Snowpack news

Click on a thumbnail to view the gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

Windsor: The West Greeley Conservation District eduction program made a stop at Skyview Elementary School

WaterCycleKidsUSGS
From The Greeley Tribune (T.M. Fasano):

Pam Wright wants to educate today’s youth about how precious water is, and will be, in their lives.

Wright, the public outreach and education coordinator for the West Greeley Conservation District, brought her rolling river education trailer to Skyview Elementary School in Windsor on Thursday and taught students about water cycles, erosion, how humans impact the water table and how pesticides and chemicals can enter a river or lake through ground water. Toy people, sand, rocks, trucks, cars, animals, farm equipment, trees and brush were sprinkled throughout the trailer that represented the dynamics of a watershed. Once the flowing water caused erosion, the students had to move around the models and fix the river’s surroundings.

“I really stress that this water situation is not going to change,” Wright said. “We’re going to be drinking the same water in the future, so it’s important for them to take care of it not only for themselves but for future generations. We stress the importance of healthy soil. Especially since we’re such an ag community, we do a lot of work out in the community, too.”

Second-grader Gavin Leagjeld, 7, a member of the after-school Roots & Shoots club that is working on a project to rehabilitate Skyview’s wetlands east of the school and make it into an outdoor classroom, was all about sticking his hands into the flowing water and makeshift sand by the river. Gavin learned about the dangers of polluting the water.

“If farmers keep using fertilizer or chemicals and if it goes into the river as ground water, it could pollute the river or ocean,” Gavin said.

Fifth-grader Blaine Tonnies, 10, said he liked what he learned.

“Since we’re younger, we should probably learn it now so later we don’t (pollute),” Blaine said. “I really like nature, plants and animals.”

Skyview teacher Kendra Jacoby, who is an adviser for Roost & Shoots along with fellow teacher Roxanne Visconti, said it’s exciting to see the first- through fifth-graders learn about what will impact them in their future.

“It’s huge, especially because we are in Colorado and our arid climate, they need to know that the water that we have is the water that we have. There is never going to be any more,” said Jacoby, a SOAR and Gifted and Talented Education teacher.

Visconti said it’s vital for students to learn what’s happening around them.

“They are very engaged. That’s what we want this to be, is them giving of themselves and learning about what surrounds them and not just going back and forth to school every day,” said Visconti, a first-grade teacher.

Second-grader Emma Johnson, 8, said she learned how a river can be polluted.

“If you’re too close to the river, you can pollute in it or you can spill oil into it and it can make it really bad for the animals who drink it,” Johnson said. “Because if they drink it they’ll die or get sick.”

Wright said she takes her riparian water trailer, the conservation district has two of them, and visits 20 to 30 schools annually throughout Weld County. She said she has an entire curriculum for different grade levels.

“Right after the flooding in the schools in Greeley and Evans, we were busy out in those schools,” Wright said. “There was not one kid I dealt with that wasn’t affected by those floods in one way or another. Their main question was: ‘Is this going to happen again?’”

Wright said it’s never too early for the kids to learn.

“For those little kids to realize that their water source is never going to change, that they’re drinking the same water the dinosaurs did, that always sticks with them,” Wright said. “It’s never too early to start teaching them the importance of where their water comes from. It needs to be started early.”

More education coverage here.

New Leadership is Growing

Your Water Colorado Blog

Class of 2014 during their March training with CFWE and MORF Consulting in Greeley Class of 2014 with CFWE and MORF Consulting in Greeley

CFWE is proud to announce our 2014 class of Water Leaders! This diverse and talented group of mid-level water professionals have started a journey to develop their leadership potential. The first training on March 17-18 focused on self-awareness and functional team-building. The group also examined how regional leaders have effectively built water teams in northeastern Colorado by numerous guest presentations and excursions at the Poudre Learning Center in Greeley.  Subsequent trainings will be in Fraser on May 15-16, Pueblo on July 31-August 1 and Denver on September 18-19. Join us in welcoming them to your community!

Congratulations to:
Jason Carey, River Restoration
Adam Cwiklin, Town of Fraser
Aaron Derwingson, The Nature Conservancy
Julia Galucci, Colorado Springs Utilities
James Henderson, 711 Ranch
Dawn Jewell, City of Aurora
Laurna Katz, Denver Water
Aimee Konowal, CDPHE Water Quality Control Division
Steve Malers, Open…

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Colorado Basin Implementation Plan Mesa County town hall meeting, April 3 #COWaterPlan

mesacountytownhallmeetingcowaterplan

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

The Spring 2014 Water Information Program newsletter is hot off the presses

US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014
US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014

Click here to read the newsletter.

GOP renews attack on Endangered Species Act

Summit County Citizens Voice

fdsg Why are so many Republicans opposed to efforts to protect and restore endangered and threatened species?

Not much substance, a lot of political smoke …

Staff Report

FRISCO — The Republican anti-environment cadre in the House is once again taking aim at the Endangered Species Act by introducing legislation that would make it even harder for federal agencies to protect animals and plants that are at risk of going extinct.

Two of the bills, H.R. 4316 and H.R. 4318, would limit the ability of citizens to challenge government decisions in court. The Republican measures are also ostensibly aimed at reducing the government’s legal costs associated with responding to endangered species lawsuits, but conservation advocates said that is an ideological red herring. Government data shows that the Department of Interior has spent far more money responding to frivolous demands for documents than on settling lawsuits.

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‘Gold medals aren’t won by accident’ — Taylor Edrington/Andy Neinas

Browns Canyon -- John Fielder photo
Browns Canyon — John Fielder photo

From The Mountain Mail (Taylor Edrington/Andy Neinas):

Gold medals aren’t won by accident. They’re earned with hard and often thankless work. The same is true for the Arkansas River’s Gold Medal trout waters. The 102-mile stretch from Leadville to Parkdale is easily Colorado’s longest Gold Medal water and likely one of North America’s top five in terms of contiguous miles. On average, it supports some of the state’s biggest trout and largest stock, at over 170 pounds per acre. It’s no wonder tens of thousands of anglers fish these waters every year.

The Arkansas is also the most rafted river in the U.S. with more than 210,000 visitors enjoying the best family and adventure-class rafting in Colorado just last year. The commercial outfitters of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, along with other summer activities, are the economic engine of the river communities that reside along its banks.

From pristine Browns Canyon to the well-traveled Bighorn Sheep Canyon, the diverse environments of the Arkansas have thrived while supporting a variety of recreational, agricultural and municipal uses.

The health of the riparian environment is a testament to decades of cooperative and deliberate stewardship efforts. It all starts with responsible management, particularly the Voluntary Flow Management Program. This collaboration of outfitters, agencies and water providers has been essential in preserving and enhancing recreation and the fishery.

The Arkansas River Outfitters Association and Colorado Parks and Wildlife deserve a great deal of credit, as do folks like Jim Broderick at the Southeast Water Conservancy District, Roy Vaughn at the Bureau of Land Management and Alan Ward at the Pueblo Board of Water Works, to name a few. It would not have been possible without their support for vibrant and diverse resources.

The efforts of Christo and Jeanne-Claude have also helped preserve and enhance the area. “Over the River” has been thoroughly evaluated to ensure it is installed and exhibited responsibly. The Fish and Wildlife Service was actively involved in this process and established many precautionary measures, as well as strict water quality and aquatic species requirements to protect these Gold Medal waters. Years before ground is broken, Christo has already paid to remove hundreds of graffiti-tagged railcars from the tracks in Bighorn Sheep Canyon and has funded a recently completed new wildlife corridor identified by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as a bighorn sheep habitat enhancement. In addition, “Over the River” will bring significant international attention from those who may not normally appreciate all the Arkansas River has to offer.

Just upstream, Browns Canyon highlights a completely different part of the river. The proposed National Monument and Wilderness Act speaks to the health of the river and exemplifies the unique environments that exist along the Upper Arkansas.
At the end of the day, the Gold Medal is an important designation that reflects the health of the entire ecosystem. A healthy river doesn’t exist by itself; it takes a chorus of stewards dedicated to preserving this amazing and important river.

The Arkansas will continue to support many varied uses, just as it has for many years.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

‘Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy’ — John Kerry

Turn up the heat slowly via the Sierra Club
Turn up the heat slowly via the Sierra Club

From the BBC (Matt McGrath):

The costs of inaction on climate change will be “catastrophic”, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Kerry was responding to a major report by the UN which described the impacts of global warming as “severe, pervasive and irreversible”.

He said dramatic and swift action was required to tackle the threats posed by a rapidly changing climate.

Our health, homes, food and safety are all likely to be threatened by rising temperatures, the report says.

Scientists and officials meeting in Japan say the document is the most comprehensive assessment to date of the impacts of climate change on the world.

In a statement, Mr Kerry said: “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. Denial of the science is malpractice.

“There are those who say we can’t afford to act. But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

As Big As It Gets: Clean Water Act Rulemaking

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Mark Scharfenaker

Everyone seriously interested in water quality throughout the United States has 90 days to let EPA, the Army Corps of Engineers and federal lawmakers know what they think about the agency’s newly proposed rule intended to clarify just where in a watershed the protections of the Clean Water Act cease to apply.

This long-awaited rulemaking aims to define CWA jurisdiction over streams and wetlands distant from “navigable” waters of the United States…the lines of which were muddied by recent Supreme Court rulings rooted in a sense that perhaps EPA and the Corps had strayed too far in requiring CWA dredge-and-fill permits for such “waters” as intermittent streams and isolated potholes.

This rule is as big as it gets in respect to protecting waterways from nonfarm pollutant discharges, and the proposal has not calmed the conflict between those who want the jurisdictional line closer to navigable waters and…

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Gov. Hickenlooper powwows with the Club 20 Board #COWaterPlan

Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference
Governor Hickenlooper, John Salazar and John Stulp at the 2012 Drought Conference

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

When Gov. John Hickenlooper sat down Friday for lunch with the board of directors of Club 20, the West Slope promotional organization, the pitcher at his table was emblazoned with a handwritten label: “Western Slope Water.”

“I drink that stuff every day,” Hickenlooper told his lunch companions. He later urged Club 20 members and others to participate in the development of a statewide water plan, whatever their doubts or reservations about the process.

The label was placed there by Harry Peroulis, a Club 20 member with ties to Mesa and Moffat counties, who said he was making sure the governor remembered where most of the state’s water originates.

Colorado needs to keep more of its water, Hickenlooper told the organization, which weighs in regularly on water-related matters.

One possible way to do that might be to raise the dams by 8 to 10 feet, increasing the amount of water that could be stored behind them.

It would make more sense to expand an existing project rather than pursue a new one, Hickenlooper said later.

The idea isn’t a part of the statewide water plan and he’s not throwing his support behind it, but, “intuitively, it makes sense,” Hickenlooper said afterward. He said he’d communicate it to statewide water planners.

Hickenlooper broached his suggestion in response to a call by Ray Beck of Craig that the state devote more energy to increasing storage than to encouraging conservation, but it fit within the governor’s thought process that a statewide plan could benefit from broad participation.

The “primary role” of the plan is to keep as much of the state’s water as possible, he said.

Naysayers who doubt the process of drafting such a plan are much like those who told him he couldn’t build a brewery and restaurant in Denver, “And now there are 240 federally licensed breweries” in the state.

Water managers and others involved in water management need to look at issues from different perspectives, he said.

“There are almost always options that you don’t know about,” Hickenlooper said.

The statewide water plan, which Hickenlooper kicked off last year, is to be complete in 2015.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

March pushes #ColoradoRiver Basin forecast downward

Snowpack news: Fryingpan headwaters continues to have well above normal snowpack #COdrought

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River watershed this week reached 127 percent of median, or normal, for March 27, and more snow is in the forecast for the coming week.

The snowpack measurement for the high country around Aspen is from seven snow-measuring sites in the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River basin, including sites near Independence, McClure and Schofield passes.

“The Fryingpan headwaters continues to have well above normal snowpack while the Crystal headwaters is closer to normal measurements,” the Roaring Fork Conservancy said in its weekly snowpack report about two large tributaries of the Roaring Fork River…

“It’s great that we have the snowpack,” said Jim Pokrandt, communication and education specialist with the Colorado River District. “It puts a little more water in the bank in Lake Powell.”[…]

The snowpack in the portion of the Colorado River basin just within the state of Colorado is looking even better, at 128 percent of normal as of March 28.

Also on Friday, the Yampa-White river basin was at 124 percent, the Gunnison River basin was at 111 percent, the Arkansas River basin was at 101 percent, and the San Miguel-Dolores River basin was at 90 percent of normal.

The snow-covered South Platte River basin, which drains toward Denver and Nebraska, is at 135 percent of normal, giving it the third deepest snowpack in over 30 years, behind 1986 and 1996…

This winter’s healthy snowpack has lead the managers of the Fry-Ark diversion project, which diverts water from Hunter Creek and the headwaters of the Fryingpan River under the Continental Divide, to forecast on March 1 that they would divert 73,000 acre-feet of water this season, well above the average diversions of 54,800 acre feet a year.

As such, the Bureau of Reclamation is now releasing water out of Turquoise Lake reservoir, near Leadville, and Twin Lakes reservoir, in anticipation of the coming water from the Roaring Fork River watershed.

Those releases have helped kick up the level of the Arkansas River to 490 cubic feet per second in The Numbers section of the river above Buena Vista, which is considered “lower runnable” for kayakers by the Mountain Buzz website.

The bureau is also releasing water out of Ruedi Reservoir into the lower Fryingpan River, which is now running at 213 cfs. That’s 158 percent of average, and produces a current in the river strong enough to make some wading anglers uncomfortable. Ruedi Reservoir was 66 percent full on Friday.

Releases from Ruedi have helped bring the Roaring Fork River, at its confluence in Glenwood with the Colorado, up to 595 cfs, while the median flow for this time of year is 574 cfs.

Water is also being released out of Green Mountain and Dillon reservoirs on the upper Colorado River, according to Pokrandt. Those releases helped bring flows through Gore Canyon to 793 cfs on Friday, also considered a runnable level by Mountain Buzz…

The Colorado River above Glenwood Springs was running 1,270 cfs Friday, which is enough water to boat the Shosone and Grizzly sections of the river, and the Colorado River at Loma was at 3,590 cfs.

Big irrigation diversions above Grand Junction are just beginning, however, and those can drop the river level below them, especially if a cold snap sharply reduces runoff from the high country…

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, which is managing the “Colorado Dust-on-Snow Program” reported the third dust-on-snow event of the winter on Wednesday, brought on by high winds transporting loose soil. Others logged by the program occurred on Feb. 16 and March 17.

Durango: Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 32nd Annual Water Seminar, April 4 #COWaterPlan

Durango
Durango

From the Montrose Daily Press:

A line-up of water experts on topics including Colorado’s water plan, water banking, and conservation, will speak at the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s 32nd Annual Water Seminar at the Doubletree Hotel (501 Camino del Rio) in Durango on Friday, April 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Invited speakers include James Eklund, Colorado Water Conservation Board; John Stulp, Interbasin Compact Committee; and John McClow, Upper Colorado River Commission.
Registration is $35 in advance or $40 at the door. To register online, visit http://www.swwcd.org. Mail-in registration forms are also available on the website. Registration will open at 8 a.m. on April 4.

More Southwestern Colorado Water Conservation District coverage here.

Northern Water books $40.3 million in revenue in 2013

Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water
Map of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project via Northern Water

From the Northern Colorado Business Report (Steve Lynn):

Revenue increased about $10.5 million for the year ended Sept. 30 primarily because Berthoud-based Northern Water received nearly $9 million from Front Range water entities, including Denver Water, Aurora Water and the Pueblo Board of Water works, for water releases from Granby Reservoir.

Northern Water provides water to portions of eight Colorado counties with a population of 860,000 people and serves more than 640,000 acres of irrigated farm and ranch land.

Last year, Northern Water completed several contracts and agreements related to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The goal of the program is to recover four unique fish species listed as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act.

Because they divert water from the Colorado River, Northern Water and other water users have made a permanent commitment to release 10,825 acre-feet of water annually. Northern Water releases more than 5,400 acre feet from the Granby Reservoir to support the project. An acre foot equals 326,000 gallons and is enough to serve 2.5 households annually.

The one-time compensation paid to Northern Water for the project came this year, according to the annual report. Northern Water’s expenses for the project came in previous years, said John Budde, financial services department manager for Northern Water…

Northern Water ended 2013 with $241.6 million in assets compared with. $231.4 million in assets in 2012. The organization also had $26.5 million in liabilities last year compared with $29 million in liabilities the prior year.

The organization had expenses of $29.2 million in 2013, down from $31.2 million in 2012.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

Grand Junction: Governor Hickenlooper addresses Club 20 #COWaterPlan

Grand Junction back in the day
Grand Junction back in the day

From KREXTV.com (Travis Khachatoorian):

Water rights was the big topic of the day.

“Water is critical to everyone, but in Western Colorado we’re very, very concerned about being able to access water to develop our own industries and our own communities,” said executive director of Club 20 Bonnie Petersen.

Governor Hickenlooper spoke about his support for a statewide Colorado Water Plan. This would involve water basin officials from all corners of the state coming together for compromise on decisions regarding water distribution.

“I think if we get everyone in the room together and get them frequent meetings so they get to know each other, I think there’s a real chance that the urban areas, the front range, the ranches, the agricultural users here on the Western Slope and the Eastern Plains, we can figure out the right compromises,” said Governor Hickenlooper.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Playing in the Rio Colorado at San Luis #ColoradoRiver

The Fountain Creek District is studying the potential effects of flood control dams

Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain
Fountain Creek swollen by stormwater via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to fix Fountain Creek wants to begin looking more closely at the feasibility of flood control alternatives meant to protect Pueblo.

“This is a good start to beginning to understand the volume of water and the impact of dams, but we need to do an analysis to figure out cost options,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said.

Hart is the county’s representative on the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which met Friday to receive the final report on a Fountain Creek dam study.

A computer simulation by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at 13 scenarios by centering a 100-year storm over Colorado Springs and measuring the impact on reducing flood waters in Pueblo by constructing dams at various points in the watershed.

“It did not look at property and water rights issues,” said David Mau, head of the Pueblo USGS office.

The most promising alternatives, in terms of protecting Pueblo, were to build a series of small dams south of Colorado Springs, or one large dam near Pinon, just north of Pueblo.

Hart asked Mau whether it would be possible to model a larger off-channel diversion near the Pueblo County line.

“You could look at that using the model,” Mau confirmed.

Mau said the alternatives presented in the study were those suggested by the district’s technical committee, and do not represent the only choices. The study focused on small dams because dams under 10 feet face less regulatory issues. An 85-foot-high dam 10 miles north of the confluence with the Arkansas River was modeled, but would not be the only alternative for a large dam, he said.

Dams in other areas of the watershed might have more localized benefits, Mau added.

“What’s important is the volume of water and where it is stored,” he said.

The district will not have any money to begin construction until Colorado Springs pays the remainder of the $50 million it agreed to provide the district under its 1041 agreement with Pueblo County.

It would need about $60,000 in grants to drill down to cost estimates on two or three of the alternatives, said Larry Small, executive director. A feasibility study would look at land acquisition, permits, construction issues and how long it would take, Small said.

“We need to get going as quickly as we can,” said Richard Skorman, a board member from Colorado Springs.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Snowpack news: The haves and the have nots, northern vs. southwestern basins

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view the snowpack for your favorite basin and the gallery of graphics from the NRCS. (Thanks Mage.)

US Rep. Scott Tipton is watching the new EPA proposed rules closely

A look back at old-school irrigation efficiency — Greg Trainor #COWaterPlan

Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center
Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Greg Trainor):

In the early 1980s, I worked for the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) on the Colony Oil Shale Venture at Parachute, Colo. I was a staff member in ARCO’s Community Development Group that was working on the development plans for the Battlement Mesa New Town. The New Town was designed to house the thousands of oil shale workers that were expected to move to western Colorado for oil-shale jobs.

ARCO had been in the oil-shale business for some time and had purchased property on Battlement Mesa 30 years earlier in anticipation of oil-shale development. Upon purchase of these properties, ARCO leased the lands back to the original owners, allowing them to continue farming and using the water rights attached to the ranch lands. This continuation of use of the agricultural water rights ensured that the rights would not be abandoned, and the water would be available when the oil shale industry had need for it.

One of my responsibilities with ARCO was to manage these leased ranch lands, working with previous owners, tracking water use, and ensuring a communication link between the land owner (ARCO) and the ranch lessees.

One of ARCO’s lessees was a man named Dan Duplice, a sheep herder and farmer. Dan lived on Battlement Mesa and owned a band of sheep that traveled each summer from Battlement Mesa, across the Colorado River, and up the steep, hair-raising trails that connected the Colorado River valley floor with the thousand-foot-thick horizontal bands of the oil shale cliffs. At the top of these cliffs were the spruce-fir zones and open, grassed parks of the Roan Plateau.

Dan had farm lands on Battlement Mesa that were fed by a small ditch that crisscrossed the lower elevations of the mountains that rose above Dan’s farm. Known as “Pete” and “Bill,” these peaks held snow at high elevations as well as on their lower slopes. It was the “low water” that Dan, and now ARCO, had rights to. With an early and short run-off of this “low water,” Dan had to take early advantage of the flow when it appeared.

On my travels of Battlement Mesa, I would find Dan standing at the head of his alfalfa fields where the ditch emptied into his laterals. He would carefully bring the water to his creases, allowing only enough water down the crease to wet it down to the end of the field. Then he would move the water from one set of creases over to a new set and repeat the process. Dan would stand there with his shovel, husbanding the flow down the field, making sure that it got the water it needed and that no water left the bottom of his fields.

Having spent most of my adult life in western Colorado, I was more used to standard “flood irrigation,” where irrigators would open up their laterals and flood their fields with all the water the creases would carry. Then, leaving their sets to return later in the day, irrigators would allow their water to flow down across the field and out the end of the field as return flow, usually into the small drainages that would carry the return water to the Colorado River.

Today I participate in the Colorado Basin Roundtable, one of nine roundtables across Colorado working on development of the Colorado Water Plan, which the governor says is supposed to point the way forward to meeting the needs of growing cities and towns while also preserving agriculture, the environment and recreational opportunities. It’s a tall order.

Agricultural water efficiency improvements are often suggested as a tool to address shortages and to leave more water in streams for environmental and recreational purposes. As I participate in the discussions, I think of Dan Duplice and my observations of him 34 years ago.

Dan Duplice invested a significant amount of time to the special care of the flow and management of the available water. Despite the small amount of water carried by his ditch, the result was the production of an incredible amount of tall, thick alfalfa before this ditch water trickled out.

In times of drought and increased competition for water, the kind of careful management of water practiced by Dan Duplice may have to become more widespread. His experience showed that good yields can still be had when water is tight — but it’s not easy. He spent a lot of time in those fields with a shovel.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

Drought news: Dryness increases in parts of the southwestern US

US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014
US Drought Monitor March 25, 2014

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website for the dreary outlook for much of the southwestern US. Here’s an excerpt:

The Plains

As with the rest of the northern tier, the High Plains experienced below-normal temperatures and light snowfall during the past week. In South Dakota, short-term precipitation deficits led to expansion of Abnormally Dry (D0) in the southeastern part of the state. Further south, extreme eastern Oklahoma received about one inch of precipitation in a few isolated pockets. In western portions of Oklahoma, continued short-term precipitation deficits, low humidity, and windy conditions continued to dry top soils leading to the expansion of areas of Severe Drought (D2), Extreme Drought (D3), and Exceptional Drought (D4). In Kansas, short- term dryness led to expansion of Moderate Drought (D1) in the central portion…

The West

During the past week, several storm systems pushed across the Pacific Northwest delivering snowfall to the North Cascades and northern Rockies as well as portions of northern Colorado while dry conditions prevailed across the rest of the West. Temperatures across the Southwest were above normal and in the Sierra Nevada warm conditions enhanced melting of the already shallow snowpack. According to the Natural Resource Conservation Service SNOTEL network (for the current Water Year starting October 1st), river basin average precipitation was below normal across the mountains of Oregon, northern Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico while above average precipitation was observed across the central and northern Rockies. On the map, short-term precipitation deficits led to expansion of Severe Drought (D2) in southeastern California as well as expansion of a small area of Exceptional Drought (D4) along the coast in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. In northwestern Nevada, severely reduced water allocations for agriculture and long-term precipitation deficits led to expansion of Exceptional Drought (D4). According to NCDC Climatological Rankings, Nevada CD 1 (Northwestern) ranked 2nd driest on record for the 24-month period. In Utah and southwestern Colorado, dry soils and below normal streamflows led to expansion of Moderate Drought (D1). In southeastern Colorado, strong winds continued to degrade topsoil conditions and affect wheat crops leading to expansion of Severe Drought (D2) in Baca County. In New Mexico, short-term precipitation deficits and dry soil conditions led to expansion of Extreme Drought (D3) in south-central New Mexico and expansion of Moderate Drought (D1) in southeastern New Mexico…

<strong>Looking Ahead

The NWS HPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation across northern California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Northern Rockies of Idaho and Wyoming. Across the South, precipitation accumulations of one-to-two inches are forecasted while greater accumulations (two-to-four inches) are expected across portions of the Northeast. The 6-10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across most of the West and Southern Plains while the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and Eastern Seaboard will be below-normal. A high probability of above-normal precipitation is forecasted across most of the northern tier of the Lower 48 while the Southwest is expected to have below-normal precipitation.

Evolution illustrated

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin March 1 - 23 month to date precipitation via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin March 1 – 23 month to date precipitation via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

Playing in the newly arrived #ColoradoRiver at San Luis Rio Colorado

The Roaring Fork Conservancy launches economic study of the Fryingpan River watershed

fryingpan

From the Aspen Times:

The Roaring Fork Conservancy has launched a study to determine visitor use and spending related to fishing and other recreation-related activities on the lower Fryingpan River and Ruedi Reservoir.

“Understanding the river’s economic importance to the local economy will aid in the overall view of the importance of keeping the river healthy,” the Basalt-based conservancy said in a statement.

Colorado State University and Colorado Mountain College provided money for the study. The town of Basalt, Eagle County, the Aspen Skiing Co. Environment Foundation and numerous private donors have contributed funding. Additionally, the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Stream Board made a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners to fund the study. This new study will echo the work done more than a decade ago by the Roaring Fork Conservancy. Based on the previous study, the Fryingpan Valley’s recreation activities contributed an estimated $1.8 million annually in total economic output to Basalt’s economy. Current numbers are expected to be greater.

The conservancy has contracted with Colorado State University to update the previous study. In addition, the conservancy has employed Colorado Mountain College student Christina Briseno to survey anglers and recreationalists. She will be assisted by a recent University of Colorado graduate, Kristjan Danis, this summer.

“The results of this Fryingpan Economic Study will be a critical component to the Comprehensive Lower Fryingpan River Assessment where we will gain a better understanding of the users of the Fryingpan River and Ruedi Reservoir, their priorities and influences on local economy,” said Roaring Fork Conservancy Executive Director Rick Lofaro.

Results from the assessment will be published in 2015. For updates on the study, visit http://www.roaringfork.org/fryingpanstudy.

More Fryingpan River watershed coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit backers hope to make deal for excess capacity in the Pueblo Dam south outlet works soon

Pueblo Dam
Pueblo Dam

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A plan is hatching to get pipe in the ground ahead of schedule for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. It would reduce the initial costs of the project and allow some negotiations to proceed even with a reduced amount of federal funding, said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, project sponsor.

“We were under the impression that all the money had to be in place up front before negotiations began, but the Bureau of Reclamation decided that’s not the case,” Broderick said. “If those negotiations are successful, we’ve got pipe in the ground and the conduit can begin to move ahead.”

That means Reclamation will be able to begin negotiations with the Pueblo Board of Water Works and Colorado Springs Utilities for use of the joint use pipeline that leads from the south outlet of Pueblo Dam to the Whitlock Treatment Plant.

The Pueblo water board owns the pipeline and the treatment plant. Colorado Springs Utilities paid the water board $3.5 million to upsize the pipeline by one foot in diameter, planning to use it for the Southern Delivery System. Since that time, SDS has taken a different route to move water from Lake Pueblo through the north outlet on the dam, and would not need the additional capacity.

The pipeline from the south outlet has a total capacity of 248 million gallons per day. Of that, 40 mgd is reserved to serve Comanche power plant and 140 mgd to serve Pueblo.

By paying to upsize the pipeline, Colorado Springs reserved 68 mgd, but the conduit would only require 14 mgd, said Terry Book, executive director of the Pueblo water board.

Reclamation also must negotiate with the Pueblo water board for locating a treatment plant at Whitlock to filter water used in the Arkansas Valley Conduit. By moving those discussions ahead, the federal cost will be reduced from $12 million to about $3 million in the coming year, but more funds would be required to begin actual design work, Broderick said.

Meanwhile, Colorado lawmakers continue to fight for more federal funding.

During a U.S. House committee hearing this week, Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., told Reclamation officials the conduit is a high priority.

“The members of the Colorado delegation are committed to the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation knows that this project offers an effective regional answer to meeting federally mandated Safe Drinking Act standards,” said Tipton.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.

From the Ice Core Lab: Reflections on CFWE’s Climate and Water Workshop

Your Water Colorado Blog

By Lisa Wade, Riverside Technology

The thermometer on the wall displays a chilling -36°F as we enter the giant freezer. What could possibly need it to be this cold? The answer– ice cores collected from around the world.

P1030411 Climate and Colorado’s Water Future Workshop participants tour the freezers in the National Ice Core Laboratory.

They are stored in the US National Ice Core Laboratory, which I was touring as part of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Climate and Colorado’s Water Future Workshop. The Ice Core Lab is responsible for preserving ice collected from remote locations, such as Greenland, Antarctica, the Andes, and the Himalayas. Scientists drill the ice cores, package them up very carefully, and ship them back to the Ice Core Lab. Here, analysis on the ice provides insight into Earth’s climate. Scientists look at the oxygen isotopes, which are related to the temperature of the clouds…

View original post 359 more words

Drought outlook for Western US: Snowpack way above avg in N Rockies, way below in Sierra, Cascades — NIDIS #COdrought

significanteventsfordecembertofebruary2014vianoaa

Click on the graphic for a larger view. Click here to read the outlook from NIDIS.

H.R. 3189 is winding its way through the US Senate committee logjam (NSAA vs. USFS)

Sheep Herders on the Uncompahgre Plateau
Sheep Herders on the Uncompahgre Plateau

From email from GovTrack.us:

Mar 25, 2014 9:46 p.m. — Bill Text

H.R. 3189: Water Rights Protection Act

This bill’s text for status Referred to Senate Committee (Mar 24, 2014) is now available.

Recently executed agreement designed to increase river health in the Upper #ColoradoRiver and Fraser River

Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day
Ike enjoying the Fraser River back in the day

From the Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Grand County is that part of the snow-rich Western Slope most proximate to the farms and cities of the Front Range. It juts like a thumb eastward, the most easterly point of the Pacific drainage in North America.

As such, it became a target, early and often, of transmountain diversions. The first major diversion across the Continental Divide was completed in 1890 and the last, located at Windy Gap, where the Fraser River flows into the Colorado, in 1985. Several others, more audacious in scale, came between.

Taken together, these great engineering achievements annually draw 60 percent or more of the native flows of this headwater region eastward, over and through the Continental Divide. The water delivered to cities between Denver and Fort Collins have made them among the most vibrant in the country, and the water that flows to farms as far east as Julesberg, hundreds of miles away, among the nation’s most productive.

But this achievement has had a hidden cost that became more apparent in recent years. Combined with the frequent drought since 2000, the depletions have left the Colorado River shallow and warm as it flows through Middle Park. It is, according to environmental advocates, a river on the edge of ecological collapse, unable to support sculpin, trout, and other fish…

Now come new efforts, the most recent announced earlier this month, to bring the Colorado River and its tributaries back from this brink.

Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

“It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water…

David Taussig, a native of Grand County and now the county’s water attorney, working from the 16th Street firm of White & Jankowski in downtown Denver, also sees the agreement as a model. “Nobody knows what (the agreements) will look like, but there are ways to develop things that benefit the Western Slope,” he says.

There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

Under terms of this agreement, however, Denver Water is required to spend $10 million in direct costs in Grand County.

A major concern on the Fraser River is higher temperatures caused by more shallow flows, harmful or even deadly to fish. The money would go to such things as temperature-monitoring stations, to track how warm the Fraser is getting in summer months.

In places, creeks and the Fraser River will be rechanneled. A river with 75 percent of its flows diminished over a year’s cycle has less need for width. Instead, it needs a narrower course, to allow more depth and hence the colder water needed for aquatic life. Such work was already started several years ago on a segment near the Safeway store in Fraser.

A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take…

A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

Mely Whiting, an attorney for Trout Unlimited, says the new deal builds on both the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap settlements. They mesh together and, downstream from Windy Gap, should have great benefit.

The weakness is that in the Fraser Valley, there is little existing baseline data. “We don’t have a very good grasp on either what we have lost or what we may lose in the future,” she says. “We know there have been declines, but don’t have nearly as much information (as below Windy Gap). So the effort will be to develop a strong baseline and get a strong understanding of what is going on up there.”

At the end of the day it is a compromise, and Whiting admits that not all environmentalists are thrilled.

“On my side of the equation, when I talk to people in the conservation community, some people want language that nails Denver to the ground, so that they have no wiggle room. They want things very predictable,” she says.

“This Learning by Doing agreement is not extremely predictable,” she added. “We have some basic parameters. There are three ways we are going to measure, to monitor to make sure the values of the streams aren’t going down.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

The Shoshone hydroelectric plant and its 1,250 cfs, 1902 water right is not for sale according to Xcel #ColoradoRiver

Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb
Shoshone Falls hydroelectric generation station via USGenWeb

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

“Shoshone is not for sale,” Eggleston told the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, which met Monday in Glenwood Springs, nine miles downstream from the Shoshone plant. “Don’t plan to sell it. Nothing in the future about selling it.”

That may be good news to those on the West Slope who fear a Front Range utility will buy the plant, shut it down, and extinguish the plant’s senior water rights — resulting in less water in the lower Colorado River.

But it also means the plant’s fate is left in the portfolio of Xcel Energy, a regional utility based in Minneapolis that operates 25 other hydro plants, serves 3.4 million electricity customers in eight states, and sees $10.1 billion a year in revenue.

Eggleston’s comments to the members of the Colorado roundtable were in response to an article in The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction on March 17 about the prospect of the plant being bought by West Slope interests.

The Sentinel story quoted Louis Meyer of SGM Engineering, a consultant developing the Colorado roundtable’s “basin implement plan,” that buying the plant would be “one of the seminal things going forward in our plan.”

The article included several references to the plant not being for sale, and stated there was “no indication for now that the Shoshone Generation Station is even for sale.”

But an Xcel spokesman quoted in the story, Mark Stutz, said he couldn’t comment on whether the plant was for sale, or not.

That left the prospect lingering.

And Eggleston told the roundtable meeting he wanted to clarify any “mis-information.”

“Again, Xcel is not interested in selling,” Eggleston said. “They would not consider any first-right-of-refusals, or anything else that’s not within the interests of Xcel at this time.”

Eggleston said the article in the Sentinel caught the attention of Ben Fowke, the company’s chairman, president and CEO.

“It would be a good idea to do that every two or three years so that the executive management is reminded how important Shoshone is, and that Xcel Energy is making a commitment to everybody on the Western Slope to protect those water rights and operate that plant,” Eggleston said.

The real value of the Shoshone plant to the West Slope is its senior water rights from 1902, which keep up to 1,250 cubic feet per second of water flowing down the Colorado River.

“The whole reason the West Slope, lead by the River District, would be interested in gaining the plant is because we want that water right held intact,” said Jim Pokrandt, a communications and education specialist with the Colorado River District…

Denver Water has long chafed at the restrictions imposed by Shoshone’s water rights, but Travis Thompson, media coordinator for the utility, said via email that “Denver Water has not made an offer to purchase the Shoshone plant over the last few decades, and there are no standing offers.”

Denver Water also drove the framing and adoption of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement (CRCA), signed in 2012 by a list of regional entities.

“Under the CRCA, if Xcel decides to sell the Shoshone assets, they agree to do so in an open bidding arrangement,” Thompson, said.

He added that if the West Slope wanted to buy the plant, Denver Water also agreed it would support the idea and “assist the West Slope in acquiring Shoshone assets.”

But fear of Front Range water interests is still discernable in the Colorado River basin.

On Monday, Chuck Ogilby, a member of the Colorado roundtable, read a passage from the group’s vision statement: “The Shoshone call shall be preserved and protected for the benefit of the West Slope. This is non-negotiable.”

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

#ColoradoRiver pulse flow photo essay via National Geographic

Pulse flow tongue upstream of San Luis Rio Colorado
Pulse flow tongue upstream of San Luis Rio Colorado

Here’s a photo essay of the pulse flow from National Geographic (Jennifer Pitt). Be sure to click through for the photographs. Here’s an excerpt:

At about noon, we saw the river’s front, approximately 20 river miles downstream from the dam. The water has to advance a few more miles before it reaches San Luis Rio Colorado, a small city that straddles the river about 24 river miles downstream from the dam. Imagine living in a city named after a river that has disappeared!

Someone held a riverbed cleanup there yesterday, and I’ve heard reports that locals have been coming down to the dry channel all day, wondering when the water will arrive. I think it will be there soon!

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Longmont: Council asking voters for $20 million bond issue to deal with September #COflood

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

The City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to prepare the ballot issue; the exact language will be approved at a later meeting.

“I see this bond election as vital,” Councilman Gabe Santos said.

City officials hope to make the St. Vrain River capable of holding a 100-year flood all the way through Longmont, something it has never been able to do. Before September’s flood, the St. Vrain’s maximum capacity was about 5,000 cubic feet per second; a 100-year flood carries 10,000 cfs.

That kind of carrying capacity comes with a price tag between $65 million and $80 million, public works director Dale Rademacher said. With $20 million in “flood bonds,” he said, the city could pull together a stronger local match to attract state and federal dollars.

If those bonds pass, he said, the city could put together $47.6 million itself, including:

• $8.5 million in already-approved bridge work at Main Street, Sunset Street and South Pratt Parkway.

• $7 million from the street fund (which is due to be reapproved by voters in November).

• $1.6 million in open space and water fund money.

• $500,000 from the conservation trust fund.

• A possible $10 million in “alternative project” funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, money that would normally go to re-creating the eastern stretch of the St. Vrain that could be used elsewhere if the river’s course is left alone.

Even with the bonds, that still leaves a funding gap of $17.4 million to $32.4 million. But the money can let Longmont be in a stronger position to get funds from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers and from Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery grants. The city plans to apply for $52 million of grants from all those sources, but doesn’t expect to get everything.

“I think if we get a fraction of that, we should be happy,” Rademacher said of the FEMA grant application, a shot at a $37 million target.

Snowpack news (% of normal): South Platte = 135% (still tops in state), Rio Grande = 82%, Upper Colorado = 125%

Statewide snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 25, 2014 via the NRCS
Statewide snow water equivalent as a percent of normal March 25, 2014 via the NRCS

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Snow continues to pile up in the high country, even as plains remain parched. Snowfall over the weekend kept already high levels up in the central and northern mountains. While there is a chance of snow Thursday, the weekend is expected to be warm and sunny.

The snowpack has surpassed the median peak at sites in the Upper Arkansas Valley and at most sites in the Colorado River basin — anywhere from two weeks to a month ahead of schedule.

Statewide, the snowpack average is about 112 percent of median levels for this time of year, but it’s a tale of two weather patterns.

Northern areas have seen greater accumulations, while Southern Colorado has suffered.

The Rio Grande basin continues to lag the rest of the state at 82 percent, while the Arkansas River basin is at 98 percent.

That’s deceptive, however, since northerly areas in both basins are well above average, and the southern mountains remain relatively dry.

Forecasts for water brought into the Arkansas River basin from across the Continental Divide are about 30 percent above normal, but that assumes weather remains normal from here on out and that runoff occurs in a timely fashion.

Meanwhile, drought continues for most of the Arkansas River basin. Even though precipitation in Pueblo is normal, many parts of the Lower Arkansas Valley have not benefited from recent snows.

The National Weather Service has issued a fire weather watch for all of Southeastern Colorado from Canon City to Kansas and from northern El Paso County to New Mexico today.

Gusty winds and low humidity will accompany temperatures expected to reach the 70s.

El Paso County stormwater task force presents fee proposal to the Colorado Springs City Council

Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain
Channel erosion Colorado Springs July 2012 via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An El Paso County task force is moving a ballot issue this November to create a regional fee for stormwater control.

“People recognize this is a problem for us, and to not address the problem as elected leaders is not acceptable,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey.

The task force has been meeting for nearly two years, and has moved to citizen control after elected leaders and paid government staff got the ball rolling.

On Monday, the group presented a plan to Colorado Springs City Council that would assess a monthly fee of $8-$12 for most property owners to raise $50 million annually for the next 20-30 years. Council and county commissioners meet today to jointly discuss several issues, including the stormwater fee. The money would go toward addressing $700 million in stormwater projects in El Paso County, including about $250 million in high-priority projects.

Getting the issue to the ballot will not be a simple task. The commissioners have to approve ballot language, and it’s not known what that will look like or who would challenge it.

The first step will be for the citizens task force to obtain intergovernmental agreements from all of the incorporated cities and potentially special districts in El Paso County. Manitou Springs and a district in the northern part of the county already have stormwater fees, Hisey explained.

“We don’t want anyone paying double taxes for the same service,” he said.

The IGAs should be in place before the ballot issue is approved, so that the structure of the authority that will administer the funds can be determined. One of the issues brought up in earlier meetings by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach was retaining local control over the city’s share of the projects.

Under last year’s changes in election laws, all of the pre-ballot work has to be done by the end of July, Hisey said.

In 2009, Colorado Springs City Council voted to dissolve a stormwater enterprise that it created four years earlier, based on its interpretation of a city election.

Officials from Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District were angered by the move because the stormwater enterprise was used as a condition to address Fountain Creek flooding issues for permit approval by Colorado Springs for its Southern Delivery System.

“The hope of the Lower Ark district is that voters will pass it, and Colorado Springs will live up to its commitments under the Pueblo County 1041 permit,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “As a district, we are patiently waiting to see what happens.”

More stormwater coverage here and here.

Photo: Washington landslide

Longmont Reservoir refilling after dredging #COflood

The dam at Longmont Reservoir March 18, 2014 via the City of Longmont
The dam at Longmont Reservoir March 18, 2014 via the City of Longmont

From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

After a four-month effort to remove 50,000 cubic yards of debris from the reservoir, city workers declared the Longmont Reservoir usable again on Thursday. The lake had been dredged for the cleanup efforts; water began to re-enter on Wednesday.

“We’re filling it slowly on purpose, so we can watch it and control it as it comes up,” said project manager Josh Sherman. “We anticipate it being full by the end of the week.”

The reservoir had been taken out of service by September’s flood, a deluge that also knocked out the connecting North St. Vrain Pipeline and any road access to the area. By the flood’s end, Longmont had only one working pipeline, to Carter Lake, and only one-third of its normal water supply.

By December, crews from Nixcavating, a Longmont firm, had re-opened enough emergency road access to get the pipeline going again and start work on Longmont Reservoir. The lake had to be dredged to get all the silt, rocks and other debris out; much of the rock has been re-used for road work…

According to Holly Milne, a marketing specialist for the public works department, the last bit of debris in Longmont Reservoir was removed the week of March 10.

There’s still more to do. Still more debris — most of it wood — is clogging the inlet to Ralph Price Reservoir. The flood left more logs and wood in the reservoir itself; city workers lowered the lake level there to beach the material.

The inlet needs to be cleared before the runoff, which typically comes in two phases: early to mid-May and then late June to early July. But the wood on the beach will probably be cleared about the time the runoff hits, Sherman said, as workers use rising water levels to bring the logs across the lake and to a more accessible location.

Progressive 15 will host a Water Summit this Friday in Fort Morgan #COWaterPlan

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

From The Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

The nonprofit advocacy group will host a Water Summit this Friday in Fort Morgan. The various speakers will discuss topics that will educate their audience about water and its importance to Colorado, according to a press release…

John Stulp, the governor’s special policy advisor on water and former state agriculture commissioner, will speak at the forum about the Colorado Plan for water, according to the release.

The South Platte and Republican rivers will the subject of another session, with Deb Daniel and Jim Yahn as the speakers.

Public legislation related to water will be the focus of Joe Frank’s talk, which will include the potential local impacts to water rights and use of proposed legislation.

Jerry Gibbens will provide an update on the Northern Integrated Storage Project, which is a proposed massive water storage project that would build two reservoirs, with one near Fort Collins and one near Ault.

The featured luncheon speaker will be Treste Huse from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who will provide forecasts for moisture and potential flooding issues.

The summit will end with a panel discussion featuring people who represent different ideas and thoughts on the roles water will play in future plans and how it could impact on the northeast Colorado economy…

Reservations are required and can be placed online at progressive15.org, by calling 970-867-9167 or by email to cathy@progressive15.org.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

HB14-1026: ‘…seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry’ — Peter Nichols

Flood irrigation -- photo via the CSU Water Center
Flood irrigation — photo via the CSU Water Center

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A flex marketing water right bill that passed the state House earlier this year would, in effect, overturn a state Supreme Court decision that prevented moving water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. That’s the opinion of Peter Nichols, water attorney for the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, who has been working to change the bill, HB1026, to provide more assurances that agriculture would remain the primary use under the new type of water right.

“The way the bill has been amended overturns the High Plains decision,” Nichols said, referring to a 2004 ruling by former water judge Dennis Maes that was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

High Plains claimed multiple uses for unnamed end users in counties throughout Eastern Colorado in its attempt to move water out of the Fort Lyon Canal. Maes rejected the application under the state’s anti-speculation doctrine that requires an end user to be named in a water change case.

“The way it’s written, if you had 1,000 acres, you could dry up 999 acres every year,” Nichols said. “That seems like a Trojan horse for a permanent buy-and-dry.”

The district is working with key lawmakers to try to put better limits on the bill that would make it conform to current laws which limit the frequency of years when water could be put to alternative uses and the amount of land that can be dried up.

The Lower Ark district promotes the Arkansas Valley Super Ditch, but helped create it with the intent that water would be treated as another “crop” and not permanently removed from the land.

Nichols also suggested that removing ag water too often from fields would create environmental consequences for wetlands and return flows to rivers.

“For some reason, the environmental community has not paid attention to this bill,” Nichols said.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.

Eagle Valley meeting on the #COWaterPlan, March 27

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

Thursday, March 27th
Eagle Valley “Town Hall” Meeting on the Colorado Water Plan
6 to 8 pm @ Walking Mountains Science Center, Avon

Did you know that Colorado is one of only a few states in the West operating without a formal water plan? As of May 2013, that is changing. Gov. Hickenlooper has asked to have a draft of the State’s Water Plan on his desk in December of 2014 with the final completed in December of 2015.

For this process, Colorado has been divided into 9 river basins, each responsible for outlining their values, priorities, goals, and objectives moving forward. Here in the Eagle Valley, we fall into the Colorado River Basin and the draft of our Basin Implementation Plan is due in July. This process seeks much public input; now is the time for you to learn more about the Statewide Water Plan and give your feedback!

Please join us for this very important evening of learning and sharing. We need your help to make sure the Colorado Water Plan reflects the needs and concerns of the Eagle Valley moving into the future.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

EPA: Addressing Crucial Water Issues in Our Communities — Nancy Stoner

waterdrop
From the Environmental Protection Agency (Nancy Stoner):

This year, we here at EPA celebrate the 20th anniversary of President Clinton signing Executive Order 12898, which directed federal agencies to address environmental disparities in minority and low-income communities. We’ve certainly accomplished a lot since the order was signed, but sadly, too many people still breathe dirty air, live near toxic waste dumps, or lack reliable access to clean water. But we continue to make progress in all of those areas, and here in EPA’s Office of Water, I’m proud of how we’re helping communities across America—both rural and urban—address their most crucial water issues.

Last fall, I was in Laredo, Texas and visited a community near the U.S.-Mexico border called the colonias, which until recently did not have regular access to clean water. Thanks to funding from EPA’s U.S.-Mexico Border Infrastructure Program, 3,700 people in the colonias now have access to a modern sewer system. We also have a program that provides funding for the planning, design and construction of wastewater infrastructure for American Indian and Alaskan Native communities. Providing access to clean water to people who have never had it before is one of the most important things we have the power and resources to do.

In 2012, I traveled to Baltimore to help announce funding from EPA’s Urban Waters program that’s being use to educate residents in the Patapsco watershed about the benefits of water conservation and give people the know-how to reduce water usage at home. Urban waterways can provide myriad economic, environmental and community benefits, and EPA is helping dozens of communities across the country reconnect with these important, valuable resources.

Our drinking water program is also providing substantial funding to help improve small drinking water systems across the country, which comprise more than 94% of the nation’s public drinking water systems. Small systems, those that serve fewer than 3,500 people, face unique financial and operational challenges in providing drinking water that meets federal standards. Last year, we provided close to $13 million to help train staff at small systems and give them tools to enhance system their operations and management practices.

This year, I’m proud to celebrate 20 years of EPA’s work to make a visible difference in communities across the country. We’ve made so much progress over the last two decades, and I know we’ll make even more over the next 20 years.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

HB14-1030 passes third reading in Senate, March 19, on to Gov. Hickenlooper #COleg

microhydroelectricplant

From HydroWorld.com (Michael Harris):

The legislation — officially HB14-1030 — streamlines state environmental review for small hydroelectric projects without weakening or changing any underlying state environmental requirements, according to the Colorado Small Hydro Association (COSHA).

Instead, the bill directs the Colorado Energy Office to facilitate project review by state agencies in a timely manner commensurate with federal agency timelines, making it possible for an applicant to simultaneously clear both federal and state reviews as quickly as 60 days for “non-controversial” projects.

The bill also streamlines the electrical inspection process by citing National Electrical Code (NEC) standards that electricians should be guided by when installing small hydro. According to COSHA, electrical inspectors will now determine if a project meets NEC standards for safety, quality and code compliance.

HB14-1030 mirrors legislation passed at the federal level in August 2013, which included the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act and the Bureau of Reclamation Small Conduit Hydropower Development and Rural Jobs Act.

“Last summer federal permitting requirements for small hydro were streamlined thanks to Colorado legislators in Congress,” said COSHA President Kurt Johnson. “Now thanks to leadership from Colorado legislators in Denver, similar streamlining legislation has been approved in Colorado. Congratulations and thanks to the sponsors of HB14-1030 for their leadership on this reform legislation which will serve as a model for other states nationwide.”

HB14-1030 came out of an October meeting of Colorado’s Water Resources Review Committee hearing led by Sen. Gail Schwartz…

“It has been a pleasure working with the Colorado Small Hydro Association on this legislation for rural Colorado,” Schwartz said. “HB14-1030 cuts red tape for small hydro development, helping to accelerate development of new small hydro installations and job creation.

“It’s a great example of Colorado common sense.”

More 2014 Colorado legislation here.

Clear Creek: Colorado’s hardest working river?

Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation
Graphic via the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation

From All Wet: The Colorado Water Blog (Allen Best):

Dave Holm called Clear Creek “perhaps the hardest working river in Colorado,” and to back up that statement he noted that it provides water for 400,000 people and has the second most numbers of rafters in Colorado.

As for fish? Well, not so good. “It’s a rough and tough stream, and it’s tough on fish,” he said at a March 20 presentation before the Colorado Renewable Energy Society. “They really get beat up.”

Holm directs the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, which was set up in 1990. He explained that after just a handful of people at the first meeting, 100 people were affiliated with the group by 1994.

The foundation seeks to clean up and improve Clear Creek, no small task. It was the site of Colorado’s first industrial-scale mining, first placer operations and then tunneling. This occurred at Central City, on the north fork of the creek, and also at Idaho Springs. Other mining towns in the drainage include Black Hawk, Georgetown, and Silver Plume…

The foundation has done 80 projects altogether, but the creek still has major troubles. Interstate 70 probably has the “biggest physical impact.” The creek has been channelized to make roof for the four-way highway, creating what amounts to a “rip-rap gulley.”

Holm also described how the doctrine of prior appropriation benefits the creek. “Colorado’s—rococo comes to mind—legal framework for administering water rights,” he said. But that first-in-right means that most of the water in Clear Creek gets left there until far downstream, where it issues from the foothills into the piedmont of the Front Range.

More Clear Creek watershed coverage here.

What we know: The reality, risks, and response to climate change

articseaice08262012

From the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) — that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.

Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific disagreement. Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real. Moreover, while the public is becoming aware that climate change is increasing the likelihood of certain local disasters, many people do not yet understand that there is a small, but real chance of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people in the United States and around the world.

It is not the purpose of this paper to explain why this disconnect between scientific knowledge and public perception has occurred. Nor are we seeking to provide yet another extensive review of the scientific evidence for climate change. Instead, we present key messages for every American about climate change:

1. Climate scientists agree: climate change is happening here and now. Based on well-established evidence, about 97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening. This agreement is documented not just by a single study, but by a converging stream of evidence over the past two decades from surveys of scientists, content analyses of peer-reviewed studies, and public statements issued by virtually every membership organization of experts in this field. Average global temperature has increased by about 1.4˚ F over the last 100 years. Sea level is rising, and some types of extreme events – such as heat waves and heavy precipitation events – are happening more frequently. Recent scientific findings indicate that climate change is likely responsible for the increase in the intensity of many of these events in recent years.

2. We are at risk of pushing our climate system toward abrupt, unpredictable, and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts. Earth’s climate is on a path to warm beyond the range of what has been experienced over the past millions of years. The range of uncertainty for the warming along the current emissions path is wide enough to encompass massively disruptive consequences to societies and ecosystems: as global temperatures rise, there is a real risk, however small, that one or more critical parts of the Earth’s climate system will experience abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes. Disturbingly, scientists do not know how much warming is required to trigger such changes to the climate system.

3. The sooner we act, the lower the risk and cost. And there is much we can do. Waiting to take action will inevitably increase costs, escalate risk, and foreclose options to address the risk. The CO2 we produce accumulates in Earth’s atmosphere for decades, centuries, and longer. It is not like pollution from smog or wastes in our lakes and rivers, where levels respond quickly to the effects of targeted policies. The effects of CO2 emissions cannot be reversed from one generation to the next until there is a large- scale, cost-effective way to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Moreover, as emissions continue and warming increases, the risk increases.

By making informed choices now, we can reduce risks for future generations and ourselves, and help communities adapt to climate change. People have responded successfully to other major environmental challenges such as acid rain and the ozone hole with benefits greater than costs, and scientists working with economists believe there are ways to manage the risks of climate change while balancing current and future economic prosperity.

As scientists, it is not our role to tell people what they should do or must believe about the rising threat of climate change. But we consider it to be our responsibility as professionals to ensure, to the best of our ability, that people understand what we know: human-caused climate change is happening, we face risks of abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes, and responding now will lower the risk and cost of taking action.

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The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board approves development of whitewater park in Basalt

Proposed Basalt whitewater park via the Aspen Daily News
Proposed Basalt whitewater park via the Aspen Daily News

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board on Thursday voted to seek approvals for, and build, a whitewater park in the Roaring Fork River across from the entrance to the Elk Run subdivision in Basalt.

The board agreed to develop a detailed proposal, gain approval from Pitkin County commissioners and the town of Basalt, and to fund the project.

It will cost about $750,000 to install two wave-producing concrete structures in the river and make improvements to a steep riverbank above the structures to allow for river access and viewing, according to whitewater park designer Jason Carey of River Restoration, Inc. A stripped-down version of the park, without amenities, could cost $550,000.

The five-year-old county river board is funded by a sales tax that brings in about $800,000 a year and it currently has $1.4 million set aside for future expenditures.

The county river board previously endorsed the project in 2010, but now that a water right for the whitewater park is nearly in hand, Pitkin County Attorney John Ely encouraged the board on Thursday to commit to actually getting the project built…

Carey, who designed the popular surf wave in the Colorado River in West Glenwood Springs, has been working on the “Pitkin County Whitewater Park” design since 2009…

Carey said the two concrete and rock structures would be placed in the river along a steep bank next to Two Rivers Road that had been eaten away by high water in 1995 and then crudely restored by CDOT…

The location has other good attributes, he said, including that the river is relatively deep in this reach, compared to the rocky and shallow stretches above and below it…

Most years, though, there will be plenty of water in the river to create surf waves in the park, and the county won’t have to exercise its water right and call for water, according to Lee Rozakalis, a consulting hydrologist with AMEC, who has been working on the park for the county.

More whitewater coverage here.

Flood insurance costs are skyrocketing after the September 2013 #COflood

Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing
Air search for flood victims September 2013 via Pediment Publishing

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Thousands of Coloradans could face major cost increases for their flood insurance, just as many are trying to decide whether to rebuild or move on after the devastating September flooding. More than 5,700 federally subsidized policies in Colorado could be hit with annual premium increases in the years ahead despite a federal law signed Friday that rolls back rate hikes for many homeowners whose premiums recently soared by thousands of dollars overnight.

“They made it very clear to our residents that if you chose to remain in the flood plain, they would see a significant increase in their insurance premiums,” said Victoria Simonsen, town administrator for Lyons, where more than 200 of the community’s 960 homes were damaged or destroyed.

Nationwide, up to 1.1 million policies face increases, according to an Associated Press analysis of records from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The government is trying to shrink a $24 billion shortfall in the National Flood Insurance Program created by long-running subsidies and a series of catastrophic storms.

In Colorado, 4,000 property owners could face increases of up to 18 percent annually on owner-occupied homes. Another 1,700 policies on second homes and businesses will face annual increases of 25 percent until they reach a rate based on the actual risk of flooding.

Measuring the impact in Colorado is difficult amid the uncertainty left behind by the September disaster, which destroyed 2,000 homes and damaged nearly 18,000 others along the Front Range and on the Eastern Plains. FEMA estimates the total damage at $2 billion and says flood insurance policies have paid $63.6 million in claims.

Charlie Corson, a retired bus driver who has lived in Lyons for more than 20 years, already has seen his flood insurance premium jump by a third, to nearly $2,000. But that’s because he and his wife had to increase their coverage to qualify for a low-interest loan they might need if they decide to rebuild.

Dan Matsch, another longtime Lyons resident, said his rates might actually go down. He discovered after the flood that his house stood on higher ground than anyone realized — even though it was heavily damaged — so he might qualify for a lower premium than the $1,200 a year he had been paying.

Lyons, a village of 2,000 in the foothills about 35 miles northwest of Denver, was devastated by the flooding. Two canyons funneled high water into a neighborhood of modest old houses and trailer homes. About 60 houses are considered substantially damaged by federal standards, meaning repairs would cost more than half the value of the home.

“People here are very, very distressed,” Simonsen said. Residents are trying to decide whether to rebuild or apply for a federally funded buyout that would pay them the pre-flood market value of their home and turn their property into open space.