Yampa River: Habitat improvement projects near completion, streamflow in the 10th percentile

Yampa River habitat improvement via Steamboat Today
Yampa River habitat improvement via Steamboat Today

From Steamboat Today (Joel Reichenberger):

The Yampa Valley Stream Improvement charitable trust has been working to improve waterways in the region for more than 30 years, and its work can be seen in clean, smooth-flowing streams all across the area. It tackled its biggest project in 2006, when it set to work on the Yampa River southeast of Steamboat Springs in the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.

Now, after it divvied that task into three phases, the final elements are just a week away from completion. An area of the river that once was a shallow, eroded mess strewn with trash will be one of the premier rainbow trout fisheries in the state. What previously was a stretch of river Steamboat anglers were more likely to avoid will become a fishermen’s paradise…

The project cost about $1 million, and getting to this point has been a monumental task. The funds were raised from private donors, benefit events and through grants from government programs and other organizations.

The first stage, in 2006, involved dragging 88 cars from the river’s banks and cost $100,000…

The trust partnered with the city of Steamboat Springs for the second stage, a $300,000 project upstream of Chuck Lewis. It reconditioned the river, cleaned up a dump, stabilized the banks and moved the river 50 yards back to its channel.

The third stage, which is underway, has heavy equipment digging in the river to create structures for fish habitat, channeling and deepening the river and creating pools. Even the placement of rocks and other breaks in the water were studied to help cut back on the pike population and make a world-class sanctuary for growing trout.

Now the section of river will be used as a rearing ground for a strain of rainbow trout resistant to whirling disease…

Meanwhile streamflow in the Yampa River has dropped below the 10th percentile recently. Here’s a report from Tom Ross writing for Steamboat Today. Here’s an excerpt:

The river was flowing at 64 cubic feet per second Tuesday beneath the Fifth Street Bridge. That compares to the median flow for this date of 117 cfs and the all-time recorded low of 43 cfs on Oct. 9, 1935…

The Yampa and the Elk rivers are among more than 20 rivers throughout Colorado currently flowing in the 10 percent range of their historical averages, according to the U.S. Geological Survey…

The Yampa was flowing on par Oct. 4 at 70 cfs, but the historic graph indicates Oct. 5 is the date when the river flow should begin to pick up to levels above 100 cfs.

Jay Gallagher, of the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, said Tuesday that he didn’t have data at his fingertips to confirm the flows in Granite Creek and the Middle Fork of Fish Creek, which feed Fish Creek Reservoir and historically have risen at this time of year. The reservoir, Steamboat’s primary source of domestic water, is about 54 percent full and will drop into the 40 percent range during winter. The dam is releasing about 7 cfs into Fish Creek, and that will continue for about another week before it is dropped to 4 cfs, he said.

The Elk River was flowing at 68 cfs Tuesday at its confluence with the Yampa west of Steamboat. The Yampa was flowing at 36 cfs above Stagecoach Reservoir. Further downstream, above Lake Catamount, the river was flowing at 29 cfs.

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

The latest ENSO discussion is hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center

Mid-October 2013 Plume of model ENSO predictions via the Climate Prediction Center
Mid-October 2013 Plume of model ENSO predictions via the Climate Prediction Center

Click here for the discussion. Here’s the synopsis:

Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014.

During October, ENSO-neutral persisted, as reflected by near-average sea surface temperatures (SST) across much of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. During the month, slightly below-average SSTs were evident in most of the Niño regions, except for Niño-4, which remained near zero. However, the oceanic heat content (average temperature in the upper 300m of the ocean) rose from near average to slightly above average, due to the eastward shift of a downwelling oceanic Kelvin wave, which was reflected in the above-average subsurface temperatures across the western half of the Pacific. The atmospheric circulation remained largely near average during the month, with generally small departures in equatorial convection and upper and lower-level winds. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral.

The majority of model forecasts indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) will persist into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2014 (Fig. 6). Though confidence is highest for ENSO-neutral, there are also growing probabilities for warm conditions (relative to cool conditions) toward the spring/summer 2014. The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (see CPC/IRI consensus forecast).

51st State Initiative touts ‘OVERWHELMING success,’ works to broaden secession

Middle Colorado Watershed Council workshop: Future Outlook for Water in the #ColoradoRiver, November 22

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

Click here for the pitch. Here’s an excerpt:

Colorado River Water Availability Study

The seven states sharing the Colorado River and the US Bureau of Reclamation recently completed a multi-year study identifying overuse of the river’s resources. But this study is not destined for the shelf; work is underway in four major value areas on better planning and managing of the Colorado River and the demands on it. Chris Treese, External Affairs Manager for the Colorado River District, will talk about the findings of this important study and where we go from here.

Overview of Weather Modification Programs in Colorado

Maria Pastore, Hydrologist at Grand River Consulting and Consultant to the Front Range Water Council will provide an overview of the weather modification (cloud-seeding) programs in Colorado, with specific focus on the Central Colorado Mountains River Basin weather modification program. Cloud-seeding programs have been in existence in Colorado for over 40 years, and are supported with permits and funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Lower Basin States to help with growth and development of these programs. Grand River administers the Central Colorado program on behalf of several East Slope, West Slope and Ski Area program participants. Maria will share how local support of these programs is valuable to Colorado’s involvement with solutions to basin-wide water supply shortages, come learn more!

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Reclamation Releases the Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact on the C Ditch/Needle Rock Pipeline Project

C Ditch photo via USBR
C Ditch photo via USBR

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Terry Stroh/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it released the final EA and Finding of No Significant Impact on the C Ditch/Needle Rock Pipeline Project in Delta County, Colo. The project involves replacing a total of approximately 14,669 lineal feet of open irrigation ditch with buried pipe. The project will improve the efficiency of water delivery to ditch users and reduce salinity loading in the Colorado River Region. Funding for the project is through a cooperative agreement between Reclamation and C-Ditch Company.

The final EA and FONSI are available on our web site or a copy can be received by contacting Terry Stroh with Reclamation in Grand Junction at (970) 248-0608 or tstroh@usbr.gov.

Construction is anticipated to be completed by spring 2014.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here.

The EPA releases their Climate Resilience Evaluation & Awareness Tool (CREAT)

CREAT logo via the EPA

From the Environmental Protection Agency:

EPA has developed CREAT, a software tool to assist drinking water and wastewater utility owners and operators in understanding potential climate change threats and in assessing the related risks at their individual utilities. CREAT provides users with access to the most recent national assessment of climate change impacts for use in considering how these changes will impact utility operations and missions. Version 2.0 is now available for download free of charge.

CREAT allows users to evaluate potential impacts of climate change on their utility and to evaluate adaptation options to address these impacts using both traditional risk assessment and scenario-based decision making. CREAT provides libraries of drinking water and wastewater utility assets (e.g., water resources, treatment plants, pump stations) that could be impacted by climate change, possible climate change-related threats (e.g., flooding, drought, water quality), and adaptive measures that can be implemented to reduce the impacts of climate change. The tool guides users through identifying threats based on regional differences in climate change projections and designing adaptation plans based on the types of threats being considered. Following assessment, CREAT provides a series of risk reduction and cost reports that will allow the user to evaluate various adaptation options as part of long-term planning.

For more information see CREAT Fact Sheet (PDF) (2 pp, 400K)
For CREAT training, visit the Climate Ready Water Utilities page, Training Tab

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

The draft Chatfield Watershed Plan is ready for public comment

Chatfield Watershed via the Chatfield Watershed Authority
Chatfield Watershed via the Chatfield Watershed Authority

Here’s the release from the Chatfield Watershed Authority via the Littleton Independent:

The group working on a vision for the future of the Chatfield watershed has developed a draft plan and wants the public to weigh in.

“The Chatfield Watershed Plan provides an essential framework for prioritizing and protecting our local natural resources,” Casey Davenhill, executive director of the Colorado Watershed Assembly, said in a press release. “It also offers citizens educational information to help adults, kids, pet owners, farmers and others take responsible action to safeguard public health and safety that ultimately affects water quality in all of our communities.”

The CWA was established in 1984 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in an effort to protect water quality throughout the watershed, which includes parts of Douglas and Jefferson counties. Member agencies include the Audubon Society, Denver Water, a variety of water and sanitation districts, several municipalities, the Denver Urban Water Partnership and many more.
The plan focuses on stream restoration and mitigating the effects of wildfire and erosion. It calls for diverting runoff away from areas polluted by such things as animal waste and deteriorating septic systems, in an effort to protect the groundwater and the South Platte River south of Chatfield Reservoir.

“In addition to its primary purpose of flood control, (Chatfield) serves as one of many water-supply reservoirs for the City of Denver and other Front Range communities, which is why it’s essential for all citizens to understand how human, animal and recreational activities affect water quality and the natural ecosystems that co-exist with one another,” said Julie Vlier, supervising engineer at Tetra Tech, the firm that conducted the study for CWA. “The inclusive public process in which the watershed plan has been carefully developed focuses on the practical actions that will lead to significant improvements to water quality in this vital watershed.”

CWA will accept public comments through January, then organize them in time for a final public meeting in the spring. It can be viewed at http://www.chatfieldwatershedauthority.org; click on “Watershed Plan,” then “Plan Documentation.” Send comments to julie.vlier@tetratech.com.

This plan is entirely separate from the pending Chatfield reallocation project, the final draft of which was released in September. It can be viewed at http://www.chatfieldstudy.org.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

‘The [Bureau of Reclamation study] is a call to action’ — Mark Udall #ColoradoRiver

Colorado River Basin via Rand JIE
Colorado River Basin via Rand JIE

Here’s a guest column written by US Senator Mark Udall running in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent where he urges action on the probable supply shortages on the Colorado River. Here’s an excerpt:

At a U.S. Senate hearing I recently led, we examined a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study that found the demand for water along the Colorado River Basin could exceed the available supply by more than 3.2 million acre-feet — enough water to supply more than 3.2 million families across the basin — by 2060.

This could be just another study that gathers dust on the shelf, but Colorado and the West cannot allow that to happen. The study is a call to action.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the basin states have jump-started the conversation by assembling stakeholders that represent water providers, industrial users, agricultural interests and non-consumptive water users to collaborate and commit to strategies that reduce demand through innovation, conservation and better management of supply. A balanced mix of these strategies applied across the Colorado River basin will be critical for us to prepare for the future and reduce our water-shortage vulnerabilities.

While additional infrastructure is likely to be needed to serve the state’s growing population, Colorado should focus its short-term efforts on improving water efficiency and conservation practices. We must lead by example and better use existing infrastructure, improve water delivery mechanisms and continue creating resourceful conservation practices.

I will keep fighting in Washington to make important reforms that save water and promote a conservation mindset. One of the proposals I am working on is a bipartisan plan to create “smart water” projects to improve the efficiency of water treatment and delivery systems. I also will keep championing common-sense and job-creating projects, like the Arkansas Valley Conduit and Fountain Creek project in southern Colorado, which ensure we use the water we have more efficiently and promote smarter growth.

It’s been said that we don’t inherit the land and water from our parents — we borrow it from our children. No one instilled this ideal in me more than my mother. She was a member of the NRA, a sharpshooter and an avid angler. She encouraged my siblings and me to get outside and feel the dust in our hands, tackle the steepest climbs and ski the tallest mountains.

She understood that these experiences are among the most important inheritances we pass down to our children and grandchildren. Yet, without a strong Colorado River, none of these Western experiences — or our long-term economic success — will be possible.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.