Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
The Far West
Seasonably dry conditions kept drought conditions unchanged in most of the region, but unusual rainfall did lead to 2 areas of improvement. Some daily record rainfall amounts were recorded in southwestern Oregon, improving the marginal D3 conditions to D2 in part of that area. Farther south, rainfall during the last few weeks has been many times normal in part of the deserts of southeastern California, and severe drought was improved to moderate drought in some of this area where precipitation totals are now above normal for at least the last 6 months. Unfortunately, rainfall in this arid region will have no impact on the water shortages and seriously low reservoir stores reported throughout the state…
The Rockies and Intermountain West
Heavy monsoonal rains were reported through parts of southern and western New Mexico, central and eastern Arizona, southern Utah, and part of eastern Nevada. Most of these areas received at least an inch of rain, with larger amounts (3 to at least 6 inches) soaking some of the higher elevations in Arizona from north of Phoenix to the central New Mexico border.
Intense rainfall led to serious flash flooding north of Phoenix, AZ, but most of this fell after Tuesday morning August 19, which would be outside the period under consideration for this week’s Drought Monitor. Nonetheless, improvements to D2 were introduced in part of central Arizona where the heavier rain fell, with other spotty improvements noted in southeastern and east-central Arizona, and across southern New Mexico. D0 conditions were removed from part of interior southeastern New Mexico where more than 10 inches of rain has fallen in the past few weeks.
It should be noted that in spite of abundant rainfall this monsoon season, reservoirs primarily fed by the Rio Grande River remain seriously low due to upstream dryness and the very long-term precipitation deficits.
Elsewhere, moderate rains of 0.5 to 2.0 inches fell on part of the northern Intermountain West and part of the northern Rockies, but drought conditions remained unchanged outside Arizona and New Mexico…
The Western Great Lakes and the Plains States
It was a typical summer week in this region as a whole, with a highly variable rainfall pattern observed. Over 3 inches of rain was reported from south-central Iowa and adjacent Missouri southeastward into southern Illinois, with 5 or more inches soaking parts of northern Missouri. To wit, the small area of D0 there was removed.
Over 2 inches of rain, with scattered reports of 3 to 5 inches, fell on east-central Wisconsin, parts of southeastern Minnesota and North Dakota, and a few spots in central and northeastern Texas. Most other locations received somewhere between a few tenths of and 2 inches of rain, but little or no rain fell on northern Illinois, eastern Iowa, a strip from southwestern South Dakota through northeastern Nebraska, much of southern Kansas, and numerous locations in the southern Plains outside central Oklahoma, central Texas, and a few other isolated spots.
The rains prompted some improvement in central Oklahoma, central and part of northeastern Texas, and some small areas farther north. However, short-term moisture deficits have increased enough to warrant the introduction of D0 in a swath from south-central Minnesota through eastern Iowa, southwestern Wisconsin, and northwestern Illinois. Less than half of normal precipitation has fallen since mid-July in most of these areas, and 8-week rainfall is 5 to 8 inches below normal in much of the region.
Growing short-term moisture deficits also prompted the expansion of D0 southward into broader regions of southern Missouri…
During August 20 – 25, 2014, A swath of moderate to heavy rain is forecast from the northern Intermountain West eastward through the northern half of the Plains, the Great Lakes Region, the central Appalachians, and the mid-Atlantic. Between 2 and 5 inches is anticipated across much of Montana, western and southeastern parts of the Dakotas, southwestern and northeastern Minnesota, the southern Great Lakes, the central Appalachians, and the mid-Atlantic from central Pennsylvania southward through Maryland and eastern Virginia west of the Chesapeake Bay.
Light to locally moderate rain is forecast for most other parts of the central and southern Rockies, the Southeast, and areas immediately adjacent to the primary precipitation swath.
Little or no precipitation is expected along the West Coast, in the lower half of the Mississippi Valley, and across the southeastern Plains. Mild temperatures are expected from the Rockies and northern Plains westward to the coast. Montana and western North Dakota are expecting daily high temperatures 6oF to 15oF below normal. Hot weather is anticipated from the Southeast and central Appalachians westward through the southeastern half of the Plains, with daily highs averaging 9oF or more above normal from the Tennessee and lower Ohio Valleys northwestward through Illinois.
For the ensuing 5 days (August 26 – 30, 2014), odds at least slightly favor above-normal rainfall for a large swath of the country from the Southwest and the Rockies eastward through the Northeast, the central Appalachians, the central and eastern Gulf Coast region, and the Southeast as far east as Georgia and Florida. Enhanced chances for below-normal precipitation are restricted to the Northwest and southern Texas.
Climate change is globally impacting natural resources, particularly water supplies, and that can’t go unchecked, U.S. Sen. Mark Udall said Wednesday in Snowmass Village.
Managing water supply is clearly a critical issue in the West, but it is also an issue of national and international security, Udall said to a crowd gathered for the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference at the Westin Snowmass Conference Center. Between now and 2040, the world’s water supply will not keep up with demand without better management, according to a recent assessment by the director of National Intelligence, Udall said.
“Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and energy … hobbling economic growth here and around the world,” Udall said. “In turn, that will increase the risk of political instability, state failure and mounting regional tensions.”
Global water consumption has tripled in the past 50 years, and furthermore, the supply is diminishing due to climate change, he said.
“Our climate is changing, and the only thing constant and predictable on the subject is science, which shows we can’t ignore the problem,” Udall said. “Despite the mountains of proof, the volumes of scientific and peer-reviewed articles, some lawmakers and many talking heads still refuse to recognize that climate change even exists, much less that federal and state governments have a role to play alongside the private sector in solving it.”[…]
That stance is what sets him apart from his opponent in the upcoming Senate election, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, who also spoke to the Water Congress on Wednesday. Gardner doesn’t acknowledge that climate change is occurring, Udall said.
Without looking at the facts, legislators will not be working toward a solution that “maintains our special way of life” in Colorado, Udall said.
The Colorado River reaches 40 million people, and as the headwater state, Colorado has to fight to protect its interests from being overshadowed by those of downstream users, Udall said.
That is part of the role of Colorado’s representatives in Congress, by advocating to protect the state’s water rights as well as educating senators from parts of the country that are not faced with the same tight resources, Udall said.
FromAspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via the Aspen Daily News:
Three members of Colorado’s Congressional delegation spoke on Wednesday in Snowmass Village at the annual summer convention of the Colorado Water Congress, which represents the interests of water providers and owners at the Colorado state house and in Washington, D.C.
Republican congressmen Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton spoke at lunch on the opening of the three-day water conference, while Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, spoke in an afternoon session. Also speaking in the afternoon was Abel Tapia, a Democrat from Pueblo who is challenging Tipton for his 3rd Congressional District seat.
Rep. Gardner, who is running against Udall for Senate, called for new water storage projects to be built in Colorado.
“I believe we have to focus on water storage, what we can do to move forward on common-sense, water-storage projects,” Gardner said. “If we were to build every water project on the books today and every one that’s under construction, we are still short of water into the future. And how are we going to meet the needs of industry and agriculture and our communities if we don’t store more water?”
Gardner called for simplifying the permitting process for water projects, including new dams and reservoirs, and said he wants to see federal, state and local partnerships formed to help pay for new projects.
And Gardner said he wanted to “stop and defeat” a new proposed rule from the EPA that would clarify the definition of “waters of the U.S.”
“Almost every molecule of water could come under the jurisdiction of that new rule the way it is currently written,” Gardner said.
The EPA, on its website about the proposed rule change, states that “the proposed rule does not protect any new types of waters that have not historically been covered under the Clean Water Act.” [ed. emphasis mine]
Rep. Scott Tipton also denounced the EPA’s proposed rule change.
“That’s going to have a regulatory impact and cost to us and it’s effectively going to be a taking,” Tipton said, “because if the EPA can step in this room and start to tell the state of Colorado, start to tell the western United States, how our water is going to be handled, we’re going to be stripping our farm and ranch community of the ability to be able to grow our crops, our communities to be able to grow and to be able to prosper and to be able to create jobs and certainty for our children to be able to have a prosperous future.”
After he spoke, Tipton was asked a question by Pitkin County commissioner Rachel Richards, who sits on the Colorado River Basin Roundtable, which is helping to shape the state’s forthcoming Colorado Water Plan.
“One of our big uncertainties is really water availability,” Richards said, noting that projections show that climate change could reduce water supplies in Colorado by 15 percent. “What is your position on climate change?”
“I always like to be able to say on climate change, I grew up in the shadow of some of the greatest climate change this nation’s ever seen — it’s called the Rocky Mountains,” Tipton answered lightly. “I guarantee you, the climate will change. And it will continue to do so. Unfortunately, we have some people that try and make this a political issue, for some reason.”
Sen. Udall had a different take on the subject.
“Our climate is changing, and the only thing constant or predictable on the subject is science that shows we can’t ignore the problem,” Udall said during his remarks to the crowd at the conference center in Snowmass.
“Rising temperatures and ongoing drought are only exacerbating the pressure on our river basins by contributing to insufficient rainfall and snowpack,” Udall said. “This has led to dwindling reservoir levels, leaving water managers in this room and across the state with difficult decisions on how to meet the water needs of cities, farmers and the environment.”
Just as the Colorado Water Congress kicked off its summer conference Wednesday, the political waters already were churning as the state’s U.S. Senate candidates traded jabs.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Udall and Republican opponent U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner spoke at the premier summer conference on water issues.
Udall issued a news release at the start of the conference, attacking Gardner for supporting a 2008 ballot initiative when Gardner was a state representative that would have diverted millions from water projects to fund transportation. Amendment 52 would have redirected some gas and oil severance-tax revenues from water to highway projects.
The initiative was seen as a competing measure to another ballot question at the time, Amendment 58, that would have eliminated a state tax credit to increase severance-tax collection for college scholarships, among other areas.
Both ballot questions were rejected by voters.
“Senators have a duty to represent and protect the well-being of all Coloradans,” said former U.S. Sen. and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in a news release issued by the Udall campaign.
Opponents of Amendment 52 pointed out at the time that three out-of-state energy companies contributed to the initiative.
“It is deeply disturbing that Congressman Gardner sided with out-of-state interests over the water needs of Colorado communities,” Salazar said. “Almost two-thirds of Colorado’s voters from every part of the state rejected Gardner’s scheme. Coloradans deserve better than Congressman Gardner.”
In a phone interview with The Durango Herald on Wednesday, as Gardner was driving to the Water Congress engagement, the congressman said Udall’s campaign was “running out of steam.”
“There’s a saying that I have for Mark Udall,” Gardner said. “Once again, Sen. Udall is missing the mark.”
Gardner turned the debate back on Udall, pointing out that the incumbent supported Amendment 58, which was viewed as being anti-energy industry. Gardner also said that Udall has shown no leadership on transportation, including easing congestion along Interstate 70.
“It’s a shame that Sen. Udall can’t even talk about how we need additional dollars for transportation and the water infrastructure in the state, he would rather resort to partisan attacks,” said Gardner.
The congressman said he would speak to the Water Congress about “federal intrusion,” including a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency that would clarify regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to protect streams and wetlands. Some farmers fear that the rule would allow the EPA to regulate small bodies of water, even ponds or puddles on their land.
Gardner also said he would discuss increased water-storage opportunities.
“I am passionate about water issues in Colorado I have been a leader at the state Legislature and U.S. Congress to protect Colorado water and Colorado water rights from intrusion,” Gardner said.
For his part, Udall was expected to speak to the Water Congress about how water is “the liquid gold that makes our lives possible.”
“Managing the supply and availability of our water is one of the most critical natural-resource issues facing the United States and the world,” Udall was expected to say, according to prepared remarks emailed to the Herald.
“The bottom line is, when it comes to water, we are living beyond our means,” Udall added. “And that’s a dangerous way to live.”
Udall used the opportunity to also highlight climate change, suggesting that the science is conclusive and Republicans continue to ignore concrete evidence.
“Yet, despite the mountains of proof, the volumes of scientific and peer-reviewed articles, some lawmakers and many talking heads still refuse to recognize that climate change even exists … much less that the federal and state governments have a role to play – alongside the private sector – in solving it,” Udall said. “Like you, I have made it one of my top priorities to protect our water and invest in our water infrastructure.”
Hundreds of people are helping to write and thousands more taking in interest in a state water plan, a legislative committee learned Wednesday.
“This really shows that we’ve gotten to the point where people are taking a real interest in the plan,” John Stulp, who advises Gov. John Hickenlooper on water issues, told the Legislature’s interim committee on water resources.
The committee was thrust in the middle of the state water debate by SB14-115 in the last legislative session. It is kicking off its own hearings tonight in Glenwood Springs and then will embark on seven more in each of the basins.
The Arkansas River basin hearing will be 9 a.m.-noon Aug. 29 at the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library.
More than 1,000 separate comments were received by basin roundtables at 120 outreach meetings in developing implementation plans that were submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board last month.
More than 160,000 unique hits have been recorded on the website for the plan (coloradowaterplan. com) with 2 million page views, he added.
By mid-September, those comments will be integrated into draft chapters for review by the CWCB.
The basins are in agreement on many issues, including the need to preserve agriculture, conserve water, protect recreation and preserve the environment.
The Arkansas River basin also has pushed ahead the need for watershed health to anticipate and counteract the ravages drought and wildfire have had in recent years.
Basins also agree that storage or other types of water projects should have multiple benefits, interstate compacts present challenges and more education of the public on water issues is needed, Stulp said.
“You’ve said the basins work together, but how do we resolve fundamental conflicts,” state Sen. Gail Schwartz, DSnowmass Village, asked Stulp.
“At this point, we recognize areas of agreement and will address conflicts as we move forward,” Stulp replied.
The Interbasin Compact Committee, established in 2005 along with the roundtables, is moving ahead on resolving conflicts, he added. Recently, it reached a “conceptual agreement” on transmountain diversions.
Diane Mitsch-Bush, DSteamboat Springs, said the amount of water for energy development has been a moving target for Western Colorado and also needs to be given priority in the state water plan.
The water needs for both oil shale and hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells are being accounted for in the ongoing Statewide Water Supply Initiative, due for revision in 2016.
The draft state water plan is scheduled to be presented to the governor in December.
“This is a historic document we’re working on, and many people have had a part in it,” Stulp said.
The Water Congress is an advocacy organization that gets involved with state and federal water issues, like water rights. The group’s annual summer conference brings together water managers, politicians and others involved in the resource. This week features candidates for a range of offices.
Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck was the first to speak. Regarding water, the republican says he’s developed a great pride for Northern Colorado.
“The pride is seeing people come together, work together and seeing people turn a desert into a very productive agricultural area. The frustration is seeing the government screw everything up.”[…]
Congressman Scott Tipton was up next. The republican touted his record including legislation signed into law last year that eliminates regulations on small-scale hydroelectric projects.
He spent much of his 10 minute talk criticizing regulations from the federal government. He highlighted the EPA’s “Waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, saying it gives the agency too much power.
“If the EPA can step in this room and start to tell the state of Colorado and the western United States how our water’s going to be handled, we’re going to be stripping our farming and ranching community of the ability to grow our crops,” he said.
The only question came from Pitkin County Commissioner Rachel Richards who asked Tipton about his position on climate change.
“I always like to be able to say with climate change, I grew up in the shadow of some of the greatest climate change this nation’s ever seen. It’s called the Rocky Mountains. I guarantee the climate will change, and it will continue to do so,” said Tipton.
Cory Gardner of Yuma began his talk by denigrating Congress, where he currently represents Colorado’s fourth congressional district.
“It’s always great to be at the Colorado Water Congress, a congress that has a much higher approval rating than other congress’ that we know of!”
Gardner is challenging Senator Mark Udall in a close and expensive race. He spent most of his time stumping – discussing not just water, but his so-called “Four Corner Plan,” that includes economic growth.
“What we are going to do to get this country’s economy growing again. Where does it start? I believe it starts with simple things like regulatory reform and getting government out of the way and letting America work,” he said.
Later in the day, democrat Abel Tapia stepped to the microphone. He is running against Congressman Tipton. The former engineer and Colorado state lottery director says he understands the challenges facing the Colorado River, which is over-utilized.
“I am committed to fighting to ensure that the Colorado and the Third Congressional District are protected, and get the water it deserves. I support a balanced water policy that takes into consideration the multiple users of our water – agriculture, municipalities and industrial.”
Calling water Colorado’s “liquid gold,” Senator Mark Udall was the last to speak. He pointed to the need for solving a projected water shortage on the Colorado River.
“Let’s have ongoing, tough and ongoing conversations within Colorado and between the Upper Colorado Commission and the lower basin states. If we don’t do that we risk losing site of our shared economic dependence.”
Climate change will exacerbate the problem of water shortages in Colorado and globally. He is concerned the majority of republicans in congress continue to deny climate science.
“Just last month, I tried to get a resolution passed that would put the senate on record acknowledging that climate change is a problem and poses a problem to the United States but enough members of the republican caucus objected and blocked it. But, Coloradoans know better,” said Udall.
More 2014 Colorado November election coverage here. More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.
For years, the abandoned Eagle Mine dominated all conversation surrounding water in Eagle County. Much progress has been made to clean up the mine – and the Eagle River flowing through the area – since its closure in 1984 and subsequent listing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a Superfund site.
The legacy of pollution from the mine, however, is an indefinite one. What is the status of the mine today, three decades later? And what plans are in place for the future of the mine cleanup?
Mr. Russell Cepko, Vice President of Environmental Projects for CBS, will provide answers to these questions and more. As the owner of the mine site, CBS is responsible for administering the cleanup effort. We will also hear from Seth Mason, ERWC’s Water Quality Programs Director about the history of water quality impacts, regulatory action and ongoing concerns among local stakeholders.
When Denver physician and sportsman Kent Heyborne bought land in northeast Colorado, his intent was to leave it undeveloped as bird habitat.
But working with Ducks Unlimited along the South Platte River, he created a water-conservation project resulting in neighboring farms gaining additional irrigation credits. By putting the land under perpetual easement, he created a development-free zone spanning from one wildlife park to another, ensuring a corridor of waterfowl habitat several miles long. Plus, he earned state and federal tax credits along the way.
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey
Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service
Hay meadows near Gunnison
Colorado River near De Beque
The Grand River Diversion
Orchard Mesa circa 1911
Palisade peach orchard
From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):
Without the Colorado and Gunnison rivers, and the human determination to apply their waters to the land, there would be no human settlement as we know it in the Grand Valley. Instead of our towns, parks, farm fields and orchards, the landscape would resemble the desolate, empty territory along I-70 between the state line and Green River, Utah.
In order to cultivate appreciation and understanding of the ways we depend on our rivers, the Water Center at Colorado Mesa University contracted with local filmmaker Mara Ferris of Gen9 Productions to create a 30-minute documentary film.
The film tells the story of how the communities in the Grand Valley have depended on the Colorado and Gunnison rivers since the origins of these communities in the late 1800s, and how the communities’ relationship to the rivers has changed over time. It also addresses regional and climate factors that could pose challenges for current uses and the health of the river. The film is narrated by Steve Acquafresca and includes interviews with numerous local residents.
The Water Center is inviting the public to the first showing of this new film on Thursday, Aug. 28, at 6:30 p.m. in CMU’s University Center Ballroom. This free event will include a reception with a cash bar, displays by film sponsors, and a panel discussion. People who pre-register at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter may receive a free drink donated by the Palisade Brewing Company at the reception.
The panel discussion following the film will feature Mark Harris of Grand Valley Water Users Association; Bennett Boeschenstein of the Riverfront Commission, Grand Valley Audubon and Grand Junction City Council; Stacy Kolegas Beaugh of the Tamarisk Coalition; and Tom Kleinschnitz of Adventure Bound Outfitters.
Following the Aug. 28 event, the film will be made available for showings to schools and community groups around the region. It was made possible by financial contributions from the following sponsors: Chevron, the Colorado River District, the City of Grand Junction, the Western Colorado Community Foundation, Xcel Energy, the Grand Valley Water Users Association, Redlands Water and Power, the Grand Valley Irrigation Company, the Tamarisk Coalition, Colorado Riverfront Foundation, Grand Valley Audubon, Trout Unlimited’s Colorado River Project, and the John McConnell Math & Science Center of Western Colorado.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has selected 15 wetland and riparian restoration projects that will share in $600,000 in Wetlands Program grants funded by Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO).
Approved projects will restore and enhance more than 4,700 acres of wetlands and riparian areas on State Wildlife Areas, State Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and other public and private lands across Colorado. Two projects will restore habitats damaged by last September’s flooding. A project at Boulder County’s Webster Pond will create shallow wetlands from a former gravel mining pit, which will also be used for native fish rearing. A project at Loveland’s Morey Wildlife Preserve will improve stream channels for wildlife and fish along the Big Thompson River.
“Wetlands and riparian areas are critically important wildlife habitats,” said Brian Sullivan, CPW Wetlands Program coordinator. “Most wildlife species in Colorado use these areas, which represent only a small part of our landscape.”
Waterfowl aren’t the only species to benefit from these funded restoration projects. Twenty other species of conservation concern, including the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, southwest willow flycatcher, boreal toad and Arkansas darter benefit too.
“GOCO strongly supports wetland and riparian conservation” says GOCO Executive Director Lise Aangeenbrug. “Healthy wetlands and riparian areas mean healthy wildlife populations and water supplies. Restoring these habitats helps build strong communities.”
GOCO, which invests a portion of Colorado Lottery revenues, has supported CPW’s wetland and riparian conservation efforts since 1997. GOCO also provided an additional $250,000 for 10 separate riparian restoration grants earlier this year, all of which include volunteer and Youth Corps labor.
More than 20 funding partners will contribute more than $1.2 million in matching funds for CPW’s wetland grants. Funding partners include city, county, state and federal governments, nonprofit conservation organizations, landowners, and volunteers.
“It is especially rewarding to see so many entities stepping up to partner with us in wildlife habitat conservation,” said Bob Broscheid, CPW director. “This is no surprise given the importance of this work to sustaining both game and nongame wildlife and improving waterfowl hunting in Colorado.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife manages 42 state parks, more than 300 state wildlife areas, all of Colorado’s wildlife, and a variety of outdoor recreation. For more information go to http://cpw.state.co.us
Today, Latino Decisions and Hispanic Access Foundation released a new research brief — analyzing nine major public opinion polls from the last three years — that finds Latinos overwhelming support greater environmental protections, such as preserving parks and public lands, so much so that conservation issues could influence voting decisions in the mid-term elections.
“This report provides definitive proof to what we’ve seen across the country – there is a significant, growing Latino movement that is advocating for greater environmental protections of our parks and public lands and is willing to support candidates that share that same value,” said Maite Arce, president and CEO of Hispanic Access Foundation. “The Latino population is the fastest growing segment in the country — their engagement in conservation is critical and could have a far-reaching impact.”
“Hispanic Voter Perspectives on Conservation and Environmental Issues” additional findings include:
When it comes to policy priorities, water and air pollution are especially important to the overwhelming majority of Latino voters.
Looking at Latino attitudes on a range of conservation matters, conservation is viewed as essential to a better quality of life.
There is ample evidence Latinos in the West and Southwest have strong ties to the region and regularly partake in outdoor activities, all of which serve to sharpen interest in conservation and clean air and water.
Latino voters believe individuals and governments have important roles in protecting natural resources and promoting healthy, clean communities.
Latinos prefer policies and candidates that actively promote a cleaner environment and preserving public lands. They are more likely to vote for candidates based on their environmental positions.
“Clean air and water, preserving public lands, climate change and promoting clean energy solutions are all matters of concern for this rapidly growing electorate,” said Dr. Adrian Pantoja, Senior Analyst for Latino Decisions and Professor of Political Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. “Decision makers and advocates with national and regional constituencies will need to demonstrate their attention to these concerns and policy preferences as the Latino population and electorate continues to grow into the foreseeable future.”
“We know that regardless of the issue, Latinos, like most Americans, will seek policy approaches that better the quality of life for them, their families, and their community” said Leo Murrieta, National Field Director of Mi Familia Vota. “From immigration reform to conservation, Latinos want candidates and elected officials who will best represent the issues they care about and will do so by promoting laws that will treat our community with dignity and respect. Ensuring that our families have access to clean air and water, cleaner environments, and preservation of outdoor recreational areas will continue to be important to Latino voters across the nation.”
Since its founding in 2010, HAF has made building environmental awareness among Latinos, going outdoors and empowering advocates one of its top priorities. During the last four years, HAF has experienced a growing number of Latino youth and community leaders clamoring for opportunities to participate in efforts for clean water, balanced energy development on public lands in the west, conservation funding, and enhanced protections for parks and monuments.
“When you recognize how many aspects of our lives are affected by the environment, it’s not surprising that Latinos are so passionate about conservation,” said Arce. “The outdoors provides a connection to their cultural heritage. Recreation, tourism and farming provide employment and financial security to many. Getting outdoors and experiencing nature benefits the physical and mental wellness of youth and adults. And unfortunately, Latinos are much more likely to suffer negative health issues due to environmental hazards,” said Arce.
When fires raged through the eastern San Juan Mountains last summer, they left a threat to public safety even after the flames had gone out. Of the 88,000 acres burned on the Rio Grande National Forest last summer by the Papoose and West Fork fires, more than 21,000 acres of the burn scars were left with water-repellent soils. The condition, known as hydrophobicity, heightens the risk of flooding during summer and fall thunderstorms and, in part, prompted the formation of the Rio Grande Watershed Emergency Action Coordination Team.
The watershed team received $2.5 million in state funding last year for recovery work and emergency response and has installed rain and stream gauges throughout the burn scars to better detect flooding.
The team also deployed a temporary Doppler Radar to get a better picture of thunderstorms passing over the burn scar during the monsoon season. Last summer, the team placed a radar unit on Bristol Head Mountain, roughly six miles southwest of Creede. At the end of this month, the group will put a temporary unit at a new location on Lobo Overlook near Wolf Creek Pass.
“It actually gives a little bit better coverage over the burn scar,” Tom Spezze, the watershed team’s director, said.
The site is also more accessible than Bristol Head and will bring the radar unit closer to Internet and power utilities, he said.
The need for the radar stems from the inability of permanent National Weather Service radar units in Grand Junction and Pueblo to give a complete look at storms coming through the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
“There’s a black hole right there,” Spezze said.
Pamela Stevenson, a meteorologist in the weather service’s Pueblo office, said that’s because the radar units are set at such an angle that their signals rise in elevation the further they travel. By the time a signal from Pueblo’s radar reaches the burn scars, it’s at roughly 24,000 feet, she said While stronger storms are often detectable at that elevation, she said the watershed team’s temporary unit will give a better look at storms below that elevation “Definitely having the radar close to the burn scar is going to help,” she said.
Spezze said the need to closely monitor flood threats and inform locals of the dangers will likely last until vegetation can return to the sections of the burn scars with damaged soils. Spezze said that process can take anywhere from two to four years, according to discussions he’s had with officials monitoring the Hyde Park and Waldo Canyon burn scars near Fort Collins and Manitou Springs, respectively.
So far, property owners below the Papoose and West Fork scars have avoided much trouble with flooding and debris flows. The most significant event came at the end of last month when rain washed out a U.S. Forest Service Road near Shaw Lake.
Most of the significant rain since the fires have come from fast-moving storms, rather than slow-moving ones that pose a greater flood risk, Spezze said.