Colorado Foundation for Water Education radio program ‘Connecting the Drops’

Drought news: Colorado Water Trust water is flowing in the Yampa River #COdrought

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From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The Yampa River in Steamboat Springs, bolstered by a conservation lease of 4,000 acre-feet of water stored upstream in Stagecoach Reservoir, was flowing at healthier levels Tuesday than it did during the drought of 2012 when a similar lease was in place.

#The U.S. Geological Survey reported Friday morning that the Yampa below the Fifth Street Bridge was flowing at 126 cubic feet per second compared with about 95 cfs on Aug. 6, 2012. Tuesday’s flows still were below the median level for the date of 159 cfs. The record Aug. 6 high flow was recorded at 488 cfs in 1983. The record low was 22 cfs in 1934.

#The conservation lease between the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, owner and operator of Stagecoach Reservoir, and the Colorado Water Trust was expected to add about 26 cfs to the flows in the Yampa. This summer marks the second straight year the lease has been in place, and it has drawn national attention…

The Geological Survey also reported Stagecoach was releasing 72 cfs Tuesday morning, and a few miles downstream, Lake Catamount was releasing 25.4 cfs from its spillway and another 76.8 cfs from its outlet.

#The river was picking up another 10.5 cfs from Walton Creek where it enters the Yampa near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Walton Creek Road. And Fish Creek was recharging the Yampa with another 5 cfs where it enters the river not far from the intersection of U.S. 40 and Pine Grove Road.

#The conservation releases began July 23 this summer, significantly later than in 2012 when the supplemental flows began June 28. This summer’s release came at a time when much of the hay irrigation season was done.

Arkansas River Basin: ‘…good whitewater conditions should continue through at least mid-August’ — CPW

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Randy Hampton):

Recent heavy rains in the mountain valleys surrounding the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area and a continued release of water as part of the Voluntary Flow Management Program have boosted water flows for whitewater boating on the Arkansas River. The rains have recharged the local drainages, and good whitewater conditions should continue through at least mid-August.

“Lake County, the headwaters for the Arkansas River, has been enjoying afternoon and evening rainstorms this past month” said Rob White, AHRA park manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “That translates into very good conditions for rafting, kayaking and other types of whitewater boating all along the Arkansas River. This is good news for anglers as well, as water temperatures have remained cool providing less stressful conditions on the fishery.”

The Voluntary Flow Management Program is a cooperative effort, crafted in the 1990s for the Arkansas River by what is now Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Arkansas River Outfitters Association.

Running 152 miles from the alpine highlands below Leadville to the open prairies above Pueblo, the AHRA encompasses Colorado’s widely diverse geology, topography and history. The breadth of these resources, along with six campgrounds and a number of established recreation sites along the Arkansas River, provides vast opportunities for outdoor recreation, including whitewater boating, fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking and watching wildlife. Set against a spectacular vista of mountains and open country, the AHRA is one of America’s premier recreation rivers. Additional information on the AHRA is available on the park’s webpage.

The AHRA is managed through a cooperative effort between the Bureau of Land Management and Colorado State Parks. Formed in 1989, this partnership allows agencies to provide visitors with recreation opportunities and care for significant natural resources of the upper Arkansas River valley.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to http://cpw.state.co.us

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Adaptive Management Work Group to Meet in Flagstaff, Ariz., on Colorado River Topics, August 29-30 #ColoradoRiver

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Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Lisa Iams):

The Bureau of Reclamation announced that the Adaptive Management Work Group will meet on August 29 – 30, 2012 in Flagstaff, Ariz., to address topics related to the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. The AMWG committee provides a forum for discussion of topics related to the operation of Glen Canyon Dam and ongoing monitoring of resource conditions downstream of the dam.
A number of agenda items will be covered during the two-day meeting including Colorado River Basin hydrology and operations, implementation of high flow release experimental protocols, non-native fish control implementation, progress on the Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan Environmental Impact Statement, and budget topics for the current and coming years.

The AMWG is a federal advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of the Interior with representatives from federal agencies, Colorado River Basin states, Native American Tribal governments, environmental groups, recreation interests, and contractors for federal power from Glen Canyon Dam. The Secretary receives recommendations on how to best protect downstream resources and balance river operations through the varied stakeholder interests represented by the AMWG.

The meeting will be held at the Radisson Woodlands Hotel, 1175 West Route 66, Flagstaff, Ariz. The meeting will begin on August 29 at 9:30 a.m. and conclude at 5:00 p.m. The meeting will run from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. on August 30. For more information on the Adaptive Management Work Group meeting, please visit our website.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Engaging photo essay about people, water, & energy along the #ColoradoRiver: what is the right balance?

Upper Animas River: ‘It’s always been a heavily mineralized area’ — Bev Rich

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Here’s Part III of The Durango Herald’s (Chase Olivarius-Mcallister) series on the mining legacy in Silverton. Here’s an excerpt:

After Sunnyside Gold Corp. shut down operations at American Tunnel in 1991, Silverton executed a bittersweet pirouette: With mining, its main industry, seemingly done for, the town focused on selling its mining history to tourists. Today, thousands of visitors pour into Silverton every summer, disembarking from the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to tour mines, shop or playfully pan for gold.

Meanwhile, Silverton’s abandoned mines gush toxic metals into Cement Creek, among the largest untreated mine drainages in Colorado. In turn, the metal pollution in Cement Creek is choking off the Upper Animas River’s ecosystem.

Steve Fearn, a Silverton resident and a co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group, said the people of Silverton want mining to return. This desire, he said, partly accounts for why many residents oppose federal involvement in the cleanup of Cement Creek. In the view of mining companies, a Superfund site designation would make Silverton’s metal mines infinitely less attractive, he said.

Bev Rich, chairwoman of the San Juan County Historical Society and San Juan County treasurer, is the daughter of a miner, and she married one. She said it isn’t surprising that many people in Silverton look on Sunnyside Gold, the last mine to close there, with nostalgia for the good days, not anger about the mine drainage. And she said while Silverton’s eagerness to see a resumption of mining might confound outsiders, they don’t have first-hand knowledge of Silverton’s past. On the pay scale, tourism jobs can’t compete with mining work. “It was $60 or $70 an hour towards the end,” she said about the wages Sunnyside once paid.

She also said she doesn’t believe metal concentrations in Cement Creek are a problem chiefly created by mining pollution. “I look at it as mineralization. It’s always been a heavily mineralized area,” she said, an observation repeated by Rich’s fellow Silvertonians Fearn and San Juan County Commissioner Peter McKay…

Stakeholders co-coordinator Bill Simon said mining could certainly return to Silverton “if the price was right.” But he noted that while demand for metal has grown with the globalization of manufacturing, mining officials in the 21st century have, on the global scale, tended to continue to seek out the conditions that made mining so profitable in Silverton in the 19th and early 20th centuries: places with little regulation, where metals, like human life, are cheap and abundant.

More Animas River Watershed coverage here and here.

Denver Botanic Gardens: Colorado Water Garden Society will host its annual Water Blossom Festival Aug. 10

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From the Castle Rock News-Press:

The Colorado Water Garden Society will host its annual Water Blossom Festival from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 10 at Denver Botanic Gardens, with experts on hand to answer questions and tours of water features with Jim Arneill at 10:20 and 11:30. The CWGS is celebrating its 30th anniversary, after being founded at DBG as the first water gardening society in the world. Former aquatic collection curator Joe Tomochik will be on hand with stories about those many years before he retired, when the position transitioned to Tamara Kilbane. At 1 p.m., Joe Mascarenas will give a program on photographing water plants in the Plant Society Building. Festival admission is free, but one must pay garden admission, unless a member.

Interbasin Compact Committee meeting recap: ‘The next step is to walk across the divide’ — James Eklund

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

While supportive of a statewide water plan, state water leaders are concerned whether it can be completed in the next two years and meet the sometimes conflicting needs they have been struggling with since 2005.

The Interbasin Compact Committee Tuesday heard details about how the plan will be created from James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The plan will build on the activities of the IBCC and basin roundtables over the past eight years.

Last month, Front Range roundtables met jointly to develop a position paper, while similar efforts are underway among Colorado River groups.

“The next step is to walk across the divide,” Eklund told the IBCC. “If basins can get together and list their priorities, they can work together to find what they can agree on.” Easier said than done.

Some members of the IBCC felt the timeline — a draft by 2014 leading to a plan by the end of 2015 — is too short to provide anything but a framework for more discussion.

Legislative support also is needed. “After all the time and effort to develop this thing, is it going to be effective if we don’t have buy-in from the state Legislature?” asked Jeris Danielson, a former state engineer who represents the Arkansas River basin on the IBCC.

State Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Snowmass Village Democrat who chairs the Senate ag committee, said lawmakers are searching for permanent sources of funding for projects of all sizes. That drew questions about whether the state plan would lock in funding choices. “What will and won’t be funded creates heartburn for the roundtables,” said Travis Smith, an irrigation district manager from the Rio Grande basin and a CWCB member.

Other committee members raised questions about environmental protection and enhancement, rather than mitigation of damage, and water quality. “We have to start from a common base of understanding,” Eklund said.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

It was a milestone of sorts Tuesday when 25 water experts from all corners of Colorado came together to collectively push forward proposed solutions they feel are needed to avoid looming supply shortages. Members of the Interbasin Compact Committee expressed support for “low risk” and “no risk” water solutions regarding agriculture, conservation, water reuse, storage and other issues, and that plan will be passed on to the Colorado Water Conservation Board as part of its efforts in creating the comprehensive state water plan recently requested by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

However, IBCC members couldn’t push forward solutions at Tuesday’s meeting for one key area: new supply, which could have the biggest implications for northeast Colorado and its massive agriculture industry, according to some in attendance. If new reservoirs and other water projects aren’t constructed in the near future, the Front Range’s rapidly growing cities will be left to continue buying water rights from farmers and taking that land out of production, according to Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the Berthoud-based Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Agriculture will be the sacrificial lamb,” said Wilkinson, whose district oversees the Colorado-Big Thompson Project — the largest water-supply project in northern Colorado — among other projects. “We don’t have a lot of time.”

The IBCC is made up of members from each of the state’s eight river basin roundtables and one roundtable from the Denver metro area, along with state water officials. The roundtables, consisting of various water experts from those respective regions, have been meeting for eight years, discussing solutions for their own basin’s water issues and statewide future shortages as well.

According to IBCC members, Tuesday marked the first time the IBCC came together to agree on and pass forward a comprehensive plan that addresses water issues for the entire state. The report will be used in drafting the state water plan that Hickenlooper requested through an executive order in May. The governor wants a draft report by the end of next year, and the state’s Colorado Water Conservation Board is depending on input from the IBCC to get it done.

There’s still a long way to go, IBCC members acknowledged Tuesday, with higher-risk solutions still needing to be discussed and agreed upon down the road. New supply still needs to be addressed as well. And compromising on some aspects is difficult, because each of the basin’s issues vary from one another and require different solutions.

Tuesday’s talks focused on developing incentives for water reuse, conservation, alternative water-transfer methods and education efforts, among many other topics. Even those discussions on “low risk” and “no risk” solutions became contentious at times, with disagreements over the language of those proposals.

The planned five-hour meeting went for six hours.

When IBCC members were asked to express their degree of support for their comprehensive package of solutions, only 25 percent “strongly supported” it, while the other 75 percent voted that it was simply a plan “they could live with.”

When the discussions came to new supply, the group agreed to approach the CWCB with more questions, rather than taking forward any proposed solutions. New supply has long been “the hardest nut to crack,” as one IBCC member described it during the meeting.

About 80 percent of the people in Colorado reside on the Eastern Slope’s Front Range, while about 80 percent of the state’s water originates on the Western Slope. Because of that, Front Range water users have grown dependent on diverting some of their water from the Western Slope’s river basins, tunneling it across the Continental Divide. And many on the Eastern Slope say more of those projects will be needed to meet the needs of the growing Front Range. Without new water-supply projects, farmland will continue drying up as cities look for more of the resource.

The 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative forecasted that Colorado could see 500,000 to 700,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up by 2050.

While Eastern Slope water users want more new-supply projects, those on the Western Slope have been reluctant. The Colorado River basin, for example, is already stretched thin, due its complex water agreements with downstream states.

Earlier this year, the Colorado River was declared ‘America’s Most Endangered River’ by American Rivers, an advocacy organization, due to its limited water supply and growing populations. Western Slope water officials expressed those concerns Tuesday.

Despite a lack of progress on the critical new-supply talks, Jim Yahn, manager of the North Sterling Irrigation District and a representative on the IBCC for the South Platte basin roundtable, said he was pleased with Tuesday’s meeting. “It was probably the most productive meeting we’ve had,” he said. “It was frustrating not to get more done on new supply, but overall it was a huge step in the right direction.”

John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s special adviser on water, agreed. “We certainly made some progress today.”

More Statewide Water Plan coverage here. More IBCC — Basin Roundtables coverage here.