Aspinall Unit operations update: Gunnison River through Black Canyon streamflow to increase to 1100 cfs

From email from Reclamation Erik Knight:

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased from 600 cfs to 1100 cfs on Monday, November 16th. The purpose of this increase is to lower Blue Mesa Reservoir down towards the winter icing target. The current content of Blue Mesa Reservoir is 673,000 acre-feet which is 81% full.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for the remainder of the year.

Currently, there are no diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are 600 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at 0 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 1100 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn
Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

The latest ENSO Diagnostic Discussion is hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center

Mid-October 2015 plume of ENSO predictions via the Climate Prediction Center
Mid-October 2015 plume of ENSO predictions via the Climate Prediction Center

Click here to read the discussion. Here’s an excerpt:

<blockquote>ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Advisory

Synopsis: El Niño will likely peak during the Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, with a transition to ENSO-neutral anticipated during the late spring or early summer 2016.

A strong El Niño continued during October as indicated by well above-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. Most Niño indices increased during the month, although the far eastern Niño-1+2 index decreased, accentuating the maximum in anomalous SST farther west. The subsurface temperature anomalies also increased in the central and eastern Pacific, in association with another downwelling equatorial oceanic Kelvin wave. Low-level westerly wind anomalies and upper-level easterly wind anomalies continued over the western to east-central tropical Pacific. Also, the traditional and equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) values remained negative. These conditions are associated with enhanced convection over the central and eastern tropical Pacific and with suppressed convection over Indonesia. Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic anomalies reflect a strong and mature El Niño episode.

Most models indicate that a strong El Niño will continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, followed by weakening and a transition to ENSO-neutral during the late spring or early summer. The forecaster consensus remains nearly unchanged, with the expectation that this El Niño could rank among the top three strongest episodes as measured by the 3-month SST departures in the Niño 3.4 region going back to 1950. El Niño will likely peak during the Northern Hemisphere winter 2015-16, with a transition to ENSO-neutral anticipated during the late spring or early summer 2016.

El Niño has already produced significant global impacts. El Niño is expected to affect temperature and precipitation patterns across the United States during the upcoming months (the 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday November 19th). Seasonal outlooks generally favor below-average temperatures and above-median precipitation across the southern tier of the United States, and above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation over the northern tier of the United States.

Snowpack news: Average to above average except Rio Grande, storm due in mountains Monday

Click a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of snowpack data for Colorado.

#Drought news: Abnormal dryness (D0) reduced in NW #Colorado

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

The Central Great Plains, Middle Mississippi Valley, and Lower Ohio Valley

Looking at the area from Indiana westward through Nebraska and Kansas, beneficial light to moderate precipitation in the western half of Nebraska and adjacent Colorado, some of which fell as snow. This brought an end to the abnormal dryness in the southern Nebraska Panhandle and adjacent Colorado. Farther south and east, only light precipitation at best fell from central parts of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri westward through Kansas, primarily in eastern sections of the region. As a result, limited D0 and D1 expansion occurred in parts of Kansas, where very little precipitation fell. No changes seemed warranted farther east. Most of eastern Kansas and the southwestern quarter of Missouri received less than half of normal precipitation during the last 30 days, as did portions of central Indiana and Illinois. Precipitation deficits of at least 4 inches have accumulated in most of the same region since early August, with totals in much of central Missouri 6 to 8 inches below normal during this period…

The Rockies, Intermountain West, and Far West

Moderate to heavy precipitation fell on the Sierra Nevada, northwestern California, western sections of Washington and Oregon, northern sections of the Rockies and Intermountain West, scattered areas from western Colorado to central Arizona, and a few other isolated spots. Other locations received little, if any. The wet/snowy season is off to a rapid start in the Intermountain West and West Coast States. Snowpack is well above normal for this time of year in the Sierra Nevada and parts of Nevada where drought has seemed intractable, Reno Tahoe Airport recorded 4.2” of snow November 9-10 (including a daily record 2.4” on the 9th), and over a foot blanketed some areas northeast of the city. But given the long-term nature of the drought in much of the Far West, only scattered areas of improvement were noted. D1 in south-central Idaho improved to D0, areas of D3 shrank a little in western Idaho and west-central Montana, severe drought eased to moderate levels in central Washington, abnormal dryness was eliminated in northwestern Colorado, coverage of D1 and D2 declined in southeastern Arizona, and a few other isolated areas saw improvement. Areas where drought was more entrenched will need abundant precipitation to continue much farther into the wet season before any notable improvement could evolve…

The Southeastern Great Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, and Adjacent Southeast

Moderate to heavy precipitation fell on most of this region. Most areas from the Mississippi/Ohio Confluence southward through the Lower Mississippi Valley, southeastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas reported at least an inch of precipitation, with 2 to locally over 5 inches measured in a swath from southern Missouri into northwestern Arkansas, plus an area farther south extending from southeast Oklahoma and northeastern Texas eastward through southern Arkansas, much of Louisiana, and some parts of Mississippi outside the areas of abnormal dryness and moderate drought. Large areas of improvement were introduced in the wetter areas, and most other areas were unchanged; however, D0 was expanded into parts of eastern Arkansas, southwestern Tennessee, and northwestern Mississippi that missed most of the precipitation. The eastern half of this area received only 50% to 75% of normal rainfall in the last 30 days, and deficits of 4 to locally 6 inches have accumulated since early September…

Looking Ahead

During November 12-16, the heaviest precipitation should fall on windward slopes in western Washington and northern Idaho. Peak values of 12 to nearly 18 inches are anticipated in the northwesternmost reaches of Washington while totals may top 6 inches in northernmost Idaho. Substantial totals are also expected in western Oregon and far northwestern California, with amounts topping out in the 2 to 4 inch range along the Oregon Coast. Relatively heavy precipitation is also anticipated across the northern half of the Great Lakes, with 2 to 3 inches forecast in northwestern Wisconsin and adjacent areas. Meanwhile, moderate precipitation (with amounts above 2 inches only in a few isolated locations) is expected across the northern half of New England and New York, far southern Florida, the southeastern Great Plains and western Lower Mississippi Valley, and parts of the northern Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades. Temperatures should average well above normal (5 to 10 degrees) in the northern half of the Plains and much of the Great Lakes Region. In contrast, temperatures should average around 3 degrees below normal in the Great Basin and central Intermountain West.

For the ensuing 5 days (November 17-21), the odds at least slightly favor wetter than normal conditions nationwide, except in a small part of the northern Plains and in a swath across the Big Bend of Texas, southern sections of Arizona and New Mexico, and central and southern California. All of Alaska has enhanced chances for above normal precipitation as well. The best chances for wetness are in the southern half of the Mississippi Valley. We should see warmer than normal temperatures on average in the central and eastern parts of the country and cooler than typical conditions from the Rockies westward.

Arkansas Basin roundtable meeting recap #COWaterPlan

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Now that a plan for Colorado’s water future is nearly finished, there are some concerns it might not have much of a future itself.

“What’s going to happen to the Colorado Water Plan?” asked Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, at Wednesday’s Arkansas Basin Roundtable meeting. “Is it going to sit on a shelf?”

Alan Hamel, who represents the basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board, was quick to reply that the final plan has more moving parts than its encyclopedic draft.

“There are dates so we have guidance and ways we can measure progress,” Hamel said. “If it sits on the shelf, we’ve wasted a lot of people’s time.”

The water plan will be finalized by the CWCB and presented to Gov. John Hickenlooper next week in Denver. The governor ordered the plan in 2013, and it has consumed the state’s roundtables for the past two years.

The primary purpose of the water plan, initially was to fill the supply gap for the state’s growing population, but it evolved to include conservation, land use and storage goals as well. It also includes agriculture, watershed health and funding goals.

In the process, the roundtables also developed basin implementation plans of their own.

It was clear at Wednesday’s meeting that the roundtable is not content to sit on its plan. Gary Barber, a former chairman of the roundtable, was hired to implement the plan.

State grant funding for the position is for just one year, and Barber’s job will be to keep projects moving ahead, said Sandy White, chairman.

Meanwhile, the roundtable has hired Deb Phenicie to coordinate its watershed health initiative and is in the process of selecting a coordinator for outreach and water education, also funded through the roundtable process.

Hamel tied the roundtable’s actions to the course the CWCB will take in implementing the water plan.

“It’s imperative for the CWCB to have regular reviews,” Hamel said, noting there was some disagreement about how often the state water plan would be reviewed. “Our goal in the Arkansas basin is to keep the project list current. The CWCB has to take a leadership role as we go from governor to governor.”

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

N.D. judge takes lead role in fight over #CleanWaterRules

From (Jeremy P. Jacobs and Annie Snider):

With the stroke of his pen, Ralph Erickson catapulted himself to the center of a decades-long politically charged battle over the country’s foremost water law.

The little-known North Dakota federal district judge blocked the Obama administration’s contentious Waters of the U.S. rule on Aug. 28, hours before it was scheduled to go into effect.

A George W. Bush appointee, Erickson sided with the challengers’ arguments, ruling U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers overstepped their authority under the Clean Water Act.

Declaring the agencies had developed the rule through a process that was “inexplicable, arbitrary and devoid of a reasoned process,” he granted the request of 13 states for a preliminary injunction, halting the rule while the lawsuit plays out.

The rule’s foes sought injunctions in lawsuits filed across the country, but Erickson was the only federal district judge to grant one — though he later limited it to the 13 states in the case before him.

In the months since, Erickson’s decision has become ammunition for opponents of the water rule, one of the Obama administration’s most significant environmental regulations.

They have wielded it in the legal arena, where challengers used it to persuade a federal appeals court to extend the stay nationwide. On the political front, Erickson’s words have been quoted in lobbying letters, in tweets and on the floor of the Senate…

A federal judicial panel last month declined to consolidate more than a dozen district court challenges to the rule, allowing them to move forward on parallel tracks.

The decision could give Erickson — who has already said that challengers’ arguments have “a substantial likelihood of success” — the first crack at ruling on whether the regulation is legal.

The Department of Justice has been trying to wrest the case from Erickson’s courtroom. DOJ contends that all the litigation belongs in a federal appeals court, not district court — a question that is pending before an appellate court in Cincinnati.

But the challengers are already pressing Erickson to move ahead with his case now, contending that he has already decided that authority rests with him. And yesterday, Erickson’s court agreed to move forward with the case quickly.

While any opinion is likely to be appealed, Erickson’s moves could set the stage for what is likely to be years of legal battles.

It’s a high-stakes role for a North Dakota judge who is well-respected locally as a no-nonsense, hardworking and at times talkative judge with limited experience on environmental and administrative law cases.


Lamar councillors authorize drinking water infrastructure loan

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art
Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

From The Lamar Ledger (Chris Frost):

The Lamar City Council authorized Mayor Roger Stagner to sign the Lamar Main Street Water Distribution Water Replacement Loan Application from the Colorado Drinking Water Revolving Fund during the Monday, Nov. 9, City Council meeting.

As part of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Main Street Resurfacing project, the city plans on replacing 21,000 linear feet of water main.

The city has made application for the planning stage of the project, Public Works Director Pat Mason said, which is a $112,00 Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) loan.

The total cost of the project is $3,246,800. The loan for the revolving fund is for $1,612,800 as matching funds. The loan will span 30 years and have a zero percent interest rate.

“There’s a chance we may be able to get some grant funding that we can use as part of this match,” Treasurer Kristin McCrea said. “In the application process we did the maximum for now because that was our guarantee. There still is a lot of discussion going on, so we went ahead and applied for what we would need to match.”

6 Places Where Melting Snow Means Less Drinking Water — National Geographic

Here’s a report from Brian Clark Howard writing for National Geographic. Here’s an excerpt:

Climate scientists have a pretty good idea what is going to happen to much of the Earth’s snow as the planet warms over the next century: It’s going to melt. But the melting will occur at different rates in different places, which has major implications for the 2 billion people who rely on snowmelt for water.

What’s more, over the next few decades, some areas are likely to see increased snow and rainfall as climate changes in complicated ways.

“Such confounding factors complicate how water managers will be able to respond to climate change,” says Justin Mankin, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

In order to help water providers better forecast their supply, Mankin led a team of scientists in a new study published Thursday in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Climate models were used to predict changes in rainfall and snowpack across basins in the northern hemisphere that supply water to large numbers of people. These areas include much of the American West, the Middle East, Central Asia, and southern Europe.

The scientists concluded that overall there is a 67 percent risk of less water available from snowpack by 2060. But over the next few decades, some regions face more risk than others.

In some areas precipitation could actually increase. That’s because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. Yet “the extent that people have the capacity to capture and use that water is a different matter,” says Mankin.

Snow’s Holding Power

Traditionally, when precipitation falls as rain only some of it can be captured in aquifers, lakes, and manmade reservoirs. When the moisture falls as snow, it often sticks to mountains for long periods of time, where it melts slowly, trickling down as a nearly steady water supply. (Read more about this process.)

“In the future, water managers are going to have to adjust to a decrease in the amount of water available from snowpack,” says Mankin. Strategies could include building more reservoirs, either above or below ground, tougher water conservation measures, desalination, deeper wells, or other plans…

The Colorado River Basin

Home to 11 million people, the Colorado River system fared only somewhat better in the analysis, with a decline in snowpack in 74 percent of the tests.

“Our water supply is not going to look the same in the future,” says Mankin. “We’re going to have to get innovative about what management practices really make sense.” (Read more about the embattled Colorado River.)

Rio Grande Basin

The Rio Grande Basin that straddles Mexico and the U.S. is home to 16 million people. Like the Central Valley, in 95 percent of the trials run through the climate models, the snowmelt runoff fell short of demand by mid-century.

Local health officials voice their support for fluoride in water — Aspen Daily News

Calcium fluoride
Calcium fluoride

From The Aspen Daily News (Collin Szewczyk):

On Tuesday, Liz Stark, Pitkin County public health director, told the county’s board of health, which consists of the Pitkin County commissioners, Aspen city council member Ann Mullins, and Snowmass Village Mayor Markey Butler, that tooth decay is 100 percent preventible. She added that fluoridation is the most effective and affordable way to eradicate cavities and “reaches all sectors of the population regardless of their oral health habits or their ability to seek dental care.”

“No one is immune from getting this illness,” she said. “Preventing it can be challenging even in the most affluent communities.”

Stark noted that dental insurance is very expensive, and just because a person has it doesn’t mean they have access to good care. She added that many people don’t connect oral heath with overall physical well-being.

“We do know there’s a disconnect with how people value their oral health and how it relates to their overall health,” she said. “People are just getting it now that, what happens in your mouth does affect what happens to the rest of your body.”[…]

Stark said a community survey conducted in Snowmass Village earlier this year showed that 64 percent of respondents were in support of fluoridation.

A focus for care was on the lower-income residents of the valley, 25 percent of whom live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

In Colorado, 72.4 percent of the communities have access to fluoridated water, according to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stark said that children living in areas with fluoridation have a reduced number of cavities.

“For example, in Silt and Rifle where there is no fluoridation in their water, approximately 30 percent of those children have dental cavities,” she said. “Whereas the children who live in Glenwood Springs or Aspen, that do have fluoridated water, the rate is about 10 to 17 percent. So that is a significant difference.”

Dr. Kim Levin, Pitkin County medical officer, said the anti-fluoridation groups have created fear about the practice and its link to osteosarcoma (bone cancer), lower IQ, and Down syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. But she added that people need to look at the variables in each of the studies.

“For instance, the IQ study was at the Harvard School of Public Health with the China Medical University and included 8,000 school children,” she said. “Now in China, there are communities with very high levels of fluoride. … This study concluded overall that IQ was lowered by seven points in communities that had high fluoride in it. Some of these communities have more than 20 times the level of fluoride that we have in our water.”[…]

Tom Dunlop, county environmental public health advocate, said there are undocumented emotional and psychological costs associated with poor dental health that can be devastating to children.

“Loss of self-esteem by children who have such bad dental hygiene that they become reclusive, or they [feel] socially unacceptable,” he said. “They’re not going to be as active as a person that doesn’t have that kind of thing going on with them.”

Levin added that every dollar spent in fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs.

“Again, that doesn’t quantify all of these other psycho-social costs and medical issues that result from poor dental care,” she said.