Eagle Valley meeting on the #COWaterPlan, March 27

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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

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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

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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.

Click here to download the full document.

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.