Drought news: The lower Yampa River Basin needs more rain #COdrought


Click on the thumbnail graphic for the latest drought map from the US Drought Monitor. Here’s an excerpt from their discussion:

Past Week: Several cold fronts stalled across the Southeast during the past week, bringing slightly cooler temperatures and occasional precipitation to parts of the area. Moisture from what was briefly Tropical Storm Ivo off the coast of Baja California surged into the Southwest, resulting in moderate rains (0.5 – 1.5 inches, locally heavier) over a significant portion of the region. In the central part of the Nation, above-normal temperatures combined with rapidly worsening drought, resulting in widespread deterioration of conditions especially across the Midwest…

Northern and Central Great Plains: As with the Midwest, the central and eastern portions of both the Dakotas and Nebraska are also experiencing problems with both excessive heat and drought. Temperatures have reached well into the 90s for many areas. Bismarck, ND, for example, topped out at 102 degrees F on August 20th. This breaks the old record of 100 degrees F set in 1976. PNP values for the past 60-days fell between the 10th and 25th percentiles across parts of eastern North Dakota and adjacent parts of Minnesota. PNP values between the 25th and 50th percentiles were common over much of the eastern Dakotas and portions of southeastern Nebraska (between Omaha and Lincoln). Based on factors such as these, widespread one-category downgrades were deemed necessary in this region.

Conversely, good rains in August and decent stream flows in extreme southeastern South Dakota have resulted in much better crop conditions than the rest of the region in general. Moderate drought (D1) was improved to abnormal dryness (D0) in southern Clay and southern Union counties. Elsewhere in eastern South Dakota, Aberdeen may end up having its second driest August on record. So far this month, only 0.15-inch has fallen. The record of 0.06-inch was set back in 1947. Normal rainfall for August in Aberdeen is 2.43 inches.

Southern Great Plains: Slightly above-normal temperatures, near to below-normal stream flows, and PNPs between the 25th and 75th percentiles warranted an expansion of abnormal dryness (D0) in southern Oklahoma. In Texas, lots of minor alterations were made to the drought depiction, both improvements and degradations.

The West: Several relatively small changes (improvements) were made to the drought depiction across southern Wyoming, and both north-central and eastern Colorado. In northwestern Arizona, the area of extreme drought (D3) in Coconino county was reduced in size, while severe drought (D2) improved to moderate drought (D1) over much of north-central Arizona. These improvements were primarily based on several flood reports, given that rainfall data is sparse throughout this region.

From the The Craig Daily Press (Bear Steadman):

Still below the normal trend of 1.1 inches of precipitation, Northwest Colorado received .39 inches of rain so far in August, yet that is expected to increase during the weekend, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) in Grand Junction…

NWS Meteorologist Travis Booth said that Northwest Colorado can also expect a return in monsoon activity Labor Day weekend. This should provide widespread rain showers that will lead into early next week. Although the rain will be beneficial, there is a concern that lightning strikes may spark fires in the area.

This September, there is an increased probability of high temperatures rather than the normal trend of lower temperatures. The NWS said that there are “equal chances” for either above or lower precipitation levels in September but there are no clear signs to determine how much precipitation to expect. Furthermore, New Mexico and Arizona have a predicted above normal precipitation level next month; therefore there is a chance the weather will drift into Northwest Colorado.

From the Cortez Journal (Tobie Baker):

Tropical Storm Ivo stalled off the coast of the Baja Peninsula over the weekend, bringing some “nice local relief” in the form of rain to Cortez.

“The storm brought a bunch of needed rain across the Southwest, and it did us a lot of good,” said cooperative weather observer Jim Andrus. According to Andrus, Ivo dumped nearly two inches of rain in Cortez from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday. He recorded a total of 1.95 inches over the two-day period, including 1.76 inches of rainfall on Sunday…

“The weekend’s storm was just a single event,” Andrus said. “The drought is still here.”

Andrus said drought conditions would persist until water levels at Lake Mead and Lake Powell return to normal. Both reservoirs remain well below normal levels. A National Weather Service cooperative weather observer for Cortez for the past 16 years, Andrus said Montezuma County has been experiencing a drought since 1997. While the drought has not been consistent, including three years of above-normal precipitation and two years of near-normal precipitation, Andrus said two-thirds of the past 15 years have experienced below normal levels of precipitation.

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

The .13 inches of rain that fell on Steamboat Springs from Aug. 23 to 25 broke a nine-day run without precipitation, but it wasn’t enough to put the city and the surrounding mountains back on track for average August precipitation. With Sept. 1 just a week away, Steamboat has totaled .52 inches of moisture thus far this month, well short of the August average of 1.71 inches, according to the National Weather Service’s regional climate center.

The Summer 2013 issue of ‘Ripple Effects’ from the Colorado Foundation for Water Education is hot off the presses


Click here to read the newsletter.

More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

51st State Initiative (secession): Grand County commissioners find no groundswell of support in county


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

The commissioners took public comment on the secession issue the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 27…

Commissioners stressed the point of the meeting was to initiate discussion. Each commissioner said they would like to hear more public comment before voting on adding a secession measure to the ballot. “I’m sure every politician in history has promised their constituents they will listen,” said Commissioner Merrit Linke. “This is what listening looks like, that’s what we’re doing today.”[…]

Several citizens expressed bitterness at being part of a voting district that includes Boulder, saying that the city’s liberal interests take precedence over the interests of rural Grand County. Other citizens said they felt a secession measure wasn’t the best solution to getting rural voices heard, and that even a symbolic measure was a waste of time and resources.

Commissioners will vote on a ballot measure at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3, during their regular meeting open to the public. Commissioners said they’d need to see “groundswelling” support from county citizens to add it to the ballot. “What I’m hearing is about 50-50 from people in this room. What I need to see is an overwhelming flood of support to put this initiative on the ballot, and I’m not seeing that,” Linke said.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Patrick Malone):

Organizers of the secession push met with commissioners in the rural southern Colorado counties of Las Animas and Huerfano on Tuesday. “I came away from that with the feeling that they were very interested in being part of the discussion about the movement and possibly at some point bringing it to voters,” said Tom Gilley, a resident of Weld County and president of the 51st State Initiative organization.

He said it’s too late to get the question on Nov. 5 ballots in southern counties, but his organization is spreading the word among rural government leaders who share the frustration that their concerns and way of life have taken a backseat to the policy priorities of the state’s more populous Front Range…

Las Animas County Commissioner Mack Louden characterized Tuesday’s meeting as informational and said it could spawn future meetings with citizens to gauge their sentiment about a possible split from Colorado.

Louden said severance tax to communities impacted by oil and gas development has not been awarded to rural areas such as Las Animas County at a rate that can mitigate the industry’s impact on roads, and he said in general, the state Legislature has been tone deaf to the priorities of rural portions of the state.

“We want to take a look at it and think about it. You hate to do anything in haste,” Louden said. “There’s a lot of frustration in rural Colorado — east to west, north to south — about how we’re being treated. We own 90 percent of the land mass, but we represent a very small part of the population. All the votes are in Denver. They’ve figured that out and don’t worry too much about rural Colorado.

“Right now (secession) looks very appealing on the surface. But once you start picking that scab down, you can get into some flesh that you don’t want to see.”

Gilley said organizers of the secession movement are trying to schedule a meeting later this week with commissioners who represent counties in the southeast flank of the state. He said commissioners in Pueblo County — all of whom are Democrats, and two of whom are former state lawmakers — rejected an invitation to meet with organizers of the 51st state movement and vowed to actively campaign against secession.

From The Denver Post (Carlos Illescas):

Elbert County on Wednesday joined the growing list of counties that will have a “51st state” measure on the ballot in November. By a 3-0 vote, county commissioners approved asking voters whether they want Elbert County to pursue the movement.

Elbert County Commissioner Robert Rowland said he has received more e-mails and calls on this issue than any other issue since he took office. “I think it reflects the frustrations of rural Colorado,” Rowland said. “They’re feeling helpless right now. Our people have a right to vote on this issue.”

The ballot question echoes that of Weld County, which started the discussion on seceding from Colorado and forming a new state over concerns it had regarding inadequate representation it was getting from the state legislature.

So far, voters in Weld, Cheyenne, Kit Carson, Logan, Washington, Yuma and Moffatt counties will have measures to break away from Colorado on the ballot in November.

“It gives people the ability to send a message to our legislature,” Elbert County Commissioner Kurt Schlegel said. “One thing it has done is started a discussion on how we can better represent people of rural Colorado.”

From The Fort Morgan Times (Dan Barker):

With about 900 signatures, petitions collected by individuals to put a question on the ballot on whether or not Morgan County supported creating North Colorado fell short of the 2,300 signatures required to put the issue on the ballot in November. That figure would make up about 15 percent of the registered voters in Morgan County, which is what the Board of Morgan County Commissioners had set as the number necessary to put the question on the ballot. The petitions only collected signatures from about 6 percent of the county voters by the deadline on Monday, and those must still be checked for authenticity. The board recently said that county officials would look through the signatures to make sure they were valid The commissioners had saved a place on the November ballot in case enough signatures were collected.

Board members had made it clear in July that they would not make the decision to put the question on the ballot — that such a move would need to come from county residents…

Not long after that, the Morgan County commissioners said they would not lead any secession movement within Morgan County. If a question was to be put on the ballot, it needed to be put there by county residents. They did attend a meeting on the idea in Akron in early July, but only to collect information, they said. About two weeks ago, the commissioners said that petitions with 2,300 valid signatures from registered voters would be required to put the question on the ballot and those signatures needed to be turned in by Aug. 26. That deadline was needed in order to validate the signatures in time to actually put a question on the ballot…

However, the Morgan County commissioners are also cognizant of the cost to area residents if such a course is taken, she said. For example, there would be immediate challenges to water rights [ed. emphasis mine] if the region separated from the rest of Colorado, Teague noted. Local agricultural producers depend on those water rights to grow cattle and crops. Morgan County’s economy relies on that agricultural production.

More 51st State Initiative coverage here.

Fountain Creek: Pueblo County DA asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the July appeals court decision


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A dispute over water quality is heading to the state Supreme Court. District Attorney Jeff Chostner today is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a July 18 appeals court decision that Pueblo District Judge Victor Reyes erred in ordering the state to redo its assessment of impacts of the Southern Delivery System on Fountain Creek and the Arkansas River.

Reyes issued his decision last year, siding with former District Attorney Bill Thiebaut in finding that the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission ignored its own standards and accepted a “gut feeling” methodology in issuing a federal permit required for SDS.

Attorney John Barth of Hygiene, who has represented both Chostner and Thiebaut in the case, argued that a scientific methodology, including a numeric standard is needed. He argued increased flows on Fountain Creek and changes in the flows of the Arkansas River through Pueblo could increase pollutants like selenium and sediment.

Colorado Springs attorney David Robbins presented counterarguments that water quality issues would be addressed as they arose through an adaptive management plan outlined in the Bureau of Reclamation’s environmental impact statement for the project.

During a deposition for a December 2010 hearing, the state employee who performed the analysis for the SDS impacts said he relied on a “gut feeling” in his assessment of impacts.

In the brief that is being filed today, Barth argues that selenium levels through Pueblo will double or triple under SDS changes, yet the state determined there would be “no degradation.”

At the December 2010 hearing, Robbins and Colorado Springs Utilities officials made the case that impacts from SDS won’t show up for years, so numeric standards now would not be applicable.

Reyes ordered the commission to hold new hearings and develop a permit based on scientific standards. A panel of three appeals court judges rejected the Reyes decision, largely on procedural grounds because he did not do a “rigorous investigation” of claims.

Meanwhile, monsoon rains have caused a good deal of damage to Colorado Springs’ stormwater facilities. Here’s a report from Bill Folsom writing for KOAA.com:

Emergency repairs are necessary to the Colorado Springs storm water system following last weeks unusually heavy rain storm. Storm drains have been exposed, there is damage to detention ponds, and erosion has compromised infrastructure.

Storm water mangers have been running the numbers and calculate nearly four inches of rain fell in just hours on the far north side of the city. The amount equals what they call a 200 year storm. “We do not design for a 200 year storm. We’re up to 100 years,” said Colorado Springs Storm Water Manger, Tim Mitros, “So this was a rarity and our storm sewer system was just totally overwhelmed.” The price tag for the damage to the storm water system is approaching one million dollars.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.