Registration is now open for the “Valuing Colorado’s Agriculture: A Workshop for Water Policy Makers”

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Here’s the pitch from the Colorado Ag Water Alliance:

On Monday, October 7, the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and Arkansas Basin Roundtable will be hosting the “Valuing Colorado’s Agriculture: A Workshop for Water Policy Makers” at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO.

This workshop is aimed at decision-makers who participate in the development of water management policies throughout the state of Colorado. Conference organizers are inviting prominent economists of national renown to share expertise on methods and approaches to the valuation of water as it is managed for agriculture.

The 1-day workshop will examine both the direct and indirect benefits derived from the use of water to support an agricultural economy. The program will feature moderated interviews with esteemed speakers, who will then participate in afternoon breakout sessions to further expound on the morning’s topics.

Please share your opinions regarding agricultural water policy by participating in our pre-workshop survey.

We look forward to seeing you in October!

The latest CPC ENSO Discussion is hot off the presses, ENSO-neutral forecast for fall #COdrought

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Click here to read the discussion and to peruse the graphics. Here’s the synopsis:

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is favored into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2013. ENSO-neutral conditions persisted during July 2013, as reflected by near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific and below-average SSTs in the eastern Pacific. Consistent with this pattern, weekly Niño-4 and Niño-3.4 values were between -0.5° and 0°C, while Niño-3 and Niño-1+2 indices remained cooler than -0.5°C. The oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) anomalies continued to be slightly above average during July, due to the persistence of above-average sub-surface temperatures in most of the eastern half of the Pacific. The low-level winds remained near average across the equatorial Pacific, while weak upper-level westerly anomalies persisted in the western Pacific. Convection continued to be enhanced over Indonesia and suppressed in the central part of the basin. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral.

Most model forecasts continue to predict ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014. The statistical model forecasts remain cooler in the Niño-3.4 region relative to the dynamical model forecasts. Similar to last month, the forecast consensus favors ENSO-neutral (60% chance or greater) through October – December 2013 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

Restoration: The Willow Creek Project is a testimony to the grit and determination of a group of citizens

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Here’s an in-depth look at the Willow Creek Project from Gwen Nelson writing for the Valley Courier. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The Willow Creek Reclamation Committee’s mission is to improve water quality and habitat, reduce flood risks, reclaim areas impacted by mining, and preserve historic structures in the Willow Creek watershed in ways that are practical, cost effective, and beneficial to the economic sustainability of the Creede community.

The group follows the set of core goals developed by the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee. These goals are:

* Protect the Rio Grande from future fish kills associated with nonpoint source releases during unusual hydrologic events

* Improve the visual and aesthetic aspects of the Willow Creek watershed and its historical mining district

* Implement appropriate and cost-effective flood control and stabilization measures for nonpoint sources

* Protect and preserve historic structures

* Reclaim the Willow Creek floodplain below Creede to improve the physical, chemical, biological, and aesthetic qualities of the creek as an integral part of the local community

* Continue to improve water quality and physical habitat quality in the Willow Creek watershed, as part of a long-term watershed management program.

One way that these goals get accomplished is through five gallon buckets and a few hardy volunteers. That is what has worked for the Willow Creek Reclamation Committee to improve water quality in Willow Creek for the last 15 years. The large buckets that are controlled by excavators or carried by dump trucks are effective in completing large projects. But the continuous and sometimes tedious tasks carried out by this watershed group require small buckets and volunteers.

The Willow Creek Project is a testimony to the grit and determination of a group of citizens who wanted to retain the independence and self-determination to decide how to clean up a small mountain stream that flows through their town. Their spirit and resolve have drawn a wealth of outside resources to their cause, and have allowed them to succeed beyond their wildest imagination.

More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

State Sen. Gail Schwartz hopes to build support for an agricultural efficiency bill #COleg

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From the Aspen Daily News (Nelson Harvey):

At the center of the discussion, held by a group called the Roaring Fork Watershed Collaborative, was an agricultural efficiency measure proposed by State Sen. Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village. Schwartz has been criss-crossing Colorado this summer building support for the legislative bill, which would allow irrigators who adopt more efficient irrigation practices to leave unused water in the stream for environmental purposes. Critically, the bill would give those who conserve the legal authority to protect their saved water from other users to the edge of their property line. That would skirt Colorado’s “use it or lose it” water doctrine, which makes unused water immediately available to the holders of more junior water rights.

The lower Crystal is one of several “pinch points” in the Roaring Fork watershed where late-season flows have dropped low enough in recent years to threaten the health of fish and other species. In 2012, flows near the Crystal River fish hatchery south of Carbondale bottomed out at a trickling 1 cfs. Those low flows are largely the result of agricultural diversions in the Crystal River Valley. Despite the fact that the Colorado River Conservation Board, a state agency, holds a “minimum streamflow” right of 100 cfs on the lower Crystal River to help preserve stream health, the river seldom flows that high in the late summer and fall…

The irrigation measure that Schwartz is pushing is not new — it was dropped from a piece of water conservation legislation that she passed in 2012, due to strong opposition from cities and farmers on the Front Range. Those interests, represented by a group called the Colorado Water Congress, worried that Schwartz’s bill could be used to lock up water that would otherwise be available for diversion from the Western Slope to the eastern part of the state. They also showed a general resistance to any change in Colorado water management, according to Roger Wilson, a former Colorado representative from House District 61 who chaired Thursday’s water meeting…

The average water in Colorado is used five or six times on its way to the state line, according to Nichols, so any change to state water law is bound to be contentious. Still, Schwartz is hoping that the atmosphere during this year’s legislative session will be different. “I think we’ve changed the tone of the conversation [since last year],” she said. “The ag community is more engaged now than they were … we all know our economies rely on the flows in our rivers…

Schwartz is meeting with Front Range agricultural and municipal interests in Denver on Sept. 26-27, in an attempt to win their support for her irrigation efficiency bill.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Public comments sought on proposal to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being sought on a Cotter Corp. uranium mill proposal seeking to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring on 11 new wells. The state health department has preliminarily approved the request and will take public input before making a final decision. Cotter Corp. Mill Manager John Hamrick indicated more than a year’s worth of sampling has been amassed on 11 new wells, which were dug in late 2011 to help establish the extent of groundwater contamination.

“Once we’ve established 12 months of measurements, we generally move to quarterly sampling as we do with all the other wells,” Hamrick explained.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been an EPA Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils. Groundwater is not used by residents in the contaminated area of Lincoln Park as they all have been connected to the city water supply.

Hamrick said the average uranium value for each of the new monitoring wells is below the Colorado Groundwater Quality Standard. Only three wells have exceeded the standard for uranium — one six times, another twice and the third just once. The average molybdenum concentration for most of the new wells also was below the state standard and only three wells have exceeded that standard out of 115 samples.

The state health department reviewed the request as did the Cotter Community Advisory Group. Regulators feel, “Significant baseline data” has been collected to allow for quarterly monitoring instead of monthly, said Jennifer Opila, unit leader for the state heath department’s radioactive materials division.

Public comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 13. Comments can be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager, via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or by calling 303-692-3373.

More nuclear coverage here and here.