The Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust 2011 annual report is hot off the press

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Here’s the link to RiGHT’s annual report. Here’s an excerpt:

Thanks to the generosity of our landowners, funders, volunteers and Conservation Partners, 2011 was our busiest year yet! We completed eight conservation projects that will permanently protect 3,400 acres of land and over four and a half miles of the Rio Grande river corridor. This brings the totals for the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust (RiGHT) to 20,555 acres of protected land and 19.9 miles of river corridor. We appreciate the many landowners who have chosen to conserve their lands with RiGHT!

We had a strong community engagement effort in 2011 that included seven events focused on connecting people to the land and the role of conservation. As a part of this overall effort, we launched our brand new “Conservation Partners” program aimed at involving more people in our work and sustaining our organization by increasing individual support. In November, we were honored to be recognized for our successful partnership with The Nature Conservancy with their “Phil James Award.” We are the first organization to receive this special award.

More Rio Grande River basin coverage here and here.

2012 Colorado legislation: SB12-142 goes down to defeat in the Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee

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From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown) via The Fence Post:

The first talks about a proposed bill aimed at addressing high groundwater problems in the South Platte River Basin concluded that night when the Colorado Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee voted 3-3, killing the measure.

The bill [ed. SB12-142, Pilot Projects Reduce Augmentation Requirements] — sponsored by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, — would have created a pilot program to allow some water rights holders to pump more water from wells where groundwater levels are historically high. Such a move would have allowed those wells to be studied, as well as pump water from the wells to potentially bring down groundwater levels that, according to some experts, are at record highs and causing problems for many who work and live along the river.

Brophy — along with Sen. Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, and Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton — voted in favor of the bill Thursday night, after about four hours of discussion and testimony, while Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, Sen. Angela Giron, D-Pueblo, and Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, voted it down.

More South Platte River basin coverage here.

Aspen: The city will restart its quest to assess geothermal potential on April 1

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From the Aspen Daily News (Andrew Travers):

The city’s open space board unanimously voted Thursday evening to allow drilling from April 1 through May 25 in the city-owned parking lot of the Prockter Open Space. The lot is across Neale Avenue from Herron Park and sits near the north bank of the Roaring Fork River…

In November and early December, drillers reached 1,003 feet underground without hitting any water. They had anticipated reaching water at 1,000 feet down. McDonell said they now expect to hit water before 1,500 feet. “Our experts tell us we’re pretty close,” [city environmental programs manager Lauren McDonell] said…

City Council is holding another public meeting on Feb. 27. The council does not have to approve any aspects of the project, but McDonell and city officials want to give neighbors ample opportunity to comment.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Silverton: River Protection Workgroup for the Animas River to meet Thursday

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From The Durango Herald:

The River Protection Workgroup for the Animas River will meet from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Silverton Town Hall.

The agenda for the meeting is to determine if the information sheet can be approved. To view the sheet, visit http://ocs.fortlewis.edu/riverprotection/animas/pdf/AnimasInfoSheet_January2012.pdf. The workgroup also will discuss, the range of protection tools that have been brainstormed to date. The workgroup will discuss whether protections should be identified for the entire watershed or only the segments found preliminarily suitable for Wild and Scenic River status in the 2007 USFS/BLM Draft Land Management Plan. No final recommendations will be made.

The purpose of this workgroup is to make recommendations about how to protect values on the Animas River upstream of Bakers Bridge while allowing for suitable water development to continue.

For more information, call 247-1302, email water@frontier.net, call Steve Fearn at 946-9243, Wendy McDermott at 259-3583, Marsha Porter-Norton at 759-3110 or email porternorton@bresnan.net

More Animas River coverage here.

Snowpack news: The San Juans (Wolf Creek Ski Area) gets upwards of another foot or so

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 14 inches of new snow Monday, while provisional snow gauge readings from the Natural Resources Conservation Service indicate 5-6 inches fell along other parts of the eastern San Juans. Trace amounts of snow were reported west of Del Norte and south of Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, according to the National Weather Service…

In Eastern and Northeastern Colorado, about 250 miles of highways were reopened after a winter storm and high winds prompted authorities to halt traffic. Parts of Eastern Colorado remained under a high wind warning or a high-wind advisory Monday. The National Weather Service canceled a blizzard warning issued earlier in the day. Nearly 350 miles of highways were closed Monday morning and about 100 miles remained closed in the afternoon. Eastbound Interstate 70 from Denver to Kansas was among the highways that reopened.

Flaming Gorge pipeline: Wyco Water and Power’s request for proposal is drawing a lot of interest from around the world

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There is international interest in a proposal to build a 578-mile water pipeline from the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir in Wyoming to Colorado’s Front Range. “The first phone call we got this morning was from an Australian firm,” said Aaron Million, whose Wyco Water and Power Co. released a request for proposals on the pipeline project Monday…

The request for proposals will identify a contractor for the project, possibly by the end of April. A timeline in the document projects the FERC record of decision could be issued as soon as 2015, with construction of the first stage of the project by 2018…

The project has met opposition from conservation groups, the Colorado River District and communities in Wyoming. Some contend the price of building the pipeline would be three times greater than Million anticipates…

Million has not lined up specific customers for water from the pipeline, but says he’s willing to work with all who are interested. “I’m hoping the project would engender cooperation,” he said. “I think the scientific analysis of it will show that it is good for the environment.”

More Flaming Gorge pipeline coverage here and here.

Denver: Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups are hosting the ‘Rally for the [Colorado] River II’ at the state capitol building on Wednesday

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

Join us at the Rally for Upper Colorado River and help deliver a giant postcard to the Governor asking for his help protecting our rivers!

– Who: Sportsmen, hikers, campers, rafters, kayakers, wildlife enthusiasts–anyone who cares about our state’s rivers and outdoor quality of life

– Why: To ask Gov. Hickenlooper to use his authority to protect the Upper Colorado River from expanded diversions such as Windy Gap and Moffat

– Where: Colorado State Capitol building, downtown Denver, west steps

– When: Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 11 a.m. to noon

“A River on the Brink”

Colorado’s namesake river is fighting for its life. A water diversion proposal could reduce the Upper Colorado River’s flows to less than 20 percent of its historic levels. As currently proposed, the Windy Gap Firming Project fails to include measures that will keep the Colorado cold, clean and healthy below Windy Gap—a stretch of the river that sustains local agriculture, mountain communities, and a thriving recreation economy. Unless the Upper Colorado receives stronger protections, this once-mighty river faces a long, continued decline and a potential ecological collapse.

Our Defend the Colorado coalition’s recent January rally in front of EPA building was a huge, noisy success, with more than 100 sign-carrying, chanting supporters calling on EPA to “be a hero” for the river (see photo above). A few weeks later, EPA issued a letter that fully vindicated and supported our position on the need for further river protections in the Windy Gap Firming Project.

Now the ball is in Gov. Hickenlooper’s court—he has a chance to use his bully pulpit to tell state and federal officials to “do the right thing” for the river and recommend additional protection.

Our healthy, free-flowing rivers are a source of pride for Coloradans—it’s why many of us live here.

Once our rivers are gone—they’re gone. Come out and tell Gov. Hick that Colorado is our home–these places are ours—and we want them protected. Gov. Hickenlooper—be a hero for our rivers!

Speakers include:

Drew Peternell, director, Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project
Kirk Klancke, water manager, Fraser Valley

For more background on issue, go to www.DefendTheColorado.org

Contact:

Drew Peternell, (303) 204-3057
dpeternell@tu.org

Randy Scholfield, (720) 375-3961
rscholfield@tu.org

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Pueblo: Winter fly-fishing is alive and well below Pueblo Dam

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Amy Matthew):

The city has become one of the top fly-fishing spots in the state, thanks in large part to the Arkansas River Legacy Project that was completed in 2005. It’s especially true in winter, when our (generally) milder temperatures lure fishermen from colder spots. “For a long time, this was the best-kept secret in Colorado,” said Ben Wurster, co-owner of Steel City Anglers, a fly-fishing outfitter business. “It’s not so kept anymore. We’ve gotten a lot of attention lately. The wintertime fishing here is just phenomenal.”

The Legacy Project created 15 W- or V-shaped weirs, or small dams, and 57 clusters of boulders along a 9-mile stretch of the river. All of those create pools in which fish can feed and rest. A better environment means better, and more, fish, and that means good fishing — primarily trout. “It created a holding area for fish during the winter and in summer (the deeper pools) keep the water oxygenated,” said Wurster. “Not only are the fish getting bigger, they’re getting healthier across the board.”[…]

[Wurster’s business partner, Lou McCullough] and Wurster said there are at least 25 fishing holes on the Arkansas between the reservoir and Pueblo Boulevard

More Arkansas River basin coverage here.