Northern Water: NISP momentum captured at rally

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

From email from Northern Water:

More than 150 Northern Integrated Supply Project supporters rallied at Northern Water’s headquarters on July 2 to celebrate momentum created by the recent release of the Project’s Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Speakers U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, State Senators Mary Hodge and Jerry Sonnenberg, Chris Smith (Left Hand Water District general manager and NISP Participants Committee chairman) and Eric Wilkinson (Northern Water general manager) addressed an enthusiastic audience comprised of NISP participant representatives, mayors, county commissioners, lawmakers and private citizens.

Common themes shared by the speakers included the importance of attending the Supplemental Draft EIS public hearings, hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers July 22 and 23; and building the project as soon as possible to capture and store water to meet the needs of future generations.

“My challenge to everyone at this rally is to come with their family, friends and neighbors to attend the public hearings in Fort Collins and Greeley,” said Buck.

Sen. Gardner noted, “This year, 1.3 million acre feet of water that NISP would have captured flowed out of Colorado and we didn’t even get a thank you note from Nebraska.”

NISP Called “The Ultimate Rain Barrel”
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg echoed the others in discussing Glade’s potential to store water. “There’s been a lot of talk about using rain barrels this year. Well, we’ve got to find a way to keep Colorado’s water in Colorado. We have the ultimate rain barrel, ready to be filled, right up the road here.”

Several speakers warned that without NISP, more farmland will be dried up as water providers find necessary supplies for their needs. The SDEIS studies show this could lead to a dry-up of an additional 100 square miles of irrigated farmland – an area approximately twice the size as the City of Fort Collins.

“That would mean a $400 million loss of agricultural output,” said Gardner. “That is economic devastation. We can’t keep pushing it down the road. The longer this takes, the higher the cost, and the more acres that get dried up,” he added.

Poudre River will be Enhanced
Poudre River Trust board members Joe Rowan and Jim Reidhead said what excites them most about NISP are enhancement opportunities for the Poudre River. “NISP will protect recreation and habitat in the Poudre Canyon for everyone to enjoy,” said Rowan.

“We support NISP, added Reidhead. “The Poudre is a working river and NISP would enhance habitat while keeping the river healthy and sustainable – it can be done.”

We need your support at the upcoming NISP public hearings hosted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It is critical to have as many NISP supporters as possible attend and testify why they believe the Supplemental Draft EIS findings are sound and why the project is critical to northern Colorado.

Dates and locations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers public hearings on the NISP Supplemental Draft EIS are:

Wednesday, July 22
Hilton Fort Collins
425 West Prospect Road
Fort Collins, CO 80526

Thursday, July 23
Weld County Administration Building
1150 O Street
Greeley, CO 80631

The public hearings begin at 6:00 p.m. and will be preceded by open houses beginning at 5:00 p.m.

If you wish to submit your comments in writing, they must be submitted by September 3, 2015. Submit to:

John Urbanic, NISP EIS Project Manager
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District
Denver Regulatory Office
9307 S. Wadsworth Blvd.
Littleton, CO 80129

More Northern Integrated Supply Project coverage here and here.

Grand Lake clarity standard

Grand Lake via Cornell University
Grand Lake via Cornell University

From The Denver Post (Canton O’Donnell):

In 2008, those concerned for Grand Lake established a site-specific water clarity standard through the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission. This visionary application of a water quality standard to lake clarity, which was intended to restore the scenic attraction of Grand Lake, is unprecedented in Colorado.

Now, negotiations are ramping up to modify specifics of the standard. Western Slope stakeholders recently made broad concessions on a possible joint standard proposal with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which distributes C-BT water to Northern Front Range consumers. The concessions are intended to be motivating yet practical for all stakeholders

The Western Slope stakeholders’ proposal — a target of 12.5 feet average clarity, with a 8.2 foot minimum — is still a far cry from the 30.2 feet of clarity measured prior to implementation of the C-BT. Yet this proposed clarity standard is an effort to recognize the water-delivery mandate of the Colorado-Big Thompson system while protecting lake health and allowing time for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate a more robust permanent solution.

The Western Slope stakeholders — made up of Grand County government, the Three Lakes Watershed Association, the town of Grand Lake, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, and the Colorado River District — proposed this modified standard to be applicable for all of July, August and 11 days in September at the height of the region’s tourist season.

It is the hope of Eastern and Western Slope stakeholders to arrive at an agreement prior to the start of Colorado Water Quality Control Commission submittals beginning in November, for the sake of this valued resource.

More Grand Lake coverage here and here.

Gore Canyon Whitewater Park makes good on promise of Upper #ColoradoRiver — The Denver Post

Upper Colorado Gore Canyon whitewater park

From The Denver Post (Scott Willoughby):

Officials from Grand, Eagle and Summit counties joined representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Dept. of Local Affairs, Colorado Water Conservation Board, American Whitewater and about 100 others on the banks of the Colorado River on Monday to formally dedicate the new Gore Canyon Whitewater Park at the BLM Pumphouse Recreation Site south of Kremmling.

The $1.7 million wave feature, some six years in the making, is viewed as much more than a play spot for kayakers and river surfers. To those who have rallied support for the complex collaboration, the structure imbedded between boat launches at the rec site represents the symbolic cornerstone of a plan designed to keep the upper Colorado River flowing healthy for many years to come.

“The significance of the wave is that it creates a way to permanently protect the flows for boating on the upper Colorado River,” said project coordinator Caroline Bradford of Eagle. “This whitewater park investment protects the quality of life for locals who love the river and provides a great experience for over 75,000 people who float on this reach of the Colorado River each year.”

While the benefit to kayakers and standup paddlers (SUP) is readily evident in the frothy pile of surf-friendly white foam stretching nearly the width of the river, others stand to reap rewards as well.

The concrete structure would mean nothing without the complementing recreational in-channel diversion (RICD) water rights ranging between 860-1,500 cubic feet per second from April 5-Oct. 15, annually. That’s an obvious boon to fish and fishermen frequenting the reach of river recognized with the highest number of fish per mile along the length of the Colorado. And it clearly benefits whitewater rafting outfitters and local boaters seeking a spot to float.

Interestingly enough, the symbiotic relationship between rocks and water in the river runs both ways when it comes to the man-made version. Colorado water law requires a man-made, engineered structure before the flows in any waterway can be legally protected. So without the new feature, there was no guarantee.

“The times they are a changin’,” CWCB board member April Montgomery said at Monday’s dedication. “Colorado Water Conservation Board is evolving too, and we now recognize the importance of recreational uses of water right along with agriculture, municipal and industrial.”

More whitewater coverage here.

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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 thru July 12, 2015 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation July 1 thru July 12, 2015 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.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

The counties that actively oppose a federal lands transfer — The High Country News

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

From The High Country News (Tay Wiles):

Over the past few years, several Western states have passed or proposed legislation to study the possibility of transferring ownership of federal lands from the American public to states. Utah finished a study last fall; Idaho has conducted three; Montana and Nevada have also put out studies. Arizona and Wyoming passed study bills this year. Oregon has a proposal in the works; bills have failed in Colorado, New Mexico and Washington. Supporters of today’s movement, which echoes similar efforts over the past century, say the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service mismanage land and are driven by Eastern bureaucrats out of touch with Western issues.

A counter-movement is now percolating through a growing number of Western counties. In the state of Colorado, San Miguel, La Plata, Pitkin, San Juan, Eagle, Summit and Boulder counties all oppose transferring ownership of federal land to states. “People think this is just the Sagebrush Rebellion (a resurgence from the 1970s and ’80s movement) and it will never go anywhere,” says Rachel Richards, a Pitkin County commissioner in Colorado. “But we have an entirely different tenor in Washington, DC now. It has been federal government by people who hate federal government.”

The Pitkin resolution says that county has “gone to great lengths to ensure that appropriate rights of access to federal lands remain open to the public.” Richards worries that if a land transfer happened, public access to that land would be in jeopardy.

San Miguel County’s resolution, which passed in March, also indicated access for recreation was a major concern. The Salt Lake City council in Utah and Teton and Albany counties in Wyoming passed resolutions opposing the transfer of lands in May.

The commission of Sweetwater County, Wyoming, sent a letter opposing a land transfer to the county’s state senators and representatives in January. The letter cited potential loss of public access and multiple use, and weakened environmental protections. Sweetwater is a notable addition to the opposition movement because at the moment, it’s home to more Republicans than Democrats — a combination that usually equals more support for states’ rights than for federal control…

[Wally Congdon] says that the federal land transfer movement is obstructionist and the opposite of civic engagement. “This is like the movie Network,” he says. “When people just go to the window, throw it open and say, ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.’ Well, guess what guys, that is not participation in government.”

Risks of 2016 #ColoradoRiver shortage declaration pretty much gone, risks of 2017 also shrinking — John Fleck

Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015
Colorado River Basin including Mexico, USBR May 2015

From InkStain (John Fleck):

The Bureau of Reclamation’s latest 24-month study, out this afternoon (pdf), shows continued improvement on the Colorado River system’s big reservoirs as a result of the…rainy spring and summer, and therefore a continued reduction in the risk of a Lower Basin shortage declaration.

The number to watch is a Lake Mead elevation of 1,075, and the date to watch is January 1. The forecast in the latest 24-month study puts us at 1,082.12 on Jan. 1, 2016. That means that unless something crazy happens, like El Chapo’s tunnel dudes drill a hole in the bottom of Hoover Dam and steal 700,000 acre feet of water, it looks like a 2016 shortage declaration is completely off the table.

For 2017, things are also looking better. The current 24-month forecast puts it at 1,078.13 on Jan. 1, 2017, three feet above the danger line. That’s the midpoint of the forecast, meaning that there’s a better than 50-50 chance we won’t have a shortage in 2017. Three feet is not much, so the risk is clearly non-zero.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here.

John Fleck’s Water News #COWaterPlan #ColoradoRiver

Click here to read the latest iteration of John Fleck’s Water News. Here’s an excerpt:

Bruce Finley’s story last Friday in the Denver Post about Colorado’s latest water plan iteration shows, if you had any doubt, how the Cadillac Desert era is over. Or in Bruce’s words and example, “the era of moving water across mountains may be over.” Mythologies die hard, and in this decade of drought and water supply stress, Marc Reisner’s wonderful but outdated take on our problems is rearing its head, continuing to dominate public discourse by the power of Reisner’s prose. But Finley’s piece is great case study in what the post-Cadillac Desert landscape looks like, a landscape of more efforts at collaborative problem solving and less political and economic muscle pouring more concrete.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

The Extreme Pacific Climate Now — State of the Planet


The climate over the tropical Pacific is in an extreme state at the moment. That explains some of the extreme anomalies affecting the United States right now. It also gives us a window through which we can glimpse how even more dramatic and long-term climates of the distant past might have worked, and – in the most radical scenarios, unlikely but impossible to rule out entirely – how much more extreme future climate changes could occur.

Now that Typhoon Chan-Hom has blown over Shanghai, then past Seoul before fizzling out, and Typhoon Nangka now heads north towards Japan, there are four other tropical cyclones further east in the Pacific. None of them is particularly powerful yet, but there’s time. Two of the current storms are in the Central North Pacific, in the general vicinity of Hawaii, where another one, Ela, has just fizzled out. This is an incredibly strong burst of tropical cyclone activity for the Central Pacific, and unprecedented for how early in the season it has come.

What is going on? The El Niño event currently ongoing in the eastern and Central Pacific is strengthening. The only question is whether it will be just a significant event, or a huge one. While those of us who were in New York City for the blizzard of late January 2015 have learned that we shouldn’t apply the word “historic” to weather or climate events before they actually happen, this El Niño has at least the potential to become the biggest one since the onset of modern records. It’s already at least competitive with the current record holder, the “super El Niño” of 1997-1998. Strong tropical cyclone seasons in the Central and Eastern Pacific often occur during El Niño events, when the ocean surface becomes anomalously warm along the equator there. That pattern is firmly in place now.

Around a week ago, the most commonly used indicator of the Madden-Julian oscillation (MJO) reached a value in excess of four standard deviations, breaking the record since the start of modern observations in the 1970s. The MJO is the most important atmospheric phenomenon you’ve never heard of, a tropical weather disturbance with global ramifications broadly similar to those El Niño, except that the MJO evolves faster, over a month or two, while El Niño takes months to years. The current extreme MJO happened as its disturbed weather conditions temporarily locked into phase with the anomalously high sea surface temperatures and rainy weather already in place in the Central Pacific due to the El Niño. The combination of the two helped to spawn the current flock of tropical cyclones there…

…the other potential benefit of the El Niño is that if it holds together into the winter — as is very likely — there is good reason to hope it could deliver some heavy rain events to California. This would have the potential to make a dent in the severe and protracted drought there, though unlikely enough to end it entirely.

On the other hand, it’s not good news for the Pacific Northwest, where El Niños tend to lead to warm, dry winters. Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are already experiencing serious drought and wildfire, after a winter where precipitation fell as rain even in the high mountains, leaving no snowpack to provide summer’s water supply.

Fountain Creek: “We won’t be able to get in until it gets lower” — Jeff Bailey

Fountain Creek Watershed
Fountain Creek Watershed

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Even though Fountain Creek has settled down a bit, flows are going to have to drop a whole lot more before repairs along the channel can be made.

And money will have to start flowing as well.

Oh, and other problems from the storm elsewhere in the city need to be addressed.

This week, flows in Fountain Creek are about 500 cubic feet per second, or about one-fifth of the intensity that ripped away banks and cut new channels in May and June. That’s still above normal, but not supposed to be damaging, according to experts who’ve talked about the situation over the past few years.

The receding water has revealed more dead trees, new sand bars and new alignments of Fountain Creek within the channel.

In numerous meetings on Fountain Creek, increased base flows have been presented by experts as somewhat innocuous in the grand scheme of things. It’s the big floods that scoop and scour, they say.

The problem is, those higher base flows still are creating problems as well as making it difficult to get into the creek even to see what needs to be done, said Jeff Bailey, Pueblo stormwater director.

“We won’t be able to get in until it gets lower,” Bailey said. “I don’t want to jeopardize our equipment.”

He explained that the piles of sand that showed up in Fountain Creek could easily collapse under the weight of heavy machinery, and right now there’s no way of knowing how deep the bottom of the channel is.

The city is most concerned about the bike trail on the northeast corner of the highway bridge at Colorado 47. Fountain Creek continues, even at lower flows, to eat away the bank under the concrete trail. “It’s undermined the area and now the trail is starting to tip,” Bailey said. “We notified CDOT (Colorado Department of Transportation) that it’s starting to undercut the riprap on the bridge abutment.”

A visual inspection of the area by The Pueblo Chieftain Tuesday confirmed that the sidewalk is literally on the brink, about 20 feet above a still-hungry river chopping at the bank. Directly across the creek lies the ravaged bank of a stormwater detention pond where a 10-foot tall, 15-foot wide roadway is gradually disappearing.

Higher water also will continue to delay the Army Corps of Engineers project to protect railroad tracks near the Interstate 25 interchange at 13th Street. It was started in April, but interrupted by the charging waters.

The city’s other priority is removing all the trees and logs which piled up against bridges in the city all along Fountain Creek during the continuous flooding.

“That’s money-oriented,” Bailey said.

The city did request disaster relief through the state and federal government, but the process takes a while, and the amount uncertain and not guaranteed. Grants for damage from 2013 floods in the South Platte River basin are still being processed two years later, and the latest round of requests by Colorado was made just last week.

Meanwhile, the city is scrambling to deal with other stormwater problems. There are hundreds of inlets throughout the city’s stormwater system that need to be checked, many of which have become clogged with debris because of recent storms or, in a few cases, negligent construction practices.

The heavy rains also created more demand for mowing the city’s stormwater basins and ditches. “We don’t have a lot of people, but we do our darndest,” Bailey said. “You have to tackle the biggest fire on your desk and just keep plugging away.”

More Fountain Creek coverage here.