Burt Knight Selected as Greeley’s New Director of Water & Sewer

Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water
Greeley Irrigation Ditch No. 3 construction via Greeley Water

Here’s the release from Greeley Water & Sewer:

Greeley City Manager Roy Otto is pleased to announce the selection of Burt Knight as Greeley’s new Director of Water & Sewer effective August 18, 2014. When announcing Mr. Knight’s selection for the position, Mr. Otto stated, “Burt has performed duties as Interim Director with distinction. After reviewing the options before me with many trusted advisors, I believe the best choice for this important responsibility, at this critical time for our city and the Water/Sewer Department, is a promotion of our operations deputy.”

The Director of Water & Sewer, which reports to the City Manager, will be responsible for implementation of the long-term and comprehensive plan that includes strengthening and maintaining Greeley’s water system infrastructure, continuing water supply acquisition, expanding water storage, and increasing water conservation efforts.

Knight earned his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University and has over 30 years of municipal engineering and management experience. Mr. Knight began employment as the City of Greeley’s Chief Water Engineer in 2011 and was promoted to Deputy Director of Operations in 2013. Prior to his employment with Greeley, Mr. Knight served as city/county engineer for the City and County of Broomfield.

When asked what attracted him to this position, Mr. Knight stated, “I believe in Greeley’s vision of the future and how the organization is focused on achieving community excellence. It is also a pleasure working with the Greeley staff because they are all committed to serving our citizens. I am honored by Mr. Otto’s, City Council’s and the incredible members of the Water and Sewer Board’s confidence in me, I will not let them down.”

More South Platte River Basin coverage here.

Research reveals new details of fatal event, potential risks — Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Grand Mesa mudslide before and after via The Denver Post
Grand Mesa mudslide before and after via The Denver Post

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The size of the landslide that took three lives this spring on the north side of Grand Mesa was remarkable in the relatively recent history of the mountain, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

A research project headed by Jeff Coe, a research geologist who has studied landslides elsewhere in Colorado and around the world, found that the slide moved in at least five phases when it ran down from the top of the mesa at a speed of about 50 mph on May 25.

Three men — Wesley Hawkins, Clancy Nichols and his son, Dan Nichols — died while they were working in the slide’s path.

“If we look over geologic time, there have been bigger slides,” said Jonathan Godt, landslide hazards program coordinator for the Geological Survey office in Golden, “but in human time, this slide was really big.”

Dirt and debris clinging to the basalt cap of the mesa was already soggy from melting snow when it was pelted with rain falling at a rate of about eight-tenths of an inch per hour for half an hour, setting off a 40-million-cubic yard avalanche of mud, rock and debris down an existing rockslide for more than three miles, overtopping two ridges as it swept down.

“The chronological sequence of movement was complex, with at least 5 phases: a debris flow; the catastrophic, high-energy rock avalanche, including the rotational rock slide; movement of the hummock-rich, central core of the avalanche deposit; a second debris flow; and ongoing movement of the upper central core,” the abstract says of the slide.

Early movement was noted between 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., when residents reported that their irrigation was disrupted and saw trees falling on the face of the old rockslide, the abstract says.

“Seismic data indicate that catastrophic movement began at about 3:44 p.m. and lasted about 3 minutes,” the abstract said.

A “large, back-rotated, rock-slide block remains at the top of the avalanche,” holding back a lake, the abstract says.

There is some concern about the stability of the lake, though it’s unlikely that water will cascade over it this year, Godt said.

Continuing threats include the catastrophic failure of the rock-slide block, a large failure upslope from the headscarp, a rapid release of water from the lake, and rapid or slow movement of the avalanche deposit, the abstract said.

The slide itself is relatively stable, having settled into a flatter area than the steep slopes from which it tumbled away, Godt said.

Researchers hope that continuing study of the slide will yield clues that can prevent tragic losses such as the loss of the three men, who were believed to be working on clearing an irrigation ditch when they were swept under.

Hawkins, manager of the Collbran Conservancy District, was remembered Friday by the Colorado Water Congress.

Coe will present an abstract of the research in October at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Vancouver.

“If you look at the 14-year drought, Lake Powell has performed well” — Eric Millis #ColoradoRiver


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Drought is nothing new to the arid West. It’s just never been witnessed by this many people. Vast swatches of Colorado burned in 2012-13, and California, Oregon and Washington are experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in history this year. In the Colorado River basin, Lake Mead is at the lowest levels since it first filled, while Lake Powell is approaching levels too low to generate power. So Western states, like Colorado, are emphasizing drought planning.

“What happens if the drought continues?” asked John McClow, president of the Colorado Water Congress.

To answer the question, water planners from other states in the Colorado River basin were invited to address the group’s summer conference.

“We have to come together as a basin to decide what happens after 2026,” said Tom McCann, assistant director of the Central Arizona Project. “The first thing is the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) need to reduce their use.”

CAP stands to lose one-fifth of its supply in a continued drought under temporary guidelines agreed to by states in 2007. To cope, Arizona has implemented conservation, underground storage and weather modification programs.

“We’ve been in a drought emergency since January,” said Tanya Trujillo, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, where more than 4,000 fires have occurred this year.

California voters will decide whether the state will issue $7.5 billion in bonds for water projects in this year’s elections. Already, the state has fallowed 800,000 acres of farm ground and imposed mandatory water restrictions statewide.

Utah is alarmed by the reduction in levels in Lake Powell that threaten power production, said Eric Millis of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The state is contemplating a project that would build a pipeline from Lake Powell to serve municipal needs.

“If you look at the 14-year drought, Lake Powell has performed well,” Millis said.

But the downward trend in lake levels has continued after a brief spike in the record wet year of 2011.

In Wyoming, a cloud-seeding research program has been kept alive by donations from other states in the Colorado River Basin, said Steve Wolff, of the Wyoming engineer’s office.

The state is looking for the first time at using water from Fontenelle Reservoir — part of the storage system built to protect the obligation of upper states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) under the Colorado River Compact — as a protection against drought.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A three-year drought is nothing compared with the damage Los Angeles did to Mono Lake. But people are trying to fix that. Los Angeles expects to get just a fraction of the water it usually brings down off the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains this year, James Yannotta, manager of Los Angeles aqueduct system, told the Colorado Water Congress last week.

“We average 250,000 acre-feet,” he explained, adding that the city has other sources of water. “This year, it will be 40,000 acre-feet. This is horrible.”

The aqueduct system for the Owens Valley was completed prior to state environmental laws, and dried up agriculture in the area. But the extension to Mono Lake extension completed in 1940, 338 miles north of Los Angeles, became a lightning rod of environmental concern.

The level of the lake dropped 40 feet by 1989, and court cases and agreements in the 1990s required Los Angeles to restore it. The lake is three times saltier than the ocean, but Los Angeles captures the water from feeder streams in the closed system before it reaches the lake, Yannotta explained.

Half of the water Los Angeles used to take now stays in the Mono basin to address environmental needs. Formerly, 30,000-150,000 acre-feet annually were taken from Mono basin, but the level now is regulated by the level of Mono Lake. For the past few years, only 16,000 acre-feet have been pumped. That could be reduced to 4,500 acre-feet if the drought continues next year, Yannotta said. To make up for shortfalls in its traditional supplies, Los Angeles is looking at cleaning its contaminated groundwater supplies, reusing more water, capturing stormwater and conservation — strategies that will cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars.

Conservation efforts have kept water use steady, even though the population served grew by 1 million people in the past 20 years.

Meanwhile, Mono Lake is filling again, and streams in the Owens Valley below it are flowing as the giant city to the south reins in its thirst.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

Pueblo: The next Water Resources Review Committee public meeting is August 29 #COWaterPlan

Pueblo photo via Sangres.com
Pueblo photo via Sangres.com

From the Bent County Democrat (Randy Fischer):

“Water is essential to Colorado’s quality of life and economy, but our ability to maintain those values will be challenged by a growing population, increasing demands for water, and limited supplies of this precious resource.”

These words appear on the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s website, describing the need for and purpose of the proposed Colorado Water Plan, which is to be drafted by the end of 2014 under an executive order signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May 2013.

Our goal for the Water Plan is to provide a path forward for providing Coloradans with the water we need in the future while seeking to maintain such divergent values as healthy watersheds and environment, robust recreation and tourism economies, vibrant and sustainable cities, and viable and productive agriculture.

Colorado’s Water Plan will build on eight years of extremely valuable water supply planning work by the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, the Inter-Basin Compact Committee and the nine Basin Roundtables, one for each of the major watersheds in the state.

In 2014, the Colorado General Assembly passed Senate Bill 14-115, which also recognized the need to engage the general public in the water planning process by gathering input through a series of public meetings in all the major river basins of Colorado. SB-115 directs the legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee (WRRC) to convene these meetings, gather public input, and provide comment on the draft Water Plan by Nov. 1.

The next of these public meetings is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 29, at 9 a.m. at the Rawlings Library, 100 East Abriendo Ave. in Pueblo. This hearing is for everyone who lives in the Arkansas River drainage, from Leadville to the Kansas border. I invite and encourage all residents of the Arkansas Basin to attend this important meeting.

The WRRC recognizes that water issues inherently involve competing values that cannot all be resolved through technological or technical fixes. Different groups bring different values to the conversation. There is no “right” way to balance these competing interests and values. Through SB-115, the WRRC is asking the public to help make Colorado’s Water Plan a better document that seeks to represent the values of all state residents.

The WRRC also recognizes that the Colorado Water Plan will identify difficult choices and tradeoffs that will need to be made to plan for and create a sustainable water future. SB-115 envisions a public process that lays out these choices and tradeoffs facing Colorado and seeks to find a way through public input to navigate the difficult issues that lie ahead.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

2014 Colorado November election: El Paso County Stormwater issue on November ballot #COpolitics

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Monica Mendoza):

It’s the end of the third quarter in the proposed stormwater funding plan, and a group of residents who have been working on the issue for two years have their game faces on. They saw a contract approved by the El Paso County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that outlines how a regional stormwater authority would work and be governed should voters approve it in November.

But as the task force members and their consultants huddled after the meeting, there was little time to feel cocky about the victory. It’s a milestone, said Dave Munger, co-chair of the regional stormwater task force, but the game isn’t finished – or won – yet.

“The fourth quarter will be the election,” he said.

Munger’s co-chair and consultant to the group Kevin Walker added: “Nov. 4 is when it will be over.”[…]

If the committee work was the first two quarters of the game, then the third quarter got rough and tumble in recent meetings as [Colorado Springs Mayor] Bach, council members and the rest of the task force hashed out the details of the stormwater contract, called an intergovernmental agreement. The council approved the contract, without most of Bach’s proposed changes.

Bach held a news conference Aug. 13, announcing that he would not support the proposed stormwater authority. The same day the task force held a news conference to tout its plan.

And now the campaign season, or the fourth quarter, begins, Walker said.

Voters will be asked to OK an annual stormwater fee, which would be roughly $92 a year for a home with 3,000 square feet of impervious surface. If approved, a regional authority expects to collect about $39.2 million a year for 20 years.

Most of the money would be spent on construction projects and maintenance and operations of existing flood control projects.

About 10 percent of the fees collected would be set aside for flooding emergencies.

More 2015 Colorado November election coverage here.

Summit County buys mining claims near Montezuma to protect land — Summit Daily News

Snake River
Snake River

From the Summit Daily News (Alli Langley/Joe Moylan) via the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

During the silver mining boom of the 1870s, with a population of just 71, Sts. John was for a short time Summit County’s largest town.

The Summit County Open Space and Trails Department recently bought the abandoned townsite and nearby mining claims for $425,000 from the Tolen family, which owned land in the area since the 1950s.

The purchase, finalized July 28, conserves about 90 acres in the Snake River Basin above the town of Montezuma as public open space. The 18 separate parcels have significant wildlife value, according to the Colorado Natural Heritage Program, the U.S. Forest Service and the Snake River Master Plan.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Tolen family for working closely with the Summit County Open Space program to preserve the heritage of Sts. John and this exquisite landscape for the enjoyment of Summit County citizens and visitors alike,” said Brian Lorch, the program’s director. “This is one of the most important and significant acquisitions the program has made in recent years.”

The county acquired the properties using the Summit County Open Space fund, approved by voters in 2008. Breckenridge Ski Resort contributed $25,000 toward the purchase as part of a deal with environmental groups worried about the impacts of the recent Peak 6 development.

With the acquisition, the county will protect a large portion of the Snake River Basin backcountry and preserve a piece of Summit County history. Lorch said the Sts. John properties are highly valued for their intact historic resources, popularity for outdoor recreation and high-quality wetlands and wildlife habitat…

The Summit County Open Space program acquires lands to protect the scenic beauty, natural habitat, backcountry character and recreational opportunities in Summit County. Funded through property tax mill levies approved by Wvoters in 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2008, the program has protected more than 14,000 acres of open space.

More Blue River watershed coverage here.

Still no action on the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act

Hermosa Park
Hermosa Park

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Coloradans, perhaps better than anyone, understand and appreciate just how special the wilderness can be. And as connoisseurs of the outdoors, they recognize there are not only wild places, but there are best wild places.

These are the places that inspire — some acknowledged and held sacred, others that have managed to remain under the radar. Others still find themselves perched in a sort of purgatory somewhere in between.

Hermosa Creek, in the San Juan National forest just north of Durango, might qualify among those in-betweeners. To Durango locals, the drainage that translates to “beautiful” creek epitomizes the Colorado outdoor experience, and they’d like to see it remain that way. But those who don’t frequent the Four Corners region may not be aware of all that this hidden gem has to offer.

Count the majority of U.S. Congress among that latter group. For more than a year now, a bipartisan bill known as the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act has languished in the legislative branch of our federal government as a consensus of local stakeholders await acknowledgment of efforts to preserve the attributes that make the place so special.

“The primary thing the bill does is it takes the basin and protects it exactly as it is today,” said Ty Churchwell, backcountry coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “This bill is completely supported by consensus from all stakeholders — everyone from county commissioners and town boards to sportsmen, miners, mountain bikers and motorized users. There’s nothing for them to do in D.C. but vote it forward.”

Beyond its lush landscape and idyllic scenery, the beauty of Hermosa lies in its everyman outdoors appeal. The upper creek is a focal point of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Colorado River cutthroat reintroduction program, and the state’s largest unprotected roadless area remains a hunter’s paradise where trophy elk still die of old age. The 20-mile main trail along the creek corridor is a mountain biker’s mecca. The same trail is shared by a reasonable number of motorized users. Backpackers and horseback riders might cross the creek and make their way into a proposed 38,000-acre wilderness area a quarter mile away.

Overall, the bill would protect 108,000 acres through a series of special management areas, allowing for a variety of historic uses. It’s a one-of-a-kind proposal aimed at protecting an entire watershed as an intact, whole unit, rather than parts and pieces of it.

“When we started talking about protecting Hermosa as a river, the work group decided to look at this river basin as a whole ecological unit instead of just a river corridor,” Churchwell said. “That means that the boundaries for this protection are the ridge lines. Everything that flows out of this basin is included in the protection — the whole watershed. It’s the first time that we are aware of that there has ever been a protection bill that encompasses an entire watershed.”

As a result, a coalition of sportsmen’s conservation groups, guides and outfitters, fly shops and retailers, have united with local government entities in support of protecting this public land deemed vital to America’s hunting and fishing traditions and values.

“Hermosa Creek and the backcountry lands that flank its banks are among the special places that hunters and anglers in Colorado and across the region see as crucial to protect for the good of sportsmen, the environment and the sustainability of area businesses,” said John Gale, the Colorado-based manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s sportsmen’s outreach.

Should a portion of the drainage receive federal Wilderness designation this year, it will mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964 as only the second wilderness area recognized by Congress since 2009.

More Hermosa Creek watershed coverage here and here.