Snowpack news: ‘Mountain communities are hoping to get the attention of Ullr, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter with snow dances’


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

With below-normal snowfall — in some cases less than half the seasonal average — mountain communities are hoping to get the attention of Ullr, Mother Nature and Old Man Winter with snow dances, sacrificial bonfires and other ceremonies aimed at eliciting at least a few flakes.

The build the vibe, Colorado Ski Country USA is inviting everyone to spread the word via social media channels by posting videos on a special snow dance website.

Despite the lack of snow, Colorado is in better shape than some other parts of the country, thanks in part to extensive snowmaking, high elevation and relatively cold temps that have helped maintain the meager snow cover.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

According to the January 6 readings from automated SNOTEL sites around the [Blue River basin], the snowpack at Copper Mountain is just 55 percent of average, with only 3.4 inches of snow-water equivalent, compared to the average 6.2 inches for this date. The Copper SNOTEL site is located at 10,550 feet. Precipitation for the weather year-to-date (starting Oct. 1) is a little closer to average, at 68 percent, with 5.2 inches compared to the average 7.7 inches, but the gap between the precipitation total and the snowpack total reflects the warm and dry weather which has eaten away at the snowpack. The other stations in Summit County are reporting similar readings. The Fremont Pass SNOTEL site (11.300 feet) is reporting a snowpack at 53 percent of average, with 4.2 inches of snow-water equivalent compared to the average 7.9 inches. Grizzly Peak (11,100 feet), near Loveland Pass and the Continental Divide, reports the snowpack at 62 percent of average, with 5 inches of snow-water equivalent compared to the average 8.1 inches. The snowpack at Hoosier Pass (11.400 feet) is at 67 percent of average, the highest reading in the basin, and Summit Ranch, in the Lower Blue, is at 56 percent of average. Farther west, the Vail Mountain SNOTEL site reports the snowpack at just 43 percent of average, with 4.3 inches of snow-water equivalent compared to the average 10 inches, while Independence Pass, above Aspen, is at 45 percent.

From Reuters (Rene Pastor):

The prolonged phenomenon [La Niña], although weaker than it was a year ago, threatens to roil commodity markets from corn to coffee as dry conditions in Argentina and Brazil whither crops while the southern United States — a prime growing area for cotton and some wheat — suffers through a once-a-century drought…

The effects of the current phenomenon are already being felt keenly in Latin America, where estimates for the 2011/12 corn crop from Argentina, the world’s No. 2 supplier, have been slashed by as much as a fifth, while Brazil’s soybean crop is also withering due to a prolonged dry spell. Without persistent rains within the next two months, Argentina’s soybean crop could also be at risk.

In the United States, an extended dry period could cause problems for farmers from the Carolinas to Kansas planning for sowing cotton in the spring, anlaysts said, particularly in top growing state Texas.

Ron Lawson, managing director of brokerage in Sonoma, California, said La Nina is worrying because conditions in parts of Texas are worse this year and could easily spread into the U.S. grain belt. “The conditions that exist today are identical to what existed before the Dust Bowl,” he said.

2012 Colorado election: The Colorado Water Congress issues an alert for Public Trust Initiatives #3 and #45


From email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

On Wednesday, the Title Board approved ballot titles on Public Trust Initiatives #3 and #45. The Water Congress will request a Rehearing on Initiative #45. That should take place on January 18. (Rehearing on Initiative #3 has already occurred.) Copies of the initiatives, ballot titles, and related information are attached and may be found on our website.

The Colorado Water Congress Board has unanimously voted to authorize appealing to the Colorado Supreme Court the action by the Title Board on both Public Trust Initiatives. We are seeking financial contributions for these appeals. If you are wish to contribute toward this effort (in any amount), please send me an email at

The sponsors’ basic premise is that the Colorado legislature and the courts have contravened the public’s ownership interest in water and the public trust initiatives are their way of tackling numerous injustices. If these initiatives pass, every water right in the state will be subject to reconsideration as to whether it is in the public’s interests. Further, discharges that are found to cause harm to the natural environment will also be subject to reexamination. And anyone could travel through private property to access the public’s waters (now all water in the Colorado) as long as they stay within the natural high water line.

After the unpleasant experience with Amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101; the days are gone where we can afford to let such ballot initiatives travel through the system without challenge. This system is heavily weighted in the favor of ballot proponents and legal action is very difficult.

For public entities, this appeal is your only opportunity to financially contribute toward action on the public trust initiatives. If they become certified for the ballot, your activities are severely restricted by law. Because the Colorado Water Congress receives a portion of its funding from public entities, we face the same restrictions.

Additional initiative information is available on the Colorado Secretary of State’s website at:

If you wish to listen to the archived audio of the hearing on Wednesday, you may access it at

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Richard Hamilton of Fairplay has been making the argument that water and its use should be at the discretion of all people in the state — not just those that the doctrine of prior appropriation ascribes rights to. He wants to institute guidelines for water that predate the Colorado Constitution, and subsequently were undone by the General Assembly. “The state constitution is very explicit that water is owned by the public,” Hamilton said, and he wants it reiterated by his initiative…

Five times between 1994 and 2002, Hamilton’s ballot proposals have met with rejection. But that hasn’t stopped him from bringing back two more with an eye on this year’s November ballot…

Hamilton’s proposals seeks constitutional amendments that would give citizens control of tributary and nontributary water in Colorado, require appropriators of water (oil and gas drilling operations or industry, for instance) to replace what they take with clean water and give citizens standing to sue if they believe water is being misused. They also aim to allow unfettered recreational access to streams and place public health and well-being ahead of other uses of water, including contractual allocation and senior water rights.

More 2012 Colorado November election coverage here.

Bayfield: The town hopes to score a $500,000 loan from the CWRPDA to fix sanitary sewer line infiltration


From the Pine River Times (Carole McWilliams):

The town inherited various issues, including infiltration and penalties for previous permit violations, when it took over the sewer system in 2008 from the Bayfield Sanitation District, a separate, government entity that is now defunct. The town’s $7 million sewage treatment plant started operation in Sept. 2009. Its permit capacity is 600,000 gallons of sewage per day. Because of infiltration, the plant is approaching 80 percent of permit capacity, especially in summer. That’s the point when the town has to start planning to expand the plant.
The town’s 2012 budget has $50,000 designated in the sewer fund for infiltration repairs…

“Hopefully after this is done, we won’t be needing $50,000 a year to fix infiltration. We are thinking it could be cost-effective to get it fixed all at once instead of some every year.”

More wastewater coverage here.

Windy Gap Firming Project update: Chimney Hollow Reservoir could get a green light for construction later this year


From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The reservoir, which would sit southwest of Loveland, is intended to shore up the water supplies of a dozen Front Range communities and water districts as well as Platte River Power Authority. An initial decision on its future is expected this year, possibly by summer.

The reservoir also would provide access to nonmotorized boating and miles of trails expected to be built on 1,800 acres of adjacent Chimney Hollow Open Space managed by the Larimer County Natural Resources Department. The open space is part of the larger Blue Mountain Conservation Area.

Chimney Hollow Reservoir would sit directly west of Carter Lake on the other side of a towering hogback formation. With the two reservoirs about a half-mile apart, the area is expected to attract a variety of recreation enthusiasts, said Kerri Rollins, manager of the county’s open lands program…

Its main purpose is to provide water storage for its participating entities, said Dana Strongin, communications specialist with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, or Northern Water, which would build the project. The participants already own rights to the water, which would be drawn from the Colorado River and conveyed to the Front Range through existing facilities of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. But they have no way to store the water for use during dry years…

After years of studies and public debate required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the federal Bureau of Reclamation late last year released a final environmental impact statement for the project that looks at various options. A record of decision, which would designate the preferred option and the steps that must be taken for it to be approved — such as mitigating its impact on wildlife — is expected later this year. The decision could come by summer, Strongin said…

The reservoir would be created with the construction of a 350-foot-tall dam on the north side of the valley and a smaller structure on the south. Underground pipes would carry water in and out of the reservoir. Chimney Hollow would be slightly smaller than Carter Lake. Building the project would cost about $270 million, Strongin said. Going through the environmental review process has already cost about $9 million.

More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

Southern Colorado Water Summit January 31


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

John Stulp, water policy adviser for Gov. John Hickenlooper, will offer a state perspective on water issues at Action 22’s water summit on Jan. 31.

The Southern Colorado Water Summit is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Occhiato Center Ballroom at Colorado State University-Pueblo. The summit was rescheduled aftera snowstorm forced cancellation of the original date in October.

Keynote speaker at the luncheon will be Chris Woodka, a Pueblo Chieftain editor and reporter, who will speak about the joys and difficulties in covering Fountain Creek water issues for the past seven years. Other presentations will look at basic information about water law, hydraulic fracking issues, statewide water supply, Rio Grande basin subdistricts, Colorado River issues, irrigation, land planning and the Southern Delivery System.

Action 22 is a network of government and private policymakers in 22 Southern Colorado counties.
For information, or to register, call 546-1558 or visit

Pueblo stormwater utility seminar January 24


Here’s the release from the utility via The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The relation of stormwater to water rights, new regulations and system design will be among topics on the agenda at the stormwater educational seminar scheduled from 8 a.m. to noon Jan. 24 at the Pueblo Convention Center.

The seminar, hosted by the Pueblo stormwater utility department, is designed to assist organizations, developers, contractors, builders, professional engineers, municipalities and any others wanting to learn about:

– Underground stormwater management design, performance and regulatory drivers.
– Water rights of Colorado pertaining to stormwater management.
– Urban drainage water quality and drainage criteria updates.
– A state health department regulation about nutrient levels in discharges.

A continental breakfast will be provided.

For more information, call 553-2899.

More stormwater coverage here.