Snowpack news: The Roaring Fork River watershed above Aspen is off to a better start than last season

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From The Aspen Times (Janet Urqurhart):

The dearth of snow in town in November was not, however, reflected on the ski slopes. The upper slopes of Snowmass collected 41 inches of snow in November — more than the 36 inches that fell at the ski area during the same month a year ago. Still, most of this year’s snow came early in the month, with two storms during the first week of November. The water plant recorded 8 inches of new snow on the morning of Nov. 2 and measured another 6 inches on Nov. 6. Other forecast storms were a bust, but the plant recorded 2.1 inches of snow on Nov. 14 and lesser amounts on other days.

Drought news: Some precipitation has helped Southern Colorado but it is still very dry

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The latest forecast from the state’s Water Availability Task Force, a consortium of agencies coordinated through the state Department of Natural Resources, predicts a drier, hotter autumn for the region. The task force met last week. “The long-term seasonal climate forecast indicates that the return of La Nina conditions will likely result in drier conditions than last year,” said Veva DeHeza of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Below average conditions in the southeastern portion of the state are likely to persist with a chance of normal precipitation in the mountains for the midwinter.”

Here’s the executive summary from the most recent Water Availability Task Force meeting (Veva Deheza/Kevin Rein):

Exceptional and extreme drought conditions continue to impact Baca County in southeast Colorado. However, drought conditions in other areas of the state have seen significant improvement over the last two months. Moderate to severe conditions remain throughout the southeastern and south central portions of the state, including the San Luis Valley.

Reservoir storage remains above average in the Yampa/White, Gunnison, Colorado, South Platte Basins, and San Miguel/ Dolores/ Animas/ San Juan. Statewide, reservoir storage is 103% of average. The Rio Grande and the Arkansas River basins continue to be the regions with the lowest reservoir storage levels in the state at 60 and 88% of average, respectively. Municipalities present at the November WATF meeting feel that they have adequate storage and have transitioned to winter operations.

– As of November 22, 34% of the state is now experiencing some level of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a decrease from previous months. D3 and D4 conditions remain only in Baca County, while D2 and D1 conditions are impacting much of the rest of the southeastern parts of the state. D0-D4 represents abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme and exceptional drought conditions, respectively.

– Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) values range from 0 in the San Miguel/ Dolores/ Animas/ San Juan to +3.5 in the Yampa/ White basin. According to the revised SWSI, the Dolores and Animas in the southwest were drier than the other southwestern basins at -2.61and -2.03 respectively. The San Miguel and San Juan both experienced near normal conditions.

– At the Walsh weather station, in southeastern Colorado, a new record low for precipitation was recorded for the month of August and September ending the water year far below normal at just 35%. While they did not set new records, Pueblo, Alamosa, and Del Norte also finished the water year well below normal at 60, 61 and 49% respectively.

– The long term seasonal climate forecast indicates that the return of La Nina conditions will likely result in drier conditions than last year which was extremely wet in our north-central mountains. Nevertheless, the current precipitation outlook for early next year is near-normal in most of the state, with a chance of even above-normal precipitation in the north-central mountains.

– It is too early to tell what the implications of the seasonal drought of 2011 may have on fish and wildlife populations in the southern portion of the state, and the habitats upon which they depend. So far, there have been no reports of significant or widespread adverse impacts that can be directly attributed to the drought. Task force members are keeping a watchful eye on the availability of food supplies and water needed to sustain major life cycle events of existing populations and species.

– The Agricultural Impact Task Force (AITF) has recommended to the Drought Task Force that regular meeting be suspended until the early part of 2012 when more information on winter precipitation will be available. However the AITF remains activated should conditions in the southeastern portions of the state require immediate response.

Colorado Springs: The city council approves a six month moratorium on oil and gas operations within the city limits

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From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

Colorado Springs’ city council on Wednesday voted 8-0 to impose an “emergency ordinance” creating a six-month moratorium on applications for oil and gas operations within city limits, a move that could delay Houston’s Ultra Petroleum Corp. to drill on its land in the city…

Council President Scott Hente told the Colorado Springs Gazette newspaper that the proposed moratorium would give the city “some breathing room” to ensure it has the right regulations and ordinances in place.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (Debbie Kelley):

While Colorado Springs City Council on Wednesday enacted a six-month moratorium on oil and gas exploration within city limits, Ultra Resources has submitted temporary use permit applications with El Paso County. Ultra is seeking county approval for three well sites in eastern El Paso County. The company also is getting state approval for the drilling. The applications are being worked through the county’s permitting system, said Craig Dossey, a county project manager and planner.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón). From the article:

The six-month moratorium comes after a Texas-based energy company said in June that it wanted to drill for oil and gas on the sprawling Banning Lewis Ranch on the east side of the city. “I think it’s absolutely irresponsible for us not to look at our future and identify what the potential is for damage to us — or the good things that could come out of this if it’s done right,” City Councilman Merv Bennett said.

Issues the city might consider include water quality, soil erosion, wastewater disposal, wildlife and vegetation, geologic hazard and road degradation, City Attorney Chris Melcher said during the council’s special meeting…

The council’s moratorium, approved on an 8-0 vote, was created under an “emergency ordinance” that required only one reading. Nearly every ordinance that goes before council requires two readings…

About six people spoke in favor of the moratorium. Only one person, a representative from the Colorado Oil and Gas Association who drove to the Springs from Denver, spoke in opposition. Andrew Casper, the association’s regulatory counsel, said the oil and gas industry already faces extensive regulations at the state level. He encouraged the city to work within the state process and not to “rush” by enacting a moratorium.

More coverage from the Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

About a half-dozen residents voiced support for the hiatus, including Mary Talbott. “Six months will not make a huge difference in the oil and gas industry,” Talbott said. “The fact that you take the time to develop a coherent set of rules that protect our … environment and long-term prosperity is very important.”

Other residents expressed concerns about groundwater contamination, air pollution and a heavy industrial activity that could discourage the area’s prime economic driver — tourism.

The vote was 8-0 in favor of the moratorium, with Councilman Bernie Herpin absent

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

The City of Delta is moving to the next phase to establish a stormwater utility

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From the Delta County Independent:

The City of Delta has embarked on the next step in the process to create a stormwater utility program. The results of a needs analysis study, identified as Phase 1 in the process, were presented to the city council earlier this month.

By a unanimous vote, they agreed to proceed with Phase 2, program development, and Phase 3, establishing rates and implementing a billing system which will be applied to every home and business in the city.

The City of Delta has been working with URS to develop a long-term strategic plan for addressing the city’s stormwater needs.

Although there is some infrastructure in place, the downtown stormwater collection system is “significantly undersized and lacks the capability to convey the 100-year storm event.” As a result, low-lying areas with no outlet tend to flood after heavy rains.

More stormwater coverage here.

Centennial: State Representative Spencer Swalm’s next town hall meeting, December 17, will focus on hydraulic fracturing

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From the Centennial Citizen:

The meeting is scheduled for 9 to 11:30 a.m. Dec. 17 at the Koelbel Library, Room B, 5955 S. Holly St., Centennial.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

Audubon International recognizes the Boulder Flatirons Golf Course as a certified cooperative sanctuary

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Update: Here’s a correction sent in by Joellen Lampman with Audubon International:

The post states that the National Audubon Society recognized the course. In fact, the course was recognized by Audubon International through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Audubon International has no relationship with the National Audubon Society.

Here’s the release from Boulder Parks and Recreation:

The Parks and Recreation Department’s Flatirons Golf Course has acheived a one-year milestone as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the International Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Flatirons was the 35th golf course in Colorado to achieve full Audubon certification. Doug Cook, PGA Director of Golf, led the effort to obtain sanctuary status. The course was recognized for Environmental Stewardship by Audubon International.

“After a year in the program, I can honestly say that the golf experience has been enhanced by our participation in the Audubon International Sanctuary golf course program,” Cook said. “We are very happy with all of the results of this program.”

To be certified, a course must demonstrate it is maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas: environmental planning, wildlife and habitat management, outreach and education, chemical use reduction and safety, water conservation, and water quality management.

The most recent program improvements to Flatirons Golf Course have included improving and installing 12 bird boxes and six bat boxes, and completing an irrigation upgrade that is saving water and electricity at a rate of up to 15 percent.

“The Audubon certification is another way we are achieving our department goal of environmental leadership as well as meeting the City of Boulder’s environmental and sustainability goals,” said Kirk Kincannon, director of the City of Boulder’s Parks and Recreation Department. “We are proud of the environmental achievements at Flatirons Golf Course.”

The Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses, endorsed by the United States Golf Association, provides information and guidance to help golf courses preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, and protect natural resources. Golf courses from the United States, Africa, Australia, Canada, Central America, Europe and Southeast Asia also participate in this environmental certification program.

More conservation coverage here.

Colorado River District Launches 2012 Water Resources Grant Program

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Here’s the release from the Colorado River District:

As of December 1st, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. The Colorado River District includes all watersheds of the Colorado River within western Colorado, except those that drain to the San Juan River.

Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

♦ develop a new water supply
♦ improve an existing system
♦ improve instream water quality
♦ increase water use efficiency
♦ reduce sediment loading
♦ implement a watershed management action
♦ control tamarisk
♦ protect pre-1922 Colorado River Compact water rights

Previously funded grants included financial assistance for the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of non- functioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements. Such projects that utilize water rights that are senior to 1922 will be given additional ranking priority over similar projects that do not. Each project will be ranked based upon its own merits in accordance with published ranking criteria.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost whichever is less; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2012 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2012.

To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, guidelines and policies, please visit www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org/page_193. For additional information please contact Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522; Colorado River District, 201 Centennial St., Glenwood Springs, CO 80601 or e-mail grantinfo@crwcd.org.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.