The county is considering altering the timing by which rezoning applicants must show proof of an adequate water supply for a development, giving developers of smaller projects more time to prove adequate supplies exist.
Basically, under the new requirements, a development requiring more than 0.67 acre-feet of water per year would have to show an adequate water supply early in the rezoning process. Developments requiring less would get more time.
Currently, all developments must estimate the required water needs and prove there is an adequate supply at the start of a rezoning application.
“If the water requirements exceed that value, the applicant would have to show proof of water,” said Pat O’Connell, planning and zoning geologist for Jeffco. “If it’s less, then they wouldn’t have to show it until later in that development.”
Along with revising the trigger amount, the county would also compile a water table for developers to use. Instead of drilling test wells and conducting their own analyses, developers could use the county’s water table to show proof of an adequate supply.
Click on the thumbnail graphic for the yesterday’s forecast map from the Nation Weather Service Pueblo office. Here’s the pitch:
A Pacific storm system will track across northern Colorado on Thursday, dropping some snow along the Continental Divide and pushing a weak cool front south through the plains…It’s way too early to know when and where the heaviest snow will fall
After a forecast high near 70 degrees on Wednesday, moisture and then cold are expected to roll across the region on Thursday and linger through the weekend. The National Weather Service expects the high temperature on Saturday to reach 38 degrees, then only 28 on Sunday and Monday. Night-time lows 15 degrees, 11 and 13, respectively, would provide the city its coldest snap so far this season, forecasters warn.
The high Tuesday could remain below freezing. No snow totals have yet been predicted, but Denver has a 20 percent chance of precipitation on Thursday and Friday, and slight chances of rain or snow on Friday and Saturday…
Snow chances are better in Western Colorado at midweek, but diminishing toward the weekend. Steamboat Springs has a 70 percent chance of snow Wednesday night and Thursday. Aspen has a 70 percent chance of snow Wednesday night, and a 60 percent chance on Thursday. Telluride has a 30 percent chance of snow Wednesday night and a 40 percent chance on Thursday.
Coloradans expect some unseasonably warm days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but they don’t expect daytime highs in the 50s for weeks on end. When they look up at the La Platas, they expect to see the snow line descending almost daily, not fluctuating up and down. When they check the weather forecast, they expect to see some major winter storms predicted as California rainstorms become Rocky Mountain blizzards, not “partly cloudy with 15 percent chance of snow flurries.” When they head for the slopes, they expect enough snow for a fast ride; they don’t want to scan the slopes ahead for bare patches.
Most years, those are reasonable expectations, but not this year. Last year’s winter was slow to start and quick to end.
Almost all the terrain west of the Mississippi, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, is abnormally dry, with most of that map labeled “severe drought,” “extreme drought” or “exceptional drought.” Western Colorado ranges from severe to extreme. Reservoirs are low. The ground is parched. And so far, runoff predictions are not optimistic.
Weather fluctuates, of course. The West has always alternated dry spells with “wet” spells (which, generally, are actually only less dry than the long-term average), and warm winters with harsh ones. December 4 is early; a lot of snow could fall between now and late spring. Still, the same group of people most likely to call climate change a myth are the ones who insist that when they were children, winters were colder and snowier than those in recent years.
It’s past time to consider the question, “What if this is a glimpse of the future?” What if this is the direction we’re moving? What will we do for water?
Whether climate change has a human component — which is nearly beyond debate — and even whether the current drought is a part of it, adaptation is still essential. Don’t expect the interior West to get the attention, or the funding, commensurate with a flooded New York City coastline. New York isn’t going to send water to Kansas in exchange for wheat and corn. FEMA isn’t going to bring it in plastic bottles. California isn’t going to decide it needs less.
What runs down from the high peaks is all the water there is to be had, and it’s past time to realize that’s not always going to be enough.
The National Weather Service’s office in Grand Junction predicts that a few minor storms may roll through northwest Colorado starting about the evening of Dec. 5. But the real chance of snow — and, crucially, cooler temperatures — won’t come until the week of Dec. 10.
Travis Booth, a forecaster in the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said some “minor disturbances” will flow through the region later this week, but those storms will more closely resemble Monday morning’s showers, with a bit of snow in the upper valley and rain in Gypsum.
“Farther out there’s some promise,” Booth said. “The models have been inconsistent, but they do agree there should be a push of cold air.”
Meteorologist Joel Gratz of OpenSnow.com said the reasons for the change are complex — weather everywhere is interconnected, he said — but the most simple explanation is that the “jet stream,” a flow of air in the upper atmosphere, is shifting to the south. Generally, when the jet stream is tracking to the north, areas to the south stay fairly dry and brown — like the late fall we’ve had so far. When the jet stream drops to the south, so do the storms. This time of year, that means at least some snow.
Booth said one of the reasons the jet stream has stayed north is that it has been influenced by a persistent low pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska. That low is expected to change to high pressure, which will push the storm track to the south, and much closer to Colorado. When that happens, temperatures drop, so what snow does fall is more likely to stick, at least for a while.
The two inches of snow that accumulated at Breckenridge Ski Resort Sunday night were the first the ski area has seen since its opening weekend Oct. 9, but forecasts suggests there may be more to come.
An admittedly weak winter system is set to move into Colorado Wednesday night and into Thursday — possibly favoring the northern half of the state with a few more inches of snow — may be the first storm of a changing weather pattern that could mean more snow and colder conditions for Colorado over the next few weeks…
In the short-term, however, there is more certain good news in the forecast for snowsports enthusiasts. The storm expected to move in Wednesday night into Thursday will hit areas north of Summit County hardest, but likely deliver only an inch or two locally. It should be followed over the weekend by another system that may produce more precipitation.
The San Luis Valley’s largest landowner signed off Tuesday on a conservation easement with federal wildlife officials for the 90,000acre Blanca Ranch. Owner Louis Bacon said the preservation of the property, which takes in three 14,000foot peaks and extends down to the valley floor, would provide a keystone link for wildlife in a previously unprotected reach of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The same motivation led the billionaire hedge fund manager to protect 76,700 acres in September on the Trinchera Ranch, which sits just across U.S. 160 from the Blanca.
Steve Guertin, a deputy director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the easement would protect valuable habitat for animals such as the Canada lynx and the Rio Grande cutthroat trout. “We based this on strong biological planning,” he said.
But the easement limits what Bacon can do on the ranch. “As long as he doesn’t subdivide the property, clear cut it, pave it over or do other Draconian management regimes on it, he’s free or any landowner is free to go about managing it as a working ranch,” Guertin said.
Tuesday’s signing came nearly six months after Bacon announced his intention to preserve the ranch during a ceremony with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. While Salazar was not present at Tuesday’s signing, he issued a statement praising the easement as the beginning of a new era in which private landowners and the government work together to preserve land. Bacon said he and his team rushed to finalize the easement through the fall given the looming election that might have ended Salazar’s stint as secretary.
“We were worried that if there were a change in Washington whether the impetus in the Interior Department would be there to follow through with this,” he said. He said the service, which is a part of Interior, would be an invaluable partner because of the agency’s scientific expertise in managing wildlife and wildlife habitat.
He also gave a hat tip to longtime ranch manager Ty Ryland, who helped convince the previous owners to sell to Bacon with the argument that he would be a good steward of the land. “This is his dream come true,” Bacon said.