#COFlood Recovery Updates

The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post
The Big Thompson River September 14, 2013 via The Denver Post

Here’s the release from Governor Hickenlooper’s office:

The Colorado flood recovery team continues to make progress in helping communities rebuild from the September floods. Here is an update of recovery efforts:

  • U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan announced $62.8 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Recovery funds to assist in long-term recovery efforts. The CDBG funds will be used for housing, economic development, infrastructure and prevention of further damage to affected areas.
  • The total amount of federal and state funds allocated to date are more than $815 million with $296 million used to date.
  • There are 760 people working daily on flood recovery from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Colorado Office of Emergency Management, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and other state agencies.
  • CDOT is helping residents in the Big Thompson Canyon with debris removal and flood cleanup efforts this week and during the week of Dec. 23. For more information, residents can contact the CDOT flood information hotline at (720) 263-1589.
  • Ken Salazar and Louis Bacon are teaming up: Say hello to America’s Conservation PAC

    San Luis Valley via National Geographic
    San Luis Valley via National Geographic

    From the Denver Business Journal (Mark Harden):

    Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado and U.S. Interior secretary, and hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon are forming a political action committee to back pro-conservation congressional candidates.

    America’s Conservation PAC is “dedicated to strengthening our nation’s long-standing, bipartisan tradition of conserving lands and cultural resources for future generations to enjoy,” Thursday’s announcement said.

    The PAC will be led by Will Shafroth as executive director. Shafroth, founding director of Colorado Conservation Trust and the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, was Salazar’s deputy assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

    From The Denver Post (Kurtis Lee):

    Congressional candidates willing to work on land conservation efforts could benefit from a new political action committee announced Thursday. The bipartisan America’s Conservation PAC is spearheaded by former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and billionaire philanthropist Louis Bacon. At a moment when partisanship and polarization run rampant in Washington, work that focuses on land conservation and the preservation of cultural resources has not received ample attention, said Salazar.

    “Voices for conservation need to be lifted,” said Salazar, who left the Obama administration earlier this year. “This will be an opportunity to help engage lawmakers in dialogue around conservation and preservation as the country continues to grow.”

    For example, candidates committed to fighting to replenish the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund could benefit from the PAC.

    Will Shafroth, founder of Colorado Conservation Trust and the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, will serve as the PAC’s executive director.

    “Conserving land and cultural resources for our children and our children’s children is neither a liberal nor a conservative value. It’s not Republican or Democratic, neither an urban nor a rural idea,” Bacon said in a statement. “It is so important to protect and preserve those physical places that truly define a region — however tough the fight — that we are coming together to help elected officials who support the future over the immediate.”

    Salazar and Bacon worked in the past to create the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where Bacon owns the sprawling Trinchera Ranch.

    In coming months, Salazar said the PAC will begin to pinpoint candidates to support in 2014.

    “As the country grows, we need to be smarter and focused on conservation,” Salazar said.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Michigan State University: Saving the Great Plains water supply

    Significant portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate. Courtesy of MSU
    Significant portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate. Courtesy of MSU

    From Michigan State University Today:

    Significant portions of the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest bodies of water in the United States, are at risk of drying up if it continues to be drained at its current rate.

    In the current issue of Earth’s Future, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, Michigan State University scientists are proposing alternatives that will halt and hopefully reverse the unsustainable use of water drawdown in the aquifer. The body of water, also known as the High Plains Aquifer, spans from Texas to South Dakota and drives much of the region’s economy.

    “Already, there are regions in Texas and Kansas where farmers can’t pump enough water to meet the demands of their crops,” said Bruno Basso, co-author and MSU ecosystem scientist. “If current withdrawal rates continue, such depletion will expand across extensive portions of the central and southern areas served by the aquifer during the next few decades.”

    Despite the widespread, rapid decline of the water table, the number of irrigated acres across the region continues to increase. The situation isn’t completely dire, though, as the National Science Foundation-funded research revealed. Basso, David Hyndman and Anthony Kendall, MSU colleagues and co-authors, offered some policy solutions to avert some aspects of this water crisis.

    Federal crop insurance could be changed to allow substantial water reductions, especially crops categorized as fully irrigated. An example of such a sustainable model was recently proposed by the governor of Kansas. It could save significant amounts of water, and it could be adopted regionally.

    Another sustainable approach would be to adopt wholesale precision agriculture strategies. These would allow farmers to identify which areas in fields need more water and fertilizer. New precision agriculture strategies combine GPS technologies with site-specific management to apply optimal amounts of water and nutrients, which will increase farmer’s profitability and reduce environmental impact.

    “When you have a cut in your hand and need disinfectant, you don’t dive into a pool of medicine, you apply it only where you need it and in the quantity that is strictly necessary; we can do the same in agricultural now,” said Basso, part of MSU’s Global Water Initiative.

    Lastly, policies should address the issue in terms of crop yield ­– more crop per drop of water. Selecting crops with higher density can increase yield and decrease groundwater evaporation. Upgrades in irrigation systems can reduce water loss from 30 percent to almost zero. And careful water management can stop excess water from flooding fields and leaching valuable nutrients from the soil.

    Simply put, the current water management strategies of the High Plains Aquifer are unsustainable. For the region to maintain this water source, there has to be a complete paradigm shift, Basso added.

    “We emphasize the critical role of science as a foundation for policies that can help mitigate the disaster that is occurring across this region,” Basso said. “Policies solidly grounded in science are critical to ensure long-term sustainability and environmental integrity for future generations.”

    More Ogallala Aquifer coverage here and here.

    Colorado Water Congress POND mentoring program

    Colorado Foundation for Water Education Colorado Water Leaders Program applications due January 17, 2014

    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
    Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

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

    Become a Water Leader! Discover your potential and expand your network in Colorado. This program offers mid-level water professionals the opportunity to develop their leadership potential with a focus on water resources issues. Since 2006, the program has provided training in conflict resolution, communication and management to participants across Colorado. Water Leaders benefit from extensive self-assessment, executive coaching, networking opportunities and the chance to learn about water resources across the state.

    We are NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS for the next cohort of water leaders. Applications are due January 17, 2014 along with two letters of recommendation. Apply here, preview the application here (but don’t fill out the PDF), or contact Kristin Maharg at kristin@yourwatercolorado.org with questions.

    More Colorado Foundation for Water Education coverage here.

    Snowpack news (percent of normal): Snow surveys get funding

    Statewide snowpack map percent of normal December 14, 2013 via the NRCS
    Statewide snowpack map percent of normal December 14, 2013 via the NRCS

    From the Pagosa Daily Post:

    Mark Udall, who serves on the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service announced today that they have found a way forward to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program. Continue reading