Reclamation Selects Five Entities to Receive $485,423 to Establish or Expand Existing Watershed Groups

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Click here to read the release from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Michael L. Connor announced today that five entities in Colorado, Idaho and Oregon will receive a total of $485,423 to establish or expand watershed groups. The selected entities will use the funding to address water quality, ecosystem and endangered species issues.
“Collaboration is the key if we are going to meet the many water challenges we face across West,” said Commissioner Connor. “Reclamation’s Cooperative Watershed Management Program focuses on bringing diverse groups together within basins. These strong partnerships will ultimately help reduce and resolve future conflict.”

The funding is made available through the Cooperative Watershed Management Program, part of the U.S. Department of Interior’s WaterSMART Initiative. This grant program supports the formation and development of locally led watershed groups and facilitates the development of multi-stakeholder watershed projects. The five entities selected for funding are:

  • Land Trust of the Treasure Valley in Idaho ($100,000) – The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley will establish the Boise River Enhancement Network in collaboration with Trout Unlimited, Ecosystem Sciences Foundation, Idaho Rivers United and the South Boise Water Company. The Network will address water quality issues, endangered species and loss of natural habitats in the lower Boise River watershed and will work with stakeholders to increase opportunities for public and private enhancement project collaboration.
  • Western Slope Conservation Center in Colorado ($100,000) – The Western Slope Conservation Center in Paonia is an established watershed group that will use funding to address issues in two adjacent drainages above and below the North Fork of the Gunnison River to improve stream stability, riparian habitat and ecosystem function in the watershed. The watershed has been experiencing water quality issues with E.coli exceeding state water standards, selenium in the North Fork of the Gunnison River and excessive amounts of salt flowing from the river into the Colorado River.
  • Friends of the Teton River, Inc. in Idaho ($89,379) – Friends of the Teton River located in Teton County will expand a current watershed group to form the Teton Advisory Council to develop a restoration plan that identifies, prioritizes and endorses a specific series of watershed restoration and water conservation activities to improve water quality and ecological resiliency of the Teton River watershed.
  • San Juan Resource Conservation and Development in Colorado ($96,415) – The San Juan Resource Conservation and Development in Durango will expand the membership of the Animas Watershed Partnership. The partners will address concerns with the temperature, sedimentation and E. coli levels in the Animas River as well as issues related to the endangered Southwest Willow Flycatcher.
  • Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District in Oregon ($99,629) – The Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District will use the funding to expand the Hood River Watershed group. The watershed group will address water supply and instream flows for threatened native fish such as the winter steelhead, Chinook salmon and coho salmon and other concerns in the watershed. The watershed group will address these issues by conducting analyses to identify and prioritize actions that partners can undertake to develop long term solutions within the basin.
  • A complete description of all projects is available at: http://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART/cwmp/.

    Each entity will receive half of its funding this year and if sufficient progress is made as identified in its application, it will receive the remainder of its funding next year. No cost-share was required.

    Reclamation awarded $333,500 to eight entities in 2012 in the first year of grant funding for the Cooperative Management Program of the WaterSMART initiative. Since its establishment in 2010, WaterSMART has provided more than $161 million in competitively-awarded funding to non-federal partners, including tribes, water districts, municipalities, and universities through WaterSMART Grants and the Title XVI Program. Funding for WaterSMART is focused on improving water conservation and helping water and resource managers make wise decisions about water use.

    More Bureau of Reclamation coverage here.

    Drought news: NWS Pueblo — The Active Monsoon of 2013 #COdrought

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    Click here to read the whole report and check out their graphics. Here’s an excerpt:

    The southwest monsoon came alive across Colorado in the beginning of July and has remained very active across the state through middle of August, bringing beneficial rains to much of south central and southeast Colorado. The much needed rainfall has brought some relief to the drought which has had it grip on the area over the past two years.

    Peru Creek: EPA has been testing treatment and settlement of the acid mine drainage during August

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    From the Summit Daily News (Breeana Laughlin):

    Throughout August, [Martin McComb], the Environmental Protection Agency’s on-scene coordinator, and his team have been diverting the main flow of heavy-metal-laden water coming from the mine away from the poisonous tailings piles. Environmental protection workers also set up a treatment system that raises the PH of the water in an effort to force some of the metals to drop out of it into a settlement pond before heading downstream. “It’s all about reducing the amount of pollution that flows into the creek,” McComb said. “We are dealing comprehensively with what’s on top of the ground as well as what’s below the ground.”[…]

    McComb’s EPA team is embarking on phase one of a six-phase cleanup project at the site. In addition to water treatment efforts, the group has spent the past month improving road conditions to allow dump trucks and other heavy machinery access to the site. The cleanup is expected to take three years and will involve numerous agencies, including the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service, the Blue River and Snake River watershed groups and Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. “It’s nice to see there are so many people involved in this project and in this watershed. I think it’s because it’s such a beautiful area, and near where so many people are living,” McComb said. “I hope we can make an impact — and think we already have.”

    Cleanup efforts taken under the project plan will be phased over the next several years and will address threats from acidic discharge that is draining from the mine and tailings along with other mine waste found on the surface.

    The bulk of the underground mine work will be conducted under the supervision of the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining & Safety. This summer, contractors under the supervision of senior project manager Jeff Graves are digging out a collapsed portion of earth that flooded the culvert in the mine’s portal F, and are working to gain easier access into the underground portions of the mine. “They are really knowledgeable about underground work and have a lot of experience,” McComb said. “For us, it’s a good way to partner with people who are specialized and really know what they’re doing.”

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

    ‘Agriculture doesn’t deserve to be saved, but it does deserve the opportunity to survive’ — Terry Fankhauser

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Agriculture, lately treated like a damsel in distress by the state’s water community, became the belle of the ball at this week’s Colorado Water Congress summer convention.

    “I believe that agriculture is a cornerstone for the state’s economy, for the nation’s economy,” Colorado Agriculture Commissioner John Salazar said Thursday.

    “The state has always planned on developing water for growth. We have to start thinking about land use planning. When you put people in apartments you save water. Build up instead of out.” It was a strong statement in a dialog that has repeatedly referred to taking more water from agriculture as the default option to serve growth.

    But Salazar served up a plate of statistics too big to digest in a short time during a panel discussion on agriculture. Farming is a $40 billion industry in Colorado, providing 170,000 jobs. In 24 counties, one of every 10 workers is on a farm or ranch. About 47 percent of the state’s land is in agriculture. “When we lose ag land, it has consequences,” Salazar said.

    But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Others on the panel were passionate about keeping ground in farms. “It’s the heritage,” said Marsha Daughenbaugh, of the community Agricultural alliance that serves Northwest Colorado. She cited the 24 Centennial farms that will be honored at this year’s Colorado State Fair. “Think about everything they worked so damned hard to put together. We have a lot of young people who want to farm.”

    Terry Fankhauser, of the Colorado Cattleman’s Association, said fewer farmers with fewer resources are producing more food. “Agriculture doesn’t deserve to be saved, but it does deserve the opportunity to survive,” Fankhauser said.

    From Steamboat Today (Michael Schrantz):

    Dan Keppen, of the Family Farm Alliance, gave a presentation Wednesday about a white paper that seeks to calculate value of irrigated agriculture and show how siphoning off its water for industrial and municipal uses will have large consequences. “The Economic Importance of Western Irrigated Agriculture: Water Values, Analysis Methods, Resource Management Decisions” was prepared by resource economist Darryll Olsen for the Family Farm Alliance and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water.

    Olsen’s report states that the impact of irrigated agriculture in the West on personal income is $156 billion. The report also shows the gap between food production and projected demand increasing over time. The cost of food in the U.S. as a percent of disposable income has consistently dropped since 1945, the report states, and was only 6.7 percent in 2011. “If you start doing things that tweak with that curve … and all of a sudden that percentage starts to go up, it does huge things to our economy,” Keppen said. “It’s a security issue.”

    But while Olsen’s report shows the value of irrigated agriculture in the West, it’s not getting the same treatment as municipal and industrial uses of water, according to Keppen.

    A report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation about the Colorado River Basin shows a loss of irrigated agriculture land by 2060. Between 2015 and 2060, the report states, irrigated acreage will shrink by 300,000 to 900,000 acres.

    Models used by government agencies assume that when municipal demand grows, agriculture shrinks, Keppen said.

    Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Ark District are still scuffling over stormwater and Fountain Creek

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Colorado Springs Utilities disagrees with the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District’s interpretation of the city’s stormwater discharge data.

    Last month, Lower Ark attorney Peter Nichols said the data showed the volume of discharges had gone up and increased sedimentation and E. coli bacteria in Fountain Creek. Nichols said the data were taken from Colorado Springs state stormwater reports, and his comments were reported in a Chieftain story.

    In response to the story, Colorado Springs Utilities looked at the same data and believes there is no correlation of flows or increased contamination due to the dissolution of the stormwater enterprise. Mark Pifher, Southern Delivery System permitting manager for Utilities, made the comments in an Aug. 14 letter to the Lower Ark district. If anything, there is evidence that there is a downward trend of flow, sedimentation and contamination based on reports from a continuous gauge at Security. “Springs Utilities would like to reiterate that it takes stormwater control and water quality within the Fountain Creek basin very seriously,” Pifher wrote in the letter.

    He repeated the stance that Colorado Springs officials have taken that a stormwater enterprise or a certain level of funding for stormwater is not required by Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS.

    He added that a U.S. Geological Survey study shows there is more benefit to Pueblo from building stormwater retention ponds downstream from Colorado Springs than by building retention ponds within or upstream from Colorado Springs. Pifher said he wants to talk to the district about its conclusions.

    More stormwater coverage here and here.