From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
It was billed as a drought tour, stretching from Sterling to Springfield with six stops along the way. But Gov. John Hickenlooper spent a portion of the time defending some of his fights this year that he conceded might be unpopular in rural areas: gun laws, temporary clemency for a death-row killer and support for a state law setting a renewable energy standard. He also listened to community concerns. “I want to get out to as many people as I can,” Hickenlooper said. “Each meeting there is some problem pointed out that we can do something about.”
In his opening remarks, Hickenlooper said the small fee for a background check for anyone purchasing a gun is worth it. He claimed more than 3,000 people who had been convicted of crimes, had outstanding warrants or restraining orders were identified in background checks in Colorado last year. “And we only checked half of them,” Hickenlooper said.
He fielded a series of questions quickly, promising to look into easing state regulations on farmers and ranchers who have been hit hard by drought. “There are ways to do what’s fair,” he said.
Hickenlooper also pledged to look into improving the climate for agri-tourism, particularly in the area of landowner liability issues.
The meeting wasn’t all about problems.
Otero County Commissioner Keith Goodwin thanked the governor for state support of cantaloupe growers after a scare hurt sales last year. Hickenlooper praised Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar for taking decisive action and growers for acting proactively.
Bent County Commissioner Bill Long thanked Hickenlooper for signing a bill that repurposed Fort Lyon as a center for helping the homeless after it was closed as a prison. Again, the governor deflected the praise: “Bill Long did more work on that issue than I’ve ever seen a citizen do.”
The tour continues today with stops in Trinidad, Alamosa, Salida, Del Norte and Pagosa Springs. It follows a look at drought areas in the Arkansas Valley Monday by a separate group of state officials.
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):
According to Western Water Assessment at CU-Boulder, the answer is that “short-term drought conditions have eased considerably over the region after a wet July, with lesser improvements in long-term drought conditions.”
Over the past month, it rained more than usual across most of Colorado, Utah and the rest of the Southwest. But it was so dry in June and over the winter that precipitation totals for the 2013 water year, which started in October of 2012, are still well below average for most of the same region. The Colorado River headwaters area is one of the few exceptions.
The longer-term picture is reflected in reservoir storage levels. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) reports that end-of-July reservoir levels in Colorado averaged 47% of capacity, which is 70% of average — down from 73% of average at the same time in 2012. Blue Mesa Reservoir, the largest in Colorado, was at 46% of capacity on Aug. 11.
Downstream, Lake Powell is under half full, and the Bureau of Reclamation reports that unregulated inflows to the lake are predicted to be just 41% of average for the 2013 water year. The bureau also reported a slightly more than 50% chance that Lake Powell will fall enough to trigger a reduction in releases to Lake Mead in 2014, under an agreement negotiated between the states that share the Colorado River.
So while this summer’s monsoon rains are bringing much-needed relief for thirsty plants, streams and people, they don’t spell an end to the long-term management challenges faced by our state and the Colorado River Basin as a whole, both of which are looking at a future where projected water demands exceed projected supplies.
From the Cañon City Daily Record (Brandon Hopper):
Fremont County is on pace for a good month of rain totals. So far this month, the area has received 1.47 inches of moisture according to National Weather Service meteorologist Randy Gray. That’s compared to the 2.23 inches of rain that the area averages in August, according to the Weather Channel. The storm that came through on Saturday evening produced enough quick rain to cause a mudslide on Parkdale Hill, which shut down U.S. 50. The Canon City area received between .05 and .15 inches of rain during the storm. Canon City has received just less than three-quarters of an inch of rain in a six-day span last week…
The latest measurement has the vast majority of Fremont County in a severe drought, listed as D2.