The Middle Colorado Watershed Council December newsletter is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

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

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

January Stakeholder Meeting – Snow Course Demonstration

A snow course is a permanent site where manual measurements of snow depth and snow water equivalent are taken by trained observers. Data collected at these sites provide important information related to forecasting water supplies among other indicators. On Friday, January 31st, the Council will be hosting a demonstration to show how snow courses are set up, sampled, and evaluated. Details of the meeting are forthcoming, but we are hoping to conduct the demonstration in the vicinity of Rifle. Look for a special invitation to this event sometime in January.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Snowpack news: Most of Colorado in the average as a percent of normal range

Snow Water Equivalent as a percent of normal via the NRCS
Snow Water Equivalent as a percent of normal via the NRCS

Drought news: Parts of southeastern Colorado still deep in #COdrought

US Drought Monitor December 14,2013
US Drought Monitor December 14,2013

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

The Lower Mississippi Valley and Southern Plains
The axis of heaviest rains extended into Arkansas, so some D0 was removed from central Arkansas and along the Mississippi River. The heaviest of rains (0.5 – 2.5 inches) extended southward to eastern Texas, leading to a slight trimming of the D0 across northeastern Texas and southeastern Oklahoma. Many of the remaining sections of Texas saw drought intensify slightly due to continued dry conditions. SPI values remain well below 0 across the Texas Panhandle and southern Texas. Recent deficits out to the 90 day time period (10 – 25 percent of normal) are especially strong across northeastern New Mexico and Texas, so some adjustments to the drought depiction were made in those regions.

The Northern and Central Plains and The Midwest
Pockets of abnormal dryness were removed from Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri due to recent rainfall. The streamflows have not responded as much as necessary to remove the D1 (moderate drought) designation for most of this area.

The Rockies Westward to The Pacific Coast
Some light to moderate precipitation fell across the northern and central Rockies, although it was frozen so had little impact on the drought conditions and water supply. Surface Water Supply Index values across much of Idaho are in the lowest 30 percentile with many in the lowest 25%. Combined with longer-term rainfall deficits (2.0 – 8.0 inches below normal) during the past 180 days and 10-20 percent of normal during the past 90 days, the drought depiction including extreme drought was not modified. Dry conditions continued east of the cascades in Washington, so D0 was expanded there. Despite some significant rains during the past 7 days, 30 day totals are near normal across much of Washington and Oregon, so no change was made to the depiction there. Severe drought was expanded slightly across northern California as SPI values out through 24 months indicated more intensely dry conditions than what was indicated on prior Drought Monitor maps.

Windsor Town Board approves purchase of 1,100 acre-foot gravel pit for storage

Kyger Pit via the Fort Collins Coloradoan
Kyger Pit via the Fort Collins Coloradoan

From The Greeley Tribune:

Windsor Town Board members OK’d a $4.5 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board toward the purchase of the Kyger Gravel Pit, allowing the town to move forward in its process to buy the property for use as an 1,100-acre-foot water storage area. The town was midway through the process of a state-mandated leak test to make sure water couldn’t seep into or out of the reservoir when September’s flooding filled it with an estimated 1,000-acre-feet of water. Town Manager Kelly Arnold said the state recently restarted the clock on the leak test, which is expected to take 45 days.

Kevin Rein, deputy state engineer with the Colorado Division of Water Resources, said recently the new test focuses on a section of the pit damaged when flood water spilled into it in September.

“That (45-day test) started in the last week or two,” Rein said. “Should that test OK, then the pit will be OK going forward to store water as a lined pit.”

The town previously entered into and agreement to purchase the property from its owner, River Bluffs Ventures. Arnold said the town will now need to negotiate another contract amendment with the owner and have the amendment approved by the town board.

“We’ve closed this one, so now we can deliberate and negotiate another contract amendment, and we’ll bring that back to the board, probably in January, with a new closing date and whatever else needs to be negotiated,” he said.

He added that further negotiations could include the capacity of the reservoir.

“There’s a possibility that the capacity has been reduced because of the dirt that has gone into it,” Arnold said.

The term of the $4,545,000 loan is 20 years, at an interest rate of 2.75 percent. The town anticipates making annual payments of $295,000, which will be financed with revenues from the town’s Water Enterprise Utility fund, according to town finance director Dean Moyer. Revenues in the water fund include water fees and tap fees.

Beyond the loan, the town plans to finance the remainder of the estimated $6.3 million project cost from a few different sources. Moyer said the town has budgeted an additional $750,000 from the water fund, which came from money the Greenspire Subdivision paid the town for half of the cost of the lake pump house, which allowed the subdivision to buy irrigation water from the town. Instead of buying $200,000 worth of water to store in Windsor Lake, Moyer said the town instead plans to put the money toward the cost of the project. The town also budgeted $625,000 toward the project from both the Park Improvement Fund and the Capital Improvement Fund. Moyer said the town has set aside more money than is needed to allow for price fluctuations. He said in the event costs come back lower than expected, the town would likely reduce the amount taken from the loan.

Moyer said the town originally planned to spend some of the project money in 2013 before being delayed by complications caused by the flooding, and that the payments have been pushed back into 2014.

“It’s a reservoir to hold untreated water, but really it’s a big deal,” Moyer said. “Water is really precious here in Colorado … It really is an important project for us and will help us manage our water for years to come.”

More infrastructure coverage here.

Weld County agencies are moving into long-term recovery mode for #COflood

Evans Colorado September 2013 via
Evans Colorado September 2013 via

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

When Jane Cage, a resident and volunteer after a devastating tornado swept through Joplin, Mo., in 2011, spoke to Weld County agencies about flood recovery, she advised them not to get overwhelmed by the long process ahead. The only way to get through, she said, is to focus on one family at a time.

Weld is now moving fully into long-term recovery mode, complete with a graphically designed logo — Weld Recovers — and a recovery board with by-laws, subcommittees, case managers, counselors, churches and state, county and town liaisons. The board — comprised of eight members who head up different subcommittees, such as volunteer engagement, construction and needs assessment — meets every first and third Thursday of the month and, on the second and fourth Thursday, the entire team comes together for a community meeting. It’s a model established by FEMA which local agencies have used following disasters like Hurricane Sandy, the Windsor tornado and, in Cage’s experience, the Joplin tornado.

Cage said much of the process had to do with establishing a big-picture vision for recovery and then the details on how to get there.

“That took time,” she said. “I felt like I was constantly pulled between the need to report (a person or case in need) and to develop a real vision and plan.”

Jeannine Truswell, president and CEO of United Way of Weld County, said the recovery team has so far found the major issue to be housing, both where those displaced by the flood can afford to live and what kind of housing should be brought into the area that would fit into the region’s development plans.

“I think that’s going to take a lot of heads working together,” Truswell said.

In the meantime, Weld Recovers is working on fine-tuning its communications and resources, ensuring help isn’t duplicated and the highest unmet needs are rising to the top.

The money raised and awarded to flood victims has stayed the same, at $1.3 million raised by the Weld County Flood Relief Fund and $1.16 million given to 267 affected households. More than 60 percent has gone to households in Evans, followed by 12 percent to Milliken households and 10 percent to Greeley households.

Some of the remaining funds will go toward the start-up costs of bringing the House in a Box program to Weld, which will bring mattresses, appliances and more to 100 Weld families who were forced to relocate. Truswell said those things should get distributed sometime in early January.

Still, United Way and the Community Foundation Serving Greeley and Weld County estimate the households that applied with them for money will need an additional $1.8 million to fully recover. FEMA estimates 909 households never applied for money from Weld’s fund.

Weld also saw some money — $275,000 — from the Colorado Rising Fund, a flood benefit concert in October. That money has been recommended to go through the recovery team for allocation.

A flood recovery outreach team with 14 crisis counselors was also formed to go door to door in a wide mile radius to see what families need. Their work is funded by a $750,000 grant from FEMA. And case managers are getting hired through grants awarded to the state’s faith-based agencies, such as Catholic Charities and Lutheran Family Services.

Throughout recovery, Cage said, there were signs of improvement from the deadly Joplin tornado. All of the FEMA modular homes set up for displaced families (there were 576) have been removed at this point, and those families have found more stable places to stay.

In just another week or so, the city will reopen one of several schools wiped out in the area, and the damaged hospital is expected to finish repairs in 2015, Cage said.

She said one of the greatest obstacles in recovery is money — it’s always needed and there’s never enough. Still, Cage said she views full recovery as every person fully standing on their own again. And the fact that many are well on their way gives her peace of mind.

“Recovery is really a marathon,” Cage said. “It’s not a sprint.”

Colorado Water Congress Mentoring Program start up January 1

Browns Canyon via
Browns Canyon via

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

January 1, 2014 is the first day of the Colorado Water Congress Mentoring Program- a chance for students and advancing professionals to connect with industry experts and engage in new opportunities.

Using a LinkedIn group as a platform, the program will offer an online Question and Answer session hosted by volunteer mentors. Each month will feature two new mentors (one practitioner and one academic) who can offer advice and discuss their specific area of expertise. Quarterly calendars will list the mentors who will facilitate an upcoming month, as well as their topic of discussion.

Mentor Program Agenda
Jan 2014

Amy Beatie, Colorado Water Trust
Tom Romero, DU Sturm College of Law
Expertise: Water Law & the Environment
Feb 2014
Julie McKenna, Brandeberry & McKenna
Public Affairs
Tom Cech, Metro State University
Expertise: Lobbying for Water Policy
Mar 2014
John Currier, Colorado River District
John McCray, CO School of Mines
Expertise: Water Resource Engineering

Click here to join the POND group.

If you dig US historical maps you need to take a look at this archive from 1500s — Dave Dubois