‘I do not expect entire populations of trout to be wiped clean in any of the flooded rivers’ — Ben Swigle

New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods -- photo via the Longmont Times-Call
New Saint Vrain River channel after the September 2013 floods — photo via the Longmont Times-Call

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Scott Rochat):

State wildlife biologist Ben Swigle said that most of the Longmont-area fish population rode out September’s floods just fine, according to a recent survey.

For that, he said, fisherman can thank the trees along the St. Vrain River and its nearby ponds.

“Areas (that) held their own in the midst of the rampage were densely vegetated with mature tree stands,” Swigle said. Trout and other fish found shelter in those areas while the flood raged through the main channel, he said.

“As a result,” Swigle said, “I do not expect entire populations of trout to be wiped clean in any of the flooded rivers, and the fall survey we’ve completed thus far has proven this assumption.”

The Fall 2013 newsletter from the Water Information Program is hot off the presses

La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain
La Plata Mountains from the Great Sage Plain

Click here to go to the website for the newsletter.

More education coverage here.

51st State Initiative: ‘Secession simply isn’t going to happen’ — Daniel Farber

51st State Initiative Map via The Burlington Record
51st State Initiative Map via The Burlington Record

Here’s a roundup of the issues around the 51st State Initiative (secession) from Alan Greenblatt writing for NPR.org. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

“We’re rarely listened to when it comes to legislation,” says Butch White, the mayor of Ault. “I’m sure the vote will pass in Weld County quite easily.”

The Colorado counties aren’t alone. There’s been occasional talk of secession at various times in recent decades, but now the idea is showing signs of taking root across the map.

There is talk about and sometimes movement toward secession in several states. These are locally motivated startups, but they share some themes in common.

People in mostly conservative areas feel isolated living in states controlled by Democrats. Rural residents, in particular, believe their values are given no respect in capitols now completely dominated by urban and suburban interests.

Secession may be part of the same impulse that leads states to sue or otherwise try to block or nullify federal laws they don’t like. People are losing respect for institutions that don’t reflect their preferences and would prefer, to the extent possible, to extricate themselves from them.

“What we would like to do is gain representation for the northern people of the state,” says Mark Baird, spokesman for a committee seeking to split off part of California. “The only way to do that is to have our own state.”[…]

“You have issues that go way beyond gun rights,” says Anthony Navarro, owner of Colorado Shooting Sports, a gun shop in Greeley. “You have people in Boulder and Denver who have mostly come in from California and are dictating to the rest of the state.”[…]

“Greater Los Angeles has something like 34 representatives” in the California Assembly, says Baird, the spokesman for the Jefferson Declaration Committee. “The northern third of California has three.”[…]

Secession simply isn’t going to happen, says Daniel Farber, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied the issue. Creation of a new state would require the blessing of the state being spurned, as well as congressional approval.

It’s a Catch-22: People who want to secede because they lost influence don’t have the influence to make it happen.

“You’d have to persuade the U.S. Senate to add two more senators, but why would they do that, since that would dilute their own state’s influence and might well add votes to the opposing party?” Farber says.

From Bloomberg (Michael Tackett):

The shifting U.S. populations that are changing political outcomes have converged in Colorado. Just as in Virginia, young professionals who support gay rights are flooding into the state; like Texas and Arizona, Colorado’s surge in Hispanic population gives Democrats a shot at reversing statewide election results. And suburban women who support abortion rights and gun restrictions are turning away from a party advancing legislation hostile to both views.

“Colorado is a perfect example of demographic change leading to political change,” said Seth Masket, a professor of political science at the University of Denver.

A wave of young professionals who now live in Denver and its suburbs, drawn by jobs in technology, health care and energy, coupled with a 40 percent increase in the Hispanic population since 2000, has brought almost 2 million new residents to the state since 1990, transforming alliances and reversing political course…

Republicans in Colorado and elsewhere are feeling the brunt of the change. President Barack Obama in his 2012 re-election won almost 60 percent of the vote among 18 to 39 year olds, exit polls showed, and 55 percent of women. Nationally, young voters, who by 7 in 10 support same-sex marriage, have caused politicians of both parties to reconsider their positions…

Nearby Jefferson County has gone from a place where Republicans racked up large margins to one that strategists in the White House now see as predictive in presidential elections because of its swing-vote character.

“We have different trends than other places,” said Governor John Hickenlooper. “There’s been a large influx of young, generally well-educated people that drives not just political change but also cultural change. Metropolitan Denver now has more live music venues than Nashville or Austin.

That’s the kind of thing that is changing the energy.”

The youth vanguard, Hickenlooper said, also makes the state a “great magnet to attract entrepreneurs and business headquarters.”[…]

Hickenlooper and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, also a Democrat, have won statewide office with centrist economic policies, while Republicans have a growing subset aligned with the limited-government Tea Party movement, Wadhams said. It isn’t a recipe for his party’s revival.

Wadhams, whose family arrived in the state in 1890, said Republicans are on the wrong side of the demographic divide, and its potential nominees for high office, former Representative Tom Tancredo, who briefly sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012, and Ken Buck, who lost to Bennet, aren’t likely to help…

Republicans started to overreach in the late 1990s, said Floyd Ciruli, who has been polling in the state for 30 years. The Denver area, his data show, received 62 percent of new voters in the state, an increase of 263,000 in the metro area, and those voters tend to vote Democratic. He said Republicans spent too much time talking about “gays and God and guns.”

More 51st State Initiative (North Colorado Secession) coverage here.

The October edition of ‘Preserving the Source’ is hot off the presses via the Water Resources Archive

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Archive Update: New Collections and Professional Development

This fall, the Water Resources Archive acquired one new donation and finished organizing another. The Archive’s newest collection is all about fish! The Papers of William J. Wiltzius contains the research scrapbooks of author, fishery biologist for the Colorado Game and Fish Department, and expert on early private fish culture in the state Bill Wiltzius. Wiltzius, who recently passed away, decided years ago to give his papers to the Archive when his good friend and fellow Archive donor, Jim Meiman, suggested doing so. He worked on his research up until the end. The updated Papers of Frederic A. Eidsness, Jr. now includes 12 more boxes of speeches, congressional testimony, correspondence, reports, journal articles, and newspaper clippings related to Eidsness’ work on water quality for the Environmental Protection Agency. Eidsness plants to write a book about his time at the EPA using these materials.

More education coverage here.

The Atlantic: A 200,000-mile ‘canyon of fire’ erupts through the atmosphere of the sun

Recreation In-Channel Diversions help local economies

Blanca Wetlands via the National Park Service
Blanca Wetlands via the National Park Service

From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

Without water, Colorado wouldn’t be nearly as fun. Throughout the state, water provides thousands locals and visitors alike with year round outdoor activities. Besides offering lakes and rivers to boat and fish in the summer and snow packed mountains to ski in the winter, it gives life to Colorado’s unique ecosystems that attract many to trails, parks and wetland areas in search of the purity of nature.

Water makes Colorado outdoor recreation possible, and it is a protected value, ensuring the adventurous traditions of the Rocky Mountains will last far into the future.

Outdoor, water-based recreation was recognized among the state’s top water priorities in the ’90s. The Colorado Supreme Court heard the argument to make recreation a “beneficial use” of water, which became a reason to secure a state-protected water right. Since the nineteenth century, a “beneficial use” of water in the west was defined as removing water from a source for economic gain. The court’s decision to include recreation in such guidelines started a 20-year legislative battle between historical water users and those fighting to support what would become a million dollar economy. In 2011 alone, according to reports, the Colorado whitewater rafting industry generated $61 million, and contributed an additional $155 million in economic impact.

Although the Valley is home to many water recreation opportunities, it has yet to invoke Colorado water laws finally established in 2001 and amended in 2006 to protect its own outdoor treasures. The state can award a Recreational In-Channel Diversions (RICDs) “to human-made structures designed for non-motorized boating… claimed only by cer- tain governmental bodies .”

According to recent reports , “An RICD helps to protect the investment. Colorado communities make in whitewater parks and the economic benefits associated with those parks. The unique attributes of RICDs are that they keep water in the river channel, they are nonconsumptive and they approximate the fluctuation of the natural hydrograph. These attributes also have the incidental benefit of keeping rivers healthy with flow.”

So far, recreation water rights in Colorado have been claimed up to 2,500 cubic square feet, and, according to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), the RICD application review team for the state, “many of the RICD water rights to date have the potential to restrict future upstream development potential and may reduce the flexibility that Colorado has to manage its water resources” and “may be subject to further legislation and court challenges .”

Today, there are seven Colorado communities that have a RICD decreed: Avon, Chaffee County, Durango, Longmont, Pueblo, Silverthorne , Steamboat Springs and Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, according to the CWCB. RICD water rights application are pending for Grand County, Pitkin County and Carbondale. Prior to the legislation, Aspen, Breckenridge, Fort Collins, Golden, Littleton and Vail secured recreation water rights. In the Valley, a number of factors keep recreation in the water. For example, the Rio Grande Natural Area (RGNA) was established on October 12, 2006 to conserve, restore and protect the natural, historic, cultural, scientific, scenic, wildlife and recreational resources of the 33-mile stretch of the Rio Grande between the southern end of the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge and the Colorado-New Mexico state border. In the area, the Rio Grande meanders through canyons, providing excellent fishing opportunities in the scenic canyon, and the shallow gradient of the river is “ideal” for those who prefer flatwater rafting.

Another example is the ongoing work to protect and restore the Valley’s web of wetlands. Sitting below 14,000-foot peaks, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and a number of supporters are resurrecting the Blanca Wetlands. The projects is focused on restoring and researching the ponds, marshes, playas, wet meadows and uplands with the boundary that could grow to over 120,000 should pending plans be approved. The expected outcome is to “provide rich and diverse habitats for wildlife and a haven for people.”

Man’s efforts, however, can only go so far to protect water recreation. The harsh realities of drought require water managers to make challenging decisions to meet the many water needs of a community, and the shortage is leaving some places dry. The San Luis State Park and Wildlife Area in Mosca is one, and its legendary lakes are becoming piece of modern history since today they hold no water.

More water law coverage here.

SLV drip irrigation trial: ‘You’re not going to have to use a lot of chemicals’ — Roger Christensen #RioGrande

Typical Drip Irrigation System via Toro
Typical Drip Irrigation System via Toro

From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

Once upon a time, no one thought the center pivot would work, mentioned an old Valley farmer leaving the Drip Irrigation Field Day earlier this month.

Produces gathered in both Roger Christensen and Dennis Beiriger’s experimental drip irrigation potato fields to see what happens when a tuber is watered under a controlled irrigation system installed underground. The Colorado Potato Administrative Committee (CPAC) and Rio Grande Roundtable sponsored trial proved Valley crops will grow using the system that delivers water and nutrients directly to the crop’s root and is used in many forms on an international scale, but it still needs a bit of tinkering.

Beiriger and his brothers have turned a small portion their fourth-generation family farm in Hooper into a drip tape demonstration project to prove the benefits of a drip system over a pivot system in a drought-stricken environment . The system is deliberately over-sized at their location to send the water across the road to the center-pivot sprinkler system to compare the amount of water the drip tape uses versus what the center pivot uses to water the crop. He is growing 35 acres divided between the Norkotah Selection 3 and Tabena varieties, and favors the temporary drip tape and the latter potato’s production in his sandy soil.

First runs with the drip tape turned up a few problems like installation depth and leaks, but after readjusting, the system has maintained itself throughout the growing season. There have been no sand-clogging issues due to the system’s filtration system, decreased phosphate levels are noticeable and, after some trial and error, Beiriger and Maya Ter Kuile-Miller, Cactus Hill Ag Consulting, developed a daily watering schedule meeting the crop’s basic needs, not necessarily fulfilling the entire field. The permanent drip tape struggled to irrigate the entire potato mound, which lends to an idea to combine drip tape with center pivots to ensure the field is wet enough when the tubers are planted.

“It was dry here when we started,” Miller said. “This is a true drip project. No sprinklers were used to improve the soil profile.” There was also little organic matter in the soil to act as a wicking agent, she said. If grain would have been grown last season instead of potatoes, the soil might have been more prepared to handle the new system.

Next year, Beiriger will use the system again, but in a barley trial. Miller said she believed the grain quality would improve based on the relationship between barely, irrigation and potential plant discoloration.

“Adjust your thinking,” said Jim Beirgier. “It’s a worthwhile project. I think it should expand from here.”

Christensen installed both permanent and temporary drip lines on 15 acres near Center, half of which is in permanent drip, buried 13 inches underground, and the other temporary, buried two to three inches under the soil. He is growing five acres of Norkotah potatoes, five acres of Yukon Gold, four acres of CO99 100s and one acre of Classics. The Norkotah and Yukon Gold varieties are performing the best; and he has salvaged 20 percent of his water, using less than 17 inches; applied only one fungicidal treatment versus three or four and applied only 105 units of nitrogen versus upwards of 200 on land fallowed for the last 20 years.

“You’re not going to have to use a lot of chemicals,” Christensen said.

The smaller trial experienced many of the same problems as Beiriger’s , which also included weed management. The problem inspired plans to create a rod weeder that can lift the drip tape to suppress the unwanted growth.

Although the Valley producers are experiencing water savings, drip tape is not particularly marketed for its water saving capabilities.

“It’s a production tool, not a water conservation tool,” said Netafim USA agronomist Danny Sosebee, another project sponsor. “It is the tool we are producing the crop with.”

Missed irrigations, he added , add up quick and could theoretically put a field using the system costing between $12,000 and $15,000 per 120 acres in a drought-like situation in a few days.

“Drip gives you a lot more knobs to turn,” Sosebee said. “And, it is a learning process.”

More Rio Grande River Basin coverage here and here.