Film screening: DamNation (SXSW Audience Choice Award) at the Mayan Wednesday night in Denver

Official poster
Official poster

Click here to go to the website to watch the trailer and pre-order your copy.

From email from American Rivers (Sinjin Eberle):

I am excited to come on board as the new Associate Director of Communications for American Rivers – focusing primarily on the Colorado Basin.

I grew up on the Western Slope of Colorado, and have recently settled in Durango – in the heart of the basin. I thrive on being out on the water in a raft or a driftboat, ripping a trail on my mountain bike, or hiking one of the countless routes in the high country. Having spent more than 10 years as a volunteer leader with Trout Unlimited, I am thrilled to bring my professional skills and energy to work for the rivers of the west. But most importantly, I am excited to be working with you.

Members and supporters are the bedrock of any successful effort, and you are the real force behind how much American Rivers can accomplish. With your help, we can preserve and restore the places we love, work, and play, and build a more sustainable future for our rivers. I would like to invite you to a few events we have set up in the coming weeks:

  • Denver – DamNation screening at the Mayan Theater May 14, 7:30pm
  • Telluride – MountainFilm DamNation Screening, May 23 – 26
  • Aspen – Wild Rivers Night at the Wheeler, featuring Pete McBride and DamNation, Wheeler Opera House, June 5
  • If you haven’t checked out the trailer for DamNation, see it here. It’s pretty amazing!

    I so look forward to meeting you in person and talking about how we can work together for our rivers in the coming years. Come out to a film screening, or drop me an email – there is so much to do and I am excited that we can embark on this journey together!

    More restoration/reclamation coverage here.

    #CODrought news: Save water, energy (and money) in a Colorado summer: 5 easy ways — The Denver Post

    From The Denver Post (Susan Clotfelter):

    Every time it rains in Colorado, we tend to forget we live in a high desert. Every time we’re blessed with a cool spring, we tend to forget that come mid-June — or sooner — it’s going to get hot. Summer’s onset reliably brings a bumper crop of ways to save money on energy and water. Here are a few.

    1. Maintain your air-conditioning system. If it’s a whole-house unit that relies on your furnace to move cooled air, change furnace filters. Remove the winter cover; trim weeds or grass around the unit, and book a pro to check on the evaporator and condenser, which are usually sealed. Consult websites like or to clean the parts you can access. Indoors, clean air-return ducts and clear clutter from around them.

    2. That ’80s staple, the ceiling fan, can be a great way to keep a space comfortable without turning on the air conditioning. If you’ve got one, turn the reversible switch so that it rotates counterclockwise for the warm season. And hey, while you’re up there? Dust the blades. Clean machinery lives longer.

    3. Got energy audit? Sign up for one. Check your utility provider or municipality’s website; some subsidies and bargains remain to be had. A certified pro will visit your home and find your biggest energy (and money) drains and help you fix them. If you got an energy audit done, but haven’t acted on its recommendations yet, pick one of the top three.

    4. Use less water. My own energy audit included easy ways to save on this precious Colorado commodity. My auditor installed a kitchen-faucet aerator and a balloon in the tank of my one non-low-flow toilet (which I’ve since replaced).

    My top-loading, late ’90s washing machine refuses to die so that I can justify a high-efficiency machine, but I’ve learned to cut back on its use it by combining loads. I also hang most of my laundry to dry, which trims dryer use (and extends the life of my clothes).

    5. Waste no water. Sprinkler system? Get it checked, or check it yourself, to fix or adjust any broken or wasteful heads. And check Denver Water’s website ( for water-saving tips that still allow you to have a beautiful summer landscape. You can also use what I call the Thrifty Girl’s Drip Irrigation system: Put a plastic tub in the kitchen sink and a 3- to 5-gallon bucket in the shower to collect the water that runs while you’re waiting for the flow to heat up. Use that water in the garden on shrubs, perennials or larger vegetables by pouring it into a second bucket with three or four quarter-inch holes in the bottom. Put the pierced bucket in the garden to drip-water plants. If you’re fussy about how that looks, paint the bucket.

    More conservation coverage here.

    Sterling: “AgFest” recap

    Groundwater movement via the USGS
    Groundwater movement via the USGS

    From the Sterling Journal-Advocate (Callie Jones):

    This year’s festival included 10 stations, including the GPS mapping station, where Morgan County Extension Agent Marlin Eisenach spoke about how farmers use GPS mapping to plow, so they don’t use too much agricultural herbicide or insecticide and they can save as much fuel as possible…

    At the groundwater station, Extension Agent Molly Witzel, from Burlington, spoke about watershed, an area where smaller bodies of water flow into bigger bodies of water; an aquifer, “a big underground lake;” and other groundwater terms. She also spoke about what happened during the South Platte River flood last fall…

    A rangeland ecology station had students learning about the different plants and animals that can be found on rangeland. Logan County Extension Agent Casey Matney talked about the importance of rangeland, because it has trees, animals and water.

    At a plant science station the fifth graders learned about the difference between dicot and monocot plants, they got to see different types of seeds and they learned about how plants grow.

    Blue River “State of the River” meeting recap #ColoradoRiver

    Blue River
    Blue River

    From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):

    About 80 people — water managers, weather experts, government officials and interested community members — attended the event hosted by the Colorado River District at the Community Center in Frisco Tuesday, May 6. Discussion revolved around snowpack, runoff, flooding and the state water plan…

    [Joanna Hopkins, board president of Blue River Watershed Group] spoke about the group’s restoration project of Ten Mile Creek, impacted by decades of mining, railroads, highways and development, and presented before and after photos of the work. The group will now focus attention on restoration of the Upper Swan River Watershed, where dredge boats in the early 20th century mined for 2 miles and the group and its partners will work to turn the river “right side up.”[…]

    [Troy Wineland, water commissioner for the Blue River basin] pointed to a graph and asked the audience to consider this year’s snowpack levels. “What does that surplus, that bonus, that cream on the top, what does that mean to you?” he said. Better rafting, some said. Fishing. Full reservoirs…

    Bob Steger, water resources engineer with Denver Water, discussed Dillon Reservoir operations. The utility’s main priorities for the reservoir are maintaining its water supply and reducing flood risk, he said, but it also considers boating, rafting, kayaking, fishing, endangered fish and its upcoming construction project.

    The utility began lowering the reservoir level in late February, just like in other high-snowpack years, he said. Going forward, the reservoir will start filling in mid-May or June, depending on whether the spring is wet or dry.

    The Roberts Tunnel, which brings water from Dillon to Denver, won’t be turned on until mid-June or July, he said, and the utility will replace the large gates that control outflow to the Blue River likely sometime between August and October…

    Ron Thomasson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who oversees Green Mountain Reservoir operations, said he expects to fill that reservoir in mid-July.

    He talked about how more runoff will improve habitat for four endangered fish species in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River and showed his “obligatory snowpack graph.” Then he presented spaghetti plots to explain that when experts say “most probable scenario” what they really mean is, “It’s actually no more probable than any other scenario. It just happens to be in the middle.”[…]

    explained the rare conditions that combined to cause record-breaking flooding in the Boulder area in September. Then he switched to the “crazy winter that you just lived through” in Summit and what to expect in the six- to eight-week runoff season produced by seven months of snow.

    He joked about the polar vortex, a phenomenon that’s been around forever but didn’t make the media until this winter, and he showed more spaghetti plots saying, “Those averages are beautiful. They give us something to think about. They never happen.”

    Those excited about a surplus should remember the rest of the state is experiencing drought conditions. “You fared well,” he said. “It’s not always going to work that way, so please be grateful.”

    Then he asked for volunteers to help collect real-time precipitation data with rain gauges for

    Jim Pokrandt, chair of the Colorado Basin Roundtable that represents Summit and five other counties, emphasized problems with low levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead and focused on the state water plan, which the roundtable is helping to create.

    Of the 14 states in the West, Colorado is one of four without a water plan. The other three are Washington, Oregon and Arizona…

    “Transmountain diversion should be the last tool out of the box,” he said. “Conservation and reuse needs to be hit hard.”

    If a new transmountain diversion must be constructed, it should be done along the lines of the recent agreement between West Slope stakeholders and Denver Water.

    One audience member asked why reducing population growth wasn’t one of the considered solutions. Most of the projected growth “is us having children,” Pokrandt said. “It’s the elephant in the room, but it’s the one that you really can’t touch.”

    He said in some parts of the Front Range, the untouchable issue is green grass.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    2014 Colorado legislation: Productive and collaborative session in 2014 #COleg

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

    Joe Hanel, the very effective and prolific journalist from The Durango Herald is morphing his career. He wrapped up his run at the Herald with two articles about the 2014 session. First up, he reports that Four Corners legislators felt like the recent session accomplished much. Here’s an excerpt:

    “I feel so much better than I did a year ago,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango. “Last year, I went home demoralized and wondering if it made any difference to be up here.”[…]

    Fights over water rights returned to the stage this year, and Roberts was in the middle of most of them. She brought the Legislature a plan hatched by a Durango water engineer to limit the size of lawns in new suburban neighborhoods. It riled homebuilders and city governments, and eventually it was turned into a study – a common way for legislators to delay inconvenient legislation.

    Roberts also pushed for the Legislature to have veto power over the Colorado Water Plan, which Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to have crafted by December. Legislators of both parties had complained Hickenlooper was bypassing them, and that the public at large knew very little of the water plan.

    Although her bill was scaled back, it still requires hearings around the state in front of the Legislature’s water committee before the plan can be finished.

    “We weren’t invited to the party,” Roberts said. “We had to crash the party, but we are now at the table.”[…]

    Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, also noticed a change in tone from 2013, when pressure from party leaders led to a series of partisan votes.

    “The lock-down mode wasn’t there this year, on either side,” Coram said…

    Another bill, though, stands out as a statewide highlight of the 2014 session. It was a rural broadband bill that finally passed after four years of unsuccessful efforts. The bill converts part of the phone company’s subsidy for serving hard-to-reach customers into a grant fund to build high-speed Internet lines to unserved areas.

    Last fall, Coram began crafting the bill with Club 20 and others on the Western Slope.

    “The last couple years, that bill has failed because it was a top-down approach. This year, it was truly a grass-roots, bottom-up effort,” he said.

    Weber Fire near Mancos June 2012 via
    Weber Fire near Mancos June 2012 via

    Here’s the link to Joe’s other final article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Before this year, people around the Capitol knew Steve King as a rank-and-file Grand Junction Republican senator with perfect hair. This year, though, King stepped from his seat in the back row of the Senate to center stage with his single-minded advocacy of an aerial firefighting fleet. The passage of his bill to rent or buy firefighting aircraft ranks among the biggest achievements of the 2014 legislative session, which ended Wednesday…

    The Legislature’s Democratic leaders entered the session in January without any of the flashy agenda items that characterized 2013, like gun safety, civil unions, elections reform or in-state tuition for kids without U.S. citizenship.

    King stepped into that vacuum with his insistence that Colorado needed more airplanes and helicopters to fight wildfires. Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislative leaders had been lukewarm on the idea, citing the cost and questionable effectiveness of aerial firefighting.

    Democratic Senate President Morgan Carroll praised King for his passion and signed on to his bill as a fellow sponsor.

    “He has stuck with it and stuck with it and persuaded me it was the right thing to do,” Carroll said.

    But everything really changed in March, when Hickenlooper’s top fire official, Paul Cooke, issued a report that recommended contracting for light air tankers and helicopters and buying spotter planes. King had wanted heavy tankers and helicopters, but he immediately embraced the report and changed his bill to follow its recommendations.

    Hickenlooper was reluctant to cast King as the hero and said his administration started examining aerial firefighting in 2011.

    “It wasn’t like we weren’t doing something. But Senator King definitely helped create a context where this was top of mind, where people were thinking about different alternative choices. In that sense, I think he was a valuable partner to have,” Hickenlooper said.

    King, however, benefited from the same economic recovery that enabled the other big accomplishments of the 2014 session.

    The $20 million cost of the aerial fleet is just a sliver of the big investments in education. An extra $110 million for K-12 schools begins to reverse about $1 billion in cuts since 2008. And the $100 million boost to colleges is a record, but it also does not restore deep cuts made during the recession.

    Joe Hanel via The Durango Herald
    Joe Hanel via The Durango Herald

    I loved Joe’s adios on Twitter (Just the facts ma’am). I also thought that it was fitting that he used Twitter to let us all know about his new gig.

    It’s a bummer to see another Colorado water reporter move on. Good luck man!

    Click here to browse through the Coyote Gulch posts attributed to The Durango Herald and Joe Hanel. Joe shows up on the older Coyote Gulch as well.