Snowpack news: ‘As bad as last year was…this year we’re behind it; we’re worse’ — Cory Gates #codrought


From The Aspen Times (Andre Salvail):

So far this month, 2.5 inches of snow has fallen on the city. If Aspen only receives another 2.4 inches between now and Jan. 31, then the record-lowest January snowfall total of 5 inches in 1961 will be broken.

“We still have a shot at the record,” said Cory Gates, a forecaster with “I think it’s guaranteed top-five.”

The chances for significant snowfall between now and the end of the month are iffy, according to Gates. Above-normal temperatures in the 40s and sunny skies will be in play today and Wednesday. A weak cold front is expected to pass through the area Thursday, bringing a slight chance of snowfall of less than an inch…

In December, 34.8 inches of snow was recorded at the city’s water-treatment plant off Doolittle Drive. The return of decent snowfall, following an extremely dry December 2011, a drought in March and April 2012 and very little snowfall in October and November just prior to the current ski season, was seen as an encouraging sign.

January has dashed some of that optimism.

“As bad as last year was and everybody complaining, this year we’re behind it; we’re worse,” Gates said. “We have less snow this year than last year. The bases at the resorts are only like 21 inches right now, which is terrible. That’s pathetic.”

Drought news: Colorado crop production down in 2012 #codrought


From the North Forty News (Doug Conarroe):

According to the Jan. 11 report, Colorado wheat production fell 9.3 percent, from 81.8 million bushels in 2011 to 74.8 million in 2012 even though acres harvested increased by 6.7 percent — from 2 million acres in 2011 to 2.2 million acres in 2012.

Corn production dropped 29 percent in 2012, to 134.3 million bushels, from the 2011 total of 172.9 million bushels. 1.42 million acres were planted in corn in 2012 versus 1.5 million acres in 2011. The corn yield stayed the same from year to year, at 133 bushels per acre.

“The drops in output from 2011 to 2012 are hands down due to the drought,” said Bill Meyer, NASS Colorado field office director.

And 2013 doesn’t look good, according to Meyer. So much so that some Northern Colorado farmers are moving from corn crop to less moisture- and irrigation-dependent crops such as wheat.

“Farmers still had subsoil moisture in early 2012, plus the reservoirs were full from the heavy runoff from 2011′s snowfalls,” said Meyer. “Because of drought conditions we don’t have that much-needed subsoil moisture this year, and the reservoirs are low.”[…]

Production of Colorado hay alfalfa dropped ten percent in 2012, to 2.6 million tons, from the 2011 total of 2.88 million tons. 750,000 acres were planted in hay alfalfa in 2012 versus 800,000 acres in 2011.

U.S. Representative Diana DeGette co-sponsors H.R. 267 — Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013


Click here to read about the bill on

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

The legislation comes in the form of a bill called the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act. It was reintroduced to the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 15 by lawmakers from Colorado and Washington state. Though an identical bill was shot down in the Senate late last year, it did pass the House in July by a unanimous vote. The bill’s main focus is to clear much of the red tape associated with permitting small hydroelectric power projects, mainly those generating less than 5-megawatts of electricity.

Both U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) co-sponsored the bill, and one of its major supporters is the Colorado Small Hydro Association. Ophir’s Kurt Johnson is president of the association, and in the past he has promoted the benefits of small hydroelectric projects…

Regulations currently in place require most hydroelectric projects to go through an application process and review with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The FERC process can be lengthy and expensive, which can create a burden to small projects.

If the new bill is passed into law, the regulatory process could be streamlined for certain small hydro projects. The bill, as written, provides periods of public comment and directs FERC to examine the feasibility of a two-year licensing process for certain low-impact hydropower projects. Some of the low-impact projects could include the conversion of existing non-powered dams into power-generating ones.

According to the association, the current permitting process has been a barrier to small projects for decades. As a result the association claims much of Colorado’s, and the country’s hydroelectric resources are under utilized.

Historically, western Colorado has had a number of small hydroelectric projects, including the Bridal Veil hydroelectric power station above Telluride. Bridal Veil along with the Ouray Hydroelectric Power Plant in Ouray are two of the oldest AC power plants in the country…

The bill states a significant amount of new hydroelectric generation could come from maximizing existing infrastructure, particularly non-powered dams. It states that only about 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate hydropower.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.