Decision Maker’s Toolbox: Outlooks — NOAA

From NOAA:

The tools from the Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, allow users to view color-coded maps of categories of forecast conditions for their region relative to their average norms. The maps are available as either extended-range (6 to 10 days and 8 to 14 days) or long-range (1- and 3-month periods) forecasts. The latter predictions are available for up to one year in the future.

For extended-range forecast maps, red and blue areas show regions that are favored to experience above (red) or below (blue) normal five- or seven-day mean temperatures. Greens and browns show areas that are favored to see above (green) or below (brown) average 5- or 7-day total precipitation. Areas in white show places where 5- or 7-day mean temperature or total precipitation are favored to be near average.

On the long-range outlooks, white means something slightly different: white indicates equal odds for above, near or below average 1- or 3-month mean temperature or total precipitation.

On each map, outlines around areas of color indicate the probabilities for above- or below-average conditions with darker colors indicating a higher likelihood for the forecast category. These forecasts can help decision makers such as water managers improve productivity and reduce potential risk that could threaten the livelihoods and health of the people in their regions.

Highlands Ranch water rates to go up in 2014

Highlands Ranch
Highlands Ranch

From the Highlands Ranch News (Ryan Boldrey):

Following spikes of 2 percent in 2012 and 3.8 percent in 2013, Highlands Ranch residents are expected to see rates go up 6.8 percent this coming year. This year’s proposed increase is due to the district’s involvement with both the Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficiency Partnership (WISE) and Chatfield Reallocation Project, said Bruce Lesback, CWSD director of finance and administration…

“We held off as long as we could before increasing rates to this level for our customers, but it appears both projects are now going forward,” Lesback said.

For CWSD, the two projects are a major step toward cementing a long-term water supply and not relying as much on groundwater or leased water.

“We’ve got many years of full supply, but some of that full supply comes from leases that are not long-term,” CWSD General Manager John Hendrick told Colorado Community Media earlier this year. “We want to add to our portfolio with long-term or near-permanent surface water sources.

“We’ve got ample groundwater for droughts, but in wet years we’ll now be able to take in more than we need to and top off our reservoirs with surface water.”[…]

A public hearing was held Nov. 25 on the proposed CWSD budget. The board of directors will vote to adopt the 2014 budget at its Dec. 16 meeting.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Snowpack news: The Upper Rio Grande gets a dumping, now at 150% of normal #COwx

Colorado snow water equivalent as a percent of normal November 30, 2013
Colorado snow water equivalent as a percent of normal November 30, 2013

From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas instead of Thanksgiving.

…a snowstorm left the Valley under 13.2 inches of snow, according to National Weather Service (NWS) reports. The three-day event dropped 42 inches at Wolf Creek, making Monday a pristine day to hit the slopes under the sunshine. The ski resort has a total of 105 inches.

The storm kicked off on Friday, sending 7 inches down, according to NWS reports. On Saturday, it slowed, leaving only .4 inches on the ground before another 5.8 inches fell Sunday night. This the most snow the Valley has seen in November since 1964 when the month’s total was 13.6 inches, according to historical weather data. The most snow ever seen in the eleventh month was in 1972 when 19.8 inches covered the ground, and in 1957 16.5 inches were recorded. Sunny skies and cooler temperatures are in store for the holiday, according for NWS reports. Monday night temperatures were forecasted to drop to 1 degree F, and today should reach 32 degrees F with a low of 6 degrees F. The rest of the week should bring highs in the mid-40 s and lows around 11 and 12 degrees F, which are considered average temperatures for the time of the season.

‘In water, we never use the word fair. It is not part of the vocabulary’ — Nathan Coombs

Students pulling samples
Students pulling samples

From the Valley Courier (Lauren Krizansky):

Colorado youth are tomorrow’s water leaders, and in the Valley they are getting a head start. Natural resource education opportunities are abundant between the Sangre de Cristos and the San Juans, and teachers are connecting their students to one of the Valley’s most priceless resources – water – through Colorado Academic Standards approved lessons in nature’s classroom.

“Water, where it comes from affects us and what happens in our community,” explained Conejos Water Conservancy District Manager and Conejos County Conservation District Supervisor Nathan Coombs to a group of North Conejos School District students earlier this year. “And we have to measure water to know if it is going to the right places… the value of water is tremendous.”

After breaking down water management in the Conejos District to a few key vocabulary words – priority, compact, curtail, diversion, aquifer, ground water and surface water – Coombs brought it to life standing over the Conejos River on the Manassa Ditch No. 1 with the 65 middle school students, discussing the 97 diversions between the Platoro Reservoir and where they were standing. “In the river, it doesn’t matter where you are,” Coombs said. “It’s all about your number.”

He added, “In water, we never use the word fair. It is not part of the vocabulary.”

After detailing how the rivers in Colorado deliver water to seven states, Rio Grande Compact obligations and how it takes 44 hours in a raft to float on the Conejos River from the reservoir to Las Sauces, the students couldn’t stop asking questions and volunteering answers.

Water leaders like Coombs make these experiential lessons an option for Valley teachers with help from interested classroom teachers and environmental educators like the Rio Grande Water Conservation Education Initiative (RGWCEI) specialist Judy Lopez.

“This gives the students a real life connection,” said Conejos science teacher Andrew Shelton while watching his students turn on to their natural environment this fall. “This is a farming community , and it really hits home with them.”

RGWCEI works with the Valley’s conservation districts , school districts, community members and producers with a goal to create an educated populous that not only respects the Valley’s natural resources, but also understands the big part agriculture plays in conserving those resources, Lopez said.

“Not only are they getting lectures, but hands on experience that will ultimately build an intrinsic value system,” she said. “Science today tends to be taught within the context of labs and boxes. These experiences create problem solvers.”

About 85 percent of Valley students either stay here or return after college, she added, making natural resources lessons during younger years much more important .

“The youth are going to value the Valley more,” Lopez said. “They will be responsive to the natural resources as citizens, parents and families.” Students of all kinds Natural resource education in the Valley isn’t limited to the K-12 classroom. Last spring, the Rio Grande Leaders Course graduated a number of locals looking to understand and protect the Valley’s water. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District (RGWCD), San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD), Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP) and RGWCEI sponsored course provided 25 community members the opportunity to engage in education and networking to prepare to take a future role in safeguarding , developing and managing the Valley’s water resources. It included information on Valley hydrology, water rights administration, notable court cases, current events and local partners and projects. Course attendees included young farmers, federal agency employees and other interested individuals , making for interesting dialogue and numerous perspectives on water use.

“It opened my eyes,” said Aliesha Carpenter, originally from La Jara and now married to a fourth generation Center potato farmer during the course’s closing ceremonies in March. “It wasn’t just about agriculture. It was about wildlife, the Sand Dunes and life for people. Without it, our agricultural economy would disintegrate. There needs to be a younger generation in agriculture.” Bureau of Land Management (BLM) assistant field manager Paul Tigan added, “I think the course helped with the understanding of the long term context of water management in the Valley. Federal employees have a tendency to come into a place, stay for a few years and then move on. This is a good opportunity to develop a context and to understand .”

RGWCEI is also reaching out to education professionals through its annual teachers workshop series. The series, now in its seventh year, offers educators from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn how to teach in the outdoors and from the outdoors. It includes a one-week experiential learning course annually over a three-year timeframe. The series is broken into three sectors: From Watershed to Cup Year One: Following Water Through the “Creekulum;” From Watershed to Sustainability Year Two: Building a “Stream” of Consciousness; and From Watershed to Table Year Three: Following Water Down the Food Chain. The series is based out of the Trinchera Ranch in Fort Garland, but uses the entire Valley as its classroom.

“It’s a way for teachers to reconnect,” Lopez said. “They learn how to teach in the outdoors, and it gives them a background. A teacher’s biggest fear is that they don’t know enough. They get to be on the ground with natural resource specialists and leave with hands on lessons , creating more confident educators.”

Completion results in three graduate credits, an extensive education in the Valley’s natural resources and their systems and the ability to build natural resources-based activities through the K-12 Project Wet curriculum, an outdoor environmental education tool. State supported initiative

In May 2010, the Colorado Kids Outdoors Grant Program Legislation, HB10-1131 was signed into law, recognizing the importance of the outdoor environment on the health of the state’s residents, especially youth.

It aims to prepare students to address present and future environmental challenges and innovations that impact quality of life, according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) Colorado Environmental Education Plan (CEEP) published in 2012. Colorado’s environment , economy and communities depend on informed citizens who can make decisions about air and water quality; the health of farms, ranches, forests and wildlife; how to meet energy and other resource needs; how to create and sustain healthy communities; and how to provide opportunities for residents to partake in the state’s natural beauty while protecting it for future generations.

In 2011, a partnership was born between CDE and the Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to write CEEP, and to foster awareness needed to promote, coordinate and sustain standards-based environmental education across the state.

The plan is designed to support implementation of the Colorado Academic Standards while developing students’ knowledge and skills related to the environment and getting students to spend more time outside, according to CEEP. The timing of this plan is advantageous as districts, schools and teachers are revising curricula and improving instructional practices to address the strategic imperative of developing all students’ postsecondary workforce readiness. Its strategies support teachers in addition to encouraging the integration of high quality environmental education opportunities and use of the outdoors in ways that are relevant, connected and meaningful for their students.

More education coverage here.

Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics’: U.S. Agricultural Producer Perceptions of Climate Change

Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003
Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003

Click here to read the article from the Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics (Roderick M. Rejesus, Maria Mutuc-Hensley/Paul D. Mitchell/Keith H. Coble/Thomas O. Knight). Here’s an excerpt:

Given the clout agricultural producers have in Congress, the perceptions of this small but influential group may have a significant effect on the policy debate and on laws that are eventually enacted. There are no recurrent surveys of the agricultural sector’s perceptions of climate change in the United States and empirical studies are limited in number and in scope. Weber (1997) found that approximately half of the 48 farmers surveyed in east–central Illinois did not believe in the existence of global warming. Diggs (1991) showed that after a drought experience, three-fourths of farmers surveyed in the Great Plains believed that the climate is changing. In contrast, Saleh Safi, Smith, and Liu (2012) showed that vulnerability to climate change did not affect climate change risk perception among Nevada farmers and ranchers.

This study examines U.S. crop producers’ perceptions of climate change and its likely effects on crop agriculture. Based on a mail survey of over 1,300 farmers in four states, we investigate producer characteristics to identify those that affect producer beliefs about climate change, its impacts, and likely farmer responses. Our study is the first to measure climate change perceptions of U.S. agricultural producers over a broad geographical range and to identify characteristics that influence their perceptions. Our results suggest that a large proportion of producers in our survey do not believe that cli- mate change is scientifically proven nor do they believe that climate change will adversely affect crop yields. However, a large percentage of farmers also do not have an opinion. There is some evidence that climate change perceptions vary with education, age, willingness to accept risk, the amount of farm assets, the percentage of farm assets in land, and the extent of importance of off-farm employment. Also, most farmers believe that crop diversification, crop insurance, lease/rental modifications, and exiting farming are likely producer responses to climate change…

Responses to the statement: “I believe climate change has been scientifically proven” indicate that 15–20% of producers in the four states strongly disagree with this statement. When the strongly disagree and disagree responses are summed, the total negative response is nearly 50% in Mississippi and Texas. However, in all four states, between 20% and 30% of respondents indicated that they have no opinion about the issue. In fact, the largest single response in Wisconsin (31%) was no opinion. Responses of agree and strongly agree sum to 36% for North Carolina and roughly 24% to 25% for Texas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. These results reveal that although crop producers who doubt that climate change has been scientifically proven outnumber those that do not, there remain a significant proportion of respondents that have no opinion on the issue…

Responses to a set of questions asking producers to assess the likely impacts of climate change on crop production in their region are summarized in Table 3. Some of the results in this table are to be expected given previous tables indicating that many producers do not believe that climate change is occurring. The results in Table 3 indicate that roughly 70% of producers in all four states do not believe that climate change will affect (increase or decrease) their primary crop yield by more than 5%…

This article contributes to the scientific literature on climate change as one of the first to examine U.S. crop producers’ perceptions of climate change and its possible effects on the agricultural sector. In general, although there is a significant fraction of crop producers in these four states—Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin—who are skeptical of the climate change evidence and even less likely to believe it has been scientifically proven, the number of producers without any strong opinion on the matter cannot be ignored (21–31%). Our data suggest that not only is there relatively little acceptance of the existence of climate change, but also little belief that climate change will have negative effects on crop yields.

Excluding farmers who have no opinion, there is some evidence that climate change perceptions vary with education, age, willingness to accept risk, the amount of farm assets, the percentage of farm assets in land, and the importance of off-farm employment; also, no geographical disparity is observed. A caveat in interpreting these results, however, is that excluding the group with no opinion, although it clearly delineates responses, raises some concern about selection issues (see footnote 2). Nonetheless, the significance of these factors underscores several themes in understanding climate change perceptions and also points to several implications.

First, climate change is a gradual process with effects that are obscured by random weather events and cyclical climate patterns so that farmers are more skeptical about whether they are observing its effects (Weber, 1997). Because farmers do not directly perceive the consequences of climate change, previous re- search has suggested the need to provide scientific and statistics-based information about climate change from multiple sources to influence perceptions about climate change risks (Weber, 2006). In particular, Weber (2010, p. 6) suggests that “we should find ways to evoke stronger affective reactions towards the risk of climate change in citizens, managers, or public officials, by making the expected climate effects more vivid or concrete.” There seems to be interest in providing more information or outreach efforts, but the challenge is how to effectively deliver it to U.S. agricultural producers and the general public.

Second, it appears that farmers with more assets invested in farming tend to be skeptical about the science of climate change but are likely to believe that normal weather explains recent climate changes. One wonders whether this skepticism about climate science provides a screen for those with a lot more at stake if mitigation policies were implemented such as a cap-and-trade policy.

Third, we find the climate change issue and the lack of acceptance from some lay audiences to suggest scientific skepticism [ed.emphasis mine]. It is not clear whether this skepticism is likely to remain or change in the future. We suggest that it merits further study to see if the observed attitudes reported in this study will evolve over time.

Finally, notwithstanding the influence of certain variables on the perceptions of climate change, the four perception questions cannot give any strong indication about the source of skepticism. Undoubtedly, however, if belief in climate science is embraced, measures necessary to mitigate climate change would require sacrifices that not all people are willing to make; oftentimes they require a change of habits at the individual and societal level. Future research may want to examine farmers’ willingness to pay (or the payments/subsidies they are willing to accept) to implement climate change adaptation strategies, especially differentiating between those farmers who believe and those who do not believe in the existence of climate change. The current research is only an initial step in understanding farmers’ perceptions about climate change and the possible strategies to implement climate mitigation/adaptation policies.

Please note that the data was submitted in March 2012 and accepted March 2013.

The Luka: Hit pause on your shower

Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Luka is a pause button for your shower for those who want to save water, shower pets indoors, shave legs, brush your teeth in the shower or elderly with limited mobility.

It is designed to suspend the flow of water without changing the temperature of your shower or reducing water pressure, because as we all know, it is either really hot or really cold! The Luka is as easy to use as a retractable pen, the Luka pauses your shower just a push of a button. There is no need to replace the showerhead that you already own because the Luka attaches right behind your existing unit. Simply install the Luka behind your showerhead and enjoy!

More conservation coverage here.

#ColoradoRiver District board meeting recap: ‘We should…table the issue of a big transmountain diversion’ — Eric Kuhn

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

At the October meeting of the Colorado River District Board of Directors, General Manger Eric Kuhn, an IBCC member as a governor’s appointee, reported that “in the last several years, new supply as a concept has evolved into a New Supply project from the Colorado River Basin and in the view of some on the Front Range, a large new transmountain diversion from the Colorado River system.”

The IBCC employs the metaphor of a four‐legged stool to describe the tools to meet the water‐supply gap. New Supply is one leg. The others are moving water from agricultural use to urban use; completion of water supply projects already on the drawing board; and municipal conservation and reuse.

According to Kuhn, going to the Colorado River for a big project will likely result in the reallocation of water now being used on the West Slope in agriculture to the Front Range urban corridor. “The bigger the project, the bigger the trouble and the bigger the reallocation if we get into trouble,” Kuhn said.
Trouble would result from Colorado exceeding its legal ability to deplete the Colorado River under the Colorado River Compact of 1922 and the Upper Colorado River Compact of 1948.
In Kuhn’s report to the Board, he said:

“For the last couple of years, we’ve had an ongoing debate within the IBCC and the IBCC’s New Supply Committee over the approach to take. I’ve suggested an incremental approach where we would move forward on projects on the drawing board or in permitting small, cooperative projects but put off any debate about big new projects until down the road sometime when we’ll have a better understanding of water availability and the negotiations among the seven basin states may lead to different ways of managing future Colorado River shortages.

“We should move forward with projects that we can agree on today and table the issue of a big transmountain diversion but not in a way that makes it more difficult or promotes it. In fact we should leave that issue neutral while we develop more information and develop supply from Identified Projects and Proc‐ esses (IPPs),” Kuhn said during Board discussion. IPPs are projects on the drawing board in the vernacular of the water plan.

Kuhn said that water planners on the Front Range are split with some wanting a big transmountain diversion as soon as possible and others who recognize problems, which include Front Range water users who would be affected by a compact curtailment. Kuhn noted that the water supply gap on the Front Range is not well defined as to where the needs exactly are.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Say hello to reconstruction Colorado River at Lees Ferry reconstruction Colorado River at Lees Ferry

Click here for the streamflow reconstruction from tree rings for Lees Ferry. Click here for the home page.

US Representative Scott Tipton Testifies on Hermosa Creek Legislation in Senate

Hermosa Park
Hermosa Park

Here’s the release from Representative Tipton’s office:

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), today, testified in support of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee. Tipton and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) have introduced companion bills in the House (H.R. 1839) and Senate (S.841) to protect the Hermosa Creek Watershed–an area in the San Juan National Forest north of Durango–as well as protect multiple use of the land.

In his testimony, Tipton spoke on the community effort behind the legislation that is endorsed by a broad coalition of stakeholders including: the City of Durango, the La Plata County Commission, the Southwestern Water Conservation District, the San Juan County Commission, Region 9, the Colorado Snowmobilers Association, Jo Grant Mining Company, Inc., in addition to numerous business and sportsmen groups, among others.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here and here.

Proposed oil and gas methane rules: Gov. Hickenlooper makes some headway with the environmental community

Governor Hickenlooper announcing new methane rules -- Associated Press via the Washington Post
Governor Hickenlooper announcing new methane rules — Associated Press via the Washington Post

From The Colorado Statesman (Peter Marcus):

…the governor — who has experienced an increasingly tense relationship with environmentalists, a core base of his Democratic Party — still has a lot of work ahead of him if he’s to win the trust of the environmental world.

Much of the controversy rests with Hickenlooper’s support of hydraulic fracturing. The governor, a former geologist, has unequivocally stated his support for so-called “fracking,” despite five local communities having banned or imposed moratoriums on the drilling process. First, Longmont voters banned fracking last year. Then this year, Broomfield, Fort Collins and Boulder joined with five-year moratoriums. Lafayette passed a ban on new oil and gas activities. The bans passed despite big spending by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Proponents of the bans, a largely grassroots uprising, spent about $27,500 in the four municipal elections, as of the last filings before the election. COGA, however, spent about $883,000 to fight the proposed bans…

Hickenlooper says he is listening. At a news conference on Monday, he said the issue is about striking a balance between the energy needs of the state and the concerns expressed by citizens and communities.

“What we’ve done is work with the environmental community and oil and gas community to try and find compromises and use common sense to say, ‘How can we make sure we get to the cleanest possible outcomes in terms of air quality?’ Yet at the same time recognize that we have businesses here that employ our citizens and are helping solve the energy challenges that we face as a country,” Hickenlooper said, as he proposed new pollution rules for the Air Quality Control Commission to adopt.

The commission met on Thursday when it set a public hearing for February 2014. The tentative date is for a three-day hearing from Feb. 19-21. The commission heard about two hours of public comments from a wide spectrum of stakeholders, including industry leaders and environmentalists, as well as concerned citizens, such as mothers worried about the health of their children.

The thrust of the public comments was on whether the commission should set the proposal for a public hearing. Most of the witnesses agreed that even if the draft isn’t perfect, it should move forward so that the process can evolve.

When the commission conducts its public hearings in February, the comments will focus more on the rules themselves after stakeholders have had a chance to thoroughly review the recently released proposal.

Several elected officials testified in support of setting a hearing for the rules, including Democratic Reps. Su Ryden of Aurora, Mike Foote of Lafayette, and Max Tyler of Lakewood, among others…

Former Sen. Dan Grossman, regional director for the Environmental Defense Fund, represented the environmental side of the debate.

“What you see today here is a remarkable coalition of earnest individuals who came together and decided to try and make something work and address air pollution from the oil and gas sector in a meaningful and reasonable way,” explained Grossman.

Conservation Colorado is also “encouraged” by the proposed rules specifically that it includes methane.

“The proposed rule is a strong step forward to capture emissions from oil and gas facilities of harmful air pollutants that hurt all Coloradans,” said Pete Maysmith, executive director of Conservation Colorado.

“Oil and gas development is booming in Colorado and the state must move aggressively to protect our climate, public health and communities,” he added. “Given the devastating impact on Coloradans from climate change and increased ozone pollution, there is no margin for error.”[…]

But not everyone in the environmental and oil and gas worlds is currently on board with the proposals. Stan Dempsey, president of the Colorado Petroleum Association, pointed out that his organization was not included in the stakeholder meetings and did not see the rules until Monday.

“We’ve expressed our disappointment that it wasn’t a larger, broader stakeholder process,” said Dempsey, who added that his organization is currently speaking with members to decide how to proceed…

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

FEMA asks Weld County to help find locations for temporary mobile homes #COflood

Evans Colorado September 2013 via
Evans Colorado September 2013 via

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

FEMA is calling on the Weld County community to help find places to put temporary mobile homes for flood victims, citing a lack of response so far from local mobile home parks willing to allow the units. The agency is searching for about 24 spaces that could accommodate single-wide mobile units for flood victims for up to 18 months, said John Mills, media relations manager for FEMA. Mills said that number could fluctuate up or down but is based on the number of people currently taking advantage of FEMA’s temporary housing program, which puts up displaced families in hotels or motels. The housing units, which are manufactured and brought in wherever disaster strikes, are a last resort for those who completely lost their homes and can’t find a place to stay even with the help of FEMA, Mills said.

Greeley just hit a record-low apartment vacancy rate, at just 1.3 percent, and Mills said the agency has had a difficult time finding available mobile home pads in Weld County.

Becky Safarik, Greeley’s assistant city manager, said the city already identified 50 open spaces in two mobile home parks where FEMA could place the modular units. She said the open pads in Greeley are at Stoneybrook and Friendly Village mobile home parks, both off of 35th Avenue. Of the spaces identified, she said 12 spots have been permitted for the FEMA trailers.

Mills said FEMA has been “unable to secure those pads at this time.” He said he did not have enough information to say why.

Phone calls and messages to the owners of Stoneybrook and Friendly Village were not returned to The Tribune on Wednesday. But Safarik said one issue for the parks or possible tenants could be that the mobile units run on electric heating instead of natural gas, which is much more costly in Colorado.

In Platteville, Valley Village mobile home park, at 731 Grand Ave., will take in 15 temporary FEMA units, said manager Jillian Weaver. While accommodating the extra units wasn’t a problem for Valley Village, Weaver said she could imagine most other parks in Weld County are already full.

Such was the case for Circle Drive Mobile Home Park, at 101 and 133 N. 21st Ave. in Greeley, said manager Oscar Hernandez. Hernandez said putting up temporary units at this point could also be damaging to business, because the park is after permanent residents who purchase their mobile homes. He said the park’s growth would be sacrificed to accommodate the temporary units. Hernandez said he didn’t get a chance to discuss with FEMA the possibility of purchasing the temporary units after flood victims use them. He said his discussion with the agency was abrupt and he felt pressured to give an immediate answer, so he answered no. Four families displaced by the flood have purchased homes at Circle Drive, Hernandez said.

Roy Rudisill, emergency operations manager for Weld County, said he supplied FEMA with a list of 86 mobile home parks in the county, although some of those were the ones destroyed in the flood.

Ed Zamarripa, owner of Alta Vista Mobile Home Park, 2040 4th Ave. in Evans, said he has not been approached by FEMA, but sent a request to the city of Greeley to see if he could permit some additional slots in his park because he has received so many calls from others wanting to park their mobile homes on his lot. Zamarripa, who is also a real estate broker, said he’s already seen five houses sold to those affected by the floods. He said he would also be interested in establishing a new mobile home park for flood victims that could later be turned into residential housing.

Keith Cowan, owner of Eastwood Village Mobile Home Park, which was destroyed by the flood, and three other parks in Greeley and Evans, said he placed six families in the few vacancies he had among his parks, but he now has just three spaces available.

“I had Eastwood 100 percent full, and everybody in there owned their own home,” Cowan said. “It was a really, really hard thing for people in there to try and find a home.”

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation via the Colorado Climate Cenber
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation via the Colorado Climate Cenber

Click here to read the November 26, 2013 assessment. Click here go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Drought news #COdrought

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor Website. Here’s an excerpt:

Midwest and Plains

An inch or more of precipitation fell across parts of the Midwest, locally in southern Iowa, southern Illinois, and parts of Missouri. D1 was trimmed slightly in northern Missouri. Although a few half-inch precipitation reports were received, most stations in northeast Kansas were much drier this week, compounding longer-term (month-to-date and 6-12 month) departures, so D0 was extended across northeast Kansas and slightly in northwest Missouri.

The West

A slow-moving upper-level low pressure system brought rain and winter weather to the west coast and Southwest. An inch or more of precipitation fell from coastal Oregon through California, and northwestern New Mexico, with locally heavier amounts. Widespread 2+ inches of precipitation fell over Arizona, southern Nevada, southern Utah, and southwest Colorado, with 4 inches or more in central Arizona. D1 and D2 were pulled back in southern California and D1 was pulled back in southern Utah. D0 was pulled back in southwest Colorado. D1 and D2 were trimmed in northern New Mexico, with the improvements tempered by low reservoir conditions in the northwest. D0-D1 were pulled back in Arizona, especially in the central sections, and D2 was trimmed in the south. With the much-above-normal precipitation this week in Arizona and parts of southern California, the SL impacts area was shifted over to the central half of California.

Looking Ahead

As the low pressure system and cold front move up the east coast during the next couple days, they will generate widespread rain and snow. The NWS HPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) has 1+ inches of precipitation from the Carolinas to the Northeast, with locally 3+ inches in the Northeast, through December 4. It also calls for an inch or more of precipitation in the Cascades and northern Rockies, half an inch along the Gulf of Mexico coast, a tenth of an inch or less for the Midwest and Plains, and a dry reprieve (no precipitation) for the Southwest. Temperatures are predicted to average above normal in the West and below normal in the East. The 6-10 day and 8-14 day outlooks project above-normal temperatures across the southeastern third of the country, and much of Alaska, for December 4-10, and below-normal temperatures in the Alaskan panhandle and much of the West and Plains, with the below-normal temperatures progressing eastward into the Great Lakes near the end of the period. Above-normal precipitation is expected across most of the West, due to a series of Pacific weather systems, and to the Lower Mississippi Valley then much of the East, due to a series of Gulf of Mexico weather systems. Below-normal precipitation is projected for the Plains, coastal Northwest, and much of Alaska.

US Drought Monitor for Colorado November 26, 2013
US Drought Monitor for Colorado November 26, 2013

Here’s the November 2013 Drought Update from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

Continued precipitation across much of the state has led to significant improvements in most of Colorado. However the Arkansas basin is still experiencing exceptional, D4, drought conditions. Storage levels are strong and better than they were this time last year, easing concerns of municipal providers. Early season snow has been decent, but long range forecasts paint an unclear picture as to what we can expect throughout the winter months. Consequently, activation of the state drought plan remains in effect.

  • Strong and persistent fall rains coupled with a good start to the snow accumulation season has resulted in large improvements to the US Drought Monitor for Colorado. Currently, 74% of the state is in some level of classification on the US drought monitor. However 53% of that is characterized as “abnormally dry” while an additional 9% is experiencing D1 or moderate drought conditions. Only 8% is classified as severe, 2.5% as extreme and only 1.47% of the state remains in exceptional drought. In comparison, three months ago 25% of the state was experiencing extreme and exceptional (D3 and D4) drought, while at the start of the calendar year 53% was classified as D3 or D4.
  • A cool October followed by a warm start to November has resulted in water year to-date (water year 2014 began Oct 1, 2013 and will run through September 2014) temperatures that are slightly below normal. The latest Climate Prediction Center forecast shows the probability for warmer temperatures through December across much of the state.
  • September and October precipitation were both well above average statewide. Currently, water year to-date precipitation is 107% of average with the northern part of the state near average to above average (99-140%) and the basins of the southwest, Rio Grande and Arkansas ranging from 83-88%.
  • Reservoir storage as of November 1st has rebounded to 83% of average statewide. Many providers were able to store substantial amounts of water during the September rain events. Denver Water, the state’s largest water provider, was able to store water in September for the first time in their history. Consequently, areas of the state that have received the most beneficial precipitation are also showing the higher reservoir storage levels. The Yampa/ White remains the highest storage levels in the state at 112% of average; while the South Platte and the Upper Colorado are reporting storage levels of 107 and 91% respectively. The southern portion of the state has lower storage levels at 72, 68 and 67% of average in the Arkansas, Gunnison and Southwest basins respectively. The Rio Grande continues to have the lowest storage levels in the state at 47% of average.
  • The Climate Prediction Center seasonal drought outlook released November 21, 2013 and valid for November 21-February 28, 2014 illustrates persistent drought across southeastern Colorado and the eastern plains along the Kansas and Nebraska boarder. Temperature forecasts for the same period show an equal chance of being above and below average.
  • ENSO conditions remain neutral, which offers less guidance for long range climate outlooks. However, early season snow in the mountains is consistent with the snowpack forecast for January 1st that is near or above average in all basins. The statistical precipitation forecast for January- March 2014 shows dryness across much of the state, but has had limited operational skill since 2000.
  • ‘…we just need to take dust seriously’ — Jayne Belnap

    Dust streaming across Four Corners April 29, 2009 via MODIS
    Dust streaming across Four Corners April 29, 2009 via MODIS

    From the High Country News (Sarah Jane Keller):

    The runoff season is never as predictable as anyone would like, but in the last decade or so there’s been a new wild card that makes the snowpack’s bounty seem even more capricious – spring dust storms.

    Southwest Colorado’s snowpack is the West’s hardest-hit when spring winds carrying tiny dust particles slam into the mountains. That cinnamon layer coating the snow means that it absorbs more of the sun’s radiation, heats up, and melts faster than clean snow (it’s the black t-shirt versus white t-shirt effect). As water managers in the Colorado Basin plan for the region’s impending water crunch, and more dust is blowing around the West, they are starting to realize that dust is a hydrological game-changer.

    The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, in Silverton, Colo., began tracking dust on snow in the San Juan Mountains in 2003, but dust has been worse in recent years, including 2013. In a recent study looking at the combined impact of climate warming and dust on the Upper Colorado River Basin’s snowpack, researchers found that “extreme” dust years like 2009 and 2010 advance spring runoff timing by three weeks, compared to moderate dust years. That’s a total of six weeks earlier than runoff from clean snow.

    That doesn’t bode well for water users or for ecosystems. Normally, snow doles out water gradually over the spring and early summer, but when dust spurs snow into early melt-out, that gives soils a head start on drying out in the summer and irrigators are more likely to end up water-short later in the season.

    That result adds more detail to what earlier research has shown – that at least in the short term, dust has a bigger impact on the speed of mountain snow melt than increasing temperatures do. While the new study was based on a model covering the Upper Colorado River Basin, at a snow monitoring site on Red Mountain Pass near Telluride, dust from the 2009 and 2010 storms advanced melt by 50 and 43 days compared to a clean snowpack. “It’s as if somehow you had magically added two to four degrees Celsius to the temperatures we experienced during those years,” says Chris Landry, the executive director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies.

    Dirty snow also impacts the amount of water the mountains provide, because it leaves soil and plants exposed longer, allowing water more time to evaporate…

    By using satellite images and matching the chemical signatures of dust on snow back to its original landscape, dust gurus have figured out that winds are picking soil up from disturbed desert areas in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico (and increasing aridity isn’t helping). Most of that is coming from the Colorado Plateau, and Milford Flat – the site of Utah’s largest wildfire – is a chronic contributor, according to Jayne Belnap, an ecologist with the U.S. Geologic Survey in Moab, who was involved in the recent study.

    The problem with tracking dust sources is that the big contributors like Milford Flat are easy enough to see in satellite imagery, but the small and medium ones, like dusty dirt roads, abandoned housing developments, or overgrazing, are harder to pinpoint. It takes many years of data, which Belnap doesn’t have yet, to say “grazing does this, and roads do that.”[…]

    But she thinks they do know enough about certain areas to start restoring loose soil now. People think of deserts as dust and sand, but when they are healthy, they are stable, and their soils don’t tend to blow away.

    Beating back dust ultimately comes down to the slogan found on National Park signs around the Southwest: “Don’t Bust the Crust.” That refers to the cryptobiotic soil crust that Belknap studies and that anchors the desert ecosystem, and its soil, in place. “The obvious thing is to stop disturbing it, of course, but we have the problem of the West being the bull’s-eye for energy, wind, solar, and everything else,” she says.[…]

    It’s hard to quantify how much it would reduce the overall dust problem, but since it will lock out soil-disrupting motorized use and energy development, a massive, contentious wilderness deal being negotiated in Utah right now could have “huge implications” for minimizing dust,” Belnap says. But the deal won’t solve all of our dust problems. And regardless of the policy for managing arid landscapes, she says, “we just need to take dust seriously.”

    Quaker advice

    ‘[Governor Hickenlooper] should talk to the people who approved the bans, not the people who oppose them’ — Dan Randolph

    Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg
    Directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing graphic via Al Granberg

    From Colorado Public News (David O. Williams/Dale Rodebaugh) via The Durango Herald:

    “The fracking ban votes reflect the genuine anxiety and concern of having an industrial process close to neighborhoods,” Hickenlooper said recently in a prepared statement. The statement came after a tally of final votes showed residents in Broomfield successfully passed a fourth so-called “fracking ban” in Colorado.

    Fort Collins, Boulder and Lafayette voters passed similar bans by much wider margins earlier this month, but Broomfield’s vote was so close (10,350 to 10,333) that it has triggered an automatic recount.

    Christi Zeller, director of the La Plata County Energy Council, said the votes in Boulder and Lafayette are symbolic. Boulder County has some production, but the city of Boulder’s last gas well was plugged in 1999, she said.

    “The bans are an emotional response,” Zeller said. “A lot of professional agitators are manipulating people’s response.”[…]

    Hickenlooper said mineral rights need to be protected and that the four communities can work with the state’s chief regulatory agency, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to mitigate environmental and health concerns.

    “Local fracking bans essentially deprive people of their legal rights to access the property they own. Our state Constitution protects these rights,” the governor said. “A framework exists for local communities to work collaboratively with state regulators and the energy industry. We all share the same desire of keeping communities safe.”

    But Dan Randolph, director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said that Hickenlooper, as a former gas and oil industry employee, doesn’t get it.

    Randolph said there are legitimate concerns tied to gas and oil production. He cited health, water quality and noise.

    “There is no question that there is an increase of volatile organic compounds in the air during gas and gas development,” Randolph said. “There are and have been serious concerns elsewhere. This is not unique to Colorado.

    “He should talk to the people who approved the bans, not the people who oppose them,” Randolph said. “His credibility on oil and gas issues is very low with the general public.”

    More oil and gas coverage here and here.

    NRCS funding for snowpack measuring sites sill uncertain

    Manual collection of snowpack data
    Manual collection of snowpack data

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    Since the early 1900s, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, or NRCS, has kept records of snow depth and weight to help predict spring runoff — estimates that are crucial to reservoir managers, water conservation districts and farmers across the state. But the budget for the NRCS Snow Survey Program in the West — which spans from New Mexico to Montana and from Colorado to California — has been cut by 15 percent since 2011, forcing the agency to cut staff.

    Now, with more budget cuts looming in 2014, NRCS announced in late October that it might eliminate 47 of its 72 Colorado “snow course” sites, where scientists trek to measure snow, some of which have records dating back to 1936.

    “The short of it is, the snow program as a whole has taken budget cuts over the past few years, and yeah, I mean those cuts are very real,” said Mage Hultstrand, an assistant snow survey supervisor. “I think this year we are talking another eight percent.”

    The decision to abandon more than half of the snow measuring sites inspired a group of 100 water conservation districts and farmers across the state to save them, possibly by paying for monitoring themselves. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, one member of the group, uses 23 of the NRCS snow measuring sites, four of which are on the elimination list, said spokesman Brian Werner…

    Since the 1930s, field officers have been measuring snow density across Colorado, and in the 1970s NRCS began the SNOTEL program, which uses equipment, not manpower, to measure snow. SNOTEL updates are hourly and available on the Internet; that crucial aspect of the program will not be cut, no matter what the 2014 federal budget dictates, said B.J. Shoup, a soil scientist with the program…

    On Nov. 8, NRCS met with Northern Water and other groups that could be affected by the loss of snow measuring sites. For the briefing, NRCS crunched some numbers and reduced its staff of 42 snow surveyors to 19 so it can continue to monitor the 47 Colorado sites in jeopardy. For 2014, it expects its budget for measuring Colorado sites to be $78,741. The details of a potential arrangement with stakeholders to pay for surveying have not yet been worked out, Hultstrand said.

    In the meantime, the Snow Survey Program has tried to trim the fat in other ways. The Colorado office, which monitors Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and southern Wyoming, has a staff of six, with two vacant positions, said Hultstrand. The Colorado program hopes that employees of other agencies — like Northern Water, Denver Water or the Colorado Division of Water Resources — can start monitoring the sites at their own cost.

    “Those don’t cost us any money in salaries or training,” Hultstrand explained. “That’s kind of what we are hoping to push for our program to be more cooperative. We had some public meetings to discuss this — this data is very important to a lot of people.”

    Preserving the spirit of community in Jamestown #COflood

    Jamestown September 2013 via The Denver Post
    Jamestown September 2013 via The Denver Post

    From the Associated Press (Colleen Slevin) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

    For a few precious hours every Saturday night, Jamestown, in the foothills of the Rockies, looks more like it did before the floods.

    Those who stayed after September’s devastation and those who had to leave for rental homes in nearby Boulder return once a week to the Jamestown Mercantile — the town’s meeting place for more than 100 years — to eat together. Then, they push back the tables to dance to live music.

    And this fall, as the cleanup and rebuilding continue, the gatherings have been a place to give thanks.

    “Everybody just walks through there with the biggest smile on their face,” owner Rainbow Shultz said of “the Merc,” which boasts of having served miners, painted ladies and horse thieves in its early days.

    The storm destroyed a fifth of the former mining town’s homes and both bridges over Little James Creek. During the week, federal aid workers outnumber residents and lines of trucks hauling away tons of debris pass down the main street.

    Before the flood, finding community was easy in the town of 300, something people say made the town more than just another scenic spot. Residents never hesitated to ask their neighbors for help, and it wasn’t hard to run across someone telling an interesting story.

    Karen Zupko, who lost most of her house to the waters, said parties started easily. Whenever she and her neighbor pulled up chairs to a bridge over the creek with some cheese, crackers and something to drink, others were bound to join them.

    Jamestown’s children were tight, too, attending classes in a small schoolhouse.

    The flood cut off access to the school and split those children up. Six students now attend classes in Boulder, where their parents moved. But the community worked to keep the remaining students in Jamestown together.

    For several weeks, 15 students studied in the living and dining room of one student’s home, then moved to a Christian retreat center. A holiday play uniting all the students is one of several programs planned to keep them connected in the coming weeks.

    “I feel like they’re growing up with a family of 300 people watching them,” said Shultz, who has lived in town for 12 years and has two children, aged 3 and 6.

    Coyote Gulch’s grandfather was born in Jamestown during the early mining days so the town has always been special to me.

    Ed Quillen: Water principles of the West begin with blaming California

    Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives
    Upper Basin States vs. Lower Basin circa 1925 via CSU Water Resources Archives

    Coyote Gulch reader Greg sent this link to an Ed Quillen column from the High Country News from April 28, 2003. Greg writes, “Ten years past and its more valid today, than the day Ed wrote it.” Here’s an excerpt:

    The new water principles, codified earlier this year after lengthy discussion, contain all the proper modern buzzwords, like “consensus” and “respect.” Who could find fault with “the implementation of consensus-based water resource solutions that respect local authorities”? Or with “maintaining the proper stewardship of the land”? Or with “earnest efforts to find water supply answers that benefit all Coloradans, for this and future generations”?

    In other words, these principles are about as controversial as safe streets and neighborhood schools. But there is a problem, and that is that they ignore the traditional principles that have, for the last century or so, pretty well defined water policy in the West.

    Thus it only seems proper, if we’re going to adopt some New Water Principles, to remember our Traditional Western Water Principles:

    Whenever there’s a water problem, it is always the fault of California. When mountain streams are flooding, it’s because California won’t let new dams be built in the Rockies. When the mountain reservoirs are shrinking, it’s because California keeps taking water it is supposed to get under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. California is a safe party to blame, because it’s so big and rich that nobody there needs to care what we say about it. Besides, it’s a Democratic domain, and our Republican officials need to blame somebody.

    In all water development, the federal government should cover most of the cost, and preferably the entire tab. After all, the Winning of the West has been a national priority since about 1777, and there’s no reason to stop now.

    No water project is ever built to assist developers and subdividers. Even if they’re the ones who will benefit the most, the official purpose will be to benefit hardscrabble farmers, struggling ranchers or Native Americans.

    If there’s not enough water to serve new developments, then current users should make sacrifices. In other words, the more water you conserve, the more water that will be available for big-box stores, shopping malls and sprawling suburbs. These developments generally increase your cost of living and reduce your quality of life, but you will be told that “we’re all in this together” and you’ll be seen as rather churlish and mean-spirited if you object to killing your last tree so that Vista Heights Gated Golf Course Community can continue selling lots.

    Any solutions to water-supply problems should feature new structures (dams and reservoirs are best, but canals and tunnels are acceptable) which can be named after their political sponsors — i.e., Hoover Dam in Nevada, Alva Adams Tunnel in Colorado, Theodore Roosevelt Dam in Arizona. Water projects need political support, and it’s easier to get it with the imposing Sen. Josiah R. Claghorn Dam and Reservoir than with the Claghorn-Smith Instream Flow Protection Act of 2003. Construction can confer a degree of immortality on a public servant. It also shows the constituents that they’re getting their fair share from the pork barrel, and that’s important, especially in election years.

    These are the principal principles that have guided Western water development over the years, and it seems odd that they were not addressed by the people who came up with the new and improved water principles.

    But on the other hand, that could be because no one has ever figured out how to repeal the supreme law of our hydrology, first articulated by John A. Love, a Republican who served as governor of Colorado from 1963 to 1973: “Water flows uphill to money.”

    We’re at it again: More Colorado Water Plan coverage here. And so it goes.

    Denver: AGWT is hosting a Colorado aquifer management event on Tuesday

    Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions -- Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute
    Map of the South Platte River alluvial aquifer subregions — Colorado Water Conservation Board via the Colorado Water Institute

    From The Greeley Tribune:

    The American Ground Water Trust, based in New Hampshire, is hosting a Colorado aquifer management event on Tuesday in Denver.

    The event is a follow-up conference to the two-day program held in Denver in November 2012, where legislators, groundwater experts and water managers discussed stream depletions due to well pumping, and other groundwater issues.

    Presenters include Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Institute at Colorado State University; James Eklund, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board; Reed Maxwell, director of the Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center at the Colorado School of Mines; Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer at the Division of Water Resources; Don Shawcroft, president of Colorado Farm Bureau; Andrew Stone, executive director of American Ground Water Trust; Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton; Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins; and Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley.

    To register for the event or learn more, go to

    More HB12-1278 coverage here. More groundwater coverage here.

    The State Legislature Disaster Study Committee gets a first hand look at ongoing problems with recovery #COflood

    St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call
    St. Vrain River floodplain November 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

    From The Greeley Tribune (Dave Young):

    On Nov. 18 and 19, the state legislature’s Flood Disaster Study Committee visited Longmont, Lyons, Estes Park, Glen Haven, Milliken and Evans, and held public hearings in Longmont, Estes Park and Evans. The fully bipartisan 12-member committee, which I chair with Sen. Scott Renfroe, is gathering information to decide what the Legislature should do to improve the state’s response to the 2013 flood disaster and to better prepare for the floods that, inevitably, will strike our state again.

    I and the other representatives and senators on the committee all come from places that experienced some degree of flood damage, and naturally we’ve been focusing mostly on our own constituents. This field trip gave us a broader perspective and reminded us that the flood recovery, like all the other big challenges facing our state, is best confronted if we act together.

    In every town, people told us that Gov. John Hickenlooper and his administration have done a fantastic job of responding to the disaster. The last stretch of highway wrecked by the floods reopened Tuesday. My hat’s off to the governor and to the thousands of state, county and local workers and contractors who made the impossible happen. And other state agencies have been on the ball helping flood victims take care of the basic necessities and navigate the red tape of insurance claims and applications for assistance.

    But make no mistake: difficult problems remain if we are to avoid what everyone’s calling “the disaster after the disaster.” For example:

    » Businesses. Businesses need employees and customers, and both can be hard to find in an area with a lot of displaced residents.

    » Irrigation ditches. The floods breached ditches and canals throughout the flood zone. Those ditches fill our reservoirs and water our farmers’ fields. If the ditches aren’t repaired soon, agriculture will suffer badly and entire communities may get thirsty.

    » Water and soil contamination. Leaks from oil and gas storage tanks are a concern, especially here in Weld County. Sewage contamination of soil and water is another problem.

    » Other infrastructure. Roads and bridges weren’t the only structures damaged by the flood. Other infrastructure — notably wastewater treatment plants — need repairs.

    There are other pitfalls to avoid. But I think we’ll come out of this better and stronger than before if we pull together and continue to show the bend-not-break Colorado spirit we’ve seen so far.

    For example: Glen Haven, in the mountains west of Loveland, was nearly wiped out. You could understand if folks there had said, “This was great while it lasted,” and then found somewhere else to live. But when the committee rolled into town, one of the first people we saw was Tony Fink. I knew Tony from his days as a doctor in Greeley. Now he’s retired and living in Glen Haven, and we saw him scooting around town on his ATV, coordinating, helping people, making sure they were OK. Tony is basically the emergency manager of Glen Haven now. There is no quit in Tony Fink. And there are people like him in every community we visited. I will not let these people down.

    State Rep. Dave Young represents House District 50, which includes central Greeley, Evans and Garden City.

    From The Greeley Tribune:

    Nearly $12 million is being released to help restore watersheds damaged by September floods.

    The $11.7 million from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Emergency Watershed Protection program will help cover 75 percent of the costs for 26 emergency projects, such as the stabilization of riverbanks and rechanneling of rivers and streams that were redirected following the historic floods that swept through Colorado’s Front Range.

    The release of funds was welcomed by Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall. Bennet and Udall led the Colorado Congressional delegation in requesting the NRCS — along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — to prioritize these projects.

    Snowpack news: Weekend storm exceeds forecast in the Upper Arkansas Valley #COwx

    Colorado SWE as a percent of normal November 26, 2013
    Colorado SWE as a percent of normal November 26, 2013

    From The Mountain Mail (Brian McCabe):

    Salida received more than the 3-5 inches of snow forecast for Thursday through Sunday, with reports of 12-16 inches of snow around town. All of the snow equaled .78 inch of precipitation, bringing the November total to .96 inch, .41 inch more than the average of .55 for the month.

    Salida’s year-to-date precipitation totals 11.52 inches, 1.23 inches more than the historical average of 10.29 inches for January through November.

    “This was really just a drop in the bucket in the big picture,” said Bill Gardiner of the Colorado Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It would take quite a few years of above average moisture to get us up to where we should be, but this is a good start.”

    US Senators Bennet and Udall are urging Congress to appropriate more funding for flood relief efforts #COflood

    Evans Colorado September 2013 via
    Evans Colorado September 2013 via

    From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

    U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet are urging the Senate Committee on Appropriations to provide Emergency Watershed Protection funding following September flooding.

    Officials in counties in Northern Colorado, including Weld and Larimer counties, have identified an estimated $216 million in watershed projects related to the flooding. Bennet and Udall asked committee members in a letter to direct additional funding to the Emergency Watershed Protection program, which has less than $25 million available nationally.

    The funding is needed for tasks such as stabilizing river banks and rechanneling waterways, the senators wrote.

    Kevin Duggan: Larimer County estimates its flood-repair costs will be about $108M #COflood

    ‘Farm Bill watchers are once again wondering how and if Congress can finish this bill’ — Patty Lovera

    From Food and Water Watch (Patty Lovera):

    In what seems to be a new rite of fall, Farm Bill watchers are once again wondering how and if Congress can finish this bill before the end of the year. At the end of last week, talks between the leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture committees broke down, which means finishing the Farm Bill using the normal process in 2013 would be nothing short of a winter holiday miracle.

    To recap: The 2008 Farm Bill expired on October 1, 2012. Then on New Year’s Day, a 9-month farm bill extension was included in the bill that was passed to fix the supposed “fiscal cliff.” But the extension didn’t cover everything that was in the 2008 bill, and left dozens of programs for sustainable and organic agriculture, beginning farmers and disaster assistance behind. And on October 1 of this year, that short-term extension expired too.

    So once again, we are finishing the year with an expired Farm Bill, waiting to see if Congress can finish the process and pass a new bill before “permanent law” (from the 1930’s and 1940’s) kicks in and affects the price of farm commodities like milk.

    With Congress in session for just a handful of days this year, they have a lot to do. The bill is currently in conference committee, which has to reconcile the very different versions passed by the House and Senate. The major sticking points are the commodity programs and nutrition programs…

    One of the biggest points of debate seems to be how to calculate the payments to farmers in a way that complies with the World Trade Organization rules about farm subsidies. Missing from this process is any discussion of the real reforms we need, including restoring grain reserve programs that could be used to provide stability for farmers and rein in overproduction of these commodity crops.

    On nutrition, the gap between the House and Senate is huge. The Senate bill would cut $4 billion from SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps), while the House bill would cut almost $40 billion. This is a huge sticking point and Senate Democrats have vowed not to accept a cut that large and the President has threatened to veto any bill with such a cut.

    ‘As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality’ — Kate Burchenal

    Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado -- graphic/State Engineer
    Diagram depicting average streamflow leaving Colorado — graphic/State Engineer

    Here’s a guest column about the Colorado River Watch program, written by Kate Burchenal that is running in the Vail Daily:

    Did you know that Colorado is home to more than 700,000 miles of rivers, streams and creeks? Think about that: 700,000 miles. Considering that the Earth’s circumference is approximately 25,000 miles, end to end; Colorado’s waterways could circle the globe 28 times. And if we want to take this comparison to outer space, then one could travel to the moon and back and still have more than 200,000 miles to spare! Ready for more staggering numbers? Colorado’s population recently surpassed the 5 million mark, 5.18 million actually, which equates to 7.4 people per river mile.

    Here in Eagle County, we love the waterways that meander through our towns and lives. Eagle County houses the entire 77 miles of the Eagle River from the headwaters on Tennessee Pass to its confluence with the Upper Colorado in Dotsero. We also play host to 55 miles of the Colorado River as it skirts through the northwestern part of the county. Fifty-five miles amounts to a mere 3.8 percent of the total length of the river, but we are nevertheless glad to have that access and proximity to the mighty Colorado.

    As the population of Colorado grows, so will the tension on water supplies and water quality due to potential for increased pollution. But there’s passion among our population. People are moving to Colorado in droves to gain access to our skiing, rafting, hiking, fly-fishing and clean-air-breathing! And most of us care deeply about our watersheds and show that dedication if given the chance. So, why not put that passion to work monitoring water quality on our rivers?

    Colorado River Watch

    Since 1989, Colorado River Watch has provided such an opportunity by “work(ing) with voluntary stewards to monitor water quality and other indicators of watershed health and utiliz(ing) this high-quality data to educate citizens and inform decision makers about the condition of Colorado’s waters.” It coordinates water sampling by volunteer groups from around the state: middle and high school classes, local governments, environmental organizations and concerned individuals.

    During the years, River Watch has collected data from more than 3,000 sites around Colorado on more than 300 of our local waterways. Each month, volunteers collect water samples from their stations to test for six main parameters: heavy metals, dissolved oxygen, pH, alkalinity, nutrient levels and hardness. Twice a year, volunteers add the collection of macroinvertebrate samples to understand the health and composition of the bug population.

    Every sample is processed and carefully chronicled by River Watch in its Fort Collins lab. This information is then used by the Water Quality Control Commission (the administrative agency responsible for developing state water quality policies) to set statewide standards for allowable levels of constituents in the water, particularly metals. That’s right, River Watch training and quality control standards are so stringent that information collected by average residents is utilized to set state standards!

    Here in the Eagle Valley, we have more than 12 stations in the hands of numerous River Watch partners: The Eagle River Watershed Council, the town of Vail, individuals and local classrooms. We want to get even more people out on the water taking part in this exciting program whether it is a class, a community group, an afterschool activity program or a family. It’s a great learning tool and a wonderful way for everyday people to have a hand in state water quality issues.

    Kate Burchenal is the education and outreach coordinator for the Eagle River Watershed Council. The Eagle River Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 or visit

    More Eagle River Watershed coverage here and here.


    More Shoshone plant coverage here.

    NOAA: The Endangered Species Act turns 40

    Colorado Pike Minnow
    Colorado Pike Minnow

    From NOAA:

    This year we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). President Nixon signed the ESA into law on December 28, 1973. Congress understood that, without protection from human actions, many of our nation’s living resources would become extinct.

    Endangered species—in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

    Threatened species—likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.

    There are approximately 2,100 total species listed under the ESA. Of these species, approximately 1,480 are found in part or entirely in the U.S. and its waters; the remainder are foreign species.

    Species diversity and environment health are part of the natural legacy we leave for future generations. Each plant, animal, and their physical environment are part of a much more complex web of life, where the removal of a single species could cause a series of negative events affecting many others. Endangered species serve as a sentinel, indicating larger ecological problems that could alter ecosystem functions. The ESA is both a mechanism to help guide our conservation efforts and a reminder that future generations deserve the opportunity to enjoy the same great benefits from the natural world.

    We Will Continue the Work We Started

    Today the ocean is a very different place than it was 40 years ago. Thanks to the ESA, we now understand many of the threats faced by marine and anadromous species and are bringing them under control. The populations of many listed species are increasing, aided by our recovery efforts and time. Still, the populations of many species continue to decline and many more species are being listed. NOAA Fisheries scientists are developing the next generation of ocean observing systems, which will give us Increased awareness of what’s going on in the ocean, adapt our management, and respond to challenges of a changing climate. We will continue developing new technologies and management approaches, and our work with national and international partners, to ensure the ESA remains effective in an interdependent, rapidly-changing world.

    More endangered/threatened species coverage here.

    The Windy Gap Firming project moves closer to implementation #ColoradoRiver

    Chimney Hollow Reservoir site -- Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post
    Chimney Hollow Reservoir site — Bureau of Reclamation via The Denver Post

    Here’s a guest column written by Jim Pokrandt that is running in the Sky-Hi Daily News:

    The Windy Gap Firming Project (WGFP) intergovernmental agreement (IGA) is in final form but has not been totally wrapped up because two important preconditions have not been completed, General Counsel Peter Fleming reported to the Colorado River District Board of Directors at its October meeting.

    Like the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and the West Slope, the Windy Gap Firming Project IGA is a package of mitigation enhancements that would be part of the Windy Gap Firming Project once it is permitted for the Municipal Subdistrict of Northern Water by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

    The preconditions for the River District’s execution of the agreement are that the United States (1) makes a satisfactory finding that the WGFP can be operated consistent with Senate Document 80 — meaning no impact to the United States’ obligations to the beneficiaries, including West Slope beneficiaries, of the Colorado Big Thompson (C‐BT) Project, and (2) adopts an enforceable provision recognizing that if the River District does not challenge the WGFP permitting decision, that it does not waive any legal rights regarding federal decisions involving the same or similar legal issues.

    Fleming anticipated that that these conditions will be satisfied in the context of Reclamation’s final record of decision on the WGFP, which is expected in the first part of 2014. In the meantime, Fleming said the River District has worked extensively with Grand County on matters related to the WGFP and the operation of the C-BT Project — including the Grand Lake Water Clarity Agreement and the upcoming initiation of the WGFP Carriage Contract negotiations.

    With respect to the Grand Lake clarity issues, Fleming reported there have been several meetings with Reclamation and Northern to help ensure that a workable solution can be reached to meet the Grand Lake water quality standard. An important goal in that regard has been to avoid a stalemate over a massively expensive “fix” that could require a separate congressional authorization and appropriation.

    With regard to the WGFP carriage contract negotiations, the River District has assisted Grand County in efforts to secure the best possible negotiating position in Reclamation’s negotiation process.

    Fleming said the River District believes Grand County’s specifically identified role in Senate Document 80 entitles the county (and its advisers) to a more involved position in the negotiations than Reclamation’s standard “sit and‐observe” role for members of the public in its contract negotiation process.

    Another goal is to ensure that the Windy Gap water that Grand County is entitled to use pursuant to the IGA can be stored in Granby Reservoir for no charge or at a very affordable rate.

    More Windy Gap coverage here and here.

    ‘The [Colorado Water Plan] needs your input’ — Hannah Holm #ColoradoRiver

    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
    Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    How will Colorado share the Colorado River? How much irrigated land will be dried up to slake the thirst of growing cities? How far should the state and local governments go in requiring residents to conserve?

    These are some of the questions that will be addressed in Colorado’s statewide water plan, which is currently under development. Back in May, Gov. Hickenlooper ordered the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to develop a draft plan by Dec. 10, 2014, which is to be finalized by Dec. 10, 2015…

    Both the CWCB and the Basin Roundtables are now seeking public input on the plan. There’s a survey link at the end of this article for you to provide general input, and future articles and surveys will address more specific issues.

    First, though, let’s consider this basic question – why does Colorado need a water plan?

    The Governor’s Executive Order notes that the gap between the state’s developed water supplies and growing urban demands could exceed 500,000 acre feet by 2050 (an acre foot is about enough for 2-3 families for a year at current usage rates). The biggest gap is anticipated in the South Platte River Basin, home to Colorado’s largest cities. A central challenge for the water plan is to fill the gap in a way that matches Colorado’s values. That’s a tough nut to crack.

    The easiest way for cities to fill that gap is by taking it from agriculture, which currently accounts for about 85% of the water consumed in the state. But there’s a heavy price to pay for continuing to rely on that approach. A state water supply study released in 2010 projected a 15-20% decline in irrigated acreage statewide by 2050, with a 22-32% decline in the South Platte Basin over the same period. “Buying and drying” of agricultural water rights has already devastated some rural communities, and most stakeholders agree that this should be minimized in the future.

    If not from agriculture, then where? East Slope Roundtables have been arguing for the need to preserve the option to develop additional West Slope water supplies. West Slope Roundtables point to environmental and economic impacts already felt from the roughly 500,000 acre-feet/year already transferred across the divide each year. More than 60% of the natural flows of the Upper Colorado River above Kremmling, for example, are diverted to the Front Range, impacting both Grand County building permits and gold medal trout streams.

    Another concern is that increased depletions from the Colorado River and its tributaries would increase the risk of failing to meet legal obligations to downstream states. If downstream flow obligations are not met, water rights junior to the 1922 Compact between Upper Colorado River Basin states (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming) and Lower Colorado River Basin States (Arizona, Nevada and California) on how to share the river could be curtailed. If that means cutting off urban taps, it could set off a mad scramble for senior agricultural water rights on the West Slope.

    Of course, neither drying up irrigated agriculture nor putting another straw into the Colorado Basin would be necessary if urban users reduced their consumption sufficiently. But how to achieve that isn’t easy either. Updated fixtures and education campaigns are a good start, but conserving enough to eliminate the need for other water sources would likely be impossible without the broad application of land-use and landscaping restrictions that may not be politically palatable.

    There are no easy answers to the state’s large-scale water challenges. Creative solutions are needed to find more “win-win” solutions, with less of a need for losers – but hard choices may still need to be made. The more people that contribute their insights and opinions, the better the chances are that the final plan will fully reflect Colorado’s water values.

    To begin contributing your insights to your Basin Roundtable and the CWCB, fill out this quick survey:

    If you want to get a little more background first, check out the new Colorado Water Plan website at

    More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

    John Fleck: Interesting piece on water quality implications of some of the farm bill language

    Durango: City Parks and Recreation is proposing a new plan to rope in tubers below Oxbow Park

    Proposed management plan area -- City of Durango via The Durango Herald
    Proposed management plan area — City of Durango via The Durango Herald

    From The Durango Herald (Chuck Slothower):

    A management plan under discussion by city of Durango officials would bar inner-tubers from launching from Oxbow Park in north Durango and require river floaters there to use paddles and wear life vests. The proposed restrictions come in response to a rising chorus of complaints from riverfront property owners who say they’re tired of tubers trespassing on their property, often urinating and leaving trash along the way. The restrictions would apply to a 1.2-mile stretch of the Animas north of the 33rd Street put-in to Oxbow Park and Preserve.

    One provision under consideration states that “all river craft shall be propelled in this section by a paddle.” Another says, “downstream tube float trips shall not be permitted to launch from the (Oxbow) property.”

    The provisions appear to leave tourism-driven commercial raft guides largely unaffected while targeting inner-tubers, who, in many cases, are local high school or college students…

    Two volunteer advisory boards, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board, are considering the rules. They will meet again in December before forwarding recommendations to the City Council sometime in early 2014…

    Tubers, along with rafters and paddle-boarders, often put in to the river north of 33rd Street. It’s a languid stretch of river, leading some bored or tired tubers to find landfall on the river’s banks before they arrive at the 33rd Street put-in. The problem is the stretch of river from Oxbow Park to 33rd Street is entirely lined by private land…

    Residents can email public comments at

    More whitewater coverage here.

    CSU: Northern Colorado Flood Recovery Assistance and Resource Fair Dec. 16 #COflood

    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

    Colorado State University Extension is hosting an informational meeting for farmers, ranchers and landowners affected by the recent floods. A wide variety of information regarding technical assistance for recovery will be presented. The meeting will be useful for landowners and agricultural producers with flood-related damage to infrastructure – land, soil, pasture, fencing – and related concerns.

    The Northern Colorado Flood Recovery Assistance and Resource Fair will be held from 1 – 4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16, in the McKee Building at The Ranch, Crossroads Boulevard and I-25, in Loveland. The event is free and open to the public; no pre-registration is required.

    Information on debris removal, soil, pasture and land reclamation resources, and water quality will be presented. There will be a plenary session as well as time to visit one-on-one with local representatives, including:

    • USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service
    • Colorado State University Extension
    • Rocky Mountain Farmers Union
    • Local Food Shift Group
    • Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment
    • Local governments
    • Suppliers and service providers

    For more information contact Keith Maxey, CSU Extension-Weld County,
    (970) 304-6535 ext. 2075 or

    51st State Initiative: ‘If anything, I actually think it built up walls’ — Mark Ferrandino

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

    From The Greeley Tribune (T.M. Fasano):

    Let the dialogue begin about solving the problems of Colorado’s urban/rural political divide. Or not. After the 51st state initiative failed in Weld County on Nov. 5 by 56 percent to 44 percent, Weld commissioners Sean Conway and Barbara Kirkmeyer said the effort to secede from Colorado started dialogue around the state regarding rural counties’ needs not being considered by lawmakers in the Denver-metro area.

    “If the entire effort was to send a message, message received,” Conway said. “I think we have kick-started a very important dialogue that I look forward to participating in as we move forward. We’re not going away.”

    Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, though, has a different opinion.

    “If anything, I actually think it built up walls,” Ferrandino said in a phone interview from Denver. “I have known Sean for a while. He’s always welcome in my office, but doing this type of stuff doesn’t build bridges. It puts up walls. Saying, ‘We just want to be a different state,’ doesn’t say, ‘We want to work together to find the right policies for this state.’”

    Ferrandino said Denver legislators won’t shut out rural Weld officials because of the 51st state effort. But, he added, “there’s a group now who are seen I think by some as more out of touch, especially when Commissioner Conway is the one pushing it and then his county doesn’t even vote for it. I think he’s out of touch with his own voters. If he’s supposed to be advocating for his constituents and he’s supposed to have a pulse on his constituents, then you would think he’d be able to get more support than that. He should talk to some of his other constituents who voted against his measure.”

    Ferrandino added that having a meaningful discussion is important and he vows to be part of that, but he believes the 51st state issue was perceived by many across the state as “throwing a tantrum.”

    “That’s not the right process,” he said. “We have a process in place, and we should use that process. I’m glad to see that it didn’t pass because we have a fundamental belief in our democratic process. You organize and you work to elect people who will agree with you. You don’t just say, ‘We’re going to take our toys and go home.’ I think it is a small group of people who are not happy with what’s going on and trying to make political hay out of it.”


    The big question now is: What can be done to get Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Democratic-dominated legislature to be more attentive to the concerns and needs of rural Colorado?

    “We understand that some rural areas still feel under-represented and are not being heard. We remain committed to listening more and working with local communities all across Colorado,” Gov. Hickenlooper said in an email response Friday.

    Eric Brown, director of communications for the governor, said Hickenlooper will continue to reach out to Weld County and other rural areas.

    “The vote in Weld County doesn’t change our intent to continue talking to residents there or in other counties,” Brown said. “The governor held community meetings this fall on the eastern plains, in southern Colorado and on the Western Slope — and he’s been in Weld County four times in the past two months.”

    Conway said the county commissioners began the journey in June with the recognition that the political divide exists, and it’s not going away.

    “I think we’re going to be at the Legislature in January looking for ways to do this. We’re going to be engaging with our state legislators who, quite frankly, have been AWOL,” Conway said.

    Even though 56 percent of the voters (more than 36,260) voted against the 51st state, Conway takes solace in the fact that 44 percent (28,107 yes votes) wanted a change.

    “Clearly, there’s frustration out there that needs to be addressed,” Conway said. “Do we really think the governor would be saying, ‘I’m going to come to Weld County more often. That I’m going to listen more. That I’ve got to lean in more. I’ve got to have more of a dialogue here,’ if we hadn’t had this discussion? I doubt it.”

    The Divide Goes Beyond Denver

    If you ask Conway, the political divide between rural and urban areas isn’t just about the Denver-metro lawmakers. Conway called out Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley, as being part of the problem.

    “I think we accomplished a lot in the last few months in terms of opening up this dialogue, getting attention at the state capitol, getting the attention of legislators, including some of our own legislators in Weld County who were, quite frankly, part of the problem,” Conway said. “When you have a Dave Young, who votes against oil and gas bills that are absolutely paramount to Weld County. I want to see if he’s going to listen more. Is he going to engage more? I couldn’t get a meeting last year during the legislative session with Rep. Young. Is he going to become an active participant in this dialogue? Does he recognize there’s a problem out there?”

    In response to Conway’s comments, Young said he’s had numerous interactions with Conway.

    “I’m a little disappointed that he would say that he tried to set up a meeting with me and that he couldn’t get it done,” Young said. “I met with all five commissioners, at their request, after the flooding occurred to really get a sense of what was going on in the county and tell them what I was working on. I make myself extremely available. He has attended my town hall meetings that I’ve had. I’m a little surprised that he would say that I’m unavailable.”

    Young said his job is to represent the people in his district.

    “There are other representatives who represent other parts of northern Colorado that are primarily rural. My district, I don’t know if you really can call it urban but I don’t think it would be called rural,” Young said. “I know from lots of conversations with people in my district that we’re very sensitive to the issues of rural folks. Our economy in Weld County is driven primarily by agriculture, and that we need to really look out for the concerns of the ag community. Certainly, we’ve gotten economic benefits from the energy sector, as well, and oil and gas. I’m trying to work pretty carefully with them as well to make sure that we balance the needs of our economy and the need to make sure people’s health and safety are protected.”


    Kirkmeyer said a positive thing that came out of the 51st state initiative was the Phillips County plan which would set representation throughout the state based on geography rather than population.

    “That is something we will continue to work on and push,” Kirkmeyer said. “This is just the first chapter.”

    The Phillips County plan would base either the state House or Senate representation on area instead of population, similar to Congress in which the House of Representatives is based on population, but the Senate has two senators from every state no matter the population.

    “We look forward to working with those counties who put this on the ballot. We have been working on this Phillips County idea, which came out of this,” Conway said. “Without this discussion, we would never have come up with this Phillips County idea. I think that’s gaining momentum. Quite frankly, I think that potentially could be the solution out there. We’ll see as we proceed forward.”

    Ferrandino said it’s his understanding that based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Phillips County plan would be unconstitutional.

    “Everyone I talked to and all of our non-partisan legal staff seems to think the court is pretty clear,” he said. “While I understand the idea around it, if you do it based on counties, there are counties that have a few thousand people and giving them more representation might be a worthwhile goal, but the over 600,00 people who live in Denver, who I represent over 10 percent of them, losing their representation is a problem and making them have less of a voice is not a fair way either.”

    Ferrandino said there has been division in the state before, but not to the point of trying to form a new state.

    “Every state goes through that. Colorado is changing both demographically and politically over the last couple of decades, and that’s going to continue,” Ferrandino said. “Anytime change happens, there are always people who try to stop change and that causes issues.”

    John Straayer, a political analyst and political science professor for 47 years at Colorado State University, said the Phillips County plan is a non-starter because of the Reynolds vs. Sims 1964 Supreme Court case that ruled that all districts in any state legislature must be equal in population.

    “The case law is very settled on that matter,” Straayer said. “Then there was one specific to Colorado, and it just blows my mind that nobody seems to have looked at it or paid attention to it. That followed Reynolds v. Sims the same year and the case is called Lucas v. Colorado. The peculiar thing for me through all of this is how in the world does this talk about the Phillips plan keeps going and going and going without some very clear recognition that it’s going to fly in the face of settled law, and that law has been settled now for half a century. You can’t do it. It’s unconstitutional.”


    Young agrees there are some urban/rural issues to discuss, but he thinks most issues are more complicated than that.

    “I’m not sure I saw solutions being brought forward through the whole conversation on the 51st state, but we have issues around water that are of concern to everybody in the state,” Young said. “Agriculture uses 84 percent of our water, and they’re already claiming that there are impending shortages. If agriculture is affected, we’re all affected. It’s a complicated situation that we need to work together to resolve.

    “Education is an issue that’s complicated. That cuts across urban versus rural. We’ve got children all across the state in small or large communities that need better access to education and quality education.”

    Young agrees that some people don’t feel as if they have a voice at the table, which to him sounds like a communication problem.

    “It’s of concern to me when people say they want to be heard, but then they want to isolate or separate themselves from those they expect to have listen to them,” he said. “That doesn’t seem to be an effective solution.”

    He added, “I think if you feel like you’re not being heard that you should be working harder to make sure you’re heard, and to me separating or seceding from the state has the opposite effect. I want to say without equivocation that I am certainly willing to work with others, whether they be Republicans or Democrats or other parties, to be part of the process of coming up with solutions. We have to craft solutions that work for all Coloradans.”

    Ferrandino said there is a shift in population happening nationwide with more people moving to urban and suburban areas.

    “That has implications, but when you look at the Flood (Disaster Study) Committee, it’s being chaired by a Republican (Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley) and Democrat (Young), both from Weld County,” Ferrandino said. “I think people in urban areas understand the issues and try to understand the issues in rural areas, and rural areas try to understand the issues in urban areas. They’re different, and we have to balance both of those. But we’re all one state and we have to look out for the best interests of the entire state.”

    Ferrandino believes it’s vital to have an open-door policy and listen to everyone.

    “It doesn’t mean you always agree, but everyone has to have the right to have their voice heard,” Ferrandino said. “A lot of people who say we won’t listen never come down to talk to us. It’s funny that Sean says we don’t listen when he’s always welcome to call me and always welcome to come and have a meeting with me, and he has had meetings with me. The best policies are when people sit around the table and discuss things in a meaningful way, that they understand that they’re not going to get everything that they want. A 51st state strategy is about getting everything you want. It’s saying. “We don’t want to compromise.’ It’s kind of like the Republicans in D.C. who shut down the government. ‘We don’t want to negotiate. We want our way or no way at all.’ ”

    Straayer thinks the debate will continue between rural versus urban residents.

    “The grievances that some folks have felt being slighted perhaps or not having their voice heard adequately in the legislature, I think, that concern will probably continue,” Straayer said. “There will be continued efforts to press the rural message and the rural agenda. The fact of the matter is that the people live on the Front Range and the urban area. That’s where political clout is. I think if the rural areas that lean heavily Republican want to have their concerns addressed more effectively, they’ve got to get more Republicans elected.”

    More 51st State Initiative coverage here.

    NOAA: US Winter Outlook for upcoming season released

    From NOAA:

    Winter is likely to offer little relief to the drought-stricken U.S. Southwest, and drought is likely to develop across parts of the Southeast as below-average precipitation is favored in these areas of the country, according to NOAA’s annual Winter Outlook announced today.

    Drought has been an ongoing concern across parts of the Southwest and Texas for nearly three years, and after some relief during the past few months, drought is likely to redevelop during winter.

    Sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific have been near average since spring 2012, and forecasters expect that to continue through the winter. This means that neither El Niño nor La Niña is expected to influence the climate during the upcoming winter.

    “It’s a challenge to produce a long-term winter forecast without the climate pattern of an El Niño or a La Niña in place out in the Pacific because those climate patterns often strongly influence winter temperature and precipitation here in the United States,” said Mike Halpert, acting director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Without this strong seasonal influence, winter weather is often affected by short-term climate patterns, such as the Arctic Oscillation, that are not predictable beyond a week or two. So it’s important to pay attention to your local daily weather forecast throughout the winter.”

    The Precipitation Outlook favors:

  • Below-average precipitation in the Southwest, Southeast and the Alaskan panhandle.
  • Above-average precipitation in the Northern Rockies, particularly over Montana and northern Wyoming and in Hawaii.
  • The Temperature Outlook favors:

  • Below-average temperatures in the Northern Plains and the Alaskan Panhandle.
  • Above-average temperatures in the Southwest, the South-Central U.S., parts of the Southeast, New England and western Alaska.
  • The rest of the country falls into the “equal chance” category, meaning that there is not a strong or reliable enough climate signal in these areas to favor one category over the others, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation.

    The Climate Prediction Center produces the U.S. Winter Outlook to give American communities the best possible scientific prediction of how the winter may shape up across the nation. This outlook supports local and state governments in their effort to plan for public needs during the winter, and large and small businesses as they plan for winter impacts on things like transportation, market demand for goods and services, and finances. Building a Weather-Ready Nation is a collective effort to improve America’s resilience to extreme weather and climate by empowering the public to make fast, smart and life-saving decisions.

    This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon the strength and track of winter storms, which are generally not predictable more than a week in advance.

    Meanwhile, click here for Klaus Wolter’s presentation slides from last week’s CWCB Water Availability Task Force meeting. Click here to go to the website.

    Bureau of Reclamation: On this day in 1922, the Colorado River Compact was signed

    More Colorado River Compact coverage here and here. More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Ed Quillen the Truth Teller: Get our facts right, be entertaining…tell the truth — Allen Best

    Here’s a recap of the recent Ed Quillen anthology events, written by Allen Best for The Mountain Town News. Click through and read the whole article — a tribute from one of Ed’s close friends. Here’s an excerpt:

    Ed Quillen once advised me that a journalist must avoid two fatal errors: to be inaccurate and to be dull. Rarely, if ever, was he either, as occurred to me during two events in his honor recently, the first in his hometown of Salida, Colo., and then two nights later in Boulder, Colo.

    An anthology called “Deeper into the Heart of the Rockies,” has been published, containing 100 of his columns culled from among the 1,500 columns published in The Denver Post between 1999 and 2012, when he died. The book, a sequel to his previous anthology, called “Deep in the Heart of the Rockies,” is primarily the result of work by Abby Quillen, the daughter of Ed and Martha. She asked me to assist in selecting Ed’s best columns, and I did my best, working through 300 to 400 of them, mostly late at night.

    I wasn’t of much help to Abby. I saved more than I discarded. What struck me again was how consistently good Ed was, and how extremely rare the duds. He was often funny and always informative, particularly in providing context of geography and history about this or that issue of the day, something that journalism does poorly. Most deliciously, you never knew exactly where he would take you. He tended to be liberal or, as one blogger described him in The Denver Post after his death, “mountain libertarian.” You wouldn’t bet on his conclusions. His arguments were buttressed by facts, not girded by some ossified ideology. Particularly in his later years, he was a first-order intellect, what the historian Patty Limerick, who has academic credentials that Ed lacked, describes as a populist intellectual…

    …at a college auditorium at Boulder…former State Senator Dennis Gallagher, a professor of Shakespeare before he got into politics, bent and troweled Ed’s words [Why bother to learn the Colorado dialect?] to maximum oratorical effect. Just as much fun was Greg Hobbs, a former water lawyer by practice and now a Colorado Supreme Court Justice, who read one of Ed’s best columns about water: “Water is easier to understand if you treat it like a religion.”

    Coyote Gulch links to Ed Quillen here and here.

    Restoration: Pueblo West is working with Chaffee County to revegetate the Hill Ranch buy and dry property

    Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine -- Mike Rosso
    Hill Ranch photo via Colorado Central Magazine — Mike Rosso

    From The Mountain Mail (James Redmond):

    After receiving information from soil tests, Pueblo West officials will meet with Chaffee County officials to develop the next steps for revegetation and weed control efforts at the Hill Ranch, next to U.S. 285 north of Centerville. Alan Leak, a consultant for Pueblo West from RESPEC Water & Natural Resources, met with Chaffee County commissioners during their regular meeting Tuesday.

    Pueblo West had soil samples from the Hill Ranch sent off for analysis, Leak said. The analysis showed that seed mixes used by Pueblo West more than a year ago “were not suitable” to soil acidic levels at the Hill Ranch. He said he does not have the complete analysis yet.

    Larry Walker, Chaffee County Weed Department supervisor, said he would like to see the complete results once Leak has them.

    From the soil analysis, Leak said they will get recommendations on what seeds to use on the property. Once he gets that information and the full report, which should happen by the end of the year, he will meet with people in Chaffee County and develop a plan for next year.

    Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese said he would like to have Leak meet with the commissioners at their February work session to discuss the plan.

    For next year, instead of just trying two test sites with the same idea, Pueblo West might try “a bunch of different things” and see what works. That way if one idea does not work, they do not waste the whole year, he said.

    Pueblo West purchased the Hill Ranch water rights, and part of the purchase conditions require the municipality to revegetate the land with local grass before it can use the water right, county officials said previously.

    Leak said he last met with the county commissioners during the summer, when they discussed Pueblo West’s summer and fall plan for the Hill Ranch. At the time he told commissioners about a proposed plan for weed control and two sites for test crops. He explained a process consisting of tilling two test sites, planting a sterile sorghum and mowing the property to keep weeds down. Each of the two approximately 50-acre test sites was tilled to mix peat in with the soil and planted with a sterile sorghum. Sorghum was planted to help reduce the acidity and build root mass in the soil. The efforts resulted in “a fair sorghum crop” at the test sites, Leak said. They also found that “in most parts the peat is not as deep as we thought,” he said. The test sites had irrigation water run onto them, about 1,500 acre-feet, Leak said. So far Pueblo West “has expended $115,000” this year on its Hill Ranch efforts, he said.

    Walker said, considering the work he has done to help with the Hill Ranch revegetation and weed control efforts, he wonders if the county should perhaps get compensated as a consultant.

    “Weed control was somewhat successful,” Leak said. The Hill Ranch was mowed three times, and the area had some selective grazing.

    “The guy mowing did a great job – a month too late,” Frank McMurry, a rancher who lives near the Hill Ranch, said at the meeting. “We have a monumental weed problem, due to the timing.” When it comes to mowing to keep weeds down, timing matters, he said.

    “We probably got up here a little late a few times,” Leak said. However, Pueblo West did make an effort to get Hill Ranch mowed. Next year, they want to get to the mowing earlier, he said.

    Because the weather can change and affect the growth of weeds without much warning, McMurry said he thinks Pueblo West should hire someone local to monitor and manage the Hill Ranch site, not someone from Walsenburg. A local person could stay apprised of the conditions and know what they mean for growth on the site, Commissioner Dave Potts said.

    Here’s some background from Ron Sering writing for Colorado Central Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

    Rights to irrigate the area known today as Hill Ranch predate Chaffee County by more than a decade. Decreed in 1868, the rights permitted diversion of water for agriculture and ranching. And so it remained for more than a century, even after sale of the rights by the Hill family to Western Water Rights Limited Liability Partnership in 1986.

    That all changed with the subsequent sale of the rights to the Pueblo West Metropolitan District (PWMD) in 2008. The PWMD, home to nearly 30,000 thirsty people, needed the rights to fuel a growth rate that remains among the fastest in the state. The rights are significant, totaling nearly 1,900 acre feet of water. An acre foot totals nearly 326,000 gallons. Under the decree, the rights would convert from agricultural to municipal. Included in the terms was the cessation of irrigation activities. The land would be dried up and restored to its pre-irrigation state.

    The irrigation made growth possible for more water-loving vegetation, including aspen and cottonwood trees, and Russian thistle, a non-native species also known as tumbleweed. Under the rights transfer, the intrusive weeds must be removed and native grasses restored.

    PWMD contracted with Denver-based WRC Engineering to perform the dry-up. The plan was to cease irrigation to dry up the land, defoliate the intrusive species and minimize windblown weeds and dust, followed by the introduction of a prescribed seed mixture from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

    Say hello to and then open up your wallet on December 10

    Search by "water" results from Colorado Gives Day website
    Search by “water” results from Colorado Gives Day website

    Click here to go to the Colorado Gives Day website. You can search for your favorite old or new non-profit by name, keyword, city, zip code, county or cause. I searched by the keyword “water,” of course.

    Left Hand Creek: Crews are racing against the start of irrigation season to reconnect facilities to the creek #COflood

    Left Hand Creek September 2013 via Piper Bayard
    Left Hand Creek September 2013 via Piper Bayard

    From (Russell Haythorn):

    The floods destroyed or badly damaged 12 of the head gates along Left Hand Creek. Those gates were used to divert water into smaller canals and out to farms for irrigation or reservoirs for drinking.

    “All five of our reservoirs are offline, meaning we cannot get water into the reservoirs,” Left Hand Ditch Company Vice President Terry Plummer says.

    In some places, the old creek bed is now dry and the water is flowing along a new path. If it doesn’t get diverted back into the original channel, Plummer says even the repaired gates can’t be used.

    “There is no other option here,” he said. “It has to be repaired. This is people’s livelihood.”

    The price of repair is estimated at $3.25 million.

    So far, the Williamson Canal is nearly complete.

    “We put the river back in its bed, rebuilt the banks,” Plummer said.

    Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board meeting recap

    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain
    Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater November 2011 via The Pueblo Chieftain

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Water rights and cost issues still must be decided, but a study of the effectiveness of dams in Fountain Creek should be finalized in January. The study’s release was delayed a month because of a federal government shutdown, but the results have been reported for months.

    “There has been no study of costs and benefits,” David Mau, head of the Pueblo office of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board Thursday. The USGS did the study in conjunction with the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. The local share of funds for the $500,000 study was provided through $300,000 paid by Colorado Springs Utilities as part of its Pueblo County 1041 permit conditions for the Southern Delivery System.

    The study looks at a 100-year storm centered over downtown Colorado Springs, and the effectiveness of dams or diversions at various locations along Fountain Creek. The most effective alternatives were a large dam on Fountain Creek or a series of detention ponds south of Colorado Springs. Mau said the number of ponds was not as important as the volume of water that could be stored.

    There were some snickers in the room when Mau pointed out that roads and railroad tracks would have to be moved to build a large dam approximately 10 miles from the confluence of Fountain Creek. But it was pointed out that a large flood also could relocate roads, railroad tracks and utility lines, as was the case in Northern Colorado in September. Pueblo County lost the Pinon Bridge in the 1999 flood.

    Mau said the amount of sediment trapped by a dam would amount to 2,500 truckloads, but said smaller ponds also would require extensive maintenance to remain effective.

    Board member Vera Ortegon asked Mau which alternative he would recommend.

    “We look at the science,” Mau said. “I could give you my personal opinion, but I won’t.”

    Meanwhile property owners continue to chip away at the Fryingpn-Arkansas Project debt. Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

    Property owners in nine counties will continue to make a dent in the federal debt for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project next year. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the agency in charge of repaying the debt, will collect another $6.5 million in property taxes next year, most of which goes toward reducing the debt. The board reviewed the budget Thursday and is expected to pass it on Dec. 5. The district began paying off $129 million in federal loans in 1982 on a 50-year loan. The amount represents the region’s share of the $585 million cost to build the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project. About $36 million of the debt will remain at the end of the year, Executive Director Jim Broderick told the board Thursday.

    The district collects 0.944 mills in property taxes in parts of Bent, Chaffee, Crowley, El Paso, Fremont, Kiowa, Otero, Pueblo and Prowers counties. Of that, 0.9 mills goes toward federal repayment and the rest toward operating expenses.

    It also will collect $5.3 million in pass-through revenues from El Paso County to repay the federal government for building the Fountain Valley Conduit.

    The district also collects funds through sale of Fry-Ark water, fees and grants.

    The district’s operating budget is $2.24 million next year, with an additional $1.07 million in capital projects planned.

    The enterprise budget, paid mostly by user fees, totals $2.8 million, which includes $880,000 in capital projects.

    The district is responsible for paying the Bureau of Reclamation to operate and maintain the project. The district also allocates water to cities and farms, and provides legal protection of Fry­Ark water rights.

    More Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.