Conservation Excellence 2016 — #Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts

Join us at
Conservation Excellence 2016!

March 14 – 16, 2016

Driscoll Student Center & Sturm College of Law
University of Denver
2055 E Evans Ave, Denver, Colorado 80210

CCLT’s Annual Conservation Excellence Conference is the place for the land conservation community across the Rocky Mountain region to share knowledge and network. With more than 250 attendees annually, CCLT’s conference helps define and influence the future of land conservation in the Intermountain West.

Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts is seeking session proposals for inclusion in the 25th anniversary event, Conservation Excellence 2016.

CCLT has a working agenda for the three-day conference.


Saguache Creek
Saguache Creek

SECWCD and Reclamation sew up master storage contract


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

In the world of water it happened in the blink of an eye.

Terms for a master contract for excess capacity storage in Lake Pueblo were negotiated between the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District in January in a four-hour session.

“That’s unheard of in recent history,” attorney Lee Miller said.

The negotiations for Aurora’s storage contract in Lake Pueblo, Southern Delivery System and the Windy Gap project by the Northern Water Conservancy District took weeks or months to complete and were hotly contested.

The Southeastern district used those negotiations to streamline its own process. The district had the advantage of preparing for the meeting for 13 years, Miller added.

The terms are essentially the same as SDS gained during its negotiations with the Bureau of Reclamation in 2010. The storage rate will be $40.04 cents per acre-foot (325,851 gallons) in 2017, and increase in subsequent years.

Colorado Springs Utilities, which led SDS negotiations, was stunned in 2010 when Reclamation announced it would use a market rate rather than cost of service in determining storage charges for long-term contracts.

Southeastern avoided the surprise.

“We worked hard for the last four years to determine the factual basis for the rates,” Miller said.

The contract potentially could be used by water providers from Salida to Eads. In its environmental impact statement, Reclamation modeled impacts for 37 water providers who would need nearly 30,000 acre-feet of storage through 2060.

Many of the participants are planning to use the Arkansas Valley Conduit, while others (Fountain, Security and Pueblo West) also have a contract through SDS.

“Now that we have a contract, we will begin working on subcontract with the participants,” Miller said. “Once we get a contract with an actual number (for storage), Reclamation will put it out for public review.”

Drainage district slashes planned fee on new construction — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel


From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Grand Valley Drainage District has slashed a fee it planned to levy on new construction to pay for storm-water improvements.

The district approved the reduction of the fee from $500 to $125 per equivalent-residential unit but also left open a way to increase the fee as economic times improve.

Some businesses in the district already have paid fees based on the $500-per-equivalent-residential unit, and any fees over $125 per unit will be repaid by the end of April, General Manager Tim Ryan said.

The development-impact fees were a sticking point between the district and critics of the fees. The Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce said they would be burdensome during an economic downturn.

“I appreciate the district’s recognition of the fragility of the economy, but this isn’t doing away with the impact fee, which is what the chamber originally asked for,” said Diane Schwenke, president and chief executive officer of the chamber.

Under the framework approved by the Drainage District board, the fee will remain at $125 per unit — or 2,500 square feet of impervious surface — until the pace of development picks up.

For every 10 percent increase in the value of building permits, the development fee will increase 25 percent, Ryan said.

“There’s a direct correlation between building permits and demand for drainage services,” Ryan said.

The district in the meantime is proceeding with plans to bill property owners within its boundaries for storm-water improvements.

Most homeowners will receive bills for $36 a year. Businesses, government buildings, nonprofits and others will be charged $36 a year, per 2,500 feet of impervious surface.

The bills are expected to go out at the end of March.

#Snowpack news: Many are hopeful for a wet spring after Feb. thaw

Westwide SNOTEL map February 26, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map February 26, 2016 via the NRCS.

From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

As of Wednesday, Durango has received 0.24 inches of precipitation this month, which is about three-quarters of an inch drier than usual, [Dennis Phillips] said. Last February, Durango had 1.17 inches of precipitation.

A dry period is common for El Nino years, but it typically occurs in January. Phillips said the lag was just how the system unfolded.

But if March follows tradition, the dry slump will come to an end.

“We’re still expecting a wet period in March,” Phillips said. “We’ll continue to build snowpack through much of March and into April. And by melting some of the low elevation snowpack, it eases the river flows and can help with some of the flooding concerns later on.”

Joe Lewandowski, spokesperson for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s southwest region, said concern won’t set in unless warm and dry weather perpetuates for the next two months…

Other western regions have fared worse from the February dry spell.

Sierra Nevada snowpack, which supplies more than 60 percent of California’s water supply, has hit a five-year high due to a strong El Nino year. But because of this month’s warmth and dryness, snowpack fell below average in mid-February.

Things are more stable for Colorado, where the statewide snowpack has remained stable.

Marcee Bidwell, executive director of Mountain Studies Institute, said because woodland trees like ponderosa rely on snowpack for moisture, winter is an important signal for the summer fire season.

“The big El Nino year flattened out,” Bidwell said. “We started with a lot of snow, which puts us ahead of some of our drier years, but it’s still not the trend we were hoping for.”

Say hello to Pondlife

Photo via
Photo via Pondlife

From Pondlife:

Pondlife collects environmental samples from urban locations and documents the microscopic organisms living within our common spaces. It’s a microscopic urban adventure, if you will.

Made using an iPhone and a microscope. All organisms are magnified 100 or 400 times. Enjoy.

Health department offers tips for #AnimasRiver recreation — The Durango Herald

Tubing the Animas River via
Tubing the Animas River via

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

Unseasonably warm weather has prompted health officials to offer tips to recreationists on the Animas River as higher water levels stir lingering sediment of 880,000 pounds of metals dumped into the river in August 2015.

San Juan Basin Health Department’s Claire Ninde said the recent spring-like temperatures, which are forecast to continue into March, has the river running high.

“So we just wanted to get ahead of it,” she said.

Every spring, snowmelt surges into the Animas, bringing with it naturally occurring sediments as well as heavy metals from mine waste, and on occasion, changing the color of the river.

But this year is different. On Aug. 5 last year, an Environmental Protection Agency crew breached the Gold King Mine portal, about 10 miles north of Silverton. The spill turned the Animas orange, and though the river returned to its normal shades of blue not long after, concerns remained about heavy-metal laden sediment which contains cadmium, lead and arsenic.

“Sediment left behind from the Gold King Mine has a noticeable yellow-orange color but is otherwise similar to the naturally occurring sediment that is present every spring as water levels rise,” Ninde said. “Exposure to both water and sediment is not expected to harm human health during typical recreational exposure.”

The San Juan Basin Health Department recommends that river users wash with soap and water after exposure, avoid extended contact, supervise children to limit exposure, properly treat water before consumption and rinse fishing and boating equipment after use.

“San Juan Basin Health Department advises the public to avoid areas with orange sediment or discolored standing water,” Ninde added.

According to a news release, the health department, along with state and local partners, is establishing a regular monitoring system of river levels.

Joe Lewandowski, spokesman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said this spring runoff wouldn’t be different than years past when it comes to fish.

“Fish in the Animas have been swimming in water that has had metal contamination for years, and they’re still safe to eat,” Lewandowski said. “Most people catch and release, but there are people who keep fish out of the Animas.”


Peter Butler with the Animas River Stakeholders Group said earlier this month that he’s not too concerned about spring runoff and the potential spike in metals from stirred-up sediment.

“Usually, the lowest metal concentrations we see throughout the year are during spring runoff, and that’s because you have so much dilution. So I’m not really expecting an issue.”

Rafting and fishing expedition companies, too, have told The Durango Herald they don’t expect the spill to deter tourists.

EPA previously said in a prepared statement it intends to monitor the river before, during and after spring runoff.

CSU ag and resource economists examine water trade-offs

Photo via Colorado State University
Photo via Colorado State University

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jason Kosovski):

As Colorado’s population grows, especially across the Front Range, issues of water rights and water usage by consumers must be balanced relative to the continued need for water by agricultural producers and the environment. Understanding the impact of changing allocations of water from agriculture to urban areas and policies aimed at conserving groundwater resources is an area of focus for Colorado State University researchers who study water economics in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

Needs outpacing supply

“We know that our water needs, both for consumers and industry, are outpacing our current water supply,” said Chris Goemans, associate professor of agricultural and resource economics. “Because water has so many sets of stakeholders – consumers, producers, and environmentalists – there is not always agreement as to how best to utilize this resource.”

Offering options for new approaches to water usage is just one way that ag and resource economists help producers navigate the challenging water allocation decisions that they face. “We don’t tell them what to do,” said Jordan Suter, an associate professor of agricultural and resource economics. “We provide them with the results of models that link producer decisions to future water availability. This information helps producers to better understand the tradeoffs that they face. Ultimately, they decide what is best for their operations and their communities.”

Collaborative projects

Goemans, Suter and other faculty members in the department take their work directly to the areas that would be most impacted by these water reallocations. They have worked hard to build relationships through community outreach and by meeting with producer groups. They also plan to utilize survey data to better understand how their research and modelling influences the opinions of producers.

Some of these faculty members are involved in collaborative projects that focus on: reducing groundwater pumping in the Northern High Plains region of Colorado; developing models to help explain how population growth in rural, urban, and translation communities has led to increased competition for land and water; and bringing electricity to rural communities in Rwanda.

Balancing the economic and environmental impact

Competition for water is not limited to people. The environment requires water for fish, wildlife and other natural functions. Dana Hoag, a professor of agricultural and resource economics, helps producers make decisions that balance the economic and environmental impact of their land and water management practices. “Providing accurate and credible information about the economic impact of pollution from agriculture allows farmers, ranchers, and off-farm stakeholders to make informed decisions about how to balance protecting the environment and farm livelihoods,” said Hoag.

The significant role of agriculture

Whether their focus is on water usage or the impact of pollution, there is no question that agriculture plays a significant role in the quantity and quality of water available. “The competition for water is real,” said Dale Manning, assistant professor of agricultural and resource economics. “Our role as a land grant institution is to provide the citizens of Colorado with information and options for water usage that help ensure that we get the most value from our scarce water resources, considering both current and future generations.”