Jennifer Gimbel named Reclamation Dep. Commissioner for External & Intergovernmental Affairs

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Dan DuBray):

Bureau of Reclamation acting Commissioner Lowell Pimley announced Jennifer Gimbel has been named Reclamation’s Deputy Commissioner for External and Intergovernmental Affairs. “An important component of carrying out Reclamation’s mission is working with its customers, stakeholders and the public,” said Acting Commissioner Pimley. “Jennifer’s experience working in the water community at the state, regional and federal level will be a valuable asset as we continue to work alongside our partners in the West to confront widening imbalances between water supply and demand.”

As Deputy Commissioner, Gimbel will oversee Reclamation’s congressional, legislative and public affairs activities. She will also be the executive responsible for Reclamation’s national relationships with federal, state and local governments, as well as citizen organizations and other nongovernmental groups.

Gimbel returns to Reclamation after serving as Counselor to the Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior where she focused on legislative and legal matters, concentrating on issues regarding the Rio Grande, Salton Sea, California Bay Delta, and the Clean Water Act.

She came to Interior in 2013 after serving five years as Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board which is the water policy agency for the State of Colorado. As Director, she carried out policies and directives of a citizen board and the administration relating to the conservation, development and utilization of the state’s water resources. She represented Colorado in several interstate activities, including being the Governor’s representative on the Colorado River and as one of his appointees to the Western States Water Council.

Gimbel previously worked at Reclamation from 2001 until 2008 on a variety of policy and program issues including serving as Chair of the Secretary’s Indian Water Rights Working Group. Program areas included operation and maintenance, deferred maintenance, the Water Conservation Field Services Program, drought, hazardous waste, invasive species, water management and planning, and other issues.

Gimbel’s career also includes experience with the Colorado Attorney General’s office and the Wyoming Attorney General office, where she advised and represented the Attorney General and other state officials regarding interstate water matters, water law and administrative law.

She has a Bachelor of Science and Juris Doctorate from the University of Wyoming and a Master of Science from the University of Delaware.

Congratulations Jennifer from all of us here at Coyote Gulch.

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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation map March 1 thru March 9, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation map March 1 thru March 9, 2014 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.

‘I have pictures and video from the Sandhill Crane migration’ — D. West Davies (@allthingspagosa)

Estmates of unmet needs for Boulder County flood damage = tens of $ millions #COflood

Surfing Boulder Creek September 2013 via @lauras
Surfing Boulder Creek September 2013 via @lauras

From the Longmont Times-Call (John Fryar):

World Renew has reported that its interviews indicated that the “recovery costs” of those Boulder County households — the expenses, often uninsured, of rebuilding or repairing homes and other structures were destroyed or seriously damaged in the floods — could total nearly $31.3 million.

The costs of replacing the furniture, appliances and other contents of those flood-ravaged homes and structures could total another $1.3 million, World Renew’s interviewers reported.

Those estimates will change, as other flood-impacted victims discover and report what it would cost or is costing them to rebuild, make repairs and replace the contents of the homes they own or the units they were renting, Anderson said.

But she predicted that total estimated costs for housing construction and repair expenses and for replacing the contents of that housing — an estimate Anderson said was based largely on a set of hour-long interviews — is a number that’s “going to grow.”

3 years of early March snowpack maps

Click on a thumbnail to take a journey down memory lane. The maps are from the first week in March for the past three snow seasons.

Say hello to the new NRCS Snow Survey page

The March 2014 Eagle River Watershed Council newsletter (The Current) is hot off the presses

Eagle River Basin
Eagle River Basin

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

Watershed Wednesday: the Eagle River Blue Trails Program
March 19th, 6 p.m.
Eagle Public Library, Eagle, CO

The Eagle River has been chosen by American Rivers to become a Blue Trail. In doing so, the Eagle River will be following in the footsteps of other projects around the nation. Just as hiking trails help people explore the land, “Blue Trails help people discover their rivers and provide communities with a host of benefits: protecting the environment; enhancing local economies; promoting healthy living; preserving history and community identity; and connect people and places.”

More Eagle River watershed coverage here.

Climate change, especially in the US, has been extraordinarily politicised — Elizabeth Kolbert

Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003
Hockey Stick based on Mann & Jones 2003

Here’s an interview with author Elizabeth Kolbert (“The Sixth Extinction”) from The Guardian (Andrew Anthony). Click through and read the whole interview. Here’s an excerpt:

Your previous writing on climate change met with scepticism. Do you think this broader approach might have a more engaged reception?

Climate change, especially in the US, has been extraordinarily politicised, and that is a real barrier to getting people to even think about the issue. The other issues in the book, which are all contributing to this mass extinction – invasive species and ocean acidification – have not been politicised. But acidification is completely the same phenomenon as global warming. It’s all about carbon emissions. Unfortunately the public discourse has really taken leave of the science and just exists in its own realm.

The irony of the previous catastrophes is that we wouldn’t be here without them…

Yes, there’s a consensus that the dinosaurs were doing just fine 66m years ago and presumably could have done fine for another 66m years, had their way of life not been up-ended by an asteroid impact. Life on this planet is contingent. There’s no grand plan for it. We are also contingent. Yet although we are absolutely part of this long history, we turn out to be extremely unusual. And what we’re doing is quite possibly unprecedented.

Weld County irrigation dealers busy due to conversion from flood irrigation to sprinklers on many area farms

Crop circles -- irrigated agriculture
Crop circles — irrigated agriculture

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A year ago, a historic drought spurred farmers to whip out the checkbooks more than ever and invest in new irrigation equipment to stretch their limited water farther. Today, the water outlook is exponentially better, but business between area crop growers and irrigation-supply companies hasn’t slowed at all, locals say. This year might even set the new standard in spending for farmers who are looking to be more water-efficient, some stressed.

Matt Pletcher, sales manager at Quality Well and Pump in LaSalle, said that from late fall to early spring — the time between growing seasons — his company in recent years was converting about 30-40 fields from flood irrigation to center-pivot sprinkler irrigation, the latter of which uses water much more efficiently. That workload doubled to about 80 fields last year, and Pletcher said Quality Well and Pump is on pace this year to reach those numbers again, maybe even surpass them.

Vic Fiscus, general manager at Valley Irrigation Supply near Greeley, agreed in that last year was his business’s best on the books, but this year could match it — maybe even top it.

“We certainly aren’t having any trouble staying busy right now,” Viscus said. “Need things to dry out, so we can get back in the fields and get caught up before planting time. A lot left to do.”

The giant spike in business a year ago came at time when the Greeley area had just endured 2012 — its driest year in decades — and snowpack at the start of 2013 in the South Platte Basin was only about 70 percent of historic average, while reservoirs were only filled to 77 percent of normal levels. The water outlook was bleak.

But that’s not the case this year. The Greeley area is coming off what was its fifth-wettest year on record in 2013, South Platte Basin snowpack at the start of 2014 was back up to average and has climbed to about 150 percent of average since then, and reservoirs are filled to above-average levels.

However, while this year is looking good, there’s still no telling what the future holds, local farmers say. And, in addition to anticipated roller-coaster weather down the road, farmers are still spending big on irrigation upgrades because of tightened supplies of water in the region and the increasing price of the resource

Agriculture, according to the Colorado Division of Water Resources, uses about 85 percent of the state’s water, with the heaviest ag use coming here in Weld County — the 8th-most ag-productive county in the entire U.S.

While ag is the biggest user in Weld, it’s certainly not the only one. The population of Weld County has doubled in less than 25 years and is expected to continue growing sharply, like the entire Front Range, meaning surrounding cities will need more water in the future, and also might have less excess water to rent out to farmers. And, while oil and gas development uses less than 1 percent of the state’s water, about 80 percent of the drilling in Colorado is taking place in Weld County, increasing local water demands.

The demand for water has pushed the price of the resource out of reach for farmers, local water experts say.

While the water-efficiency rate of center-pivot irrigation exceeds that of flood irrigating, making the change isn’t cheap. Pletcher estimates that overhauling a field to center-pivot irrigation ranges from $500-$1,300 per acre — so, on the typical 160-acre plot, that can add up to over $100,000.

Pletcher said he’s seeing a lot of used center-pivots selling, helping lower the cost of the transition. Pletcher also noted that activity with drip irrigation — even more expensive, ranging from about $1,500 to $2,500 per acre, but even more efficient — has increased. After doing only a couple drip-irrigation projects each year, Quality Well and Pump is doing seven this year.

Along with saving water, farmers say center-pivot irrigation and drip systems require less manual labor than flood irrigating, which, over time, are savings that can help cover the costs for irrigation upgrades. Plus, many in the ag industry have reported difficulty in finding labor.

“It’s for a number of reasons, but regardless, we’ve had a lot of farmers coming to us,” Pletcher said.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Arkansas Valley Conduit: Engineering and design requirements = $14 million to keep project on track

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation
Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Colorado’s congressional delegation is calling on the administration and Congress to boost funding levels for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. The administration’s budget numbers for the conduit, released late Monday, included just $500,000 for the conduit, which last month received final approval, a record of decision, from the Bureau of Reclamation. But about $14 million is needed to keep engineering and design for the project on track in order to break ground in 2016.

The project sponsors, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, currently have secured about $3.1 million — which includes carryover funding — to begin work on the conduit.

The $400 million conduit would include 227 miles of pipeline along a 130-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads. Along the way it would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities, many of them facing regulatory pressure to improve drinking water quality. The conduit was part of the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, but never built because of expense. A renewed effort to build it began about 15 years ago, and culminated in late February when Reclamation issued a record of decision identifying the route of the pipeline through Pueblo and along the Arkansas River.

The letters were sent to congressional leadership and the Department of Interior Tuesday, just hours after the budget figures were known, by U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton, both Republicans. They said the budget for the conduit is insufficient for the second year in a row.

“The budget numbers released for fiscal year 2014 and 2015 are troubling. At a time when planners are trying to scale up significantly and move forward toward the construction stage, the Administration budget figures have threatened to delay work on this critical priority,” the letter stated.

The lawmakers called the Conduit a “top priority” and reminded the Administration and the Appropriations Committees that “the federal government has repeatedly promised to build this Conduit.”

The budget numbers likely were prepared last year, before the conduit had a record of decision in place, so they could conceivably be improved, say some observers.

The $14 million would complete design and engineering work, which includes connection to the south outlet of Pueblo Dam, initial filtering at the Pueblo Board of Water Works Whitlock Plant, routing the pipeline south of Pueblo by the Comanche power plant and construction that basically follows the north side of the Arkansas River to Lamar. There are numerous spurs and loops along the way that deliver water to communities in Pueblo, Crowley, Otero, Bent, Prowers and Kiowa counties.

More Arkansas Valley Conduit coverage here and here.