Grand Junction: West Slope 5th grade water festival recap


From KJCT8 (Lindsey Pallares):

Western Slope fifth graders dive into learning about H-2-0 at the Ute Children’s Water Festival.

Nearly 2500 students from Mesa, Garfield, and Delta counties crowded the Colorado Mesa University campus on Monday to explore all that water has to offer.

Fifth graders attended lectures and participated in activities involving everything from water conservation to building and launching water rockets.

“The kids look forward to this all year, they know about in 4th graders and it’s almost become a rite of passage for the 5th graders here in Mesa County,” says Joseph Burtard of the Ute Water Conservancy District.

Water is one of the most valuable resources in Colorado and presenters want to ensure that the youth learn about its importance early on.

Presenters hope that by interacting with all the water professionals that contribute to the festival they’ll get excited about a future career in water.

Marijuana and federal water projects

Pueblo dam spilling
Pueblo dam spilling

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Bureau of Reclamation will not allow federally controlled water to be used to grow marijuana in Colorado and Washington, according to a temporary policy issued Tuesday. [ed. emphasis mine] The news comes as local water providers and ditch companies have been struggling with the issue.

In fact, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, which has contracts with Reclamation, has scheduled a discussion at Tuesday’s meeting on whether it would make water available to marijuana-growing operations that will be licensed by the city of Pueblo.

Pueblo gets a small part of its water from Reclamation, but has contracts for storage in Lake Pueblo and for connection at Pueblo Dam that might be affected by the policy.

St. Charles Mesa water district already has prohibited using its water to grow marijuana on land where federally supplied water is used. Pueblo West and the Bessemer Ditch have not prohibited the use of their water supplies for marijuana grows.s

Here is the complete news release issued from Reclamation to the media Tuesday morning:

“The Bureau of Reclamation has issued a Temporary Policy on the Use of Reclamation Water or Facilities for Activities Prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Dan DuBray, Chief of Public Affairs, issues the following statement:

“As a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people.

“Among the 17 states Reclamation serves, Washington, Colorado and others have taken actions that decriminalize the cultivation of marijuana. Water districts and providers that receive water from Reclamation within those states have requested a decision on whether the delivery of Reclamation water to their customers is approved for those purposes.

“Reclamation will operate its facilities and administer its water-related contracts in a manner that is consistent with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended. This includes locations where state law has decriminalized or authorized the cultivation of marijuana. Reclamation will refer any inconsistent uses of federal resources of which it becomes aware to the Department of Justice and coordinate with the proper enforcement authorities. Reclamation will continue to work with partner water districts and providers to ensure their important obligations can continue to be met.”

From the Huffington Post (Matt Ferner, Mollie Reilly):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees management of federal water resources, “is evaluating how the Controlled Substances Act applies in the context of Reclamation project water being used to facilitate marijuana-related activities,” said Peter Soeth, a spokesman for the bureau. He said the evaluation was begun “at the request of various water districts in the West.”

Local water districts in Washington state and Colorado, where recreational marijuana is now legal, contract with federal water projects for supplies. Officials from some of those water districts said they assume the feds are going to turn off the spigots for marijuana growers.

“Certainly every indication we are hearing is that their policy will be that federal water supplies cannot be used to grow marijuana,” said Brian Werner at Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which handles approximately one-third of all water for northeastern Colorado and is the Bureau of Reclamation’s second-largest user in the number of irrigated acres…

A Department of Justice official told HuffPost it has no comment on the water issue. The Bureau of Reclamation is likely to announce a decision this month. “We’re going to work with our water districts once that decision is made,” Soeth said.

Marijuana advocates condemned the possibility of a federal water ban for state-legal crops. Mason Tvert, communications director for Marijuana Policy Project and key backer of Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, criticized the hypocrisy of a federal government that would prevent water access to some legal businesses and not others.

“If water is so precious and scarce that it can’t be used for state-legal marijuana cultivation, it shouldn’t be used for brewing and distilling more harmful intoxicating substances like beer and liquor,” Tvert said…

Growing in Denver, home to the majority of Colorado marijuana dispensaries, likely wouldn’t notice a shortage if the Bureau of Reclamation cuts off federal water.

“Because we are not a federal contractor, we would not be affected,” said Travis Thompson, spokesman for Denver Water, the main water authority for the state’s capital and surrounding suburbs.

But many other regions of the state rely on federal water. In Pueblo, about two hours south of Denver, about 20 percent of regional water is Reclamation-controlled. Although the remaining 80 percent of the region’s water is locally controlled, it passes through the Pueblo Dam, operated under Bureau of Reclamation authority.

“Yes, they come through a federal facility, but the federal facility is required to let those water right to pass,” Pueblo Board of Water Works executive director Terry Book said to southern Colorado’s NBC-affiliate KOAA.

The St. Charles Mesa Water District, another Pueblo-area water facility, has already imposed a moratorium on supplying water to marijuana businesses until the Bureau of Reclamation settles the issue…

The potential water ban has already set off local opposition. The Seattle Times’ editorial board urged the Bureau of Reclamation to allow federal water contracts to be used by marijuana farmers.

“The bureau has never had — nor should it have — a stake in what crop is planted. That’s a basic tenet of the 1902 National Reclamation Act, which created the bureau and transformed the arid American west,” read the May 4 editorial. “Yet the federal government is now threatening to forget that history, because some regulators are queasy about Washington and Colorado’s experimentation with marijuana legalization.”

As the Times’ board points out, there is some precedent for the Justice Department to stand down on the water issue. Last August, Attorney General Eric Holder told the governors of Washington and Colorado that the DOJ wouldn’t intervene in the states’ legal pot programs. And earlier this year, federal officials issued guidelines expanding access to financial services for legal marijuana businesses, so long as the business doesn’t violate certain legal priorities outlinedby the Justice Department.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Pueblo Board of Water Works today will discuss issues surrounding the supply of water to marijuana growers. The Pueblo City Council has adopted zoning regulations that allow marijuana to be grown within city limits, but not sold. City legal staff is working on how those rules will be written. Providing water for growers is a different matter, with some questions still unresolved.

While Colorado and Washington state voters legalized marijuana in 2012, it remains a federal crime. Pueblo is affected because it has federal contracts for storage in Lake Pueblo.

Pueblo also has direct flow rights that pass through Pueblo Dam, as well as a contract for connection to the dam.

“We’re trying to evaluate issues that might arise with the Bureau of Reclamation,” said Executive Director Terry Book. “So far, there have been no court cases you can hang your hat on with any certainty.”

There have been requests to provide water to growing operations both within and outside city limits, Book added.

“We just don’t know the answers yet,” he said.

After receiving legal advice prior to the meeting in executive session, the Pueblo water board will convene at 2 p.m. today in the William F. Mattoon Board Room of the Alan Hamel Administration Building at 319 W. Fourth St.

Reclamation still is evaluating how water supply fits in under the Controlled Substances Act, because it provides irrigation water for land in both Washington and Colorado. It’s not known what the decision will be or when it will be reached, said Peter Soeth, Reclamation spokesman in Denver.

The state Division of Water Resources has taken the position so far that one type of crop is the same as any other, but also is awaiting the decision on federal policy.

Another Pueblo County water provider, the St. Charles Mesa Water District, already has banned use of its water to grow marijuana.

Two Rivers Water & Farming Co. has formed a subsidiary called GrowCo that will use some of its privately held water rights for marijuana growing.

Pueblo West and the Bessemer Ditch have not adopted rules prohibiting water use by marijuana growers.

Minnesota bans anti-bacterial chemical triclosan from soaps — ABC News

triclosanmolecule

From the Associated Press (Steve Karnowski) via ABC News:

It’s widely used nationwide as a germ-killing ingredient in soaps, deodorants and even toothpaste, but it’s being banned in Minnesota.

Gov. Mark Dayton recently signed a bill to make Minnesota the first state to prohibit the use of triclosan (TRY’-kloh-san) in most retail consumer hygiene products because of health and environmental concerns about the chemical.

The ban isn’t due to take effect until 2017. But one of its lead sponsors, state Sen. John Marty, says the odds are good that most manufacturers will phase out triclosan by then anyway under government and consumer pressure.

Triclosan is used in an estimated 75 percent of anti-bacterial liquid soaps and body washes sold across the United States. The Food and Drug Administration announced last year that it’s revisiting the safety of triclosan.

More water pollution coverage here.

#COdrought news: Climate change bad news for snowpack

From the Christian Science Monitor (Pete Spotts):

A team of researchers has found preliminary evidence that when an increasing proportion of winter precipitation falls as rain, rather than snow, the amount of water flowing through drainage basins and into rivers in the US undergoes a long-term decline. The study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, estimates that for a increase of 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degrees F.), increases in the proportion of rain falling at the expense of snow could lead to a decline of 12 percent or more in stream flows…

If the observations hold up to additional scrutiny “and if they reflect some fundamental response to climate change, then the problems for water managers are going to be even more complicated that we already fear they are,” says Peter Gleick, who heads the Pacific Institute, a think tank based in Oakland, Calif., that focuses on sustainable use of water and other environmental issues.

For nearly 30 years, research has shown that as the climate warms, a rising percentage of precipitation will fall as rain, rather than snow, even if global warming had no effect on the overall amount of rain or snow falling in a region. In addition, spring comes earlier, reducing the time available for snow to accumulate.

During the past 50 years, these trends have taken hold throughout the Southwest, according to the Third National Climate Assessment, released in early May. Between 2001 and 2010 flows in major rivers such as the Colorado, Rio Grande, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin system have experienced reductions in flow ranging from 5 to 37 percent compared with the 20th century average. The US geological Survey has measured a 20 percent decline in snow cover in the Rocky Mountains since 1980, due a mix of global warming and natural variability.

Lower Arkansas River Basin stakeholders to meet May 29 — The Lamar Ledger

Arkansas River Basin -- Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey
Arkansas River Basin — Graphic via the Colorado Geological Survey

From the Lamar Ledger:

Communities across the Lower Arkansas River Basin are joining forces to find ways to manage high selenium levels in the Arkansas River.

All landowners in the Lower Arkansas River Basin are invited to attend a tour, dinner and meeting May 29 at the Arkansas Valley Research Center, east of Rocky Ford. The tour will be at 2 p.m., a free dinner is at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m.

The high selenium levels in the river threaten fish. Two state water quality leaders, Dick Parachini of Colorado and Tom Stiles of Kansas, will talk about current water quality and discuss why selenium management is needed.

Drs. Tim Gates and Ryan Bailey of Colorado State University will present findings from 10 years of selenium-related studies and recommend best management practices. Attendees then will be invited to discuss options and resources needed to implement the recommendations.

Meeting fliers are available at the local Conservation District and CSU Cooperative Extension offices.

More Arkansas River Basin coverage here.

Pagosa Springs: Dry Gulch reservoir update

San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass
San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

From the Pagosa Sun (Shanti Johnson):

With the ushering in of a new Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board, the Dry Gulch project and PAWSD’s relationship with the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) are once again being defined.

Below is a recap of the current Dry Gulch situation as it relates to both PAWSD and SJWCD.

Rod Proffitt, president of the SJWCD board, was authorized to act of behalf of PAWSD in matters concerning Dry Gulch through May 5.

Proffitt emailed copies of a letter of intent and memorandum sent to PAWSD, regarding Dry Gulch, to The SUN.

In his April 28 memorandum, Proffitt stated, “Because my authority to act on behalf of PAWSD ends May 5th, everything that can be done has been done. For efforts to continue toward fruition, I will need the PAWSD board show its renewed confidence in the process through a vote to extend the existing resolution.”

Proffitt will present a Dry Gulch report to the PAWSD board during its June meeting and will seek agreement on different aspects of the project to continue moving forward.

The memorandum noted that progress has been made this year between the two districts, particularly during a Feb. 17 meeting out of which a letter of intent was prepared and sent to state officials regarding the future of Dry Gulch…

Several “principles of agreement,” dated April 4, were presented to both districts and the state. The proposals are still being discussed and none of the agreements have officially been adopted. The agreements are expected to be formalized on or before Sept. 2.

The SUN was provided with a copy of the April 4 agreements, which propose the following:

• The districts will request that the state forgive half of the $9.2 million loan taken out in 2007 by PAWSD. If the loan restructure is accepted, PAWSD would begin making payments Jan. 1, 2015.

• SJWCD would “exchange its ownership interest in the Ridge Parcel for the Park Ditch water rights associated with the Project …”

• PAWSD would “transfer all right, title and interest in and to the remainder of the Running Iron Ranch to SJWCD by Special Warranty Deed,” except the Ridge Parcel, outlined in a follow-up letter of intent by Proffitt.

• “SJWCD would agree to mortgage its fee simple ownership to the Running Iron Ranch to the State for the amount of $5 Million; said amount to be forgiven if the SJWCD begins work on the Property by December 31, 2024. If work does not commence by that time, SJWCD would agree to sell the property, sign it over to the State, or begin making payments on the outstanding balance at the option of SJWCD.”

• “SJWCD would agree to immediately assume all forthcoming costs and expenses associated with the Project, and will absolve PAWSD of any further or additional obligations under the agreement(s) terminated March 22, 2014.”

Agreements proposed also include protecting the future interests of both districts in purchasing and providing water, attracting different partners to replace PAWSD’s role in the project, and others…

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has been a major player in the Dry Gulch discussions.

According to Proffitt, the CWCB “financed property needed for the development of Dry Gulch to this point … [and] is critical to resolving how PAWSD exits this project and SJWCD moves Dry Gulch forward.”

In an email sent to state officials April 24, Proffitt wrote, “The State has not decided definitively Dry Gulch is a project they want to get behind and support by making it possible for PAWSD to get out of the project without making it impossible for SJWCD to move the project forward.”

Originally, it was believed that CWCB would discuss taking on the project during a closed session in May and then during a public session in July. However, as of May 13, the CWCB has delayed putting Dry Gulch on the agenda. The public meeting will now likely not take place until September.

Proffitt informed The SUN that a meeting with the CWCB is scheduled for June 3 to further refine the Dry Gulch project proposal. Updates on the project will continue to be made available as they occur.

More Dry Gulch Reservoir coverage here.

The Roaring Fork Conservancy 2013 Annual Report is hot off the presses

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

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

Watershed Action
Our watershed action program addresses current issues and future threats to our watershed. Proactive science and watershed planning help inform decision-makers and drive on-the-ground projects to improve and restore our watershed. Many of these actions come from the recently published Roaring Fork Watershed Plan and take the form of scientific studies, restoration projects, changes to policies and educational campaigns. Our watershed action staff address areas of water quantity and quality, hydrology, riparian and river ecology, geomorphology, and economics.

Watershed Education
Inspiring people to take action requires knowledge. Each year our watershed education programs reach thousands of students and adults with hands-on science, exploration and experiences. Our student classes range from water chemistry and river ecology to watershed mapping and economics. When we cannot bring students to the river we often bring the river to them.

Our adult community outreach programs include River Guide Trainings, Watershed Explorations, educational dialogues and forums, and our popular river float trips. Each of these programs are designed to engage participants with people and/or places in the watershed to which they might not have access otherwise.

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here.