Colorado River Basin: Watershed film screenings in Fraser (August 25) and Denver (September 27)

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Here’s the link to the screening page. Here’s the link to the trailer.

Drought news: Local farmers in Sterling hear presentation on the 2012 ‘Flash Drought’ from FSA

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From the Sterling Journal Advocate (Sara Waite):

[John Berge, acting deputy administration for field operations for the Farm Service Agency] was in Sterling Thursday to give an update to local producers about what the U.S. Department of Agriculture is doing to mitigate the impact widespread drought and sustained high temperatures on farmers and ranchers. He also sought input from producers on other ways the USDA might be able to help.

For the last six to seven weeks, the percent of the country that is classified as in drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor has grown — to the point that more than 60 percent of the contiguous U.S. is now listed as moderate to exceptional drought. The drought has been called a “flash drought,” meaning that it came on quickly and caught many by surprise. While stream flows across the nation had provided an early warning, Berge said nobody was expecting the hot, dry weather that has held large portions of the country hostage this summer…

After explaining what the USDA has done so far, he asked the handful of producers at the meeting to share ideas on what the department could do that wouldn’t require Congressional action.

One concern that was mentioned was about the penalties that can be assessed for overgrazing of CRP land. The USDA has released CRP acreage for emergency grazing and haying; the forage can be used for the owner’s operations or can be sold or donated. However, the landowners can be fined for time periods going back to the beginning of their contracts if a spot check finds the ground cover is damaged.

One suggestion was that if the landowner allows someone to graze cattle, they have a lease agreement that states the cattle producer is responsible for any fines due to overgrazing. Another suggestion was to hay the CRP acreage, or allow a producer to hay it, to ensure that the grass is cut to the requirements of the program.

Berge noted that the local Farm Service Agency board can also assist with relief in cases where penalties have been assessed. While spot checks are needed to ensure the integrity of the program, “This administration is going to be as flexible” as the government ever has been on penalties, Berge said.

From the Colorado Climate Center (Wendy Ryan) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

• July was the first month since February that wasn’t the warmest on record in Fort Collins. Last month, with an average temperature of 54.7 degrees, was the third-warmest July in 124 years of record keeping at CSU.

• No high temperature records were shattered last month.

• Last month was the 13th wettest July on record, and 3.11 inches of rain fell at the CSU weather station last month.

• So far, 6.6 inches of wet precipitation have fallen in Fort Collins this year, or 4.16 inches below average. That makes 2012 the 14th driest year on record so far. It’s also the hottest year on record in Fort Collins.

Poose Creek concrete fish ladder planned to aid Colorado River Cutthroat recovery

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The fish ladder will be part of an ongoing effort to support spawning of native Colorado River cutthroat trout. It would be built in an existing box culvert beneath an unpaved road that crosses the stream. The culvert prevents spawning and trout reproduction in the upper reaches of the stream.

Poose Creek flows off the flanks of Dunckley Pass in Rio Blanco County before flowing into Vaughn Lake. Routt County residents who drive to Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area via Phippsburg are familiar with Vaughn Lake.

A document released by the U.S. Forest Service this week reports that Yampa District Ranger Jack Lewis would sign an environmental assessment required before construction of the fish ladder could go forward.

Cutthroat trout, named for the pair of crimson streaks beneath their lower jaws, spawn successfully in late spring in the northern Colorado Rockies. However, Forest Service documents state the culvert under Rio Blanco Country Road 8 where it crosses Poose Creek prevents spawning by the Colorado River cutthroats. They are a native species whose populations are not as numerous as they once were.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

Bayfield and the La Plata-Archuleta Water District OK expansion of treatment plant

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The town of Bayfield and the La Plata-Archuleta Water District signed an agreement Tuesday to expand the town’s water-treatment plant. Under the agreement, the district will pay for the work, a more economical solution than building its own treatment plant. The district estimates the cost of plant expansion at $5 million. Capacity would be increased from 1.5 million gallons a day to 2.5 mgd. The plant currently treats 900,000 gallons a day.

Water already is available to the district through a contract with the Pine River Irrigation District.

No one from the public commented on the plan at the town council meeting Tuesday, said Steve Harris, the district’s engineer. “We’ve been working on this for eight or nine months,” Town Manager Chris La May said. “We think that by working together we can provide economical water service for users in Bayfield and the water district.”

A pipeline that will follow Bayfield Parkway and then County Road 509 southward is the first step, Harris said. “That is the closest point where there are residents who want water,” Harris said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Agricultural water should be considered the most critical use of water for Colorado and all other states – Deborah Butler

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Here’s the latest Written in Water guest column from Deborah Butler writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

My concerns for the future of water in Colorado, but specifically the lower Arkansas Valley in Southeastern Colorado, are that water that is available will be used to increase future housing in the metropolitan areas of Colorado. Building more homes should not be a priority when there is not enough water for farmers to produce food. The plains and valleys in all parts of Colorado make an agricultural contribution that I feel is severely neglected by our large city and government leaders.

Agricultural water should be considered the most critical use of water for Colorado and all other states.

Without rain water, we have prairies without grass and no food for pastured cattle. The farmers don’t have irrigation water to produce feed, and they are selling off their cattle, which are part of our food chain. The feed yards and cattle sales in Otero County are one of our largest economic contributors. Water is the lifeblood or all humanity, and it is critical to all food chains. We need to bring an awareness of the impact of no water, versus the impact of the inconvenience of not watering on certain week days.

I think the most surprising thing about water usage it that we have grown to believe it is a self-sustaining commodity and we use it as if we were entitled.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.