‘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.