Water 2012 Book Club discussion starts up tomorrow: First up, ‘The Colorado River Flowing Through Conflict’

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Here’s the link to the Your Water Colorado Blog where the discussion will take place for The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict by Peter McBride and Jonathan Waterman. From the blog:

…online discussion of the featured 2012 books, beginning with Waterman and McBride’s the Colorado River Flowing Through Conflict tomorrow, February 1– here on Your Water Colorado Blog.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Conservation in the West poll: Western voters across political spectrum agree — public lands are essential to our economy

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Here’s the release from the State of the Rockies Project:

The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in- between – view parks and public lands as essential to their state’s economy, and support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that swing voters across the west – who will be key to deciding the outcome of a number of U.S. Senate and governors’ races, and possibly the presidential race – nearly unanimously agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states. Four in five western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator.

Survey results are a sharp contrast to the energy and environmental debates currently happening in Washington, and in many state capitals. “Western voters consistently believe that conservation helps create and protect jobs for their states,” said Dave Metz. “In fact, by a 17 point margin, voters are more likely to say that environmental regulations have a positive impact on jobs in their state rather than a negative one.”

Seven in 10 Western voters support implementation of the Clean Air Act, and updating clean air standards. They see regulations designed to protect land, air, water and wildlife as having positive impact on public safety (70 percent), the natural beauty of their state (79 percent) and their quality of life (72 percent).

The survey also found strong approval ratings for most governors in the region, and an electorate divided in hotly-contested U.S. Senate races in Montana and New Mexico. Key swing voters in these contests often express pro-conservation views.

“What we read in the press and what politicians say about an ever-sharpening trade-off between environment and jobs in a deep recession do not square with views of many western voters,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Instead, those stubborn westerners continue to defy stereotypes, by arguing that a livable environment and well-managed public lands can be — in fact must be — compatible with a strong economy.”

The survey results echo the sentiments of more than 100 economists, including three Nobel Laureates and Dr. Hecox, who recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create and invest in new federal protected lands such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Studies have shown that together with investment in education and access to markets, protected public lands are significant contributors to economic growth.

Similarly, western voters voiced support for continued funding of conservation, indicating that even with tight state budgets, they want to maintain investments in parks, water, and wildlife protection. When specific local issues were tested with voters in some states – such as increasing the state’s renewable energy standard in Montana, establishing national monument protections for the Arkansas River canyon in Colorado, and updating energy standards for new homes in Utah – voters want to actually strengthen protections.

While there are geographic and partisan distinctions on a number of key issues, such as energy development on public lands, the data show that the broad conservation values uniting westerners are much more prevalent than the occasional issues that divide them.

“The depth and breadth of the connection between westerners and the land is truly remarkable – – when people are telling us that public lands are essential to their economy, and that they support continued investments in conservation, even in these difficult economic times,” said Lori Weigel. “Westerners are telling us that we’ve got to find a way to protect clean air, clean water, and parks in their states.”

The 2012 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 & 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide.

The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.

More coverage from Tim Hooper writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Other findings from the poll showed:

• 78 percent of Coloradans said that the state can protect land and water and have a strong economy at the same time.

• 93 percent agreed that, “Our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are an essential part of Colorado’s economy.”

• 63 percent of Colorado voters view environmental laws more as “important safeguards to protect private property owners, public health and taxpayers from toxic pollution and costly clean-ups” while 29 percent see them as “burdensome regulations that tie up industry in red tape, hurt them too much financially, and cost jobs.”

• 75 percent say Colorado should maintain protections for land, air and water in the state rather than reduce them in an effort to create jobs as quickly as possible.

• Only 34 percent said that, “One of the best ways to create jobs is to cut back environmental regulations that are weighing down Colorado’s businesses.”

• 71 percent support the EPA “continuing to implement the Clean Air Act by updating the standards for air quality, including for smog, dust, and emissions from power plants, factories and cars.”

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (Scot Kersgaard):

A full 67 percent of Colorado voters identify themselves as conservationists, including 62 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of independents. A whopping 93 percent say parks and open space are essential to the state’s economy.

The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that Western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in-between – support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife…

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing the need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator according to the survey…

Seventy-six percent want state Lottery funds to continue to be used to protect parks, wildlife habitat, and natural areas and school construction, instead of being redirected to the general state education budget. Sixty-six percent support protection of some of the lands in the Arkansas River Canyon as a national monument…

“Investments in conservation of our public lands and water are not only critical to providing quality hunting and fishing opportunities, but also a critical component of the $192 billion sportsmen contribute to our national economy annually,” said Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Sportsmen and women continue to value a stubborn stewardship of our natural places and the recreational opportunities those places provide.”[…]

In Colorado, 66 percent of hunters identified themselves as conservationists, 75 percent of anglers identified that way. Asked whether environmental regulations have a positive or negative impact on jobs in the state, 44 percent said the effect was positive, compared with 29 percent who thought regulations were bad for the job market.

More conservation coverage here.

Climax mine to open this quarter

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From The Leadville Herald (Marcia Martinek):

The Climax Mine will be up and running sometime in this quarter, according to officials at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold (FCX), mine owner, who discussed the mine start-up during the earnings report for fourth quarter 2011, held on Jan. 19. Construction of the $700 million in mine improvements is now 95 percent complete…

FCX is projecting production of 80-million pounds of molybdenum this year. Thornton said about 7 million of these pounds will come from Climax, which eventually can produce up to 30 million pounds a year.

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Statewide snowpack is approximately 73% of average, South Platte — 81%, Rio Grande — 83%

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for yesterday’s statewide snowpack map from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Click here to zero in on your basin of interest.

Meanwhile here’s a summary of snowmaking efforts around the west from The Durango Telegraph:

With warm temperatures and scarce snow, winter has been long for snowmaking crews at most Western ski resorts. For many, the work typically ends by Christmas or at least early January.

Not this year. Snowmaking continues even as storms have now arrived.

With the rockiest start to winter in decades, many resorts will probably re-evaluate investments in water, snowguns and other infrastructure, say ski industry officials.

“Snowmaking is something you can never take for granted,” says Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association and a former supervisor of snowmaking crews. “It takes constant upgrading, constant improvements, constant effort to improve your water rights. And just when you think you don’t need it, you will need it the most,” he added.

Spanked by two hard-luck winters in 1976-77 and 1980-81, most Colorado destination ski areas invested heavily in snowmaking.

This investment paid off this year for Steamboat. Despite warm nights that idled snowmaking crews in November and December, the ski area had 1,900 acres, or 65 percent, of the terrain open at Christmas. That was among the best in Colorado. Only two ski areas, Durango Mountain Resort and Wolf Creek, both in the southwestern tier, were 100 percent open.

Last summer, Steamboat bought seven new energy-efficient snowmaking guns, which use 30 percent less energy.

Water is another vital component of snowmaking. At Breckenridge, where snowmaking continued as of Jan. 21, the ski area had consumed 900 acre-feet, compared to the normal 700 to 750 acre-feet, according to Glenn Porzak, the resort’s water lawyer.

Not all resorts have substantial snowmaking, however. Particularly the ski areas along the crest of California’s Sierra Nevada. which suffered almost no natural snow and just thin ribbons of man-made.

“I don’t think I have ever been in a mountain area in the latter of part of January where there was so little snow,” said Porzak after a ski industry meeting at Squaw Valley. “It was brutal.”

Porzak has helped ski areas in Western states secure water rights for snowmaking since the 1970s. After every significant drought, ski areas have invested heavily in additional snowmaking capabilities. The more well-heeled have invested even when no drought is imminent.

This year, Porzak expects ski areas to engage in an intense re-evaluation of water needs and snowmaking infrastructure. The need is most obvious in Lake Tahoe, where fresh snow is often measured by the foot, not the inch.

This year, however, Squaw had just two runs covered with snow as of Jan. 19, the day before natural snow started arriving. Heavenly and Northstar both have sophisticated snowmaking systems, which put them in better stead for the tough early season this winter, says NSAA’s Berry.

The Colorado Geological Survey has developed an online tool to further understanding of the Niobrara shale play

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Here’s the link to the CGS page. Here’s the introduction:

The Niobrara strata in the Denver Basin are currently being developed for oil production using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This development is moving into parts of the Denver Basin where many people depend on groundwater to meet their household needs. Citizens are concerned that this activity may adversely affect their water wells. This calculation tool was developed to help citizens or planners understand the geologic conditions that exist beneath their property.

The tool is designed to help people visualize the spatial relation of hydraulic fracturing in the Niobrara Formation to the important fresh-water aquifers. The tool will show the average depth to the Niobrara Formation at any selected point or address on the map. It will also show the minimum thickness of the shale barrier (Pierre Shale) that separates the Niobrara strata from fresh water aquifers. The tool also provides the depth of the deepest fresh water aquifer at any spot on the map.

The above cross section [ed. Click on the the thumbnail graphic above and to the right] represents what we would encounter if a giant, vertical slice were cut out of the Denver Basin so that we could observe the various layers of rock. Notice that the Niobrara strata are so deep that they are actually below sea level in some parts of the basin.The illustration shows how an oil company would drill a vertical well into the Niobrara strata and then turn the drill bit so that it would drill horizontally in the Niobrara limestone layers. After the horizontal part of the well is drilled (sometimes more than a mile in length), the company pumps liquid and sand out into the horizontal borehole. The pressure of this slurry fractures the limestone so that the oil flows into the well at much higher rates than it normally would without the artificial fracturing.

Controlling where fracturing occurs is important for two reasons. First, if fracturing were to extend into overlying freshwater aquifers it would create a potential pathway for contamination of water supplies. Second, oil production would decrease if fractures extended into non-oil bearing formations.

Fortunately, in the Denver Basin we have a stack of rocks (the Pierre Shale) that separates the Niobrara from shallower aquifers. The properties of the Pierre Shale are ideal for preventing upward migration of fractures or fluids. The Pierre Shale has extremely low permeability and it is very thick (varying from more than a half a mile thick to about a mile and a half thick). These two properties combine to make the possibility of fractures or fluids working their way up through it, essentially nil. The calculation tool will show you how thick this barrier is at any spot in the Denver Basin.

More coverage the Craig Daily Press:

Citizens around the state have been seeking a better understanding of how ground water supplies are protected amid energy development and the geologic conditions that separate ground water from the oil and natural gas deposits in the Niobrara.

The purpose of the tool is to answer the following questions: If a company were to hydraulically fracture the Niobrara formation under a house, how deep would this be occurring? How thick would the shale barrier be between the house’s water well and the Niobrara strata?

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

‘Rally for the Rivers’ asks EPA to protect the Upper Colorado River from diversions

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Here’s the release from Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

More than 100 river advocates holding signs and chanting slogans gathered in front of the Environmental Protection Agency building in downtown Denver Thursday to ask federal regulators to protect the Upper Colorado River system from proposed water diversions to the Front Range.

“This is a moment of truth for the state,” said Sinjin Eberle, president of Colorado Trout Unlimited, which helped organize the gathering of Denver residents, kayakers, anglers, outdoor recreationists and other river supporters. “We have to do something to save our state’s namesake river from dying.”

Scores of signs at the event underscored that theme, including “Don’t Suck the Upper Colorado River Dry,” “Protect Our Flows,” and “EPA: Be a Hero.”

The rally is part of an ongoing campaign to protect the Upper Colorado River and its tributary, the Fraser River, and the mountain communities, businesses, people and wildlife that depend on them. The Denver rally, say organizers, was meant to show EPA and other federal decision-makers that Denver residents care about the state’s outdoor quality of life and the health of rivers.

The Defend the Colorado coalition is asking EPA–which Eberle called a “partner” on river protection–to take additional steps to ensure the health of the river in the face of two proposed water diversions.

Already 60 percent of the Upper Colorado is diverted to supply Front Range water users. The Windy Gap Firming Project proposal, along with a separate Moffat Tunnel water project, could divert as much as 80 percent of the Upper Colorado’s natural flows. The current proposed Windy Gap protections from the Bureau of Reclamation fall short of what’s needed to address mounting problems, such as low flows, rising temperatures, spreading algae and smothering sediment.

As Eberle told the lunchtime crowd, a state study released earlier this year shows that entire populations of native fish and the insects they feed on have virtually disappeared from the Colorado River below the Windy Gap Reservoir due to past diversions.

“Is this what we want to see happen to our rivers?” Eberle asked.

“NO!” the crowd responded.

Field and Stream magazine editor-at-large Kirk Deeter, a Colorado resident, said he was lucky enough to travel the world in his job but always looks forward to coming home to his home state and home waters. He called the Upper Colorado a ”special place” that deserves protection.

Also speaking was Jon Kahn, owner of Confluence Kayaks in Denver, who stressed the economic impact of water-based recreation, which he noted contributes “hundreds of millions of dollars” annually to the state’s economy. “I am just one of hundreds of business owners whose livelihoods depend on healthy flows in our rivers,” he said.

According to the Defend the Colorado coalition, additional steps must be taken to protect the rivers, including:

· Managing the water supply to keep the rivers cool, clear and healthy.
· Ensuring healthy flushing flows to prevent river habitat from filling in with silt.
· Monitoring of the rivers’ health and a commitment to take action if needed to protect them.
· Bypassing the Windy Gap dam to reconnect Colorado River and restore river quality.

“The health of the Colorado and Fraser rivers is critical to local communities and the state’s recreation economy,” Eberle said. “But many Coloradans don’t realize that these rivers are having the life sucked out of them. At some point, they cease to become functioning rivers—and we lose a huge part of what makes our state a great place to live. Our state and federal leaders need to finish the job of protecting these incredible places.”

The group is planning additional rallies and events this spring to highlight the plight of the rivers and demand action from state and federal decision-makers.

The Defend the Colorado coalition includes Colorado Trout Unlimited and a range of stakeholders, including conservation and wildlife groups, landowners, and outdoor recreationists. More than 400 western slope businesses have signed a petition asking state leaders to protect the Upper Colorado.

For more information, go to www.DefendTheColorado.org

More coverage from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

Colorado conservation activists last week gathered outside EPA headquarters in Denver, asking federal regulators to protect the Upper Colorado River system from proposed water diversions to the Front Range.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Steve Maxwell: ‘We’re going to see big companies start making decisions based on the availability of water’

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“We’re going to see a shift in population (migration),” said Steve Maxwell, an investment banker who co-wrote “The Future of Water” with Scott Yates. “We’ll begin to see water issues affecting demographic changes.” That means places with plenty of water, for example Buffalo, N.Y., and Cleveland, may become more desirable than sun belt destinations such as Las Vegas and Tucson. Maxwell’s comments were a wet blanket during the 54th annual convention of the Colorado Water Congress, which for years has been wrestling with the potential for future shortfalls in state water supply…

In his global view, water is increasingly becoming a commodity, like oil and gas, as well as a necessity for human life. Water projects are attracting more private investment and will cost more as time goes by. As an investment banker, Maxwell sees similarities to other commodities for water: It’s critical to the world economy; there is a fixed amount; the demand is increasing. Unlike coal, oil, gas or any other commodity, there is no substitute for water. In addition to finding a supply, there are huge costs looming in maintaining or repairing infrastructure. Private companies are taking over where public water providers leave off, Maxwell said. “We’re going to see big companies start making decisions based on the availability of water,” he said. “And it will impact personal decisions as well.”

More infrastructure coverage here.