Study outlines greenhouse gas ‘hangover’

Summit County Citizens Voice

Oceans will lose ability to absorb heat

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius may require a more dramatic turn away from fossil fuels than previously believed, researchers said last week, describing a greenhouse gas lag that could cause temperatures to keep rising even after CO2 emissions stop.

The Princeton-led study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that it might take a lot less carbon than previously thought to reach the global temperature increase scientists deem unsafe. Temperatures would initially drop after CO2 levels stabilize, but eventually, the world’s oceans would lose some their capacity to take up heat, especially in polar regions, the study found.

In their study, the scientists modeled a scenario that halted all CO2 emissions after 1.8 billion tons carbon entered the atmosphere, a simulation often used to measure the staying power of heat-trapping gases. The model shows…

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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.

This year’s Colorado Climate Network conference to focus on local emissions reductions

Summit County Citizens Voice

More action needed to meet emissions targets

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With global greenhouse gas emissions headed for a new record high this year, it’s clear that more needs to be done to avert a catastrophic temperature increase.

Leadership from the Obama administration helps set the tone for concerted action at all levels, beginning with individual choices and stepping up through communities, states and regions. In Colorado, many communities have already made great progress in reducing heat-trapping pollutants, but additional measures are needed to meet short- and long term goals.

Next month’s Colorado Climate Network conference (Dec. 12) will focus on local emissions reductions and includes sessions on the results of state and local emissions inventories, as well as spotlighting some successful local programs that could serve as models for other communities.

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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: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColoBasinPlanValues.

If you want to get a little more background first, check out the new Colorado Water Plan website at http://www.coloradowaterplan.com/.

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 rec@durangogov.org.

More whitewater coverage here.