Fort Collins hosts tours of Poudre River

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Fort Collins Utilities will lead a guided tour of the Poudre River watershed this July and August, when residents can learn about the city’s water resources and quality control for their drinking water.

Utilities will charter a bus to Cameron Pass, along Colorado Highway 14. While on the tour, residents will learn about Fort Collins’ watershed and water supply history, and take a short walking tour and stop at Gateway Natural Area. The tour starts at 8 a.m. and will leave from the Utilities service center at 700 Wood St. Utilities will provide lunch; the tour will end in Fort Collins at about 5 p.m.

The tour will also address the effects of fire and floods on the watershed.

The tour is free and open only to adults age 18 and up. The first tour will be on July 16, and the second on Aug. 9. Residents can register at, (970) 221-6700 or

Republican gubernatorial candidates all making water storage a top priority — The Greeley Tribune

Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative
Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

A top priority for all four Republican gubernatorial candidates struck a chord with the audience at a forum this week. All of the candidates talked early and often about developing more water-storage infrastructure for Colorado, doing so during a gubernatorial candidate question-and-answer forum Tuesday at the Protein Producer Summit, where livestock and water experts had already spent much of the day discussing water shortages for agriculture and the need for more water storage.

“It seems to be something no one else has the courage to talk about,” said Republican candidate Bob Beauprez, a bison rancher and former U.S. Congressman, noting that, to his knowledge, Gov. John Hickenlooper has spoken only of expanding current water storage by about 10 percent.

Referring to 10 percent increases in storage and Colorado’s population having doubled since the 1970s, and being expected to double again before 2050, Beauprez said, “We can’t keep going there, unless you want to keep drying up agriculture.”

Beauprez also spoke about making better use of Colorado’s aquifers for underground water storage, while fellow Republican candidate Scott Gessler — Colorado’s current Secretary of State — also stressed the need for a two-pronged approach that also includes water conservation measures.

All four Republican candidates made different points during the forum on other topics — for example, Gessler said he wants changes to Colorado’s constitution to require approval on a ballot in two consecutive elections before being approved, while former Colorado Senate minority leader Mike Kopp said, if elected, he’ll initiate a two-year study of regulations in Colorado, and will work to reduce regulatory costs by 25 percent for businesses.

But when it came to water storage, all four Republicans stood in unison. This week’s three-day Protein Producer Summit was hosted by various Colorado livestock groups.

Hickenlooper, currently leading a delegation in Mexico, joined the gubernatorial candidate forum Tuesday via video.

In his answer to the water-shortfall question, he didn’t refer specifically to water storage.

He listed conservation as the leading way to start addressing water shortages in Colorado, and otherwise talked about the Colorado Water Plan, which he initiated last year in hopes of letting local water officials and various users from across the state develop a statewide, long-term plan.

In Colorado, those looking to build reservoir storage have run into pushback, largely from environmental groups, and have battled long federal permitting processes.

For example, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, if approved, would build two new reservoirs — one near Fort Collins and another near Ault — and would provide 40,000 acre feet water per year to 15 municipalities and water districts in northern Colorado. But the endeavor — expected to cost about $500 million, if built — has been in the federal permitting stages for several years, and it’s still unclear how soon it will come, if it does.

The project hasn’t been supported, or denounced, by Hickenlooper, but all four gubernatorial candidates — Beauprez, Gessler, Kopp and former U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo — stressed that such projects would have their support, if elected, and are much needed.

Colorado’s municipal and industrial water supply gap by 2050 could be as much as 630,000 acre-feet annually and, by that same year, the state could see as many as 700,000 acres of irrigated farmland dry up, with cities continuing to buy more water from ag users, according to the Statewide Water Supply Initiative report, released in 2010.

That same report estimates the South Platte River basin alone, which covers Weld County and much of northeast Colorado, could face a municipal and industrial water supply gap of as much as 190,000 acre feet by 2050, and see as many as 267,000 acres of irrigated farmground dry up.

The stakes are particularly high for the agriculture industry, which uses about 85 percent of the state’s water.

Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 introduced to set aside EPA’s proposed “Waters of the US” clarification

From The Greeley Tribune:

A group of 30 Republican U.S. Senators on Thursday introduced legislation to stop the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule, currently under public comment, according to reports.

The Senators’ “Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014” aims to stop the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers from finalizing the proposed Waters of the U.S. rule — a rule they say would ignore limits established by Congress regarding regulation of bodies of water in the United States if finalized.

The prosed rule, officially announced on March 25, dictates what waters fall under the definition of waters of the U.S., providing EPA and Corps jurisdiction to enforce regulations outlined in the Clean Water Act.

“The Obama EPA is trying every scheme they can think of to take control of all water in the United States,” said Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014 author Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo, said in a press statement. “This time, their unprecedented federal water grab is in the form of a rule that will hurt family farms, ranches, and small businesses by imposing outrageous permitting fees and compliance costs.”

Barrasso, as well as famers, suggest that if the rule goes forward, it will restrict local land and water use decisions, and could extend to intermittent streams and ditches, requiring additional permitting for farming and ranching activities.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Forest Service directive has the potential to add groundwater resources to proposed federal rules on surface water under the Clean Water Act, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said Thursday. During a congressional hearing, Tipton questioned Undersecretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie on the proposed groundwater directive. The directive would expand forest service control to include groundwater, as well as streams that feed it, Tipton said.

Bonnie said Tipton is misinterpreting the rule.

“The Forest Service is putting out a directive that will clarify and provide some consistency across the way we address groundwater as part of resource management plans, projects and other things,” Bonnie said. “The purpose of that directive is to provide greater consistency across the Forest Service. It doesn’t provide any new authorities to regulate groundwater.”

Tipton disagreed.

“My interpretation of it is that a farmer or rancher could divert legally out of a stream to fill a stock pond or irrigate a field, and will be in violation,” Tipton replied.

Water users in Colorado already are nervous about increased scrutiny by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers under proposed rules that regulate nearly every waterway as waters of the United States.

Those rules have been proposed to clarify federal authority after conflicting Supreme Court decisions.

For instance, on Thursday the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District spent time discussing potential impacts. Colorado Water Quality Control board member Mark Pifher testified to Congress last week that the rules would add regulatory expense to water projects. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Democrats, helped expand the comment period for the rules.

Meanwhile, Tipton has been critical of the Forest Service on other occasions, objecting to contract for ski areas that take water rights. The waters of the U.S. rule is another example of how the federal government is overreaching, he said.

“I don’t know what’s not going to be applicable to the ‘waters of the U.S.’ This is the biggest water grab in American history coming out of the EPA,” Tipton said.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.

Oil spill near Windsor ~7,500 gallons

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia
South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

From The Greeley Tribune:

About 178 barrels of crude oil, or roughly 7,500 gallons, has spilled east-southeast of Windsor and is affecting the Poudre River, state officials said Friday.

The operator, Noble Energy, discovered the spill Friday and reported it to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said Todd Hartman, the department’s communications director.

Noble reported a storage tank affected by spring flood waters released its contents. The release appears to be due to floodwaters undercutting a bank, causing the tank to drop downward and damaging a valve, allowing oil to escape from a broken valve. The well associated with the tank is shut in, and a second tank nearby appears unaffected.

Standing water with some hydrocarbons remains in one low-lying area near the tank, Hartman said.

Vegetation is stained for about one-quarter mile downstream of the site.

Noble had environmental response personnel on site Friday afternoon.

A vacuum truck was removing standing water and response personnel were sampling soils.

The oil storage tank sits next to a field east of Weld County Road 23, on the north side of the Poudre River. The tank sits about 200 feet from the river, up a hill. A lot of flood damage was visible in the area, with washed out and eroded river banks and debris still in the water.

Hartman said water quality staff from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also were at the spill site Friday but have not discovered any impact on drinking water.

More water pollution coverage here.

FIBArk good for business

Hooligan Race 2009
Hooligan Race 2009

From The Mountain Mail (Allison Dyer Bluemel):

While downtown business owners saw increased foot traffic during FIBArk and said the festival went well overall, FIBArk board members said attendance was relatively steady and see room for improvements for next year. Festival attendance increased for Friday night’s music and throughout the weekend at the carnival, FIBArk Board President Christopher Kolomitz said.

“Part of the increased traffic (Friday) was due to the draw of The (Infamous) Stringdusters’ performance and great weather,” he said.

The popularity of the carnival was partly due to sales of more than 500 presale tickets before the festival and the vendor’s knowledge of the space available to him this year, which enabled him to feature two new rides, Kolomitz said.

Locals and parents seemed to really appreciate being able to get the carnival tickets ahead of time, said Lori Roberts, Heart of the Rockies Chamber of Commerce executive director.
She said festival programs were distributed earlier than usual, which enabled the chamber to convince visitors who came to town early to stay through the festival and extend their time in town.

“I think it’s important that we send people downtown,” Roberts said.

Additionally, Chaffee County’s information line, operated by the chamber, began to get heavy call volumes about 3 weeks before FIBArk from visitors looking for suggestions on what to do in the area, Roberts said.

Kolomitz said exact attendance numbers are hard to compare to previous years because FIBArk is a free, nonticketed event, but “all 4 days were jam-packed with something for everyone.”
FIBArk volunteers kept track of the number of competition participants throughout the weekend, which showed participation in land events increased while the freestyle river events decreased from previous years, Kolomitz said.

Though Kolomitz said no one event stood out from the rest, he was particularly impressed with Andy Corra’s 10th win of the Downriver Classic Sunday.

“It’s really a testament to his strength, athleticism and commitment to the sport. We’re really proud he came this year,” he said.

While most events were a success, Kolomotiz said the board and volunteers recognized that some elements of the festival could be improved upon.

“We had some issues with the timing of river events,” he said, “They were not as smooth as we would have liked.”

Next year, the board hopes to develop a better system for recording the race times and results in order to get the competitors their awards more efficiently, particularly for the downriver races, he said.

“The board member who put the results together for the Downriver has been receiving undeserved ridicule. It’s important to remember that we’re all volunteers here,” Kolomitz said.

The festival also saw a slight increase in the number of food and retail vendors, both in the park and on the Coors Boat Ramp. This year, the board decided to separate the whitewater sports booths from the others and place them closer to the boat ramp, he said.

“Overall, the music lineup was great, the vendors were tasteful, and the people at the parade seemed safe,” Roberts said.

Community members and attendees can fill out a 10-question survey to give feedback to the FIBArk board about the quality of events, music, vendors and carnival during the festival at

Downtown retail business owners said they saw heavy traffic during FIBArk and immediately following the festival. Ruby Blues owner Michael Almeida said the store saw about a 20-percent increase in sales compared to last year. Businesses that sold merchandise catering to vacationing tourists, such as Salida Mountain Sports, Fat-Tees T-Shirt Shop and the F Street Five & Dime, saw foot traffic increase as well during the festival.

“A lot of people came in to buy things they forgot for vacation or just can’t live without,” Salida Mountain Sports employee Jen Walters said.

Colorado-specific T-shirts and anything with the Colorado flag were also big sellers, said Fat-Tees owner Duke Sheppard, who had a record-setting FIBArk this year.

However, Su Casa Furniture, Accents & Gifts co-owner Jim Balaun said business picked up following FIBArk since the store is more popular with locals and homeowners.

Downtown restaurant owners also reported increased traffic during the festival.

For Shallots, Saturday evening and Sunday brunch were particularly busy. However, the town seemed abnormally empty on Friday, co-owner Amy Potts said.

Despite the draw of music in the park, Currents co-owner Chris Tracy said the bands Current booked throughout the weekend drew in a full house of about half locals and half tourists.

“Overall, the feel from the community was that things were up and things were going well,” Kolomitz said.

More whitewater coverage here.

Climate Change: “…it is hard to tell a positive story around ski resorts” — Eliot Whittington

Copper Mountain snowmaking via
Copper Mountain snowmaking via

From Reuters (Alister Doyle):

A few areas of the world might benefit from a shift in tourism, such as Alaska or northern Europe. And elsewhere, seasons may shift.

The report said the Costa Brava region of Spain’s Mediterranean coast, for instance, was trying to draw tourists outside the summer months, responding to a lack of water and high temperatures during the high season.

The study also said there was some evidence of people traveling to new destinations at risk of vanishing in a warming world, such as glaciers, the Arctic, Antarctica or coral atolls.

“However, the opportunities presented by such ‘last-chance’ tourism will, by definition, be short-lived,” the report said.

It also said that an increase of 1 meter (3 feet) in sea level rise this century – the upper bound of scenarios by the U.N. panel – would damage up to 60 percent of resort properties in the Caribbean and swamp many airports and ports.

“Every part of the industry needs to … think about what more can be done to adapt to climate change, as well as how to continue the process of reducing the impact of their operations on the environment,” Stephen Farrant, director of the International Tourism Partnership, said in a statement attached to the report.

Travel accounts for about 75 percent of tourism’s greenhouse gas emissions. More efficient planes, vehicles and greener fuels could help curb emissions, it said.