Coyote Gulch outage: Deadline tomorrow, I’ll see you on Monday


I’m on deadline at Colorado Central Magazine. I’ll see you bright and early on Monday.

Yampa River: Steamboat Springs is using a GOCo grant west of town to improve the fishery and access


From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

Steamboat Springs Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department supervisor Craig Robinson said Wednesday that crews with Nordic Excavating and Ecological Resource Consultants have embarked on a month-long project that will install boulder clusters and shape channels in the river to improve its aquatic habitat and make it more habitable to fish and anglers alike.

“These improvements will benefit everybody,” Robinson said, noting that as a secondary benefit the project should improve recreational opportunities on the stretch of the river that has suffered from severe bank erosion…

In addition to the restoration project, the city has plans to add paved access and a parking lot to the piece of open space for use by anglers and kayakers.

Grant funding also will cover revegetation in the area.

In June, the city received a $2.4 million grant from GOCo to fund the river restoration project and also to help secure a conservation easement south of city limits…

Work on the Yampa also is supported by a $150,000 grant from the Bureau of Land Management through the America’s Great Outdoors program.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

The Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership is hosting a public educational field tour on November 28


From the Middle Colorado River Watershed Partnership:

The Leadership Committee will be meeting at the offices of the Garfield County School District R2-E, on Wednesday, November 28th, 2012, from 8:00 to 9:15 AM. The District offices are located at 339 Whitewater Avenue, Rifle, CO.

We welcome all of our Partners and members of the public to join us for an educational field tour on Wednesday, November 28th beginning at 9:30 AM and running until approximately 11:30 AM. Please RSVP by clicking here. Along with our host, Steve Anthony, Director of Garfield County’s Vegetation Management program, see first-hand the collaborative work on the part of a number of agencies and private landowners to promote tamarisk control within portions of our watershed. We will be looking at two projects currently underway along the mainstem of the Colorado River near Rifle: Lion’s Park and the Gypsum Ranch.

Tour Info Flyer.

Map of Tour Meeting Location.

USGS: Streams Show Signs of Degradation at Earliest Stages of Urban Development


It’s no surprise that people settle near surface water. Here’s the release from the United States Geological Service (James Coles/Kara Capelli):

The loss of sensitive species in streams begins to occur at the initial stages of urban development, according to a new study by the USGS. The study found that streams are more sensitive to development than previously understood.

“We tend not to think of waterways as fragile organisms, and yet that is exactly what the results of this scientific investigation appear to be telling us,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Streams are more than water, but rather communities of interdependent aquatic life, the most sensitive of which are easily disrupted by urbanization.”

Contaminants, habitat destruction, and increasing streamflow flashiness resulting from urban development can degrade stream ecosystems and cause degradation downstream with adverse effects on biological communities and on economically valuable resources, such as fisheries and tourism.

For example, by the time urban development had approached 20 percent in watersheds in the New England area, the aquatic invertebrate community had undergone a change in species composition of about 25 percent.

The study also found that the health of highly-degraded streams can be improved by implementing management actions that are designed to reduce specific stressors.

“Biological communities were not resistant to even low levels of urban development. In the study sensitive invertebrate species were being lost over the initial stages of development in relatively undisturbed watersheds,” said Dr. Gerard McMahon, lead scientist on the study. “Understanding how stream ecosystems are impacted by urban development can assist in the development of management actions to protect and rehabilitate urban stream ecosystems.”

Multiple streams in nine metropolitan areas across the continental U.S. were sampled to assess the effects of urban development on stream ecosystems. Study areas include Atlanta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., Boston, Mass., Dallas, Texas, Denver, Colo., Milwaukee, Wis., Portland, Ore., Raleigh, N.C., and Salt Lake City, Utah.

The study also found that the effects of urbanization on the biological community vary geographically depending on the predominant land cover and the health of the community prior to urban development. In the study, the greatest loss of sensitive species occurred in Boston, Portland, Salt Lake City, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Raleigh metropolitan areas, where the predominant land cover was forested prior to urban development. The smallest loss of sensitive species occurred in Denver, Dallas, and Milwaukee metropolitan areas where land cover was primarily agriculture before urban development.

“The reason for this difference was not because biological communities in the Denver, Dallas, and Milwaukee areas are more resilient to stressors from urban development, but because the biological communities had already lost sensitive species to stressors from pre-urban agricultural land use activities,” said McMahon.

Although urban development creates multiple stressors, such as an increase in concentrations of insecticides, chlorides, and nutrients, that can degrade stream health—no single factor was universally important in explaining the effects of urban development on stream ecosystems. The USGS developed an innovative modeling tool to predict how different combinations of urban-related stressors affect stream health. This tool, initially developed for the New England area, can provide insights on how watershed management actions to improve one or more of these stressors may increase the likelihood of obtaining a desired biological condition.

The effects of urbanization on streams, including information about this and past studies, as well as graphics and maps, and videos can be online.

Results of this nationwide study and details about the effects of urbanization on the nine metropolitan areas can be found in a new USGS publication titled, “Effects of urban development on stream ecosystems in nine metropolitan study areas across the United States.”

Management strategies used throughout the U.S. to reduce the impacts of urban development on stream ecosystems are described in a new USGS report written in partnership with the Center for Watershed Protection in Maryland titled, “Strategies for Managing the Effects of Urban Development on Streams.”

This study was done by the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment Program, which conducts regional and national assessments of the nation’s water quality to provide an understanding of water-quality conditions, whether conditions are getting better or worse over time, and how natural features and human activities affect those conditions.

More USGS coverage here.

Colorado Aquifer Management: Groundwater and River Flow Connections conference November 28 and 29


Click here for registration information. Here’s the pitch:

A conference to promote the concept and technology of recharging aquifers. For water supply authorities, engineers, groundwater consultants, regulators and potential end-users.

More groundwater coverage here.

Steamboat Springs is considering establishing a stormwater enterprise


From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark said [November 8] that the scope of the fee, or whether it will be assessed at all, will depend on the results of a $180,000 infrastructure study of Steamboat’s bridges, culverts and dams that is expected to be completed by the end of this year…

If a fee system is implemented, Steamboat would join several other growing Colorado municipalities that already charge residents a monthly bill to help pay for their own infrastructure upgrades. A March 2011 study conducted for the city of Greeley by AMEC engineering showed residents in 30 Front Range municipalities from Lakewood to Fort Collins typically were paying between $1.98 per month to $14.26 per month for stormwater infrastructure. Fort Collins represented the high end of the spectrum.

More infrastructure coverage here.

‘Why would a ski area sell off water rights?’ — U.S. District Judge William Martinez


Oral arguments in the lawsuit brought by the National Ski Areas Association against new permit requirements from the U.S. Forest Service were heard on Thursday. Here’s a report from Jason Blevins writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Martinez entertained oral arguments from both sides in a case that could decide the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ski-area water rights. Citing 140 years of federal laws and court decisions, NSAA lawyer Zeke Williams argued the agency overstepped its authority with the new directive, which he called a “sea change in agency law.”

“The agency can point to no statute that authorizes it to condition use and occupancy permits on the permit holder assigning to the Forest Service property that is not federal property,” Williams said.

The Forest Service says it changed the law to prevent ski areas from selling water rights connected to federal land…

“Why would a ski area sell off water rights and leave itself with insufficient water to operate a ski area?” he said. “Then you are not a ski area anymore.”

Williams argued that the Forest Service rule was a “draconian and punitive solution to a hypothetical problem.”[…]

Williams on Thursday argued that the agency violated the Federal Administrative Procedural Act by not offering legal support for the rule and not soliciting public input on the new rule…

“In the history of this policy, it is very clear that we are not deviating from the overall history of the policy,” Samford said. “If you have a federal permit on federal land and you want water rights in service of that permit you need to claim them in the name of the United States.”

More coverage of the lawsuit here.

Ron Redd named as the new manager for the Parker Water and Sanitation District


From the Parker Chronicle (Chris Michlewicz):

Ron Redd, the longtime utilities director for Castle Rock, was named during a meeting Nov. 15 as the replacement for Frank Jaeger, who has served as district manager for more than 30 years. Redd was present for many of the water district’s most recent notable accomplishments, including the opening of Rueter-Hess Reservoir and Dam. Redd was among the main players in Castle Rock’s agreement to purchase $40 million worth of water storage space in Rueter-Hess, making the town the PWSD’s largest partner on the expansion of the reservoir…

Wasserman pointed out that certain perks that have come with the district manager’s position in the past will no longer be in place, such as free gas. Jaeger drives a GMC Denali that’s owned by the district, one of the points of contention when the new board members were elected. Redd, who starts his job in early January, will get a $500-a-month auto allowance, along with his $150,500 annual salary.

Will Mr. Redd take over Mr. Jaeger’s duties with the Colorado Wyoming Cooperative Water Supply Project?.

More Parker coverage here and here.

‘Latinos…are concerned about preserving the ecosystems of the Colorado River’ — Nita Gonzales


Here’s a guest commentary written by Nita Gonzales running in The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

Stretching all the way to Mexico, the Colorado River also supports businesses and industries. It provides the water for more than 3 million acres of farmland, and it serves 36 million people, providing drinking water as well as recreational activities and jobs.

Even our Latino heritage and culture is tied to the river. Historically, Latinos in the Southwest developed a complex system of acequias (irrigation canals) that provided water to farms. Today, the acequia culture of southern Colorado continues as farmers use those canals to irrigate their crops, just as their ancestors have done for generations.

Latinos, like many others in the Southwest, are concerned about preserving the ecosystems of the Colorado River as we continue to rely daily upon its water in our schools, industries, and homes. A recent poll released by Nuestro Rio revealed that nearly 75 percent of Colorado Latinos believe that it is very important “that the government help protect our community’s rivers and lakes for family recreation and the overall well-being of the environment.” Eighty-four percent of Latino voters favor conservation, encouraging the government to prioritize efficiency when developing policies to address water shortages.

The Colorado River is integral to the economic and physical health of our state and region — and even the nation. The huge burden that the river bears — supplying water to the seven states in the Colorado River basin and Mexico — has taken a hefty toll. Storage of Colorado River water has decreased 40 percent over the last 13 years. Currently, people are using more water than what the river can provide. The Bureau of Reclamation of the U.S. Department of the Interior estimates that this imbalance will significantly grow in the years to come if nothing is done about it.

If no action is taken, plans to divert more water may push some reaches of the river to the brink of ecological collapse.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: Monarch Ski Area postpones opening


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“Due to the unfortunate weather patterns we’ve been receiving, Monarch Mountain has had to make the tough decision to delay opening day,” said Greg Ralph, Monarch marketing manager. “At this time, Monarch’s opening day will be announced as soon as we have sufficient conditions to do so.

From Out There Colorado (R. Scott Rappold):

The ski area, which relies on natural powder, has received little snowfall this fall, like most of the Colorado high country. It’s the second year in a row the area, popular among Colorado Springs skiers, wasn’t able to open by Thanksgiving as planned.

Elsewhere in Colorado, ski areas have been able to open a handful of runs on man-made snow. Open areas include Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Eldora, Winter Park, Wolf Creek and Vail.

Statewide snowpack is just 57 percent of average for mid-November, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.