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

Upper Colorado River Basin Precipitation June 1 thru June 15, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin Precipitation June 1 thru June 15, 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.

Friends of Barr Lake fundraiser “Concert on the Prairie” Saturday

2014 Jun 21 11 x 17 poster 05-01-14 (2)
From email from Amy Conklin:

Just wanted to remind you about the concert on the prairie this Saturday June 21st from 7-9pm. This is a fundraiser for Friends of Barr Lake. There will be great music, dancing and FREE WINGS from Buffalo Wild Wings. Tickets are only $10.00!(This includes park entry.)

Colorado Springs: North Douglas Creek detention designed to keep stormwater out of neighborhoods

pikespeak

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Matt Steiner):

Tim Mitros, the stormwater manager for the City of Colorado Springs, showed off the latest flood mitigation project Wednesday, unveiling a large sediment detention basin along North Douglas Creek that should keep tons of water, mud and bigger debris from invading residential areas.

The basin will hold about 25,000 cubic yards of sediment and can be cleaned out after each torrential storm, Mitros said. The new pond replaces a series of five smaller basins that filled quickly in early September 2013 after torrential rains pounded the Waldo Canyon fire burn scar and the rest of the Front Range from El Paso County to the Wyoming border.

“It was supposed to be a 10-year fix,” Mitros said, noting that the city was surprised at how quickly the smaller basins filled and knew it had to come up with a Plan-B.

Now when water and debris come raging down North Douglas Creek the large pond should stop most of the flow. And an “alluvial fan” below the basin will likely slow the water and spread out the rest of the torrent before it reaches the city’s storm sewers, Mitros said.

Mitros and Flying W Ranch Foundation executive director Aaron Winter are relieved that the project has been completed before the 2014 monsoon season and potential heavy thunderstorms hit the burn scar. Storms in early July, mid-August and September of 2013 threatened North Douglas Creek and left Manitou Springs cleaning up after flash floods poured over U.S. Highway 24, out of Williams Canyon, destroyed multiple homes and flooded businesses along Manitou Avenue.

“There is a lot of debris that is staging in the upper parts of North Douglas Creek,” Mitros said. “We expect in larger storms that the debris will start to flush out.”

According to the city official, an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 cubic yards of mud and debris are sitting along the creek less than a mile above the new detention basin. He said it took just about 60,000 cubic yards to fill the five smaller ponds.

Winter said the work that the city has done, as well as other projects by volunteers with the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, have helped reassure the foundation that its neighbors to the east will be protected.

“Knowing that this basin is in place to protect the homes downstream is a big weight off our shoulders,” he said.

More stormwater coverage here.

The Lower Ark questions distribution of Fountain Creek funds

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Money targeted for Fountain Creek projects to benefit Pueblo County is being spent in El Paso County out of compliance with an intergovernmental agreement, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District charged Wednesday. The Lower Ark board instructed its attorney to send letters to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District threatening legal action, and to agencies where the money has been used for matching funds.

The money was contributed to the district under an IGA that includes the Lower Ark district and Colorado Springs Utilities. The IGA says a steering committee of representatives from all three groups will meet to advise the Fountain Creek board how to spend the money.

The money came from the Lower Ark district and Utilities with the understanding that there would be a balance of projects in El Paso and Pueblo counties. Since Utilities’ share is being deducted from its payment under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System, all of the projects should benefit Pueblo County, said Lower Ark General Manager Jay Winner.

“We fought for that money and it is to be used in Pueblo County,” said Anthony Nunez, a former Pueblo County commissioner who sits on the Lower Ark board. “It always seems Pueblo comes out on the short end with El Paso County. . . . It’s blatantly illegal what they’re doing.”

Some of the money has gone for grants to build trails or to fire-damaged areas in El Paso County, projects which Winner claims have no benefit to Pueblo County.

The steering committee has not met for more than a year, but the Fountain Creek district has designated $98,000 in matching funds for five grant requests since then, and at its May meeting redirected $25,000 from a grant that was denied to a dam study that is poised to move forward.

That’s illegal, because the IGA requires steering committee approval, Winner said.

The board voted to have attorney Peter Nichols write to the Fountain Creek district and the agencies, which awarded grants based on what it considers misappropriated matching funds.

“We’re the only policing agency for this malfunction,” added Reeves Brown, another Pueblo County member of the Lower Ark board.

Mark Pifher, permit manager for SDS, was at the meeting and argued that the dam study grant now being considered would entirely benefit Pueblo. He also made the point that Pueblo representatives sit on the Fountain Creek board that approved the grants.

Winner said that doesn’t matter because the IGA specifically instructs the district to move any expenditures through the steering committee first.

“I think Colorado Springs Utilities should be as outraged about this as we are,” Winner told Pifher. “I question whether the district is just a vehicle for Colorado Springs to avoid paying the $50 million it owes to Pueblo County.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here.

Colorado: Not much love for proposed new water diversions

US Drought Monitor: Drier-than-normal conditions will prevail from northern California into the Four Corners #COdrought

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

During the drought-monitoring period, widespread, locally heavy downpours brought drought relief to the Midwest, central Plains, and southern Florida, while drought conditions prevailed or intensified from California into the central and southern Rockies…

Central Plains

Conditions remained largely unchanged on the central High Plains during the monitoring period, as hot weather (readings as high as 100°F) offset the light to moderate showers (0.1 to 1 inch) which dotted western portions of the region. Farther east, however, locally heavy downpours – with totals averaging 1 to nearly 4 inches – resulted in reduction of Severe (D2) and Extreme (D3) Drought in central and southern Kansas. In improved areas, precipitation over the past 30 days has averaged 150 to 240 percent of normal. The improved conditions are noted in the June 15, USDA-NASS crop condition report for Kansas: winter wheat, which is beyond benefiting from rainfall, was rated 63 percent poor to very poor, while corn was only 9 percent poor to very poor (and 50 percent good to excellent)…

Southern Plains and Texas

Despite temperatures in the 90s, rainfall during the week was sufficient to warrant some modest reductions in drought from northern and central Oklahoma southward into central Texas, while hot, mostly dry conditions in western and northeastern portions of Texas led to small increases in drought intensity. Showers and thunderstorms dropped 1 to locally more than 2 inches of rain across much of central and northeastern Oklahoma, which – while not nearly enough to warrant widespread drought reduction or removal – were enough to improve pastures and summer crop prospects. In Texas, similar amounts of rainfall were reported from Lubbock southeast toward Waco and southward into Austin and San Antonio. Consequently, reductions in drought intensity were made in areas where the heaviest rain fell, although long-term impacts continue (i.e. reservoir storage and ground water supplies) despite recent 60-day surpluses. Rain largely bypassed the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, where 90-day rainfall averaged 35 to 55 percent of normal at the end of the period; Severe (D2) to Extreme (D3) drought was increased to reflect the deteriorating conditions. Likewise, temperatures approaching or exceeding 100°F (locally as high as 108°F) in Texas’ Trans-Pecos region coupled with 6-month deficits approaching or exceeding 3 inches (locally less than 20 percent of normal) led to increases in Moderate Drought (D1) in western-most portions of the state…

Western U.S.

Unsettled conditions in the north contrasted with ongoing or intensifying drought elsewhere. The lingering benefits of February and early-March precipitation continued to diminish across California and the Southwest as unseasonable warmth and dryness increased water demands and further depleted already-meager snowpacks.

In northern portions of the region, a slow-moving Pacific storm triggered increasingly heavy rain and mountain snow from the Cascades into the northern Rockies, the latter of which was hit with heavy snow at elevations as low as 6,500 feet. In the Northwest’s Moderate (D1) to Severe (D2) Drought areas, however, rain was mostly light (less than half an inch) and insufficient to warrant any reductions in drought intensity and coverage. To further illustrate the drought’s impacts, the USDA-NASS reported Washington’s winter wheat as 26 percent poor to very poor as of June 15, with only 30 percent rated good to excellent.

Farther south, a disappointing water year drew to a close, most likely locking portions of the region into a third consecutive year of drought. In northern and central California, Exceptional Drought (D4) was increased to account for the updated (and mostly final) 2013-14 Water Year precipitation totals; from northern portions of the Coastal Range to Mt. Shasta, precipitation since October 1 totaled 30 to 50 percent of normal (deficits of 16 to 32 inches). The corresponding Standardized Precipitation Indices (SPI), which helps quantify precipitation in terms of drought and historical probability, are well into the D4 category. Feedback from local experts as well as updated precipitation data covering the past 2 to 3 years indicated that D4 expansion was warranted across north-central portions of the San Joaquin Valley and environs as well as from Pyramid Lake in western Nevada northwestward into California; water-year precipitation in both of these areas near or less than half of normal (locally less than 40 percent of normal) . Assessments of the situation in California over the ensuing weeks may warrant additional increases in drought coverage and intensity.

In the central Rockies and Four Corners, changes to this week’s drought depiction were confined to northern and eastern portions of the region. In south-central Wyoming, Abnormal Dryness (D0) was expanded to reflect 180-day precipitation less than 35 percent of normal. In southeastern Colorado, similar precipitation shortfalls and resultant soil moisture deficits led to a small expansion between Pueblo and the New Mexico border…

Looking Ahead
Hot, humid conditions along with scattered afternoon and evening showers and thunderstorms will persist from the central and southern Plains to the Atlantic Coast, while dry weather prevails from California into the Southwest. The best chance for moderate to heavy rain appears to be from northern Texas northward into the Great Lakes, with additional heavy downpours possible in some of the already-flooded areas of the western Corn Belt. Farther south, seasonal showers will persist in Florida, while spotty showers in the interior Southeast may afford localized relief from developing dryness. Out west, rain and mountain snow will diminish in northern portions of the region, while dry, cooler-than-normal weather lingers for much of the period from California into the Four Corners. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for June 24-28 calls for above-normal rainfall in the Northwest and from the southern Plains to the central Atlantic Coast. Conversely, drier-than-normal conditions will prevail from northern California into the Four Corners and from the northern Plains into the Upper Midwest. Temperatures are expected to average above normal across much of the contiguous U.S., with cooler-than-normal weather confined to east-central Plains.

Boulder County Commissioners’ hearing about Moffat Collection System Project now online #ColoradoRiver

Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Charlie Brennan):

To listen to Monday’s Boulder County commissioners public hearing on Gross Reservoir (Requires installation of Silverlight).

The Environmental Protection Agency has added its voice to those with critical comments on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ analysis of the potential impact of a Gross Reservoir expansion.

“This letter and enclosed detailed comments reinforce the primary concern as stated in the EPA’s draft EIS letter that the Project would adversely impact water quality and aquatic resources in an already degraded system,” the EPA’s letter stated, referring to criticisms it initially raised when the analysis was in draft form.

The letter, from the EPA’s office of Ecosystems Protection and Remediation, asserts that the Army Corps’ analysis describes all mitigation measures “as conceptual, and does not include mitigation commitments for some Project impacts that are significant to regulatory requirements” of the Clean Water Act.

The official 45-day public comment period for the finalized environmental impact statement for what is formally known as the Moffat Collection System Project closed on June 9, and the EPA’s letter carries that date.

The project manager for the proposed expansion has said, however, that the Army Corps would continue to take “meaningful” and “substantive” comments on the analysis until the agency makes a decision on the project, likely by April 2015…

The EPA in its letter also states that it hopes its comments will stimulate further discussions with the Army Corps, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Denver Water to ensure that its concerns are addressed prior to issuance of a project permit, so that the project is compliant with the Clean Water Act and “protective of waters of the U.S.”

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., had implored the Army Corps on June 5 to extend its public comment period. And, the same day, the Boulder County Commissioners unanimously approved a letter detailing their objections to the adequacy and accuracy of the Army Corps’ analysis of the project, also saying the 45-day window for public comment should be extended.

On Monday, the commissioners held three hours of public comment on the project, which will be distilled and used to contribute to a follow-up letter the commissioners will be sending to the Army Corps.

“We had a full room, and I would say it was very well attended, and that people came in with quite a bit of research, science and data,” said commissioners’ spokesperson Barbara Halpin.

More Moffat Collection System Project coverage here and here.