Here’s the release from the Governor’s office (Eric Brown/Megan Castle):
Gov. John Hickenlooper signed two Executive Orders today related to different fires burning in Colorado.
The first order declares a disaster emergency for the Pine Ridge Fire, which started June 28 in Mesa County. The order authorizes $500,000 to the state’s Disaster Emergency Fund to pay for firefighting efforts. Additionally, the declaration authorizes the Colorado National Guard to help fight the fire.
The second order authorizes the Colorado National Guard to help fight the Eby Creek Fire in Eagle County.
Disaster declarations authorize the transfer of any funds in the state budget to the Disaster Emergency Fund, which is not funded unless money is needed. State law does not allow people who have lost homes or property in the fire to seek reimbursement from these disaster funds.
Verbal authority for each executive order was given June 28 and June 29, respectively. The governor formally signed the orders today.
Click here to read the Pine Ridge Fire order. Click here read the authorization for using the Colorado National Guard to take on the Eby Creek Fire in Eagle County.
In 2002, La Plata County was suffering from exceptional drought. This year the county is under moderate drought. Ten years ago, 78 percent of the state was under extreme drought. Currently, less than 10 percent of Coloradoans are feeling those kinds of conditions.
Also, the Animas River is running around 1,200 cubic feet per second. That’s less than half the average, around 3,000 cfs, but still a far cry from the record lows in 2002 of 500 cfs.
“There’s still some moisture out there,” said Durango Fire and Rescue Chief Dan Noonan. “But with each passing day, the situation is changing.”
The snowmelt came four to six weeks earlier than normal this year, rushing the rapids and depleting the water sources a little early. And the state is trending toward drier and drier conditions.
Three months ago, 40 percent of Colorado was suffering from moderate drought. Last week, it was 68 percent. Now that number has jumped to more than 75 percent.
The northeast part of the state, covering about 10 percent, is under extreme drought conditions. Last week that number was just more than 7 percent. The entire state is considered abnormally dry or worse, and with each passing week it continues to spread.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Nelson Harvey):
The effluent’s three-mile journey will be possible thanks to a new sewage lift station that is nearly completed on the Seventh Street site. City sewers will route waste to the lift station, where a series of pumps will propel it three miles westward through two 16-inch pipes to the new plant.
On a tour of the new lift station, city Water and Wastewater Superintendent Buddy Burns was like a kid showing off a shiny new treehouse he’d just built. Burns, who has worked in wastewater treatment for the city since the late 1970s, said the new plant will have an average daily capacity of 1.9 million gallons, up from 1.1 million at the existing plant.
He demonstrated a new automated filter system that will remove debris from the wastewater stream, wash it, compact it and drop it in a nearby Dumpster. And he showed off the lift station’s two gleaming pump galleries that will push waste to the new plant. They are equipped with backup diesel generators, in the event of a power outage…
Burns said that the switch to the new plant would take two to three weeks after it begins in July, as operators gradually divert increasing amounts of the city’s wastewater to ensure the new system is functioning well.
A completion date in early August would wrap up the project several months ahead of schedule, as the city’s contract with Salida-based firm Moltz Construction allows until November 2012 to finish the job. Construction began in the spring of 2010…
The new lift station on Seventh Street has an air ionization system meant to keep odors contained in sewage canals. Operators hope this will dispense with odor complaints from nearby residents and businesses, which are now common during the summer months.
After many years of Eagle Mine cleanup — cleanup of contaminants such as arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc — the river is pretty healthy, [Melissa MacDonald] said.
“It’s pretty good. It meets the existing standard for the river,” said MacDonald, executive director of the Eagle River Watershed Council. “We’d like a little higher standard, but currently they’re doing a good job.”
“They” are CBS, the media company, formerly Viacom. They acquired the Eagle Mine in the mid-1980s as part of some other deal. What they acquired was a Superfund site, designating the Eagle Mine as one of the nation’s most polluted places.
More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.
Click here to view a copy of the minutes. Thanks to Amy Conklin for forwarding them via email. Here’s an excerpt:
Chair Laurie Rink summarized a meeting held with the Water Quality Control Division to discuss the Barr-Milton TMDL. This last meeting was designed to provide an opportunity for stakeholders and the Division to understand each others’ positions, and for stakeholders to understand how the TMDL would be implemented in the long term. Division representatives said there could still be some changes to the tables in the TMDL and that they might take some of the stakeholder’s suggestions.
Barr-Milton representatives were told that they could have one last look at the TMDL before it is submitted to the EPA, but there would be no further opportunity for comment unless there is a mistake in the document. The Division plans to use end-of-pipe measurements, presumably to make permitting easier. There is an appeal process available through the Commission.
More South Platte River basin coverage here and here.
The Eagle River Watershed Council is now beginning a project with the county and Colorado State University to fill in those blanks. “We were updating the Eagle River watershed plan and discovered there wasn’t much scientific data for Eagle County’s stretch of the Colorado River,” said Melissa Macdonald, ERWC’s executive director. “We are essentially doing an inventory of the river to get a baseline of data that will help us prioritize future projects there.”[…]
ERWC is beginning its separate project to collect data on the Colorado River. “Ideally we would already have the baseline data before coming out with the new watershed plan but we’ll accommodate it somehow after the study comes out,” Simonton said. “The study might affirm what the plan recommends or it might trigger a future amendment to the plan. In any instance it will be very beneficial.”
The timing of ERWC’s baseline study is also appropriate now that Eagle County Open Space is acquiring more public access points along a river corridor that was previously isolated by private property…
ERWC has already received a $30,000 grant from the Colorado Basin Roundtable for the Colorado River study and applied for much more grant money at the Roundtable’s meeting in Glenwood Springs on Monday…
If and when streamflows drop below certain levels, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District could be forced to enact strict water-use limits on top of ongoing conservation efforts, according to district general manager Linn Brooks…
The community water system also includes the two Black Lakes reservoirs, near Vail Pass, as well as Homestake Reservoir and also has access to water in Wolford Mountain Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir. The water in the reservoirs is used primarily for augmentation, which means when the district removes water from Gore Creek and the Eagle River, it can replace that water from the reservoirs to compensate downstream users.
This year, the Homestake Reservoir water is not available because the reservoir has been drained for repairs. That complicates the overall picture a bit, but in any case, that augmentation water, even though it’s destined for downstream users, can help sustain stream flows in Eagle County.
For now, flows are tracking close to where they were during the 2002 drought, which at the time was characterized as a 500-year event by some water experts. Gore Creek flows are a little lower than in 2002, at about 20 to 30 percent of average for this time of year. High in the drainage, at a gage in the wilderness was reading only at 11 percent of normal…
A somewhat normal monsoon season, with intermittent rains from mid-July to mid- or late August would likely sustain flows enough to stave off the most drastic conservation measures this year. But summer rains don’t compensate for a lack of winter snow. Snowpack is the key for sustaining base flows throughout the summer. “Thunderstorms can come in and drop a lot of moisture, but the ground can’t absorb all that water. It surges through the system and gives a short-lived benefit. A good rainstorm can give a week of propped up rainflows, she said…
The district uses water from both Gore Creek and the Eagle River, as well as a handful of wells, and has the ability to shunt water in different directions through a web of pipes to meet the needs — and address potential shortages in different parts of the system…
The district also monitors stream temperatures. If the climb to a point deemed dangerous to fish, that could also trigger operational changes. “We’re going to operate our system in a way that’s protective of fish,” she emphasized.
More Eagle River watershed coverage here and here.