Assessing Riparian Condition Workshops — Info for 2012 Workshops in Colorado

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From email from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (Jay Thompson):

[Click here for] information about two workshops focusing on Assessing the Condition of Riparian Areas that will be held in Colorado this summer. These workshops are intended to introduce private landowners, state or federal employees and others involved with riparian management about the Proper Functioning Condition Assessment process for determining the health of riparian areas. Please see the attached brochure for information about the assessment method, the Colorado Riparian Team, target audience, as well as locations, dates, registration instructions for our 2012 workshops. Many of you who are receiving this message have recently attended one of these workshops – we are not asking you to attend again, but instead are hoping that you will forward this message to others in your agency or organization who might be interested in attending. Thanks for your help in getting the word out about these workshops.

The Colorado Riparian Training Team has been holding these workshops since 1996, typically conducting two or three workshops each year. Class sizes are limited (to about 30 participants), and unfortunately we usually end up turning some folks away for lack of room. If you have attended one of these workshops in the past five years, you can sign up to attend as a “refresher”, but your name will be placed on a waiting list, since preference is given to folks who have not attended a previous workshop. If there is space available, you will be moved from the wait list to the attend list.

Thanks to Loretta Lohman (NPDES Colorado) for the link.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

The United States Geological Survey: 1879-1989

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Here’s a nice concise history of the USGS (Mary C. Rabbitt). Click through for the whole series of articles, cool drawings and photographs. Here’s the announcement:

The United States Geological Survey was established on March 3, 1879, just a few hours before the mandatory close of the final session of the 45th Congress, when President Rutherford B. Hayes signed the bill appropriating money for sundry civil expenses of the Federal Government for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 1879. The sundry civil expenses bill included a brief section establishing a new agency, the United States Geological Survey, placing it in the Department of the Interior, and charging it with a unique combination of responsibilities: “classification of the public lands, and examination of the geological structure, mineral resources, and products of the national domain.” The legislation stemmed from a report of the National Academy of Sciences, which in June 1878 had been asked by Congress to provide a plan for surveying the Territories of the United States that would secure the best possible results at the least possible cost. Its roots, however, went far back into the Nation’s history.

The first duty enjoined upon the Geological Survey by the Congress, the classification of the public lands, originated in the Land Ordinance of 1785. The original public lands were the lands west of the Allegheny Mountains claimed by some of the colonies, which became a source of contention in writing the Articles of Confederation until 1781 when the States agreed to cede their western lands to Congress. The extent of the public lands was enormously increased by the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and later territorial acquisitions.

At the beginning of Confederation, the decision was made not to hold the public lands as a capital asset, but to dispose of them for revenue and to encourage settlement. The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided the method of surveying and a plan for disposal of the lands, but also reserved “one-third part of all gold, silver, lead, and copper mines to be sold or otherwise disposed of, as Congress shall thereafter direct,” thus implicitly requiring classification of the lands into mineral and nonmineral. Mapping of the public lands was begun under the direction of the Surveyor-General, but no special provision was made for classification of the public lands, and it thus became the responsibility of the surveyor. There was,of course, no thought in 1785 or for many years thereafter of employing geologists to make the classification of the mineral lands, for geology was then only in its infancy.

More USGS coverage here.

Irrigators, ranchers and conservationists look to form the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition, passage of the farm bill first on agenda

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Here’s the release from the Environment Defense Fund.

Here’s the list of contacts:

Contacts:
Jeff Eisenberg, Rockspring Resource Solutions, Coalition Staff, 571-355-3073
Trout Unlimited, Russ Schnitzer, 307-438-1365
Family Farm Alliance, Dan Keppen, 541-892-6244
The Nature Conservancy, Sean McMahon, 515-244-5044
Arizona Public Lands Council, Dave Cook, 928-701-3021
Environmental Defense Fund, Dan Grossman, 303-447-7213
Wyoming Stock Growers, Jim Magagna, 307-638-3942
California Farm Bureau, Elisa Noble, 916-561-5618
Public Lands Council, Dustin Van Liew, 202-879-9126
Irrigation Association, John Farner, 703-536-7080

Here’s the text of the release:

Representatives of the California Farm Bureau Federation, Trout Unlimited, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona Public Lands Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Family Farm Alliance, Public Lands Council and the Irrigation Association agreed on Saturday, February 25, subject to the approval of their Boards, to form the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition to advocate for balanced management of resources in the rural west.

The goals of the Coalition would be to support the common interests of agriculture and conservation through targeted education, advocacy, and outreach and to engage decision makers and resource managers in the spirit of collaboration to further a shared vision for a rural west that is economically and environmentally sustainable.

“Livestock producers look forward to the opportunity to show the inextricable connection between their ability to stay in business, and the health of the economies and natural resources of the West,” said PLC president and rancher from Nevada, John Falen. “Through wise resource use over generations, and through clear private property rights, ranchers have proven themselves diligent stewards of the land.”

Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited, said: “successful conservation depends on collaboration. In the West, many of our conservation projects wouldn’t happen without two things: agricultural producer partners and Farm Bill support. We urge Congress to act quickly to ensure a Farm Bill that continues to provide vital tools for private land stewardship.”

As a first step, the groups agreed to call on Congress to pass the Farm Bill this year in order to ensure the greatest possible amount of funding for the conservation title. The Senate Agriculture Committee is holding a conservation hearing today, an action which the groups agreed was an important step in the right direction. The groups will submit detailed policy proposals to the Committee in the next few days.

While the current farm bill debate is the priority of the coalition, members of the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition look forward to potentially expanding the coalition’s focus to include other areas of importance to western agriculture production and conservation efforts.

Here’s a release from Trout Unlimited (Jeff Eisenberg):

A new coalition of conservation and agriculture groups called on Congress to pass the Farm Bill this year to ensure full funding for conservation title programs, saying they are critical to the health of Western economies and landscapes.

The newly formed Western Agricultural and Conservation Coalition
includes the California Farm Bureau Federation, Trout Unlimited, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona Public Lands Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Family Farm Alliance, Public Lands Council and the Irrigation Association. The coalition will advocate for balanced management of resources in the West, educate about the common interests of agriculture and conservation, and engage decision-makers to further a shared vision of a rural West that is economically and environmentally sustainable.

As a first step, the groups called on Congress to pass the Farm Bill
this year in order to ensure full funding for the conservation title
programs. The Senate Agriculture Committee held a conservation hearing
this week, an action which the coalition agreed was an important step in the right direction. The groups will submit detailed policy proposals to the Committee in coming days.

”Successful conservation depends on collaboration,” said Chris Wood,
president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “In the West, many of our
conservation projects wouldn’t happen without two things: agricultural
producer partners and Farm Bill support. We urge Congress to act quickly to ensure a Farm Bill that continues to provide vital tools for private land stewardship.”

The Farm Bill is one of the nation’s most successful and powerful
drivers of on-farm conservation and innovation. More than ever, for
producers to reduce risks and remain competitive, they have to make sure they’re operating as efficiently as possible.

But for many farmers and ranchers, investing in new irrigation
upgrades—not to mention stream habitat improvements—is often
cost-prohibitive.

That’s where the Farm Bill’s highly effective Title II conservation
programs—EQIP, AWEP, CCPI and others—play a key role. For more than 75
years, they’ve helped fund infrastructure modernization and conservation projects that benefit ag operations while protecting stream health and wildlife habitat.

While the current Farm Bill debate is the priority of the coalition,
members of the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition look
forward to potentially expanding the coalition’s focus to include other areas of importance to western agriculture production and conservation efforts.

“Livestock producers look forward to the opportunity to show the
inextricable connection between their ability to stay in business, and
the health of the economies and natural resources of the West,” said
John Falen, PLC president and rancher from Nevada. “Through wise
resource use over generations, and through clear private property
rights, ranchers have proven themselves diligent stewards of the land.”

More coverage (and thanks for the heads up) from National Geographic (Jennifer Pitt):

Irrigated agriculture is a vital part of the culture, economy, and landscape of rural communities throughout the region. But with increasing population pressure, the looming threats of deeper, longer droughts, and aging infrastructure, irrigated agriculture faces an uncertain future.

Now, as Colorado River Basin stakeholders contemplate possible solutions to long-term shortfalls in the balance between water supply and demand, a group of agricultural and conservation organizations have joined efforts in a ground-breaking new coalition. The Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition’s goal is to advocate for balanced management of resources, including water, in the rural West.

The coalition has asked Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill this year to provide maximum possible funding for a number of conservation programs, including those related to water. Members of the coalition include the California Farm Bureau Federation, Trout Unlimited, Wyoming Stock Growers Association, The Nature Conservancy, Arizona Public Lands Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Family Farm Alliance, Public Lands Council, and the Irrigation Association.

Throughout the West, Farm Bill conservation programs have helped modernize irrigation operations, often in ways that improve river health. We are beginning to see these types of projects in the Colorado River Basin: in Colorado, the Mancos Conservation District is using Farm Bill conservation funding to leverage other local and state funds to replace aging diversion structures and restore instream habitat on the Mancos River.

Another example is the work of ranchers on the Yampa and Gunnison Rivers in Colorado who, working with Trout Unlimited and Farm Bill conservation program funding, are installing new head gates and gated pipe, as well as adding fish passage structures. These projects improve both crop productivity and instream and riparian habitat.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

Should there be a Clean Water Act exemption for ‘Good Samaritan’ efforts at cleaning up abandoned mines?

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The idea is catching on in some circles. Here’s a report from Gus Jarvis writing for The Telluride Watch. From the article:

After nearly 20 years of inaction, the creation of a Good Samaritan policy with regard to the cleanup of abandoned mine drainage flows has gained broad support across the West. There is now hope that it might gain traction with federal legislators and policy makers in Washington, D.C…

According to Ouray County Commissioner Lynn Padgett, the liability issue for Good Samaritans working on draining mines goes all the way back to 1994, when the EPA determined that draining mines are point source discharges and require National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits.

All too often, no viable financially responsible party exists for the abandoned mines. While the water quality in the vicinity of the mine continues to be impaired, no one can be held responsible for cleaning it up. Good Samaritans, be it state or federal agencies, watershed groups, environmental groups, or mining companies, often have programs in place to implement a mine cleanup but the liability issue prevents them from going forward with the cleanup.

“This is something people have been asking for 20 some years,” Padgett said in an interview on Tuesday. “There are some examples in Colorado of filtration systems that have been built but not turned on because of the liability piece. I think there has to be a common sense answer here.”

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) have addressed the issue with the EPA, asking it to use its authority to create a Good Samaritan policy that would allow them to improve water quality without fear of liability or citizen lawsuits under the Clean Water Act. Udall has been in favor of a Good Samaritan policy during his tenure in the Senate and has continued to push the idea. In 2009, Udall introduced the Good Samaritan Cleanup of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act, which has not yet passed. Last month, after writing a letter to the EPA, Udall again took the issue to the Senate floor to gain support from his colleagues.

“Good Samaritans are too valuable of a resource to keep on the sidelines,” Udall said on Feb. 14. “Congress should do what is necessary to bring their efforts to bear on the cleanup of abandoned mine pollution…Good Samaritans can’t solve all of our abandoned mine pollution problems, but we can’t afford to turn away those willing to help any longer.”

More water pollution coverage here. More Good Samaritan coverage here and here.

Colorado Springs Utilities’ Steve Berry: ‘In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered’

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Last week, the day before the Statewide Roundtable Summit, Western Resource Advocates, et. al., released a report titled, “Meeting Future Water Needs in the Arkansas Basin.” Colorado Springs and Pueblo are taking a hard look at the report, according to this article from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

There may be a question whether water providers accept the figures used in the reports. “Colorado Springs Utilities was asked to peer review the draft version, and made extensive and substantial comments on it. In looking at the numbers in this executive summary, it does not appear that many of our comments were considered, and many of our suggested changes or corrections were not made,” said Steve Berry, spokesman for Utilities. The largest amounts of water, and presumably the largest conservation and reuse savings, come from Colorado Springs.

The Pueblo Board of Water Works is also reviewing the final report for accuracy, said Alan Ward, water resources manager…

The environmental groups say a combination of projects already on the books — conservation, reuse and temporary ag-urban transfers — could provide as much as 140,000 acre-feet, more than enough to meet the needs. Those numbers are being examined by urban water planners, who say the savings might not be attainable. “In general, we were unable to verify or recreate most of the numbers cited in their report, and their estimates for conservation and reuse are significantly greater than what our water conservation experts have calculated as realistic,” Berry said…

When asked how conservation savings would be applied to new supplies, a practice cities find risky, Jorge Figueroa, water policy analyst for Western Resource Advocates, said they could be put into “savings accounts” for future use. When asked where the water would be stored, he cited the T-Cross reservoir site on Williams Creek in El Paso County that is part of the Southern Delivery System plan…

Drew Peternell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Colorado Water Project, said the group supports [the Southern Delivery System]. Because the project already is under way, the groups look at SDS as a key way to fill the gap. The report also supports programs like Super Ditch as ways to temporarily transfer agricultural water to cities without permanently drying up farmland.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at a report from the Northwest Council of Governments, “Water and Its Relationship to the Economies of the Headwaters Counties,” from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. From the article:

The report, released in January at a Denver water conference, takes a fresh look at the critical importance to the economy of water in West Slope rivers, and why Colorado leaders may want to take careful thought before making future transmountain diversion policy decisions. Visit the NWCCOG website for the full 95-page report.

“This report makes an important contribution to the on-going dialogue about adverse economic impacts associated with losing water by focusing attention on Eagle, Grand, Gunnison, Pitkin, Routt and Summit counties,” said Jean Coley Townsend, the author of the report. “This has never been done before. The report provides an important counterbalance to earlier studies that show economic impacts of losing water from the Eastern Plains.”

Balancing the supply and demand of water could be the State’s most pressing issue. The report does not take issue with Front Range municipal or Eastern Plains agricultural water users — all parties have important and worthy concerns and points of view — but is meant as a thorough review of water as an economic driver of headwaters economic development.

The report provides a balance to the existing solid body of work that measures the potential economic effects of less water on the Front Range and the Eastern Plains and the loss of agriculture in those parts of the state.

“If we … are going to solve our Statewide water supply shortage challenges there must first be statewide mutual respect and true understanding of each other’s water supply challenges,” said Zach Margolis, Town of Silverthorne Utility Manager. “The report is a remarkable compilation of the West Slope’s water obligations and limitations as well as the statewide economic value of water in the headwater counties of Colorado.”

More transmountain/transbasin diversions coverage here.