#ColoradoRiver: Greeley Water & Sewer Board authorizes Chimney Hollow (Windy Gap Firming) expenditure

Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir -- Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call
Site of proposed Chimney Hollow Reservoir — Windy Gap Firming Project via the Longmont Times-Call

From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

Officials are working to make one of Greeley’s supplemental water suppliers more reliable, and the city may sign off on another million dollars to do it soon.

The Windy Gap Firming Project has been ongoing for decades. The goal: add to an existing water system by building the Chimney Hollow reservoir near Loveland to store more water from the Colorado River.

The current phase of the project includes finalizing some permitting and finding a designer. Greeley is splitting the project cost with 12 other agencies, and its share of this phase is about $1.1 million.

The Greeley Water and Sewer Board authorized the expense during its meeting Wednesday, but it has to get permission from the city council. That should happen next month.

The money will come out of the water and sewer board’s budget, which is funded and handled separately from the rest of the city departments.

Each user foots the bill for the project, and it’s pro-rated based on who will get the most water from it. Greeley is slated to get the third most. Platte River Power Authority is first.

The Windy Gap water system has been giving water to Greeley and a dozen other providers for decades. It gets water out of the Colorado River, where water access is competitive. Different agencies and projects have water rights, which prioritize them above one another and dictate how much water they are allowed.

During dry spells, some water rights aren’t good enough.

“There are some years where Windy Gap can’t give a drop of water,” said Brian Werner, a spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “Chimney Hollow guarantees they will have a yield.”

In the good years, when Windy Gap’s water rights allow it to take water, that water will travel through a pipeline into the reservoir. Windy Gap users can then use reservoir water during dry years.

In addition to coordinating the agencies participating in the project, Northern Water oversees the pipeline infrastructure used to move water from the Western Slope to the eastern half of the state.

The organization tends to head up multi-jurisdictional water projects, which can be grueling. Both Windy Gap and the region’s other predominant water storage effort, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, have been in permitting for more than a decade. But Windy Gap is making progress.

“We certainly see a light at the end of the tunnel for this project,” Werner said.

At the end of 2014, the Bureau of Reclamation, a federal agency that oversees natural resources such as water, signed off on the project. Now, they only need two more permits — one from Colorado that certifies water quality and one from the Army Corps of Engineers that guarantees wetland mitigation.

That brings the organizers into the next phase of planning: finding a firm to design the project. They’ll take the original plans from 12 years ago and refine them, Werner said.

Once that design is finished, the agencies will find a contractor to build the reservoir. Werner said, fingers crossed, that will happen in late 2018 or in 2019.

The Chimney Hollow reservoir will hold about 90,000 acre-feet of water.

Pueblo West official tells Pueblo County to renegotiate the SDS 1041 permit

Pueblo West
Pueblo West

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A Pueblo West Metropolitan District board member wants Pueblo County commissioners to renegotiate the 1041 agreement for the Southern Delivery System.

“There are numerous, fatal flaws in the present 1041 agreement; too many to mention,” Pueblo West board member Mark Carmel told the Pueblo Board of Water Works this week. “I respectfully suggest that the 1041 permit must be renegotiated to create a true agreement.”

It’s a significant development because Pueblo West is a partner in the SDS water pipeline project, and has already benefited from an emergency use of SDS last summer.

The metro board took a position on Jan. 12 that its water should not be held hostage during the current SDS discussions, but Carmel made it clear that he was speaking as an individual at Tuesday’s water board meeting. The metro board will meet with Colorado Springs Utilities at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to address Carmel’s concerns.

Both the water board and Pueblo City Council are pondering resolutions requiring more action on stormwater in relation to SDS. Pueblo County commissioners are in the process of determining 1041 compliance on stormwater and other issues in the permit.

The Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District has requested action by the Bureau of Reclamation under the federal SDS contract and by the Pueblo County commissioners under the 1041 permit to delay SDS until a stable source of stormwater funding is found.

Carmel, a former Pueblo County engineer, said he has seen firsthand the damage Fountain Creek causes in Pueblo. He wants to make sure Colorado Springs has adequate stormwater control measures in place.

“As Colorado Springs’ partner in the SDS project, I believe perhaps Pueblo West bears the most local responsibility to ensure SDS is implemented in such a way that the city of Pueblo does not get wiped out by floodwaters, in our name, if we stand by and do nothing,” Carmel said.

He said politicians’ current assurance of $19 million in annual funding for stormwater improvements in Colorado Springs is not adequate because future councils could easily reverse the action.

“A 10-year intergovernmental agreement is not worth the paper it is written on under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, because it may be canceled at any budget cycle,” he said.

Carmel said the 1041 agreement should be renegotiated to avoid future misunderstandings.

“Now is the time to ask Colorado Springs to cooperatively renegotiate the terms of the SDS 1041 permit to ensure that it is a win-win deal for both communities,” Carmel said. “Any deal that fails to prevent flooding in Pueblo — through a permanent funding mechanism that cannot change with each election — is not a win for Pueblo.”

NOAA: Jason-3 reaches orbit, will monitor global sea-level rise, hurricane intensity

Jason 3 photo via NOAA
Jason 3 photo via NOAA

Here’s the release from NOAA:

Jason-3, a U.S.-European satellite mission, lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California today at 10:42 a.m. PST aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, to become the latest spacecraft to track the rate of global sea-level rise. Jason-3 will also help NOAA’s National Weather Service more accurately forecast the strength of tropical cyclones that threaten America’s coasts.

Jason-3 will undergo a six-month phase to test the satellite’s instruments in orbit. Once complete, it will officially begin operations, joining Jason-2, which was launched in 2008.

While flying in a low orbit, 830 miles above the Earth, Jason-3 will use a radar altimeter instrument to monitor 95 percent of the world’s ice-free oceans every 10 days. Since the Topex/Poseidon, and Jason satellite missions started in 1992, researchers have observed global sea-level rise occurring at a rate of 3 mm a year, resulting in a total change of 70 mm — or 2.8 inches — in 23 years.

“Jason-3 will continue the legacy of the Topex/Poseidon and earlier Jason satellites by gathering environmental intelligence from the world’s oceans,” said Stephen Volz, Ph.D., assistant administrator for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service, which is leading the international mission. “Jason-3 will tell us about the heat of the ocean, vital data if a tropical storm or hurricane is tracking into that location. Having up-to-date sea surface temperatures will help NOAA forecasters better determine if a storm may intensify.”

Jason-3 is an international mission, in which NOAA is partnering with NASA, the Centre national d’études spatiales (CNES, the French Space Agency) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

“Jason-3 is a prime example of how our nation leverages NASA expertise in space and scientific exploration to help address critical global challenges in collaboration with NOAA and our international partners,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters. “The measurements from Jason-3 will advance our efforts to understand the Earth as a system and the causes of sea level rise.”

Data from Jason-3 will be used for other scientific, commercial, and operational applications, including: deep-ocean and wave modeling, surface wave forecasting for offshore operators; forecasting tides and currents for commercial shipping and ship routing; coastal forecasting for response to environmental challenges, including oil spills and harmful algal blooms; coastal modeling, which is crucial for marine mammal and coral reef research and El Niño and La Niña forecasting.

For more information about the Jason-3 mission, please visit: http://www.nesdis.noaa.gov/jason-3. This site includes videos, images, fact sheets, and frequently asked questions.

USDA report: #ClimateChange and the US Food System


Click here to read the report. Here’s the brief:

Report in Brief

Food security—the ability to obtain and use sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food—is a fundamental human need. Climate change is very likely to affect global, regional, and local food security by disrupting food availability, decreasing access to food, and making food utilization more difficult.

Food security exists “when all people at all times have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” and affects people through both under- and overconsumption. Food security requires that food be simultaneously (1) available—that it exist in a particular place at a particular time, (2) that people can access that food through economic or other means, (3) that people can utilize the food that is available and accessible to them, and (4) that each of these components be stable over time. Constrictions within any of these components can result in food insecurity.

Food is provisioned through a food system that manifests in diverse ways across the globe. The food system includes all activities related to producing, transporting, trading, storing, processing, packaging, wholesaling, retailing, consuming, and disposing of food. Whether an individual food system includes few, many, or all of these elements, each is susceptible to risks from a changing climate.

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, have increased global greenhouse gas concentrations; atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the late 1700s to today’s level of about 400 ppm. Concentrations continue to rise, though future levels depend on choices and development pathways yet to be determined. Additionally, the future condition of the food system depends upon socioeconomic trajectories that are external to the food system itself. For these reasons, a range of possible emissions futures and socioeconomic pathways have been considered by this assessment.

The Climate Change, Global Food Security, and U.S. Food System assessment represents a consensus of authors and includes contributors from 19 Federal, academic, nongovernmental, and intergovernmental organizations in four countries, identifying climate-change effects on global food security through 2100, and analyzing the United States’ likely connections with that world.

The assessment finds that climate change is likely to diminish continued progress on global food security through production disruptions leading to local availability limitations and price increases, interrupted transport conduits, and diminished food safety, among other causes. The risks are greatest for the global poor and in tropical regions. In the near term, some high-latitude production export regions may benefit from changes in climate.

As part of a highly integrated global food system, consumers and producers in the United States are likely to be affected by these changes. The type and price of food imports from other regions are likely to change, as are export demands placed upon U.S. producers and the transportation, processing, and storage systems that enable global trade. Demand for food and other types of assistance may increase, as may demand for advanced technologies to manage changing conditions.

Adaptation across the food system has great potential to manage climate-change effects on food security, and the complexity of the food system offers multiple potential points of intervention for decision makers at every level, from households to nations and international governance structures. However, effective adaptation is subject to highly localized conditions and socioeconomic factors, and the technical feasibility of an adaptive intervention is not necessarily a guarantee of its application if it is unaffordable or does not provide benefits within a relatively short time frame, particularly for smaller operations around the world with limited capacity for long-term investments. The accurate identification of needs and vulnerabilities, and the effective targeting of adaptive practices and technologies across the full scope of the food system, are central to improving global food security in a changing climate.

#AnimasRiver: Silverton drafting Superfund-seeking letter to Colorado’s governor — The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):

Attorneys for Silverton and San Juan County are in the process of drafting a letter to the governor in support of Superfund cleanup for its leaching, abandoned mines.

While the request still must be approved by the town’s elected officials next week, the action represents the most significant move since the Gold King Mine spill in August prompted cries for a large-scale federal intervention.

“It’s a giant step,” said Bill Gardner, Silverton’s town administrator…

Next week, Silverton and San Juan County’s elected leaders will meet to discuss the letter and Superfund with each other and the town’s roughly 500 year-round residents. On Jan. 28, the leaders will take a final vote.

“It’s democracy in action,” Gardner said. “We are trying to ensure there’s absolute transparency.”

Ernie Kuhlman, chairman of the County Commission, says he doesn’t see any obstacles to the letter being approved.

The town’s leaders have been in talks with the EPA and Colorado health officials over the past several months about the extent of a hazard listing. Some locals have pushed back, questioning what Superfund could mean for their community.

Mark Esper, editor of The Silverton Standard and The Miner, the town’s newspaper, estimated that about 80 percent of the community now supports Superfund.

He said acceptance of the program really grew after Silverton leaders and county commissioners went on a three-day fact-finding mission in November to four of Colorado’s largest Superfund mine sites.

“I thought it was going to be a much tougher fight than it was,” Esper said of embracing a national priority listing. “That field trip was like the road to Damascus.”

While final details of what the cleanup would look like haven’t been made public, Silverton has stipulated that a Superfund designation not include the confines of their town or be named after their community.

Kuhlman said he still worried about stigma about a Superfund listing.

“I think everybody should be, to some degree,” he said. “We don’t want Silverton to be known as the Superfund site, necessarily. But we’ve got a problem that we’ve got to take care of.”

Meanwhile, heavy metals leach into the Animas River watershed from the mines that dot Silverton’s surroundings. A temporary water treatment plant erected by the EPA is treating the contaminants flowing from the Gold King at a cost of about $16,000 a week.

After the EPA-caused Gold King spill in August, and under immense pressure from its downstream neighbors, Silverton’s leaders have said it appears Superfund is their only option.

On Tuesday night, Durango’s City Council passed a resolution supporting Superfund for their upstream neighbors in Silverton.

Lower Ark board meeting recap

From The Fowler Tribune (Bette McFarren):

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board of directors determined to send letters to the Board of Reclamation and the Pueblo County Commissioners at their Monday meeting.

The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board of directors determined to send letters to the Board of Reclamation and the Pueblo County Commissioners at their Monday meeting. They also heard informative reports, backed a youth program for the Colorado State Fair, and gave Mark Pifher a dubious reception on the latest Colorado Springs stormwater control program.

Attorneys Melissa Esquibel and Peter Nichols prepared letters to the Bureau of Reclamation and to the Pueblo County Commissioners concerning the stormwater issue with Colorado Springs. Mark Pifher was present to represent Colorado Springs and presented their new plan, which sounded suspiciously like their old plan to the LAVWCD. “We’re sketchy,” said Nichols. Nichols asked for a copy of the plan.

The letter written by Attorney Melissa Esquibel and board member Anthony Nunez of Pueblo asked the Board of Reclamation to review the contract for the Southern Delivery System and suspend it until Colorado Springs can prove it has a stormwater system. At the meeting, Manager Jay Winner and Chairman Lynden Gill established the plan as presented by Pifher has no oversight, other than the city itself.

The letter drafted by Peter Nichols at Winner’s request, is to Pueblo County commissioners. It cites provisions in Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for SDS that require Colorado Springs to meet all federal, state and local permits, regulations and laws.

Reeves Brown asked for a contribution from the Board of $1,872 initially and $400 a year, for as long as they wanted to be members, for the 1872 Club, a part of a foundation for the support of State Fair activities. This club supports the young exhibitors, the FFA and 4-H members who participate in the fair competitions each year. The board agreed with and passed his request.

Hydrologist Karl Wetlaufer, United States Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service, explained the Snotel program for reporting snowpack and its effect on stream flow and water supply in Colorado. Snotel stands for SNOwpack TELemetry system. It is a data collection system that works through radio transmission to the ionosphere, where the information is bounced back to centers which collate and put the data on the Internet. There are 183 Snotel sites, 114 in Colorado, 20 in Wyoming, 27 in New Mexico and 22 in Arizona. In addition, there are 95 snow courses in Colorado. The shelter with instrumentation weighs the snow and the precipitation gauge checks the moisture content. There is one problem: animals tend to wander in; a dead elk once made the report look as though there was a large snowfall in one isolated area.

At present, the Arkansas River Basin is 112 percent of normal and 102 percent of yearly accumulation. Working with figures from the snowpack, engineers can predict water supply available in the state.

Judy Lopez, program director, Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative, made a presentation for Environthon, an educational competition for students in grades 9 through 12. Environthon focuses on five areas: 1. aquatics and water usage and laws, 2. soil and land usage and agriculture, 3. forestry, 4. wildlife, bugs to large animals, 5. weeds and other non-native critters which shouldn’t be here. They hope to encourage future hydrologists, foresters, and others who serve the environment. She asked the LAVWCD Board to become a banner sponsor, at the $1,000, $1,500, $2,000, $2,500 or up level. They took the matter under advisement.

Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph January 20, 2016 via the NRCS.
Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph January 20, 2016 via the NRCS.

President Obama vetoes Republican attempt to overturn EPA #wotus rule

From The Greeley Tribune (Nikki Work):

After both houses of Congress passed a joint resolution to nullify the controversial Clean Water Rule, commonly known as Waters of the U.S., President Barack Obama vetoed the bill Wednesday. The Senate tried to keep the resolution alive in a cloture vote Thursday, but majority leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was unable to secure the necessary three-fifths majority needed to overturn the veto.

Waters of the U.S., a rule which went into effect in August of this past year, clarifies the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army under the Clean Water Act in cases of smaller bodies of flowing water.

The rule has come under fire by many industries, including agriculture, oil and gas, construction and more, for its vague terminology and ambiguity. Critics of the rule call it overreaching and say it may give the government too much control over small waterways like irrigation ditches, augmentation ponds and even waterways that sit empty for parts of the year.

On Aug. 28, 2015, the day the rule went into effect, so did an injunction protecting 13 states, including Colorado, from its reach. In October, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals approved an injunction, staying the rule’s power until further review. In that ruling, the court decided “the sheer breadth of the ripple effects caused by the Rule’s definitional changes” was reason enough to stay implementation of Waters of the U.S.


Even though the injunction is keeping the Waters of the U.S. at bay right now, it’s the uncertainty of how long it will stay that way that’s worrying farmers.


Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voted against S.J. 22 initially and voted against cloture. In a statement from the Senator’s office, spokesman Philip Clelland said Bennet plans to continue to work with Coloradans to balance the need for regulation and the desire for regulations to not be burdensome.

Since this bill is off the table, the next steps for Congress to address Waters of the U.S. lie in other legislation. Gardner said he supports a bill in the works to send the Clean Water Rule back to the EPA for rewrites.

From The Durango Herald (Edward Graham):

Opponents of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Waters of the United States rule failed to garner enough votes in the Senate on Thursday to override President Barack Obama’s veto of their resolution of disapproval regarding the rule.

“The responsibility for managing Colorado’s water should be left to state and local governments along with our water districts, not with the federal government through overreaching regulations like WOTUS,” Gardner said in a statement soon after casting his vote. “I will continue to forcefully oppose WOTUS and take any steps possible to block its implementation.”

The 52-40 vote came short of the 60 votes needed to override the president’s veto. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voted against overriding the veto.

The anti-WOTUS resolution, of which Gardner was a co-sponsor, passed the U.S. Senate in November on a 53-44 vote. Last week, the House of Representatives voted 253-166 in favor of the resolution, sending it to the president.

“Clarifying the scope of the Clean Water Act helps to protect these resources and safeguard public health,” President Obama said in his veto message on Tuesday. “Because this resolution seeks to block the progress represented by this rule and deny businesses and communities the regulatory certainty and clarity needed to invest in projects that rely on clean water, I cannot support it.”

Opponents of the rule change view it as a federal takeover of water rights on private lands that would expose impacted landowners to higher compliance costs.

The EPA says the rule does not protect any new types of water, regulate ditches or groundwater, or create new requirements that would impact private property rights…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued a nationwide stay on the WOTUS rule’s implementation in October while it determines jurisdiction over challenges to the rule.