Tour de Drought in the Arkansas River Basin

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Your Water Colorado Blog

lamar droughtWide open spaces, dust blowing against a dark gray soon-to-rain backdrop, a few cattle in the distance, some puddles from recent rains, green weeds or sparse grass in certain fields and the sweet smell of cantaloupe– then the taste. That was last night’s scene driving down Highway 50 from Pueblo to Lamar and back again through Colorado’s Arkansas River Basin, currently one of the driest parts of the state.

As of Monday, August 12, 2013 the Otero and Crowley County region has been designated as a drought area for 1,014 continuous days. Southeastern Colorado has faced three seasons of drought that’s been progressively worsening and people in the area have seen months of blowing dust, crop and rangeland loss and have been forced to liquidate cattle herds– they’re worried and upset. Yesterday, a bus loaded with nearly 50 state and federal employees, representatives and senators, other local and regional…

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Fort Collins: Open house for proposed Poudre River project, September 5

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The city of Fort Collins will hold a public open house to discuss planned improvements along the Poudre River from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 5.

The drop-in open house will be held at the Lincoln Center Columbine Room, 417 W. Magnolia St. A variety of projects are planned along the Poudre River between where it crosses Shields and Mulberry streets, addressing issues of flood protection, recreation and habitat.

A presentation regarding kayaking opportunities will precede the meeting, at 5-6 p.m. in the Lincoln Center Founders Room, a release states.

Information: http://www.fcgov.com/riverprojects.

More Cache la Poudre River watershed coverage here and here.

The High Country News profiles The Pueblo Chieftain owner Bob Rawlins (and Chris Woodka)

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Matt Jenkins is a terrific writer who understands water issues in the West very well. Here’s his profile of Bob Rawlins the owner of The Pueblo Chieftain: Here’s an excerpt:

The Chieftain is printed out of a squat building on western 6th Street in Pueblo near the railyard, where downtown’s brick buildings give way to the lazy meander of the Arkansas River. Rawlings runs the newspaper from a suite with several well-stuffed chairs and a lighted globe. The most high-tech thing inside is an IBM Selectric II typewriter.

For a man with such a fierce print voice, Rawlings is surprisingly amiable. He is nearly deaf — a result of his time aboard a submarine chaser during World War II — so he follows conversations with unusual attentiveness. In person, he rarely utters phrases more blasphemous than “I’ll be doggone.”

One wall of his office is home to what he calls “the Rogues Gallery”: a collection of photographs of himself glad-handing practically every politician who’s passed through Pueblo. But a far less ostentatious memento hints at Rawlings’ true passion. On the coffee table lies a small, gold-painted skillet engraved with the words:

GOLDEN FUTURE
FRYING PAN
MORE WATER FOR
THE ARKANSAS VALLEY

It’s an emblem of the role that the newspaper and its publisher’s family have played in securing and defending water for the valley, an enterprise that stretches almost as far back as Rawlings’ own life.

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HCN and Mr. Jenkins are also runnign a short article about my friend and mentor, Chris Woodka. Here’s an excerpt:

…Woodka, 57, is Colorado’s sole remaining full-time water reporter. He has worked hard to separate himself from the Chieftain’s editorial slant, and has built a reputation for his fair coverage of an extremely complicated and contentious subject. “You kind of make your own luck,” Woodka says. “Your sources have to be good, and you don’t burn them.”

Steve Henson, the Chieftain’s current managing editor, serves as a deliberate editorial firewall between Woodka and the publisher’s suite. “I kind of make my own assignments,” Woodka says. “Steve will let me know the publisher’s concern, and what the publisher would like to see in the story.”

“But,” he adds, “that’s not always the story that he gets.”

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here and here.

Drought news: Monsoon moisture helps but southeastern Colorado is still behind for the water year #COdrought

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the water year precipitation map for the Upper Colorado River region from the Colorado Climate Center.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Rainfall in the past week has doubled the year’s precipitation total for Pueblo, but even with all that moisture, the official count is just 78 percent of average. That has the potential to change again, as storms are expected to move through the area today and Wednesday, with lingering showers the rest of the week. “I think we’re making a dent in the short-term precipitation deficit, but it’s going to take several months of above-average rain to get out of the drought,” said Eric Petersen, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pueblo.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows Southeastern Colorado is moving out of the most extreme stage of drought, although the corridor along the Arkansas River remains exceptionally dry.

The rains, 3 inches since Aug. 1, have been coming right on schedule, because the first two weeks of August are historically the wettest in summer. They also are coming later in the day, since the storms usually lose their punch by sundown. Much of the recent rainfall in Pueblo has developed at dusk and hung around until midnight, Petersen said. The rains continue to be local, with some areas getting pounded and others just receiving a mist. Maps for the last week from the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, a group of volunteer weather spotters, show that storms have been far from uniform.

That explains why heavy rains in Manitou Springs west of Colorado Springs aren’t making much of an impact on Fountain Creek by the time it gets to Pueblo. The greatest surge came early Saturday, causing a 1-foot increase at the confluence of Fountain Creek with the Arkansas River. The flow of water briefly hit 1,000 cubic feet per second and then quickly dropped as the wave passed through.

During the rains, many Puebloans have turned off their sprinkler systems and left watering the lawn to Mother Nature.

From email from Governor Hickenlooper’s office (Eric Brown):

Gov. John Hickenlooper declared a disaster emergency related to flooding in recent days in El Paso County. The declaration will make resources available to remove flooding debris and provide flood emergency protective measures.

El Paso County and the City of Manitou Springs on Aug. 10 requested the state assistance. The governor gave verbal approval on the same day.

The governor authorized $400,000 be transferred into the Disaster Emergency Fund from the General Fund appropriation in Fiscal Year 2013-14 to the Controlled Maintenance Trust Fund. The director of the Colorado Office of Emergency Management will direct and allocate the funding to the appropriate government agencies to address the disaster.

The governor also activated the State Emergency Operations Plan to address the flooding. The activation requires all state departments and agencies to take whatever actions may be required and requested by the director of the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, including provision of appropriate staff and equipment as necessary.

The governor further authorized the Colorado National Guard to assist with search and rescue missions in the area, if necessary, as more rain continues to fall.