It turns out the Colorado Springs did need a stormwater enterprise after all: Mayor Bach wants to spend $15 million

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chacón):

Bach is asking the City Council, which doubles as the Utilities Board, to find the money within the confines of the existing budget and rate base.

But Scott Hente, council president and board chairman, says Bach’s request would require a rate increase. “I believe the only way to do that is to raise rates, and I’m not in the mood to do that right now,” Hente said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, emergency repairs to a backup pipeline damaged by flash flooding in the Waldo Canyon Fire area is going to cost Colorado Springs Utilities a million bucks. Here’s a report from Daniel Chacón writing for The Colorado Springs Gazette. From the article:

The Pine Valley Pipeline, which was damaged and exposed last week during a flash flood, was the city’s primary water source until Utilities built the Stanley Canyon Tunnel in the 1980s. The tunnel now supplies between 75 percent and 80 percent of the city’s water.

In recent years, Utilities rebuilt major portions of the pipeline in case something happened to the tunnel, said Andy Funchess, field operations manager for Utilities’ water system operations.

“We were ready to charge that line at the end of August. That’s out the window,” Funchess said Tuesday while standing near the path of the flash flood.

“It’s going to be months, if not years, before we actually get this pipeline in working condition again and can get that pipeline restored,” Funchess said. “It’s really important that we have, because Rampart is so critical to our water supply, that we have a secondary or backup source to the Stanley Canyon Tunnel. We’ll get it back together, but it’s going to take a lot of time and apparently it’s going to cost a lot of money.”

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Climate change: ‘I was too optimistic’ — James Hansen

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Here’s an opinion piece penned by James Hansen the Director NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Goddard hopes to elevate the level and urgency of the conversation around climate change. Here’s an excerpt:

My projections about increasing global temperature have been proved true. But I failed to fully explore how quickly that average rise would drive an increase in extreme weather.

In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened…

…our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

From Grist: July 2012, the hottest month ever, in five charts.

More Climate Change coverage here.

Steamboat Springs: Colorado Water Congress Summer Meeting webinar

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The Colorado Water Congress is embracing Internet technologies in order to reach out to interested parties that won’t be in Steamboat Springs next week. The cost is $180. I use the software — GoToWebinar — often and it works well, if your organization’s firewall is configured correctly.

Here’s the link to the registration page.

Here’s the email from the Colorado Water Congress (Doug Kemper):

For many of our members, conference attendance may be difficult for a number of reasons, including travel and lodging costs, time availability, and limited training budgets. At the same time, the CWC Board wants to ensure our events are accessible to all of our members. So this year, we will try out the same GoToWebinar technology that we have begun using for some of our meetings, but in a new way. We will live broadcast the audio from the conference as well as the PowerPoint presentations. As this is an experimental application for us, we will limit the number of connections.

So here’s how it works:

What you get:
All Summer Conference sessions (except Thursday luncheon) plus the Public Trust Workshop
See PowerPoint Presentations live at your computer
Hear the audio at your computer or phone connection

What it Costs: $180

There is no registration deadline, so you can sign up at any time. It is a two-step Process:

Registration/payment through CWC
Webinar registration through Citrix Online

Your satisfaction guarantee: Full refund if you are not completely satisfied.

To get started:
1. For CWC signup and payment: Click Here

2. After CWC signup, you will receive an email with a link to Citrix Online Webinar registration.

3. After Citrix Online registration, you will receive your unique registration connection link.

4. At the time of conference, click on the link and you will be connected.

And that’s it!

Notes:
If this is your first time using GoToWebinar, it could take a couple of minutes to load their software on your computer. You may want to try loading the software in advance of the conference.

You can listen to the audio through your computer speakers or headset OR you can dial in and listen on your phone. You can even keep up with the convention with your cell phone as you are on the move.

More education coverage here.

Drought news: July 2012 was the hottest month on record, ever

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From Grist (Philip Bump):

July was the hottest month in America ever recorded.

From 9News.com (Nick McGurk) via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The water level of Horsetooth Reservoir in Fort Collins is dropping by as much as one foot per day, as drought conditions have pushed the reservoir down 42 feet. Horsetooth could drop another 15 feet by the end of the month, according to Brian Werner with Northern Water Conservancy District. Much of the water is being routed to help farmers irrigate.

Colorado, Wyoming and Utah and the remaining water under the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact

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Back in 1925 the Upper Colorado River Basin States united to fight the lower basin states over Colorado River projects like Boulder Dam unless the Colorado River Compact was signed. (Click on the thumbnail graphic for a graphic of The Denver Post front page from that time.) Fast forward to 1948 and the upper basin states inked the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact. With both compacts signed everyone would be buddy-buddy for all time, right?

Maybe not, here’s a report from Bart Taylor writing for the Planet Profit Report. Here’s an excerpt:

The Bureau of Reclamation estimates that demand on the Colorado River will significantly exceed supply in the coming years, and likely already has. This, along with drought and some rather dire climate change-related impacts, have forced state planners to reassess their Colorado River water supply and demand metrics. The Upper Basin has never fully utilized its full allocation of river water, either collectively or by individual state…

It’s also begun to analyze its options to develop this remaining Colorado River allocation, and to the dismay of some in Wyoming and Utah (and Colorado, as I’ve written), one option involves a pipeline that taps the Colorado from its primary tributary, the Green River, at Flaming Gorge reservoir in southwest Wyoming and northeast Utah.

For its part, Wyoming has also awakened to the tenuous future of its water resources. The Green has increasingly been identified as a river “at risk” – to the effects of drought, climate-change and a competition for water that’s reaching a fever-pitch throughout the region. Wyoming’s residents and politicians are therefore pushing back on what’s perceived by many here to be a water grab by Colorado – reminiscent of the threat posed by Lower Basin interest’s decades ago.

According to my contacts, Wyoming water officials, including the state engineer, were initially neutral on the Flaming Gorge pipeline. Colorado is legally entitled to Green River water, and Flaming Gorge, like lakes Powell, Mead, Navajo and others, was built to implement the terms of the Colorado River Compact. To over-simplify greatly, the huge impoundments make it possible to even-out the distribution of water from wet years to dry for all parties to the agreement. Wyoming administrators initially had little reason (or recourse) to get worked up about the project, though from its source in Flaming Gorge, the pipeline would traverse the I-80 corridor west through Wyoming, then south to Colorado’s Front Range.

Also, since Aaron Million conceived of a Flaming Gorge pipeline and reminded Colorado officials of the state’s right to file on the Green, most, but not all, water observers gave the project little chance of success. Building any water project, let alone a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional, trans-basin project, is daunting.

Now, the political winds in Wyoming seem to blow hard against Flaming Gorge, the state engineer’s (yet unpublished) opinion notwithstanding. Ironically, Colorado water planners may be warming to the idea, again, driven by self-interest motivating all parties to the Compact. Colorado’s the fast-grower in the region and requires more water, even as it is entitled to more than its Upper Basin brethren. The state may simply not be able to turn its back on a huge, new source of water. (More on Colorado’s Flaming Gorge deliberations next time.)

Utah’s perspective may also be changing. Within the last year, the state engineer approved water-transfer that will result in a new and fairly substantial appropriation, also from the Green River. As I outlined before, the premise is similar to that which may also drive Colorado to the Green – an unused portion of its Colorado River allocation.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: The Obama administration expands drought response across stricken areas #CODrought

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Here’s an excerpt from the release from the President’s office:

As communities across the country struggle with the impacts of one of the worst droughts in decades, President Obama is committed to ensuring that his Administration is doing everything it can help the farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted.

To respond to immediate needs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other federal agencies are using their existing authorities wherever possible to address the hardships arising from the lack of water, feed, and forage. Within the last month, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, has lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans, and has called on crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers. The Department of the Interior has provided additional grazing flexibility on federal lands and the Small Business Administration is working to help with access to investment capital and credit in affected communities.

On Tuesday, August 7, 2012, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council for one of a continuing series of policy meetings to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, the White House announced several new measures the Administration is implementing to help those impacted by the drought, including providing additional assistance for livestock and crop producers, increasing the capacity for lending to small businesses, and waiving certain requirements on trucks helping to provide relief. President Obama also stressed the need for the entire Administration to continue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.

As the drought continues, the Administration will actively implement its longer-term strategy for assessing and managing the effects of the crisis. In addition to impacts on farming and ranching operations, a long-term, widespread drought will also have implications for wildfires, water availability, navigation, and power generation across much of the country and across other sectors. As we move forward, the Administration will work closely with state and local governments, farming and ranching communities and others to ensure an effective and efficient response and recovery.

Finally, while the Administration is exploring every possible avenue to provide relief from the impacts of the drought, Congress still needs to act to ensure that the needed disaster assistance is available to these communities. The best way to do that is by passing a comprehensive, multi-year farm bill that not only provides much-needed disaster assistance but gives farmers and ranchers the certainty they deserve while enacting critical reforms.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The relief includes availability of about $16 million for financial and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to immediately help crop and livestock producers, as well as making 1,000 credit unions eligible for a low-income designation, which permits unlimited lending to small-business owners including farmers.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture transfer of $14 million in unobligated program funds into the Emergency Conservation Program will assist in moving water to livestock in need, providing emergency forage for livestock, and rehabilitating lands severely impacted by the drought.

The USDA will also allow farmers to apply this year’s crop indemnity payments toward their crop insurance premiums for the following crop year and have worked with the 16 major providers of crop insurance to drop interest charges on unpaid premiums through November.

Lowering interest rate on emergency loans will help producers recover from production and physical losses associated with natural disasters.

U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) thanked President Obama for developing and implement the measures.

“These policies will bring some relief to Coloradans coping with our nation’s ongoing severe drought. I am glad to see President Obama leverage the full might of the federal government to help Colorado’s farmers and ranchers weather this exceptionally severe drought,” Udall said.

‘Protect the Flows’ sends hayfield message to President Obama #CORiver

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to see a photo of Protect the Flows hayfield message to the President located along the glide path to the Grand Junction airport.

From KKCO.com (Andie Adams):

The 360-foot natural canvas with letters 30 feet high spells out “Mr. Prez – we rely on the Colorado River.”

The one-acre work tells about our common need for one resource: the river.

“If it was a company in Colorado, it would be the biggest employer. Eighty thousand people rely on the Colorado River for their job in our state, and $10 billion is brought to our state every year,” said Molly Mugglestone, the coordinator for conservation group Protect the Flows.

The organization hopes will catch the eye of President Obama as he lands at the Grand Junction Regional Airport. They plan for him to see it, and then they will send him a letter to explain their intent.

That letter asks for his support on the Farm Bill, on which the U.S. Congress must vote.

Protect the Flows is especially interested in one of the bill’s provisions.

“The Regional Conservation Partnerships Program, which would provide for resources to farmers and agriculture to increase their efficiency, use the latest technology, to use water better,” said Mugglestone.

Mesa Park Vineyard owner Brooke Webb said she supported the crop art whole-heartedly because for her, the river is life.

“We rely on it completely. We have eight acres of grapes over on East Orchard Mesa that’s irrigated 100 percent by the Colorado River.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Flash flood in Waldo Canyon Fire area damages Colorado Springs Utilities backup pipeline

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From Fox21News.com (Abbie Burke):

The Stanley Canyon Tunnel, which is the primary delivery system of water from Rampart Reservoir to the Pine Valley and McCullough treatment plants, was not damaged, but the Pine Valley Pipeline, which serves as the Stanley Canyon Tunnel’s backup option, was impacted.

Two creek crossings were destroyed, which compromised structures, and parts of the access road were washed away. As a result, some parts of the pipeline are now exposed and undermined.

“Just recently we went over the (Pine Valley) pipeline, rebuilt major portions of the Pine Valley Pipeline to put that back in service to really use it as a reliable source, a secondary source supply, in the event that something happened to the Stanley Canyon Tunnel,” [Andy Funchess, CSU Field Operations Manager for Water System Operations] said.

The Stanley Canyon Tunnel, which now has no healthy backup pipeline, serves 75-80 percent of the city’s water supply.

“The Stanley Canyon Tunnel, which is the primary source which is under the ground, is in fine shape, fine condition. Our water system is still strong, we just want to put those secondary sources back together so that we have a back up plan,” Funchess said…

“It’s going to be months if not years before we actually get this pipeline in working condition again,” Funchess said. Repairs are expected to cost more than $1 million.

More infrastructure coverage here.