#Snowpack news: Nice bump up North, South Platte up to 103%, #ColoradoRiver = 101%

Click on the thumbnail graphic below for your favorite basin to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

Billy barr, business manager at Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, confirmed that as of last weekend, total snowfall in Gothic was 28 percent below normal: 221 inches compared to an average snowfall 305 inches year-to-date.

Snowpack was 36 percent below normal. barr, who has been collecting data since the winter of 1974-75, said that placed this winter at the bottom of the barrel—40th out of 42 winters for total snowpack as of Saturday, March 12.

By Tuesday, a small snowfall had bumped it up the list, placing it slightly better than four other winters.

“It’s definitely one of the lower winters. This is very similar to last year the way the whole winter has gone, except that early in winter we had a lot of cold weather. Lately it’s been a lot of hot weather, which is why today seems so completely unenjoyable,” barr said of Tuesday’s return to winter conditions.

According to Kugel, regional SNOTEL sites show that snow water content is below average as well. The Butte site on Crested Butte Mountain is at 92 percent of average and Schofield Pass is at 84 percent of average. Water year-to-date precipitation is even lower for both locations.

“To get a complete picture of a site you need snow water content and water year-to-date precipitation. Normally they’re pretty close,” Kugel explained.

At Schofield, however, water year-to-date precipitation is 74 percent of average. Kugel said that lower percentage could reflect a dry period last October and early November, which could have left soil dry heading into winter.

“If soil is drier than normal, it adversely affects runoff. More of the melt goes in the ground rather than running into the streams,” he said.

He sees that same discrepancy at a few other locations around the basin. And while official projections suggest that Taylor Reservoir will fill by the end of June, Kugel doesn’t believe that reflects current conditions.

“That was with a higher forecast so at this point it looks like operations may need to be curtailed if we want to have Taylor Park Reservoir fill. It’s starting to have an impact on the reservoirs. Currently the storage amount is in good shape but there may need to be adjustments to have a fill on both reservoirs,” he said, referring to Blue Mesa Reservoir as well.

While this week’s snowfall does help, both barr and Kugel suggested that spring storms are going to be required to boost water supplies. Last winter, when the valley was in a similar situation, snow in April and May did make up the difference. According to barr, May was the heaviest snow month—something that never happens.

Westwide SNOTEL map March 20, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map March 20, 2016 via the NRCS.

2016 #coleg: HB16-1005 (Rain barrels) just might get to Gov. Hickenlooper’s desk this session

Photo from the Colorado Independent.
Photo from the Colorado Independent.

From The Denver Post (Samantha Fox):

The sponsors of this bill hope to encourage water-wise practices. Water-rights holders are acutely aware of the value of water and understand the importance of conservation, but they are looking for assurance that their water availability and their long-fought-for rights won’t be harmed.

After amendments added recently to address data collection on impacts, provide for a review and objection period, and expressly stipulate that rain water-harvesting does not constitute a water right, it looks like the bill may pass this time.

Take a closer look at the issue and you’ll realize it isn’t as simple as conservationists versus farming. Water rights are an important component in our state’s laws, and affect flows that underpin a broad spectrum of critical water uses, stream conservation, farming, and municipal supply, among others. They are inherently tied to our economy and ability to grow sustainably.

Denver: Montclair and Park Hill basins stormwater design fueling conflict

Here’s a deep-dive into stormwater planning in the Montclair and Park Hill basins from Alan Predergast writing in Westword. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The modest proposal, known initially as the Two Basin Drainage Project (TBDP) but now being touted as the Platte to Park Hill Stormwater Systems, is intended to help control storm runoff in the northeast part of the city — water that flows north and west from Fairmount Cemetery through the Montclair, Park Hill, Cole and Whittier neighborhoods to Elyria, Swansea, Globeville and ultimately the South Platte River. The $134 million undertaking is being overseen by Denver’s Department of Public Works, with some financial and technical assistance from the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District.

Although many details of the project are still officially “under study” and have not been finalized, certain basic features have been presented in public meetings in recent months — and have raised hackles among neighborhood groups. One essential component is an open channel, fifteen blocks long and up to a hundred feet wide, to be dug along East 39th Avenue between Franklin and Steele streets, that would slow down heavy storm runoff headed to the river. Another key piece of infrastructure is a detention “pond,” around thirty acres in size, to be situated either in the Cole neighborhood or on the golf course. The pond would remain dry except in the most extreme storm conditions, yet building it could require demolishing several houses in Cole — an early configuration, since rejected, would have taken out more than forty homes — or removing up to 280 of the 872 trees on the golf course. And that’s just for the first phase of the project, addressing drainage needs in the Montclair Basin; another detention pond is planned for the Park Hill Golf Course as part of drainage improvements for the Park Hill Basin, the second basin in the TBDP.

City officials say the project is urgently needed to fix long-festering drainage problems in some of Denver’s poorest neighborhoods — and curtail hazardous street flooding, such as one event last June 24 after heavy rains in the area. “It is my fervent belief that in this project the city is acting as an advocate for neighborhoods, to deliver the project as fast as we can to provide stormwater relief,” Gretchen Hollrah, the city’s deputy chief financial officer, told one gathering of neighborhood organizations last month.

From The Denver Post (Jon Murray):

A growing chorus of residents and activists across several neighborhoods portray I-70 as the motivating force: the largest factor driving what they see as a set of invasive projects that could scar the City Park and Park Hill golf courses, disturb potentially toxic soils, and sacrifice neighborhoods and parkland to make the highway project viable.

City officials dispute those characterizations. For months, at dozens of public and neighborhood meetings, they have underlined city experts’ assessment of the threat posed by giant storms that, even if very rare, would wreak havoc across a wide swath of the area.

Plenty agree with the plans. But even as officials honed their message, critics who sometimes discount the level of flooding threat have been emboldened.

That’s in part because some areas that would host projects wouldn’t benefit as much as the highway and other neighborhoods to the north — or, initially, at all. Those that would gain protection include parts of the city that are about to see an influx of redevelopment, including some of River North, industrial areas near I-70 and the National Western Center site, only feeding skepticism.

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin) Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin). Via Denver Public Works.
Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin). Via Denver Public Works.

Monte Vista Crane Festival recap

From The Denver Post (Jenn Fields):

Thousands of cranes come to Colorado’s San Luis Valley every spring…

Every year at this time, 20,000 sandhill cranes leave New Mexico and arrive in Colorado’s San Luis Valley to feast before taking off again for their summer breeding grounds in the greater Yellowstone area…

Seeing the sandhill cranes by the thousands is a spectacle humans can’t resist. We turn out in the thousands, too, to see them graze on fields in the San Luis Valley, perform courtship dances, flock into their roosting grounds in the evening. We’re far outnumbered, though. Jenny Nehring, one of the organizers of the Monte Vista Crane Festival, said about 6,000 people come to town to see the cranes during the festival and the weekends surrounding it.