San Luis Valley: Geothermal event set for October 4 (Saguache), October 5 (Crestone)

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From The Mountain Mail:

The Northern San Luis Valley Conservation Roundtable will present an educational event about local geothermal resources Oct. 4 in Saguache and Oct. 5 near Crestone.

“We’re in Hot Water – Geothermal in the Northern San Luis Valley” will be presented at 6:30 p.m. both nights – at the Saguache Road & Bridge meeting room, 305 Third St. and Baca Grande POA Hall, 68575 CR T.

Paul Morgan, senior geothermal geologist with Colorado Geological Survey, will speak about geothermal resources and possible resource development in the Northern San Luis Valley.

Topics include how geology, water sources and geothermal resources interrelate, Colorado Geological Survey research relating to geothermal leasing in the San Luis Valley, and other Colorado Geological Survey research in the area.

Morgan will answer questions during and following the presentation.

Refreshments will be served. More information is at 719.221.8434 or barb@olt.org.

More geothermal coverage here and here.

Drought news: GMO crops to the rescue?

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From the Los Angeles Times (Ricardo Lopez) via The Denver Post:

Agricultural biotechnology companies have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing plants that can withstand the effects of a prolonged dry spell. Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, has received regulatory approval for DroughtGard, a corn variety that contains the first genetically modified trait for drought resistance.

Seed makers, such as Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. of Johnston, Iowa, and Swiss company Syngenta, are already selling drought-tolerant corn varieties, conceived through conventional breeding.

At stake: a $12 billion U.S. seed market, with corn comprising the bulk of sales. The grain is used in such things as animal feed, ethanol and food. The push is also on to develop soybean, cotton and wheat that can thrive in a world that’s getting hotter and drier.

“Drought is definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges for our growers,” said Jeff Schussler, senior research manager for Pioneer, the agribusiness arm of DuPont. “We are trying to create products for farmers to be prepared for that.”

Their efforts come amid concerns about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and the unforeseen consequences of this genetic tinkering. Californians in November will vote on Proposition 37, which would require foods to carry labels if they were genetically modified. The majority of corn seed sold is modified to resist pests and reap higher yields.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The lack of rainfall has pushed flows on the Arkansas River to low levels that are being maintained mostly by releases from Pueblo Dam by municipalities leasing water to farmers.

“This is kind of a weird place to be,” Division Engineer Steve Witte told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. “It is a strange set of circumstances we find ourselves in.”[…]

Thursday, the flow at Moffat Street was under 50 cubic feet per second. Other than a brief surge after some rain last week, flows have been under 100 cfs all month, about one-third of average. The target minimum is 100 cfs, under a 2004 flow agreement Inflows to Lake Pueblo have been about 200 cfs throughout most of the summer, and the Bessemer Ditch and Board of Water Works require about half of that. “It’s been hard to maintain 100 cfs,” Witte said. At the Avondale gauge station, the Arkansas River met average flows only briefly in July, and has been well below average on most days since May.

For much of the summer, when it does not rain, the call has been stuck at the Rocky Ford Ditch’s 1874 water right. Downstream, the river has been split into four calls many days, as water is diverted and return flows bring the water level back. “I can’t recall we’ve ever had a four-way call,” Witte said.

Kansas has elected not to run the water it has stored in John Martin under terms of the Arkansas River Compact because most of it would be lost running down the river.

‘Development may be pushed to areas that have water’ — Chris Woodka

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A recent Colorado appeals court decision reversed Douglas County’s decision to approve the Sterling Ranch development because commissioners apparently violated a 2008 state law that prohibits permitting developments unless they can prove they have adequate water supplies.

Initially, I was worried that this could spark a feeding frenzy and even more agricultural water rights would be purchased for domestic water supplies. On further review, I’m not so sure.

What if this kink made developers a little more thoughtful about where new building took place, and got them out of the habit of plunking down endless subdivisions in the I-25 corridor? Why spend millions of dollars moving water to where it isn’t?

Look out Dolores the subdivisions are coming.

Water rich areas attracting industry and development is one of the themes of Steve Maxwell’s book, The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead.

Mr. Maxwell was at last week’s drought conference. He expects the rust belt to prosper as the West dries up from climate change, resource development and overpopulation.

More infrastructure coverage here and here.

Reclamation Hosts Public Hearings on AVC Draft EIS

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation announces five public hearings to be held as part of the public comment period for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Long-Term Excess Capacity Master Contract Draft Environmental Impact Statement. Comments will be accepted through October 30, 2012.

Meetings will be held September 24-28 in Salida, Pueblo, La Junta and Lamar, Colo. There will be an afternoon and an evening meeting in Pueblo. For dates and locations, please visit the website at http://www.usbr.gov/avceis.

The hearings will include an open house, presentation, question and answer forum, and an opportunity for oral comments from the public. The schedule for evening meetings is 6:30 pm open house and exhibits, 7:00 pm presentation with questions and answers, and 7:30 pm hearing. The afternoon meeting starts at 1 pm with the open house and exhibits, 1:30 pm presentation with questions and answers, and 2 pm hearing.

In compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, Reclamation is analyzing three proposed federal actions for the AVC and Master Contract that would tie into its Fryingpan- Arkansas water project. The Draft EIS summarizes the analyses to date and can be accessed via the aforementioned website.

“Public comments are a key component to our environmental compliance process,” said Mike Ryan, Regional Director for Reclamation’s Great Plains Region.

Comments outside of the hearings must be sent to the attention of J. Signe Snortland, Reclamation Environmental Specialist, via mail or e-mail at Bureau of Reclamation, Dakotas Area Office, PO Box 1017, Bismarck ND 58502; or jsnortland@usbr.gov.
For more information please contact Kara Lamb at (970) 962-4326 or klamb@usbr.gov.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

A series of meetings this week will give area residents the opportunity to review a draft environmental impact statement for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The meetings will be hosted by the Bureau of Reclamation, which prepared the draft EIS on the conduit and a master storage contract requested by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. Comments on the draft EIS will be accepted through Oct. 30. The draft EIS does not list a preferred alternative for the conduit.

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

Residents along the Arkansas River will be given an opportunity to comment on an environmental impact statement regarding the Arkansas River Conduit project, running between Pueblo and Lamar.

The Bureau of Reclamation has set up a series of public hearings between September 24 and 27 in various locations. One will be held in La Junta on Wednesday, September 26 at Otero Junior College from 6:30pm to 8pm and one will be held in Lamar, Thursday, September 27 in the multi-purpose room at the Lamar Community Building, also between 6:30 and 8pm. Each of the public hearings will be preceded by an Open House. The Reclamation Bureau will accept written comments on the EIS until October 30, 2012.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

Forecast news: NOAA three month outlook — Good chance for above average temps, equal chance for normal precip

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Click on the thumbnail graphics for the three month precipitation and temperature outlook.

Colorado is a zone where it is hard to forecast the effects of an El Niño on winter snowpack. Sometimes we get good moisture other times not. The year’s El Niño is weaker than most. In addition, El Niño winters can be dry for Colorado.

The Climate Prediction Center released new 3-Month outlooks on Thursday with the probability of above average temperatures for Colorado for the next 3 months. Precipitation could go either way, equal chances.

Get prepared for mandatory watering restrictions next summer.

Here’s a report from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

“It’s probably too late to get a major El Nino … it’s going to be somewhat weaker than we expected a few months ago,” [NOAA scientist Huug van den Dool] said, explaining that there’s still a chance for enhanced precipitation across the South. An average El Niño footprint would normally also result in below-average precipitation in the northern tier of states.

El Niño or not, the Climate Prediction Center says there’s a good chance the next three months will bring mostly above average temperatures to a big swath of the country, from the eastern edge of the Great Basin through the central and northern plains, up into the Great Lakes region and New England.

The three-month precipitation outlook is for near-normal total for much of the country, with a chance of above-normal rainfall in the southeast, and drier-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest.