Drought news: ‘With prices going up, I see people getting out of having horses’ — Kent Whitmer #COdrought

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From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

Prolonged drought conditions have caused hay prices to soar statewide, putting a pinch on ranchers and livestock owners. In the Mountains and Northwest Colorado region, U.S. Department of Agriculture hay reports show current prices have leapt by about 54 percent since five years ago, from $6.50 a bale to $10 a bale. But Colorado’s most recent hay report, released on Aug. 15, may signal modest improvement.

“We’re seeing a weaker undertone to this market with monsoonal moisture coming in, and pasture conditions are improving,” said Randy Hammerstrom with the USDA-Colorado Agricultural Marketing Service.

A weaker market undertone means hay prices could start trending downward, but Hammerstrom cautions prices changes won’t be dramatic. He also said variables make market forecasting difficult if not impossible.

“I wouldn’t call it sharply lower,” he said. “There is still concern over inventory and lack of inventory, supplies are on the tight side.”

Inventories remain tight after drought conditions from the last two years. Kent Whitmer, of Lazy T Rocking K Ranch in Kremmling, sells hay to livestock owners throughout Colorado and in nearby states. Before the drought struck, he sold his hay for around $5.50 a bale. He’s now up to $9 a bale, and said his same weed-free certified hay goes for as much as $15 a bale at feed stores. With a particularly heavy drought hitting the southwest region of the U.S., demand from states like Texas and Oklahoma has pushed hay prices even further as they gobble up Colorado supplies at a premium…

“With prices going up, I see people getting out of having horses,” Whitmer said. “It’s a luxury — that’s the first thing to go before a car payment or mortgage for most people.”

The Fountain Creek district approved a Colorado Springs Utilities’ SDS mitigation wetlands project on Friday

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado Springs Utilities’ plan to improve a portion of Fountain Creek as part of mitigation for the Southern Delivery System got unanimous approval Friday from a board formed to improve Fountain Creek. Meeting in Pueblo, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District approved a new alignment for the creek and wetlands creation about 25 miles north of Pueblo near Pikes Peak International Raceway.

Allison Mosser, a Utilities engineer, explained the project, which was listed as the No. 5 priority in a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of projects that could improve Fountain Creek. The project also is among those listed in the district’s corridor master plan. The area is one of the worst on the creek in terms of erosion and sedimentation, she said.

The alignment would mean moving some structures and reinforcing other parts of the bank on the property, which is owned by Utilities. A small part of the creek on the Hanna Ranch also is included, but all costs would be paid by Colorado Springs. Some native willows would be planted for bank stabilization and wetlands would be created or improved. Water for initial seeding of the wetlands would use water from rights owned by Colorado Springs at Clear Springs Ranch, Mosser said.

The Bureau of Reclamation would have final authority over approval of the wetlands, because it holds the SDS permit.

Construction would begin in November and take three months, while planting the wetlands would be completed later in the year.

Monitoring the wetlands would continue for three to five years.

More coverage of the Fountain Creek district meeting from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will team with the U.S. Geological Survey to measure water quality changes caused by runoff from recent fires. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board Friday approved a contract that will measure the impacts of the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and this year’s Black Forest Fire.

The Black Forest Fire was the most destructive in Colorado history in terms of homes and vehicles destroyed, and could increase the concentration of certain elements.

The total contract will be $18,000, with $6,000 in federal funds, and the other $12,000 contributed by the district and several El Paso County sources.

Samples will be taken as storms occur. “We’ve already missed three or four opportunities,” said Larry Small, executive director of the district. Two sites on Monument Creek and four on Fountain Creek would be sampled. More than 100 constituents will be tested for contaminants like lead and E. coli.

The USGS indicated last month that it has baseline data. “I think this is an important first step. We’ve been talking about impacts since the Waldo Canyon Fire last year,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

Melissa Esquibel, a board member from the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, questioned the value of the study, since it would not thoroughly identify sources and problems caused by subsequent storms.

Hart said this study would provide evidence for more detailed studies later.

Jane Rhodes said more studies are needed downstream to see if fires are impacting Pueblo County, because the study sites are in El Paso County.

“We need to find out what’s in the water to protect our population,” added Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

September 10 is ‘Protect your groundwater day’

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Update: Coyote Gulch reader, Theresa C, let me know that I fat-fingered the date. The date is September 10. Sorry about that.

Click here to go to the National Groundwater Association Website. Here’s the pitch:

Simple ways everyone can act to protect groundwater

Everyone can and should do something to protect groundwater. Why? We all have a stake in maintaining its quality and quantity:

  • For starters, 99 percent of all available freshwater comes from aquifers underground. Being a good steward of groundwater just makes sense.
  • Not only that, most surface water bodies are connected to groundwater so how you impact groundwater matters.
  • Furthermore, many public water systems draw all or part of their supply from groundwater, so protecting the resource protects the public water supply and impacts treatment costs.
  • If you own a well to provide water for your family, farm, or business, groundwater protection is doubly important. As a well owner, you are the manager of your own water system. Protecting groundwater will help reduce risks to your water supply.
  • Groundwater protection

    There are two fundamental categories of groundwater protection:

  • Keeping it safe from contamination
  • Using it wisely by not wasting it.
  • More groundwater coverage here.

    CWC summer meeting recap: Developing a Colorado state water plan

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    The summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress last week had a holiday feel. It wasn’t an elegant table setting, but more like dumping a 5,000-piece puzzle on the floor and telling the kids to have at it. From the first day, development of a state water plan was at the top of everyone’s to-do list.

    Gov. John Hickenlooper, who ordered the plan in May, stopped by to give a pep talk on Wednesday evening. Hickenlooper acknowledged that he has put the plan on a fast track — he wants a plan in place by 2015 — but said it’s not an impossible task and encouraged water users to broaden their perspective of self-interest.

    There were presentations from other Western states that have developed water plans, and most have similarities to Colorado in the need for those plans: growth, drought, climate change and conflicts over competing uses within the states. Like Colorado, they are moving away from centralized planning and seeking regional input.

    WESTERN WATER PLANS

    IDAHO Year: 1976, revised 2012 Why: Protection against California plans to export Snake River water in 1963. It asserts sovereignty of water over federal actions or actions by other states.

    How it works: General guidance from the state that ultimately affects funding. There is a water bank that serves agriculture.

    MONTANA Year: 2013 (in process) Why: Coordination of regional water development.

    How it works: Basin advisory councils are attempting to sort out water needs for the next 20 years. Water rights through court adjudication are still the driver for water use within the state.

    NEW MEXICO Year: 1987, revised 2003 Why: Protection against Texas water claims.

    How it works: Voluntary steering committees by region, not tied to funding.

    No top-down dictates from state.

    OKLAHOMA Year: 1980, revised 2012 Why: Drought, in-state competition for water resources.

    How it works: Emphasis is on long-term funding for infrastructure, data collection, water management and regional (by river basin) planning efforts. One big issue is groundwater depletion.

    OREGON Year: 2009, completed 2012 Why: Growth, land use, climate change.

    How it works: The plan seeks to balance environmental needs with human uses. It includes 13 strategy areas, including funding of projects. It relies on monitoring conditions and actions with five-year updates.

    TEXAS Year: 1961, updated 2012 Why: Droughts and floods.

    How it works: State planning has shifted from a topdown process to regional input from water districts, counties and any city or town with at least 500 people. A ballot issue this year, Proposition 6, would inject $2 billion into state water funding.

    UTAH Year: 2001 Why: Planning for future growth.

    How it works: It seeks to integrate local, regional, state and federal decisions on developing projects.

    It also lists strategies for sharing water, conservation, reuse and storage.

    WYOMING Year: 2007 Why: To describe competing uses, future needs.

    How it works: It is a framework plan that describes how water is used in the state, based on numerous sources, including basin advisory groups. It identifies possible projects.

    More Statewide Water Plan coverage here.

    Parachute Creek spill: Benzene undetectable in the most recent samples #ColoradoRiver

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    From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):

    Test results show there’s no benzene contamination in Parachute Creek in western Colorado, near where an estimated 241 barrels of natural gas liquids spilled earlier this year, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. That includes one test site, known as CS-6, which repeatedly tested positive for low levels of the carcinogen throughout the summer, the department said Friday. The Department oversees the cleanup activities. Test results for other sites along the creek have remained at “non-detect” levels for benzene, the department said.

    Cleanup efforts will wind down in the next few months, and the health department will do more monitoring, said Kate Lemon, a spokeswoman for the health department’s hazardous materials and waste management division. “We’re going to continue to monitor to ensure that there’s nothing that’s been overlooked, and that monitoring ultimately could take a couple of years,” Lemon said.

    “Everything has been very successful and the company has been compliant with our orders.”

    Benzene levels at the CS-6 site were at 9.2 parts per billion in mid-July, but dropped as cleanup equipment was installed and turned on. The three most recent test samples, on Aug. 8, 12, and 15, detected no traces of benzene, the department said, although it cautioned that levels may fluctuate with additional cleanup activities.

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.