Montrose: Aspinall Unit operations meeting January 19

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

As of midnight December 26th, Blue Mesa Reservoir reached the icing target elevation of 7490.0 feet. Due to the dry conditions over the last month and early arrival at the icing target, it is appropriate to begin conserving reservoir storage in case the drying trend continues. As a result, releases from the Crystal Dam will be gradually reduced from 1500 cfs to 1100 cfs over the course of the day (December 28th).

Also, please mark your calendars for the next Aspinall Operations Meeting which will be held on January 19th at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose, Colorado beginning at 1:00 p.m. We have tentatively scheduled a presentation by Vern Jetley, a retired Reclamation photographer who will be talking about the Blue Mesa area prior to construction of the project. Should be interesting.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Recent report chronicles Poncha Springs geothermal potential

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From The Mountain Mail (Joe Stone):

Fred Henderson of Hendco Services and Paul Morgan of Colorado Geological Survey recently completed a study and issued a report providing new data about the Poncha Hot Springs geothermal resource.

The report lists several conclusions based upon information compiled during the study:

– The study area contains the highest “thermal gradient anomaly” measured to date in Colorado.
– Geological fault structures, including the main east-west Poncha Hot Springs fault and subsidiary faults to the north, appear to control the upwelling and flow of geothermal water from a deep geothermal source.
– Previous geothermometry studies indicate the possible presence of a deep, high-temperature reservoir.
– Scientific observations suggest existence of a deep, high-temperature reservoir capable of producing electricity in significant amounts.
– Findings support conducting a magnetotelluric survey followed by one or two 1,000-1,500-foot-deep thermal gradient holes to further validate and locate a potential deep geothermal reservoir.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Brighton: City council raises utility rates, adds storm drainage fee

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From the Brighton Standard Blade (Kevin Denke):

Resident’s utility rates will rise for the second time in less than a year as the city continues to try to keep pace with the cost of aging infrastructure. Brighton City Council members approved staff recommended rate increases for water and sewer services Dec. 20. The new rates, which go into effect with utility bills issued after Jan. 1, include an increase to both fixed rates and user rates for water and sewer as well as the addition of a storm drainage fee.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Forecast/snowpack news: Saturday may bring snow to the central mountains, chance of snow to the Denver area

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From The Aspen Times (Janey Urquhart):

Central Colorado is suffering a La Niña weather pattern that has sent storms north, south or both, according to Chris Cuoco, senior meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. Weather systems have tracked south over Arizona and New Mexico or stayed north and then slipped down the Front Range and dumped in Denver and the Central Plains.

“Right now, it doesn’t look like anything’s going to happen until next Saturday (Jan. 7) at the earliest,” Cuoco said.

The local weather bloggers at aspenweather.net offered this on Saturday: “After next weekend the pattern has a distinct look of change as things totally realign themselves out in the Pacific Ocean. This could be the pivotal make or break point of our winter, depending on how things turn out in about 10 days or so.”[…]

At present, though, the snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin stands at 55 percent of average, and at about 47 percent of average on Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen. The snowpack is at 62 percent of average on McClure Pass, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

In southwest Colorado, the snowpack is at 65 percent of average or more.

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Benjamin Preston):

This is the second year in a row La Niña has shaken her snowless fists in the faces of Rocky Mountain residents dependent upon snowfall for water supply and snow sports…

[Paul Frisbie, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service center in Grand Junction] explained that the system expected this weekend will be moving quickly, so probably won’t leave much behind, especially in areas farther north of the Four Corners.

From 9News.com (Tara Meyer):

“We are sitting about where most of the western U.S. is right now, below-average snowpack across the west,” Mike Gillespie, a snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said. “The only exception is actually down south like Arizona and New Mexico where their snowpack is actually above average.”

Across Colorado, snowpack is about a quarter below average: 73 percent of normal. It’s one of the smallest snowpacks at this point in the season in the last 30 years.

When comparing the current amount of snow to historical data, the Natural Resources Conservation Service says Colorado only has a 10 percent chance of getting back to a normal level for snowpack by spring.

The lack of moisture could have a major impact on Colorado’s farmers. However, some say they’re not too worried.

Brad Johnson grows corn, alfalfa, wheat and other crops on his farm near Berthoud in Larimer County. He says because Colorado saw above-average snowfall last year, reservoirs filled up along the Front Range and that water is still being used.

U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar to Hold America’s Great Outdoors Meeting in Colorado’s San Luis Valley on Wednesday

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Here’s the release from the Department of Interior (Adam Fetcher):

As part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, on Wednesday, Jan. 4, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar will hold a meeting in the San Luis Valley to discuss ongoing efforts in the community to conserve the area’s natural and cultural resources.

In May, Governor John Hickenlooper and Secretary Salazar identified the San Luis Valley as one of three priority projects in Colorado for the America’s Great Outdoors initiative. Interior and other federal agencies will work with the State, local stakeholders, private landowners and other partners to help conserve healthy lands and waters and promote tourism in the San Luis Valley and the Rio Grande River Corridor.

During the meeting, Secretary Salazar will discuss the recommendations put forth in the National Park Service’s (NPS) San Luis Valley and Central Sangre de Cristo Mountains Reconnaissance Survey Report, which was recently released. The report, requested by Salazar, identifies nationally significant American Latino heritage sites that reflect the history, culture, and traditions of the American Southwest Frontier. From Colorado’s oldest documented town to the oldest church, the report covers over 3,264,000 acres located within the San Luis Valley and central Sangre de Cristo Mountains of south-central Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The meeting will be open to the public and members of the media. Secretary Salazar will hold a media availability immediately following three breakout sessions, which include:

– National Historic Park and Other Cultural/Historic Designation Options
– Trails System Proposal
– Landscape Scale Conservation and Management Opportunities

WHO: Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior
John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado
Mark Udall, U.S. Senator
Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator

WHAT: San Luis Valley Community Conversation

WHEN: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012
9:30 a.m. MDT Opening Remarks
11:00 a.m. MDT Breakout Sessions
12:30 p.m. MDT Media Availability
*a more detailed agenda is forthcoming

WHERE: Adams State College
208 Edgemont Boulevard
Alamosa, CO 81102

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

Specifically, federal, state and local officials will discuss potential for National Park historic and cultural designations, a trail system proposal and landscape-level conservation and management opportunities. The goal is for federal and state agencies to work with local stakeholders, private landowners and other partners to help conserve healthy lands and waters and promote tourism in the San Luis Valley and the Rio Grande River Corridor.

During the meeting, Secretary Salazar will discuss the recommendations in the recently released National Park Service’s San Luis Valley and Central Sangre de Cristo Mountains Reconnaissance Survey Report.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic. From the article:

A recent report identifies American Latino heritage sites that reflect the history, culture, and traditions of the American southwest frontier. The report covers more than 3 million acres located within the San Luis Valley and central Sangre de Cristo Mountains of south-central Colorado and northern New Mexico.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here and here.

Delta County chips in some dough for the Grand Mesa cloud-seeding effort this year

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From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

A multi-agency supported cloud seeding project on the Grand Mesa is in line to receive $1,000 in support from the Delta County Commissioners next year [2012]…

The multi-agency Water Enhancement Authority “is a non-profit organization of three water conservancy organizations,” explained WEA secretary treasurer Mark Ritterbush in a letter to the commissioners. The three agencies are the Grand Mesa Water Conservancy District, the Grand Mesa Water Users Association, and the Collbran Water Conservancy District. The three districts, along with other regional government bodies, donate to the Water Enhancement Authority.

According to Ritterbush’s letter to the BoCC, “Research conducted in the San Juan Mountains concluded that cloud seeding may increase snowpack levels by an additional 5 to 15 percent. The extra water realized through cloud seeding was produced at a cost of $0.94 to $1.15 per acre foot. Silver iodide is used to seed the clouds.”[…]

According to a map that accompanies the request letter, the WEA has 12 cloud seeding generators on Grand Mesa.

More cloud-seeding coverage here.