Clear Creek County scores $75,000 for greenway design


From the Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

The county was…awarded $75,000 to create design documents for the Clear Creek Greenway project connecting Jefferson County to the Twin Tunnels area through Clear Creek Canyon. The plan will also allow for easier access to the Oxbow Parcel and western Clear Creek County.

The greenway, envisioned to run along Clear Creek from the Jefferson County border to the Continental Divide, is intended to link communities with a string of open spaces, trails and parks. The project is not expected to be finished for another 10 years.

The Colorado Department of Transportation has partnered with the county on the project near the Twin Tunnels as part of CDOT’s effort to expand the area.

CDOT officials are planning to add a third eastbound lane on Interstate 70 between Idaho Springs at mile post 241 to the base of Floyd Hill at mile post 244, where the highway already opens to three lanes.

The $60 million project would likely begin construction in April 2013, with completion later that fall.

Meanwhile, according to County Commissioner Tim Mauck, as part of the first phase, CDOT will construct a greenway trail from the old game check behind the Twin Tunnels to just shy of the Hidden Valley Interchange.

As part of the second phase, CDOT will complete the trail from the game check station to the Idaho Springs Baseball Fields, although CDOT has not identified project funding and a timeline.

In addition, Clear Creek County Open Space was formally asked by GOCO to submit an application for a $4 million grant to further construct the greenway trail from the county line to as far as the funding would stretch.

“I project this GOCO grant to bring significant greenway improvements to Clear Creek County in the near future,” Mauck said. “Ultimately it will leverage further resources and willpower to complete the Clear Creek Greenway Trail through our community, providing our citizens and businesses with a tremendous recreational facility to utilize.”

The Downstream Neighbor: International Water Advocates Speak on Water Security January 27-29


From email from The Downstream Neighbor:

The Downstream Neighbor celebrates water as a connector, spiritual inspiration, and nurturance for our lives and explores some of the best practices for protecting water for the benefit of future generations, in a symposium January 27-29, 2012 in Denver.

This extraordinary weekend symposium brings together people from all walks of life in dialogue around the Front Range connection to the South Platte watershed. Critical conversations about our water future will be guided and inspired by international voices for Earth, water, and human rights: Maude Barlow and Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán.

The symposium takes the view that by considering Colorado water in the context of the cosmos, the global hydrologic cycle, and the entire family of life on Earth, we can better understand our home watershed and face what we must do to be responsible to the downstream neighbor.

The symposium opens Friday afternoon at 4 pm at the Theater at Colorado Heights University with a screening of Journey of the Universe. Written by religion scholar Mary Evelyn Tucker and mathematical cosmologist Brian Thomas Swimme, this film establishes an inspiring context for the beginning weeks of Colorado Water 2012.

At 7 pm on Friday, January 27, keynote speaker Maude Barlow—National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and chair of the board of Washington-based Food and Water Watch—will present the relationship of water to the entire family of life on Earth, valuing water as a commons, and intrinsic right, and a public trust.

At 8:30 am on Saturday, January 28, the Bolivian civic leader, Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán will speak in celebration of water as a common good and a human right. “The planet is not a resource, it is our home,” Beltran emphasizes.

The Saturday session will include regional and local experts on a range of topics that increasingly focus on our home watershed the South Platte, how we may become more connected with the river and what the river needs to flourish. Saturday topics include the cosmic origins of water, deep transition, water ethics, water and food justice, respecting nature’s ways in our approaches to solving the water crisis, getting involved in watershed groups, and the nexus between water and energy choices such as coal, natural gas, and renewables.

Sunday’s session beginning at 12 noon engages participants in further discussion on concerns like those that brought the conference planning committee together. For our watershed—like most of Earth—faces a water crisis:

· Much of our water comes from another watershed—and partly as a result, a major river no longer reaches the sea.
· More water has been promised than can be delivered.
· Controversial water uses greatly diminish the water available to farmers, a swelling human population, and the rest of nature.

Yet, the waters flowing in and through our watershed belong to Earth, to all species, to future generations.

The symposium will close with an opportunity for participants to inspire one another and become more aware of the great shift required as old notions of “separation from nature” slip away.

· What are the urgent concerns of our near and farther neighbors?
· What does it mean for the public to own the water?
· What does water need from us?
· How does water connect us, inspire us?

We are all downstream neighbors.

For more information:

NRCS Colorado Snow Survey and Water Supply News Release


Here’s the release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (Mage Skordahl):

Despite a decent start to the water year with above average precipitation and near average snowfall in October; drier conditions in November and December have resulted in a below average mountain snowpack for all the major basins in Colorado. As of January 1, Colorado’s statewide snowpack was 71 percent of average and 52 percent of last year’s readings, according to Phyllis Philipps, State Conservationist, with the NRCS. This is the fourth lowest January 1 snowpack measured in the last 30 years and the lowest since January 1, 2002 when the snowpack was at 65 percent of average.

Snow accumulations on the eastern side of the Continental Divide and in south-central Colorado are closer to average than on the western slope and southwest Colorado. Early season upslope storms in October and November have kept the South Platte basin at 80 percent of average as of January 1. The Arkansas and Upper Rio Grande basins currently boast snowpack’s that are 96 and 92 percent of average respectively, the highest in the state. Current conditions in these basins are a welcome change considering both recorded well below average snowfall last season.

The start to this winter season is not as positive for the western basins. Snow accumulation in these basins is well below average for this time of year; ranging from 57 percent of average in the Yampa and White basins, to 73 percent of average in both the San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins and the North Platte basin. In comparison, last year at this time these basins had snowpack’s that were at 145 percent of average in the Yampa and White, and 144 percent of average in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins.

Statewide the current snowpack is well below what was measured last year on January 1 in all the major river basins. This trend is especially prevalent in the northwest and western portions of the state where measured snowfall totals are less than half of what was measured one year ago.

Due to last spring’s above average snowpack and subsequent runoff throughout most of the state, reservoir storage remains in good condition in Colorado. Only the Rio Grande Basin has significantly below average reservoir storage for this time of year.

Click on the thumbnail graphic above and to the right for a screen shot of the table that accompanied the release.

Precipitation news: Aspen Mountain and Snowmass receive about eight inches of snow from the weekend storm


From The Aspen Times:

Aspen and Snowmass both picked up 8 inches of much-needed new snow Saturday and Saturday night, according to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s Sunday morning snow report. Aspen Highlands saw 5 inches of fresh stuff while Buttermilk also gained 8 inches…

Around the state, most resorts reported fresh snow in the 5- to 8-inch range. Tiny Echo Mountain on the Front Range picked up 9 inches, as did Beaver Creek, but ski areas in southwest Colorado came up short this time. Wolf Creek reported 1 inch and Telluride had 4 inches. Durango reported no new snow. Elsewhere, Vail and Copper Mountain both reported 8 inches, Steamboat had 6 inches of fresh stuff, and Crested Butte and Powderhorn both reported 5 inches. Sunlight Mountain Resort near Glenwood Springs picked up 4 inches.

The closest Urban Drainage station to Gulch Manor is reporting sixteen hundredths of precipitation on the three day map.

From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

“We have had some very unusual weather so far this season,” Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said Friday. “For the first time in 30 years, a lack of snow has not allowed us to open the back bowls in Vail as of January 6, 2012, and, for the first time since the late 1800s, it did not snow at all in Tahoe in December.”[…]

Ski industry woes aside, state water watchers and firefighters are nervously eyeing the miniscule mountain snowpack, which supplies so much of the water used by Front Range cities. As of Dec. 30, snowpack in the Colorado River basin was 44 percent of last year’s record level and just 63 percent of the annual average…

The last time Colorado’s high country was even close to this dry in mid-winter was during the 2001-02 ski season, which was followed by the worst wildfire season in the state’s history. June of 2002 saw the massive Hayman Fire scorch nearly 138,000 acres of land in the mountains southwest of Denver, darkening Front Range skies and loading key water storage facilities with debris from subsequent erosion.

Terry Scanga: ‘Lease-fallowing does a lot of good things and preserves ag water’


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“There has to be better ways of using agricultural water,” said John Stulp, water policy adviser for Gov. John Hickenlooper, at a Super Ditch summit meeting Friday. “Rotational fallowing is one of the tools in the tool box,” he said…

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, which supported and funded the startup of Super Ditch, plans to file a substitute water supply plan in February that would allow the program to be up and running by April. State Engineer Dick Wolfe said he believes the Super Ditch fits into the 2002 legislation that allows substitute water supply plans under certain conditions. The law initially was applied to the High Line Canal’s lease of water to Aurora in 2004-05. It allows for a three-year program with return flows accounted for over a five-year period…

If the leasing program continues, it would require a change of use decree in Division 2 water court, a process some have called “the mother of all change cases.” That would be an expensive proposition for both sponsors and objectors, so the Arkansas Basin Roundtable, part of the IBCC process, has discussed ways to develop a common platform to look at engineering as Super Ditch grows.

“Lease-fallowing does a lot of good things and preserves ag water. We might want to use it in the upper valley,” said Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, primary sponsors of a grant to develop an administrative tool for measurement during water transfers. “We need to know how to calculate water use. We are in this together.”

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We need to be working on new water projects, but that takes time,” said Alan Hamel, executive director of the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “We don’t want ag dry-up to be the main fallback.”

Hamel and fellow CWCB member Travis Smith addressed a water summit Friday on a proposed pilot program that would allow the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch to sell 500 acre-feet of water next year to El Paso County water providers. “Super Ditch is not without controversy, but is a local solution to determining our future,” Smith said…

Smith, superintendent of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, hailed the state Supreme Court’s decision last month to approve a plan for subdistricts, which are needed to prevent overpumping of Rio Grande groundwater. “We’re going to fallow 80,000 acres, and the question is how do you do that and take care of the local economy,” Smith said. “In the San Luis Valley, we hurt ourselves with uncontrolled pumping up until 2002. We’re still recovering from the drought.”

Smith said the plan, like Super Ditch, was developed as farmers worked together to find ways out of a dilemma. “I’m optimistic that the ag community can work together and be successful,” Smith said.

More Arkansas Valley Super Ditch coverage here and here.