Snowpack news (% of avg): Yampa/White best in state = 114%, San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan worst = 88%

Mage at the NRCS has been really busy today. Click on the thumbnails to view a gallery of snowpack images for January 8, 2014.

Upper and Lower #ColoradoRiver water supply forecasts issued by the NRCS

Click on the links in the Tweets above to peruse your favorite area of the Colorado River Basin.

Fort Morgan councillors pony up $90,000 in 2014 for NISP

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water
Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The Fort Morgan City Council on Tuesday night approved spending $90,000 in 2014 to continue funding work toward getting the Northern Integrated Supply Project built.

The expenditure further ensures the city’s 9 percent stake in the massive water storage project would remain in place. NISP would involve building two reservoirs to hold water for 15 participants, including Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District, which has a 3.25 percent share…

The money the city is giving to the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District for 2014 participation will go toward providing more information to the Army Corps of Engineers by consultants from Northern Water, as well as to administrative costs for Northern Water, “continuing engineering efforts” and “a fair amount” of public relations work, Nation explained.

“We’ve been working with the various members that are participants in the NISP project, and our latest report was actually one of the most positive reports that I think we’ve heard in a long time,” City Manager Jeff Wells said. “The’ve actually come up with a date when we’re going to get the supplemental (environmental impact statement)back for public comment,” likely in July.

He said that once public comment is opened, it gets closer to ending that portion of the study and moving toward a decision about permitting the project from the Army Corps of Engineers.

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

“The [Arkansas] basin should be saying not one drop, like the Western Slope” — Reeves Brown #COWaterPlan

New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables
New supply development concepts via the Front Range roundtables

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A state water plan that fails to look at every option would put Arkansas Valley farms at risk.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable wants more emphasis on increasing storage and finding new water supplies in order to stop raids on agricultural supplies.

However, the reluctance of the Western Slope to budge on those issues could doom the Arkansas Valley to more farm dry-ups as Colorado rushes to adopt a water plan.

“It’s frustrating as hell,” said Jay Winner, the general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District who represents the roundtable on the state Interbasin Compact Committee. “There are five or six people (on the IBCC) who just want to maintain the status quo.” Jeris Danielson, general manager of the Purgatoire River Conservancy District and the basin’s other IBCC representative, called a draft planning document “polysyllabic piffle” that prevents progress.

“If you read it, it’s all slanted to make sure no new projects happen,” Danielson said.

Winner suggested that a year like 2011, where snow hit near record levels in the Colorado River basin and drought began in the Arkansas River basin, could have been a starting point for discussions about maximizing use of existing projects.

“It’s all a big stall on the Western Slope,” Winner said.

Instead, the state has limited discussion of new projects or expanded storage.

Roundtable Chairman Gary Barber said the Flaming Gorge Task Force, a process that involved all of the nine basin roundtables talking about statewide water projects, addressed many of the same issues the state wants to talk about in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed water plan.

But that work was stopped short in 2012 by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Failing to consider new sources of supply or more storage would only increase pressure on municipal purchases of farm water in the Arkansas Valley, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. No one disagreed.

“The basin should be saying not one drop, like the Western Slope,” said Reeves Brown, a Beulah rancher and Lower Ark board member who has pushed for putting a higher public value on ag water. “We ought to be able to defend our water.”

Keeping ag water in the Arkansas Valley also benefits tourism by keeping flows in the river, said Chaffee County Commissioner Dennis Giese.

“We need this river to run through our valley,” Giese said.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Colorado’s legislative Flood Disaster Study Committee approves seven new bills #COleg #COflood

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

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Alex Burness):

“Our goal is to empower local governments and the state government to act swiftly and without any red tape,” said Sen. Jeanne Nicholson, D-Blackhawk, one of the bipartisan committee’s 12 members.

One of the bills approved Tuesday will create a grant program aiming to help repair water and wastewater facilities damaged by natural disasters. Another water-related bill, which will allow any irrigation ditch’s head gate to be relocated due to changes in the natural flow of the ditch, passed earlier this month and was unanimously re-approved at the committee’s latest meeting…

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded Colorado’s highway department $110 million to repair roads and highways damaged by flooding. The grant is part of the $450 million in emergency road repair funding that was secured for the state thanks to bipartisan legislation passed in October.

From The Denver Post (Lynn Bartels/Kurtis Lee):

The “biblical” floods and ferocious wildfires that Coloradans coped with last year got a starring role Wednesday at the opening of the 2014 legislative session.

Legislative leaders outlined the efforts of those who helped, the devastation left behind and the legislation that will be introduced to try to deal with the twin disasters…

The first bill introduced in the House, by Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, establishes an income-tax credit for taxpayers who own property destroyed by a natural cause as determined by a county assessor…

Lawmakers introduced more than 100 bills Wednesday, the opening day of the 2014 session. Here are some of them:

House Bill 1: Establishes an income tax credit for a taxpayer that owns property that was destroyed by a natural cause as determined by a county assessor.

House Bill 2: Creates a natural disaster grant fund and directs the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment to award the grants from the fund to local governments. The bill appropriates $12 million to the fund.

From the Longmont Times-Call (Victoria A.F. Camron):

September’s flooding damaged Erie High School so extensively that the St. Vrain Valley School District could spend $850,000 to make repairs.

Chief operating officer Rick Ring said during Wednesday night’s school board meeting that most of the damage was caused by “expansive soils,” so the district’s insurance company won’t pay for the repairs.

Ring and other district staff members have been meeting with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but there’s no guarantee that agency will reimburse the district, he said.

During the flooding — which hit Erie before the storms moved to the mountains — the soil beneath the school raised up, pushing up the electrical conduits and the plumbing in the school’s crawl space, Ring said after the meeting.

A small sewer line also broke during the storm, he said.

From the Holyoke Enterprise (Marianne Goodland):

Water, voter representation, animal abuse and eminent domain rights for oil pipeline companies top the agendas for the two legislators representing northeastern and eastern Colorado. The 2014 session also marks the end of the House and Senate careers of Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, and Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, respectively, although both seek new elected offices in November.

Sonnenberg’s legislative agenda includes a bill based on the “Phillips County Proposal.” That proposal arose last year during unsuccessful efforts by 11 counties, all but one in northeastern Colorado, to secede and form a 51st state.

The bill suggests House representatives be elected by county rather than by district. “Rural Colorado would have a more appropriate voice in the legislature,” Sonnenberg said this week.

Sonnenberg acknowledged that getting Democrats to support such a bill in the legislature would be an uphill battle, and there are constitutional issues as well. “However, I think the argument can be made that in a sovereign government, each county could have their own representation,” he said.

But if successful (and it would require a vote to change the state’s constitution), Democrats “would have to have more rural-minded members to represent rural Colorado, and that would be a challenge,” Sonnenberg said.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

The Polar Vortex Isn’t What Twitter Says It Is — Matt Makens

Here’s an excerpt:

The term polar vortex has been thrown around all week to describe the bitter cold that has gripped much of the nation since last weekend. While trending highly in popularity, the term polar vortex is erroneous in how it has been used. The polar vortex lives near the North Pole region year round and isn’t cold air, it is a low pressure area high in the atmosphere between 20-40,000 feet and higher. In the age of social media and “we’ll do anything for clicks” — that doesn’t seem to matter.

It can give off a bit of its own energy to create a low pressure area that moves south into the United States, as it did this week, but that also resides well into the atmosphere.

Although popular in news headlines of late, it’s highly inaccurate to say that the cold snap was the polar vortex. I guess its a sexier headline than saying something accurate, like “US hit by mass of cold air associated with an offshoot of the polar vortex!” But that’s a horribly long #hashtag.