#ColoradoRiver: Grand County and partners still need $50,000 for Windy Gap bypass study #COriver

Windy Gap Reservoir via Northern Water
Windy Gap Reservoir via Northern Water

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Hank Shell):

Grand County and its partners have raised all but $50,000 of the $385,000 needed for the first two engineering phases of the Windy Gap Bypass Project.

The first engineering phase will cost $85,000, to which Grand County has contributed $55,000 and the Upper Colorado River alliance has contributed $20,000, and the Colorado River District pitched in $10,000, said Assistant County Manager Ed Moyer during the Tuesday, Sept. 22 board of county commissioners meeting.

Former County Manager Lurline Underbrink Curran and Mely Whiting, counsel for Trout Unlimited, secured $250,000 from the Gates Family Foundation to fund phase 2 of the project, leaving $50,000 to be raised, Moyer said.

Project participants hope to have the two phases completed by 2016.

The Windy Gap Bypass Project seeks to establish a free flowing channel of the Colorado River around the Windy Gap Reservoir near Granby.

Proponents say the project will vastly improve the condition of the Upper Colorado River by reconnecting fish migration corridors and addressing temperature and sediment issues in the river.

The project’s total cost is around $9.6 million.

Testing continues on Eldora mine seepage, but officials say spill isn’t toxic — Longmont Times-Call

The Arcade Saloon in 1898 Eldora Colorado via WikiPedia
The Arcade Saloon in 1898 Eldora Colorado via WikiPedia

From the Longmont Times-Call (John Bear):

Officials believe 4,500 gallons of orange water that leaked from an old Eldora-area mine into a creek Monday — prompting the shutdown of water intake systems downstream — is not toxic, but they’re still awaiting further test results.

Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said Tuesday that the agency collected water samples to test for heavy metals associated with mines and expects the results in the next few days.

McClain-Vanderpool said other tests conducted Monday showed the pH balance in the water — which would be affected by the presence of heavy metals — appeared to be within normal ranges.

Boulder County spokeswoman Carrie Haverfield said a county hazardous materials team and Nederland town officials also tested the water Monday and didn’t find anything that raised alarms.

Haverfield said that Boulder County is full of old mines, so some amount of seepage is likely.

“We did call in the proper resources and take the proper precautions we needed to take to ensure the safety of our residents,” Haverfield said.

McClain-Vanderpool added that the EPA and state mining and health officials visited the site Tuesday morning and are continuing to support local responders…

County officials responded to the area Monday after a plug came loose from the historic Swathmore mine, located near the 900 block of Bryan Avenue in the Eldora townsite.

Orange water flowed from the opening for about two-and-a-half hours on Monday, and officials temporarily shut down water intake systems for Nederland and Boulder while they tested the water.

A news release said county officials had been previously made aware of seepage from the mine.

The creek appeared orange on the bottom Tuesday afternoon, and a small culvert that runs into the creek was still full of rust-colored water and mud.

Denver: 2015 State of Water, October 8

Click here to go to the Denver Chamber of Commerce website. Click here to register.

Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013
Colorado Water Plan website screen shot November 1, 2013

Cheers, boos for Jewell’s sage grouse decision — WyoFile

Sage Grouse in winter photo via Middle Colorado Watershed Council
Sage Grouse in winter photo via Middle Colorado Watershed Council

From WyoFile (Angus M. Thuermer Jr.):

Speaking at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado, Jewell hailed “the largest, most complex land conservation [effort] ever in the history of the United States of America, perhaps the world.” State, private and federal conservation plans ensure the imperiled bird’s survival, she said…

Love-fest at Colorado announcement
The love-fest announcement in Colorado included Gov. Matt Mead and three other western governors, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe and other officials. The decision that the greater sage grouse is no longer a candidate species for ESA protection drew criticism, too.

Federal and state plans “failed to adopt key conservation measures identified by the government’s own scientists and sage-grouse experts,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. Those failures include no protection of winter habitat and no plan to address climate change.

Erik Molvar, wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians, said the grouse faces threats from industrial development and livestock grazing. “And now the Interior Department seems to be squandering a major opportunity to put science before politics and solve these problems,” he said in a statement. “Today Secretary Jewell declared victory before the battle is actually won. What came out the other end of the sausage grinder is a weak collection of compromises that will not and cannot conserve the species.”[…]

Another critical group, Western Watersheds Project, said Jewell “seemed determined to put a happy face on the future of the American West.” She did not make hard decisions to limit energy development, prohibit transmission lines and block spring cattle grazing, said Travis Bruner, executive director. “There is no ‘win’ here for sage-grouse,” he said in a statement. “There is only a slightly slower trajectory towards extinction.”

In Commerce City, however, officials detailed myriad changes since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2010 determined regulations were insufficient to save the bird.

“We went to work with a lot of partners,” Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe said. “The result is a remarkable turn of events.” Threats from oil and gas development are “remarkably reduced.” Most important and vulnerable habitat is not at risk from agricultural conversion…

In Sublette County, crossroads of gas development and sage grouse habitat, rancher and state Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) touted grassroots work. “It is comforting,” he said. “It’s welcome news, that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service recognizes that local efforts … by ranchers, by conservationists, efforts by states, matter. They recognize there’s a way to get things done without bringing the total hammer of ESA down.”

Wyoming Game and Fish Department sage grouse coordinator Tom Christiansen will go back to work, doing what he’s done for years. “It’s basically a waypoint on a long journey that will never end,” he said. “It’s gratifying to hear,” he said of the announcement, “and we can take a deep breath. But we can’t stop what we’re doing in keeping moving forward.”

From the Colorado Independent (Kyle Harris):

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced today that the greater sage grouse does not require protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Once upon a time, this bird “darkened the skies,” she says in the video above. But no longer, of course. Now, the sage brush landscape where these creatures dwell is used for a thriving Western economy: ranching, recreation and energy.

When she says the word “energy,” the video cuts to windmills – notably, not fracking wells that speckle the West, spewing out flames and sometimes making tap water explode.

“This vast landscape is suffering death by a thousand cuts,” Jewell says with Shakespearean flourish. “Longer, hotter fire seasons have eliminated millions of acres. Invasive species are pushing out native vegetation. And development is fragmenting the land. By many measures, the sage grouse serves as the pulse of this imperiled ecosystem.”

The bird’s population has plummeted by 90 percent, sparking the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history. And as Jewell tells it, an unlikely cohort of ranchers, sportsmen, environmentalists and industry came together to protect the grouse — giving the bird a “bright future.”

“With climate change and an expanding population, the stresses on our land, water and wildlife aren’t going away.”

But Jewell remains optimistic. “We have shown that epic collaboration across a landscape guided by sound science is truly the future of American conservation.”

In other words, the private sector will save us – or at least these poor, besmirched birds.

The response to the announcement has been largely positive.

Celebrating the political forsight and leadership of President Barack Obama, Gov. John Hickenlooper and Jewell, Conservation Colorado’s Executive Director Pete Maysmith touted the sage-grouse plan in a release: “The scope and scale of this unprecedented effort is astounding. It highlights that through collaboration, diverse interests can achieve unbelievable results – focusing on a shared goal and not our perceived differences.”
Colorado’s U.S. senators took the news with glee.

In a statement, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet wrote:

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the tireless work of our local communities, along with the state, to enhance conservation efforts. Colorado farmers, ranchers, local governments, conservationists, and community members have worked for years to find innovative ways to protect sage grouse habitat. This decision ends the uncertainty hanging over the heads of families, farms, and businesses on the western slope. It’s also another reminder that Coloradans can work together to develop commonsense solutions to difficult problems that can serve as a model for the nation. Now it’s important that the collaboration and hard work continue to effectively and successfully implement the state, federal and voluntary plans in a way that works for everyone.”

“Today’s announcement is a testament to the tireless work of our local communities, along with the state, to enhance conservation efforts. Colorado farmers, ranchers, local governments, conservationists, and community members have worked for years to find innovative ways to protect sage grouse habitat. This decision ends the uncertainty hanging over the heads of families, farms, and businesses on the western slope. It’s also another reminder that Coloradans can work together to develop commonsense solutions to difficult problems that can serve as a model for the nation. Now it’s important that the collaboration and hard work continue to effectively and successfully implement the state, federal and voluntary plans in a way that works for everyone.”

“Keeping the greater sage-grouse from being listed as an endangered species has always been my goal, and I’m glad Secretary Jewell arrived at the same conclusion. Greater sage-grouse populations are increasing, and I commend the collaborative efforts from stakeholders to keep this bird from being listed. While land use management is best handled by local groups, landowners and state leaders, I will be closely monitoring the implementation of the federal land-use management plans on our public lands in Northwest Colorado and across the West.”

Despite this bipartisan love fest, Jeremy Nichols of Wildearth Guardians took to Twitter to condemn the decision, arguing that it would keep the feds from limiting the oil and gas industry.

From the Las Vegas Review-Journal (Henry Brean):

The greater sage grouse will not be added to the endangered species list because the bird’s habitat in Nevada and 10 other western states is already being protected by “the largest land conservation effort in U.S. history.”

So said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in an announcement Tuesday that was immediately cheered by some who feared red tape and economic damage from an endangered species listing for such a wide-ranging bird.

Jewell said additional federal protection is unnecessary thanks to all the work done so far: dozens of public-private partnerships among federal and state regulators, ranchers, energy developers and conservationists aimed at preserving the chicken-sized bird’s sagebrush home.

“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has determined that these collective efforts add up to a bright future for the sage grouse,” Jewell said in a video posted to YouTube.

Two hours later, she formally announced the final listing decision for the sage grouse at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge just outside Denver, where she was joined by a host of federal and state officials including Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and the governors of Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.

Sandoval said he is “cautiously optimistic that this is good news for Nevada,” but a lot more work lies ahead.

“I appreciate Secretary Jewell’s commitment to continue working with us, and I take her at her word that we will collaborate in good faith during the next two years so that we have the opportunity to demonstrate that the Nevada plan provides the best conservation for sage-grouse in Nevada,” Sandoval said in a written statement. “We will closely monitor the implementation of this decision so that every option remains available to our state.”

The greater sage grouse is native to 11 western states and Canada, but its population has declined over the past century from about 16 million to fewer than 500,000 by some estimates.

The ground-dwelling bird measures up to 30 inches long and two feet tall and weighs two to seven pounds. In the spring, the males puff themselves up and perform elaborate mating dances that attract hens and human tourists.

Experts say the bird is now threatened with extinction because its fragile, slow-healing sagebrush habitat has been splintered by wildfires, invasive plants and human development. In Nevada alone, wildfires have burned through more than 800,000 acres of sagebrush since 2000.

Jewell called it “death by a thousand cuts.”

Sage grouse are found across the northern half of Nevada, with large expanses of prime habitat in the northeastern and northwestern corners of the state. Several hundred of the birds are killed in Nevada each year in state-regulated hunts that have gone on for decades…

But not everyone is celebrating.

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said the federal mitigation plans drawn up to avoid listing the sage grouse are just as damaging to Nevada and the West.

“This has been an issue of the Department of the Interior using the threat of a listing to get what it really wanted all along: limiting Nevadans’ access to millions of acres of land equal to the size of the state of West Virginia,” Heller said in a written statement. “At the end of the day, Big Government continues to tighten its grip at the expense of rural America’s future, especially in Nevada.”

Rep. Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, called Tuesday’s announcement “a cynical ploy” to distract the public from federal regulation every bit as restrictive as listing would have been.

“The new command and control federal plan will not help the bird, but it will control the West, which is the real goal of the Obama Administration,” Bishop said in a written statement.

Technically, there are almost 100 separate plans.

The Fish & Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management gave final approval Tuesday to 98 land-use plans developed by federal, state and local stakeholders over the past five years to protect sagebrush habitat on public land in 11 states.

According to agency officials, those plans are generally designed to minimize new surface disturbances in core sage grouse areas, improve and expand existing habitat and reduce the threat of wildfires, all while respecting valid rights and rights-of-way.

But some new development will be restricted because of the bird. The Department of Interior just announced plans to temporarily prohibit new mines on about 10 million acres of federal land considered sage grouse strongholds in Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.

The ban on new mining development is expected to last for up to two years while federal regulators determine whether the land should be permanently withdrawn from mineral exploration to protect sage grouse. That analysis will include input from the public.

For now, the decision not to list the bird is largely drawing praise — though some of it guarded — from ranchers, hunting organizations, energy developers and conservation groups.

Eric Holst, associate vice president of working lands for the Environmental Defense Fund, called it “one of the biggest listing decisions of our time” and proof that “wildlife conservation does not have to come at the expense of the economy.”

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

Upper Colorado River Basin September month to date precipitation through September 20, 2015
Upper Colorado River Basin September month to date precipitation through September 20, 2015

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

CSU: Water Resources Archive acquires 100th collection

Head archivist of the CSU Libraries Water Resources Archive Patty Rettig at work.
Head archivist of the CSU Libraries Water Resources Archive Patty Rettig at work.

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Kate Jeracki):

Irrigation ditches lace the lands of Colorado, transporting water required for raising crops and tying mountains to plains, rural areas to urban. The Water Resources Archive at the Colorado State University Libraries preserves the history of these fundamental features of the state’s heritage and landscape and is celebrating the receipt of its 100th collection of significant documents.

The North Poudre Irrigation Company (NPIC), one of the largest irrigation companies in northern Colorado, has donated its historical records to the Water Resources Archive. Among NPIC’s 73 boxes, 10 ledgers, and approximately 1,000 large maps, plans and aerial photos reside details of the company’s 1901 origins and its development of nearly two dozen storage reservoirs and 200 miles of ditches.

“This is now the largest archival collection documenting an irrigation company in the state,” said archivist Patty Rettig. The next largest, also at the Water Resources Archive, is from the opposite corner of Colorado and documents the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company.

After Archives staff clean the materials of dust and mold, organize and inventory them, the collection will be accessible to the public.

“We appreciate the Archive’s professionalism and help with this process and project.” said Scott Hummer, NPIC general manager, who facilitated the donation.

Other collections available

The Archive’s 99th collection, the Papers of Loretta Lohman, is the first collection in the repository to document the work of a woman in water. Dr. Lohman’s lifetime of research on Western water issues focused on the economic effects of water reuse, salinity, federal reclamation projects, and energy use.

Other collections in the Water Resources Archive include the Papers of Delph E. Carpenter and Family, the Ralph L. Parshall Collection, and the Records of Wright Water Engineers, respectively documenting the development of interstate river compacts, flumes and early irrigation practices, and investigations of water rights related to engineering projects.

“By rescuing historical documents from inadequate, inaccessible storage, we can provide access to a virtual time machine to see how our society developed,” said Rettig,

The Water Resources Archive, which opened in 2001 to collect, preserve, and promote the unique documents that capture Colorado’s water history, has grown substantially over the last 14 years. Its collections are now so extensive they would extend over a half mile if all the boxes were placed end to end.

The Archive broadly collects documentation of water across the state of Colorado, and even beyond. Collections have come from as far away as California and Nebraska. Donors benefit from having collections inventoried and potentially digitized. The public benefits from accessibility for general use, such as scholastic studies, legal cases, filmmaking, or family genealogy.

The collections are accessible in Suite 202 of Morgan Library on the CSU campus in Fort Collins from 8:30-4:30, Monday through Friday. Also, about 5 percent of the total holdings are digitally available online.

For more information, visit the Archive’s website or call 970-491-1844.