Palisade cancels new lift station and sewer line project, replaces it with lower cost alternative

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Mike Wiggins):

In a move made both out of frustration with federal guidelines and relief in having discovered a cheaper option, town trustees last week unanimously agreed to terminate a project that would have resulted in a new lift station and a three-mile pipeline to hook into the Clifton Sanitation District’s treatment plant. The board also agreed to give up a grant and loan totaling nearly $8 million that would have funded the project. Instead, the town will modify its existing lagoon system for $1 million to $1.25 million. “I’m very pleased to be able to tell ratepayers in the town of Palisade that we’re going to be able to comply with the unfunded mandates at a cost far lower than originally assumed,” Town Administrator Tim Sarmo said…

Following a lead from Delta, Palisade also learned about technology that emerged last year that allowed the town to diffuse the ammonia being released into the river. The town will make other upgrades to the lagoons.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently approved a site plan amendment and asked the town to submit more specific construction plans. Sarmo said he hopes to win state approval of the plans by December, start construction in March and finish the work early next summer.

More wastewater coverage here.

The Colorado Water Congress’ summer newsletter is hot off the press

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Here’s the link to the Colorado Water Congress’ August 2011 newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

The CWC is pleased to announce the release of a new news service available on its web site called the CWC Evening News. Updated daily, the Evening News provides summaries of water-related news articles from Colorado and the West. Links to the full versions of each article are also provided. Updates generally appear each afternoon.

Colorado State University study: Changing Climate Could Cut Western Trout Habitat in Half

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Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Kimberly Sorensen):

A new study shows a changing climate could reduce trout habitat in the Western United States by about 50 percent over the next 70 years, with some trout species experiencing greater declines than others. The results were reported by a team of 11 scientists from Colorado State University, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group.

The study, published this week in the peer-reviewed science journal, “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” predicts native cutthroat throughout the West could decline by as much as 58 percent and introduced brook trout could decline by as much as 77 percent. Rainbow and brown trout populations, according to the study, would also decline by an estimated 35 percent and 48 percent, respectively. These losses would have major impacts on trout fishing, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars in recreation annually in the United States and is a major factor drawing anglers to Colorado and the West.

The study notes that the decline of cutthroat trout is of particular significance because cutthroats are the only trout native to much of the West and a keystone species in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem.

“The study advances our understanding of climate change impacts by looking beyond temperature increases to the role of flooding and interactions between species,” said Seth Wenger, the paper’s lead author. “The study also is notable in scope, using data from nearly 10,000 sites throughout about 400,000 square miles of the Western United States.”

“This research also builds on 15 years of work with graduate students at CSU to find ways to prevent our native cutthroat trout from going extinct in the face of declining habitat and nonnative trout invasions,” said co-author Kurt Fausch, professor in CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and an expert on trout ecology and management in the West. “It’s exciting to see these ideas being used, but the impending loss of trout habitat is both startling and depressing. The West is iconic for trout fishing, but much of this is projected to go away.”

Wenger was quick to point out that, while predictions are indeed dire, there is some hope. By restoring and reconnecting coldwater drainages and by protecting existing healthy habitat largely located on public lands in the West, some of the decline in trout populations might be avoided.

“Trout Unlimited is working to protect remaining strongholds and restore degraded habitat – exactly the kind of things that need to be done to reduce the impact of a changing climate on coldwater fisheries in the West,” Wenger said.

“This report is a wake-up call,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “The good news is that we’re already working to protect high-quality trout habitat, such as backcountry roadless areas on national forests. We’re reconnecting tributaries to mainstem rivers, and we’re restoring degraded habitat. It is imperative that we accelerate the scope and the pace of that work if we are to have healthy trout populations and the irreplaceable fishing opportunities they provide through this century.

“However, this study also reinforces the danger in congressional proposals that would remove protection from backcountry roadless areas and cut funding for state and federal natural resource agencies,” Wood said.

Wenger and fellow researchers used an ensemble of climate models to arrive at the study’s findings. Some models predicted more warming than others, but under even the most optimistic model, cutthroat trout populations in the West could decline by 33 percent. Scientists note that most of the 14 unique forms (subspecies) of cutthroat trout are already in trouble—two are extinct, and most of the rest now occupy less than 15 percent of their historic native range with several of these listed under the Endangered Species Act. Declines from a changing climate would impact native cutthroat trout beyond the impacts they’ve already suffered.

The study can be read in its entirety online at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/08/09/1103097108.

The research was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Here’s the abstract:

Broad-scale studies of climate change effects on freshwater species have focused mainly on temperature, ignoring critical drivers such as flow regime and biotic interactions. We use downscaled outputs from general circulation models coupled with a hydrologic model to forecast the effects of altered flows and increased temperatures on four interacting species of trout across the interior western United States (1.01 million km2), based on empirical statistical models built from fish surveys at 9,890 sites. Projections under the 2080s A1B emissions scenario forecast a mean 47% decline in total suitable habitat for all trout, a group of fishes of major socioeconomic and ecological significance. We project that native cutthroat trout Oncorhynchus clarkii, already excluded from much of its potential range by nonnative species, will lose a further 58% of habitat due to an increase in temperatures beyond the species’ physiological optima and continued negative biotic interactions. Habitat for nonnative brook trout Salvelinus fontinalis and brown trout Salmo trutta is predicted to decline by 77% and 48%, respectively, driven by increases in temperature and winter flood frequency caused by warmer, rainier winters. Habitat for rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss, is projected to decline the least (35%) because negative temperature effects are partly offset by flow regime shifts that benefit the species. These results illustrate how drivers other than temperature influence species response to climate change. Despite some uncertainty, large declines in trout habitat are likely, but our findings point to opportunities for strategic targeting of mitigation efforts to appropriate stressors and locations.

More coverage from Steve Bunk writing for NewWest.net. From the article:

Today’s paper, in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also predicts that by 2080, rainbow trout, whose native habitat includes Idaho in the Rocky Mountain states, could be reduced by 35 percent. Two introduced trout species in the study will not do well, either: Brook trout habitat could decline by an estimated 77 percent, and brown trout by 48 percent…

They base their conclusions on statistical models they constructed that use data from almost 10,000 fish surveys, which were primarily done in the western parts of Colorado and Wyoming, eastern and northern Idaho, the western half of Montana, and in much of Utah. They write that the real value of their work, rather than predicting the futures of local populations of fish species, is to help identify how species and their habitats will react to various environmental effects of climate change. As an example, they point to a 1994 laboratory study that indicated brook trout in Wyoming fare better in warm-temperature waters than cutthroat. This apparently was contradicted by a 2011 study done in the Columbia River Basin showing cutthroat do better than brookies in warm water. The authors say their study resolves this conflict by showing that cutthroat generally have a wider thermal range than brook trout, although this varies in specific habitats, due to localized genetic adaptations…

The new report takes into account temperature shifts, seasonal flooding, inter-species competition, topography, and various land uses throughout the study area. It shows that brook and brown trout, which spawn in the fall, are hurt by high water flows in winter, which scour the eggs from stream bottoms. Such flows are expected to increase with climate change. The spring-spawning cutthroat suffer a little from such high flows, but rainbow, which also spawn in spring, actually benefit from them, possibly because of genetic adaptation.

More coverage from David O. Williams writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

Besides Colorado State University, the study was conducted by Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Washington Climate Impacts Group. In addition to rising water temperatures, the study looks at other factors such as “flow regimes” and “biotic interactions.”[…]

Kurt Fausch, professor in CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology, said the study builds on 15 years of research by CSU graduate students trying to find ways to prevent the degradation of habitat for native cutthroat trout, considered a keystone species in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem. “It’s exciting to see these ideas being used,” Fausch said, “but the impending loss of trout habitat is both startling and depressing. The West is iconic for trout fishing, but much of this is projected to go away.”

More climate change coverage here.

Aspinall Unit operations meeting August 18

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The 2011 August Aspinall Operation meeting will be held starting at 1:00 p.m. on August 18th at the Elk Creek Visitors Center located on the balmy banks of beautiful Blue Mesa Reservoir. The meeting will last 2 – 3 hours depending on the depth of discussions and questions. We will be reviewing operations from this past spring and summer along with projected operations for the coming fall. The meeting is open to the public and we look forward to your questions and reports regarding activities related to operations of the Aspinall Unit. Agenda ideas are welcome.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.