Colorado’s Green Industry Donates $100,000 to Support CSU Horticulture Research


From Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

Leaders of the state’s green industry – encompassing all the plant producers and professional services that bring to life yards, gardens, golf courses and public spaces – have donated nearly $100,000 to Colorado State University for research in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
The donation will be invested, and annual earnings from the endowment will provide a steady flow of research funding for many years to come.

A group of Colorado industry associations jointly provided the gift. The group has annually funded research for nearly four decades; the endowment will allow a continuation of this support in perpetuity.
The funding will continue to bolster research of special interest to the green industry, said Stephen Wallner, head of the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

“This research support is a nice example of partnerships our department and land-grant university have with Colorado agriculture. Our department is pleased to support industry needs with new discoveries, which ultimately help not only producers, but also home and public gardeners,” Wallner said. “We particularly appreciate this dependable research funding, which will continue in perpetuity.”

Donna Ralston, former executive director of the GreenCo Foundation and a leader in providing the donation, said the green industry is especially interested in research that suggests solutions to water scarcity for lawns and gardens.

“Most of the issues in the industry revolve around water conservation, water use and plants that are more drought-tolerant in our semi-arid climate. We’re interested in understanding everything from plant varieties to better irrigation techniques,” Ralston said. “Our industry continues to evolve, and research findings are critical to that.”

The green industry is a critical component of Colorado agriculture.

Total revenues for the green industry were estimated to be about $1.8 billion dollars in 2007, according to the most recent economic survey. The green industry provided almost 35,000 jobs with $1.2 billion dollars in payroll, the survey showed.

The industry encompasses the following sectors: landscape architecture, landscape contracting, nurseries and greenhouses, garden centers, sod production, lawn care professionals, and tree and shrub care.
“By donating these assets to an endowment established through the CSU Foundation, we can continue to support horticulture research that benefits the entire green industry for years to come,” said Troy Sibelius, former president of the GreenCo Foundation.

Lake Mead: Quaggas have become the dominant lake-bottom organism #coriver


Here’s a report about the recent USGS assessment of water quality at Lake Mead, from Bob Berwyn writing for the Summit County Citizens Voice. Here’s an excerpt:

Overall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said that Lake Mead’s water quality is good and that fish populations are holding their own. Lake Mead is even providing habitat for an increasing number of birds. But the report also acknowledges that invasive quagga mussels have become the dominant lake-bottom organism, posing significant threat to the Lake Mojave and Lake Mead ecosystems. The report also acknowledges the long-term threat of climate change, which will bring reduced water supplies to the entire Colorado River Basin.

“While the Lake Mead ecosystem is generally healthy and robust, the minor problems documented in the report are all being addressed by the appropriate agencies, and are showing substantial improvement since the mid 1990′s,” said U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Michael Rosen.

Major findings detailed in the report include the following:

  • Basic water-quality parameters are within good ranges of Nevada and Arizona standards and EPA lake criteria. Potential problems with nutrient balance, algae, and dissolved oxygen can occur at times and in some areas of Lake Mead. The Lake Mead-wide scope of monitoring provides a solid baseline to characterize water quality now and in the future.
  • Legacy contaminants are declining due to regulations and mitigation efforts in Las Vegas Wash. Emerging contaminants, including endocrine disrupting compounds, are present in low concentrations. While emerging contaminants, such as pharmaceuticals, personal care products, or plasticizers have been documented to cause a number of health effects to individual fish, they are not seen at concentrations currently known to pose a threat to human health. In comparison to other reservoirs studied by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Lake Mead is well within the highest or ‘good’ category for recreation and aquatic health.
  • Lake Mead and Lake Mohave continue to provide habitat conditions that support a rich diversity of species within the water, along shorelines, and in adjacent drainage areas, including organisms that are both native and non-native to the Colorado River drainage.
  • Sport fish populations appear stable and have reached a balance with reservoir operations over the past 20 years and are sufficient to support important recreational fishing opportunities. Native fish populations within Lake Mohave are declining, but the small native fish populations in Lake Mead are, stable without any artificial replenishment.
  • Lake Mead and Lake Mohave provide important migration and wintering habitat for birds. Trends include increasing numbers of wintering bald eagles and nesting peregrine falcons. Lake Mead water-level fluctuations have produced a variety of shorebird habitats, but songbird habitats are limited. Although some contaminants have been documented in birds and eggs in Las Vegas Wash, mitigation efforts are making a positive change.
  • Invasive quagga mussels have become the dominant lake-bottom organism and are a significant threat to the ecosystems of Lake Mead and Lake Mohave because they have potential
to alter water quality and food-web dynamics. Although they increase water clarity, they can degrade recreational settings.
  • Climate models developed for the Colorado River watershed indicate a high probability for longer periods of reduced snowpack and therefore water availability for the Lake Mead in the future. Federal, state and local agencies, and individuals and organizations interested the future of the water supply and demand imbalance are working together to examine strategies to mitigate future conditions.
  • H.R. 267 — Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 passes the House Energy and Commerce Committee


    From The Telluride Daily Planet (Collin McRann):

    The bill is called The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, and it is getting close to being put to a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was reintroduced to the House on Jan. 15, and then put to committee review. By Jan. 22, the House Energy and Commerce Committee granted approval for the bill, which means it’s on track to be considered by the House. Last year the House unanimously passed a bill with identical wording, but it failed to pass the Senate.

    U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) co-sponsored the bill, and one of its major supporters is the Colorado Small Hydro Association.

    “We’re expecting it to move through the House fairly quickly,” said Ophir’s Kurt Johnson, who is president of the Colorado Small Hydro Association. “There haven’t been any substance disagreements with the bill. The question is, what’s the broader context? But if it gets through the House it would then get referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.”

    Johnson said he hopes the bill is able to make it through the House as quickly as it did last year due to its noncontroversial nature. He said ideally, the bill would be before the Senate by this spring or early summer.

    Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said in a press release that he wants senators to take notice of actions in the House and quickly pass the small hydro bill, along with four other bills his committee approved.

    “There could be a number of things that could happen in the Senate,” Johnson said. “It could go through different hearings and end up in some broader energy package, but it’s hard to say — it’s still too soon.”

    The bill’s main focus is to simplify the permitting of small hydroelectric power projects, mainly those generating fewer than than 5-megawatts of electricity. The bill states that only about 3 percent of the nation’s 80,000 dams currently generate hydropower. With Colorado’s many small streams and rivers, the Small Hydro Association estimates that around 200-megawatts of new, potential hydroelectric development is possible in the state.

    More hydroelectric coverage here and here.

    Drought/snowpack: ‘We have some real concerns about the availability of water in the Arkansas Valley’ — Steve Witte #codrought



    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    As the drought moves into its third year in the Arkansas River basin, there are concerns about having enough water to meet typical needs. “We have some real concerns about the availability of water in the Arkansas Valley,” Water Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told a state forum last week.

    Witte spoke as part of a panel of the state’s seven division engineers at the Colorado Water Congress annual convention. Divisions are determined by water basins in Colorado.

    The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor shows the entire Arkansas Valley east of Pueblo is in the worst stage of drought in the nation, and projections offer little hope for relief. Water supply could be further crippled because snowpack remains below average. This means less water than normal will be coming from the Colorado River basin through transmountain diversions.

    Compounding the problem are:
    ● The winter water storage program, which allows farmers to use water at optimum points in the growing season, is at its lowest point in 25 years.
    ● Less water is available for lease by farmers.
    The Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs plan to rebuild storage supplies this year.
    ● There is more demand for Fryingpan­Arkansas Project return flows, even though less water is available.

    Ironically, Colorado has a 57,600 acre­foot surplus in delivery of water to Kansas under the Arkansas River Compact. “It was so dry this year that Kansas did not take any deliveries from John Martin Reservoir,” Witte said. The surplus is recorded on a 10­year average, and Colorado is planning on slowly adjusting the formula to determine presumptive depletions from well pumping. Witte said one bright spot is that less water for replacement by farmers is needed under surface irrigation rules designed to hold consumptive use in check. If farmers can find the water.

    From the Boulder Daily Camera (Alex Burness):

    The few inches of snow that fell on Boulder late Monday night and early Tuesday boosted the season’s total to 24.5 inches. Winter sports aficionados welcomed the snow, as a mild winter has left Boulder almost 3 feet short of the total accumulation at this time last year, according to meteorologist Matt Kelsch, of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The storm dropped 2.9 inches of snow in Boulder, 4 inches in Louisville and just 1 inch in Nederland, Kelsch reported Tuesday.

    Nonprofit ski industry trade organization Colorado Ski Country USA reported that all of the state’s 21 ski and snowboard resorts received new snow, though the Front Range got the least of it. While resorts such as Steamboat, Powderhorn and Sunlight all reported at least 20 inches, Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain and Eldora all had fewer than 6 inches of snow…

    February and March historically have accounted for more than 25 inches of snowfall, giving Boulder plenty of time to catch up. Last February alone accounted for more than 32 inches.

    From Steamboat Today (Nicole Inglis):

    With just 8 inches of snow falling through Jan. 24, last month was about to go down in Steamboat Ski Area history as the driest January in more than 30 years. By the time January officially came to a close Thursday night, the month ended with a respectable — but still below average — 56.5 inches of snow. Historically the snowiest month of the year, January typically brings an average of 74.89 inches to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area…

    Including the 4 inches that were reported Friday, the ski area has received 197.25 inches of snow this season, with two-and-a-half months left of lift-served skiing. Last year at this time, only 110 inches had fallen.

    From The Denver Post (Brandon Swedlund):

    Snowfall is not uncommon this month, but snow events are not as strong as late autumn and early spring storms. Denver averages a little less than 6 inches of snow during February, which is the sixth highest throughout the year. High temperatures can also fluctuate, but on average continue to warm throughout the month. The latest forecast from the Climate Prediction Center calls for near to above normal temperatures with near to below normal precipitation across Denver and much of northeastern Colorado.

    As was expected, the weather pattern in Denver during January was largely dry with fluctuating temperatures. About 4 inches of snow fell last month at DIA, with the bulk of it coming late in the day on Jan. 28 into the early morning of Jan. 29.

    Cañon City: Cotter Corp, Inc. gets Colorado’s blessing to decommission their mill site at Lincoln Park


    From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

    Cotter applied for termination of its operating license in January 2012 after announcing it did not intend to resume uranium milling operations at the site. Therefore, the license was amended to delete references to operations and to shift existing requirements from operations to decommissioning and reclamation.

    “Amending Cotter’s license coordinates regulatory activities and the facility decommissioning and closure process,” said Gary Baughman, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division director. “The state, EPA and Cotter will now focus on the planning and work that needs to be done to successfully terminate the license, close out the Consent Decree from 1988 and remove the site from the National Priorities List.”

    Because Cotter is no longer authorized to operate the mill, the license was amended to delete references to operations and to shift existing requirements from operations to decommissioning and reclamation.

    More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.

    Colorado Springs Utilities’ funds to pay for stormwater facilities?


    From the Colorado Springs Independent (J. Adrian Stanley):

    After the election, Council did away with the Stormwater Enterprise and its hated “fees,” but quickly found a loophole that allowed Utilities to continue paying the city about $31 million a year.

    Now, Mayor Steve Bach is seeking an even bigger loophole in Issue 300 — one that would allow Utilities to foot the bill for $687 million in needed city stormwater projects. That funding is especially crucial after the Waldo Canyon Fire, because flooding off the burn scar this spring is expected to be catastrophic.

    In a recent interview with the Independent, City Attorney Chris Melcher said he had brainstormed several ways to get the money on Bach’s behalf, including: charging Utilities for the use of city land and water rights; reducing Utilities’ overhead costs and passing the savings on to the city; and creating an entirely new utilities service with its own charges (much like water or electric).

    Echoing Bach, Melcher said he believes Utilities can fork over the money without increasing rates.

    Yet Utilities spokespeople and City Council President Scott Hente — both of whom are also supposed to be represented by the city attorney — say it’s virtually impossible.

    “[Bach and Melcher] think there’s this pot at the end of the rainbow laden with money, and it’s there for the taking,” Hente says. “It shows their complete lack of experience in dealing with large organizations that have large business and large obligations.”

    During his campaign for mayor in 2011, Bach pledged not to raise taxes while in office. But the right thing to do for stormwater, Hente argues, is to ask for an increase…

    Of all Melcher’s ideas for making Utilities pay, the most intriguing involves water and property ownership.

    “Remember, the city owns the water,” Melcher says. “The city provides — all the water rights of the entire city are held in the name of the city, so the city provides the water to the utility company. The city also provides free access to all the right-of-ways in the city to the utility.

    “For example, if you have a private utility, they pay taxes, [a] right-of-way fee, [a] franchise fee. So there’s a number of different things that need to be examined and researched to see if there are funds or monies that could be available for other purposes, such as stormwater.”

    Of course, Utilities already pays the aforementioned $31 million to the city annually to cover some of these costs; Melcher just believes more may be justified.

    But asking a municipally owned utility to pay for the use of city water rights appears to be unusual. The Independent contacted four Colorado water attorneys on the issue to see if such a scenario was legal, or had been used before. Two said they didn’t know the answer and wouldn’t comment anyway, because their work was connected to Utilities. The other two did not call back. Utilities’ own lawyers could not comment objectively on the issue because Melcher is their boss.

    The Independent also called water service offices in Pueblo, Aurora and Denver. Each utility owns its own water rights.

    The Colorado Municipal League says it doesn’t know enough about its member cities to comment on such an issue. The American Water Works Association did not return phone calls.

    Only Aurora Water offers any guidance. Spokesperson Greg Baker says that leaders in his organization aren’t sure about the legality of charging for water rights, but they think such a scenario could run into problems with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights and the state constitution, given language about the separation of municipalities and their enterprises…

    Utilities spokespeople roundly object to the notion that the business is a cash cow ripe for the slaughter.

    Nor do they buy into the notion that they haven’t done enough for their hometown. Spokesperson Steve Berry notes that Utilities already performs city stormwater projects, because they often protect pipes from damage. Those projects also incidentally benefit bridges, roads and neighborhoods. This year alone, Utilities will spend $12.8 million on such projects.

    As for extra money, Utilities is about $30 million short in funding for its own capital projects this year, due to a sagging economy. That means fewer upgrades and less maintenance to the system, and a greater risk of costly failures.

    If Utilities were suddenly saddled with paying for all the city’s stormwater issues, Berry says, rates would have to increase to cover those bills. And Utilities could be hit in another way, too, through higher interest rates on its billions in debt.

    “The more you start bringing in another function, what then does that do to your ability to borrow at a low interest rate?” Berry asks. “Because that’s considered increased risk.”

    More stormwater coverage here.

    Mancos Water Conservancy District water workshop recap


    From The Mancos Times (Jeanne Archambeault):

    Gary Kennedy, superintendent of the Mancos Water Conservancy District (MWCD) , started the day off with a talk about the organization and what it does for the Mancos Valley. He gave information and statistics about Jackson Gulch Reservoir – how much water it can hold, what it holds now, and where the water comes from. He said the MWCD is #36 priority for water and can capture about 250 cubic feet of water from the Mancos River between March and May. The MWCD fills water priorities as they come up and are called in…

    Mike Rich, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) gave a talk about what’s been going on in the last 10 years with the Mancos River and the watershed that surrounds it.

    Then, Kirsten Brown, of the Colorado Department of Reclamation Mining and Safety, and Cathy Zillich, of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave an extensive talk about the East Mancos River and the mining impacts on it. Ann Oliver talked about the Middle Mancos River and the management measures they are doing.

    George San Miguel talked about the part of the Mancos River that runs through Mesa Verde National Park, and Colin Laird, a water quality specialist, talked about the lower watershed on the Ute Mountain Ute land.

    The workshop was the beginning of an an ongoing discussion. There will be more workshops and informational sessions to come.

    More Mancos River Watershed coverage here.