#ClimateChange: Retreating glaciers a sign of Alaska’s major meltdown — @HighCountryNews

Mendenhall Glacier in winter via Wikimedia Commons.
Mendenhall Glacier in winter via Wikimedia Commons.

From the High Country News (Paige Blankenbuehler):

As the climate warms, glacier retreat is just one impact that climate scientists expect to happen more frequently. Melting permafrost and sea ice are also causing major problems. Some Alaskan coastal communities have already been forced to move inland as sea level rise erodes the coastline and thawing permafrost causes infrastructure to fail.

Melting this summer is far-outpacing climate projections, says Julienne Stroeve, a research scientist for the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), based in Boulder, Colorado.

Alaskan glaciers in total lose ice at a rate of around 75 billion metric tons each year, according to a 2015 study by the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Alaska, Fairbanks. But this summer, reports NSIDC, glaciers are melting 70 percent faster than the typical rate, thanks to warming temperatures.

Over the past 60 years, the state’s average temperature has increased by about 3 degrees, about twice the rate of warming experienced by the rest of the country, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and over the past three months temperatures have run as much as 8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Under current climate projections, temperatures can be expected to rise up to 12 degrees in the north, 10 degrees in the interior, and 8 degrees in the rest of the state by 2050.

Of course glaciers aren’t the only mass melting in Alaska. In June, Arctic sea ice hit a new record low. The average sea ice extent in June, according to NSIDC data, was 100,000 square miles smaller than in 2010, when the last record low was set. NASA Landsat satellites found that over the past century permafrost in Alaska has warmed up to 7 degrees, and researchers from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, say it could lose more than 60 percent of its current permafrost mass.

The various types of melting — be it from glaciers, sea ice or permafrost — have disparate effects on climate and sea-level rise, but all contribute to the instability of communities in the state. Glacier melt, globally, has added about a half inch of sea level rise per year or about 30 percent of total rise observed since 2003. As sea ice melts, it accelerates warming of Arctic waters because there’s less ice to reflects the heat from the sun, Stroeve says. Permafrost’s greatest impacts are to climate (methane gas is released as it melts) and to infrastructure built upon frozen ground that bends and breaks as the soil thaws.

While melting glaciers and lake outbursts, like the recent flooding at Mendenhall Lake, are more dramatic, it’s the sum of total impacts that will affect Alaskan populations. As melting from land ice, which includes glaciers, ice sheets and ice caps, as well as sea ice and permafrost continue, many communities are at risk of displacement. In Anchorage, Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Immigration Justice Project, tracks climate events like glaciers melting as she develops programs that might one day provide aid to Alaskan climate refugees. Many villages in northwest Alaska already have crumbling infrastructure that’s fracturing as permafrost melts, and are consequently without running water. “This is an example of how completely unprepared we are to adapt to the radical changes that are happening to our environment,” she says. “The relocation of populations is going to be one of the most complicated strategies that humanity will have to develop.”

Currently, two northwestern Alaska villages, Shishmaref and Kivalina are considering relocation. Newtok has already started. In 2011, residents began moving to Mertarvik, about 9 miles away, but it will take until 2021 to finish the relocation, and by next year, erosion is projected to reach the school, the largest building in the community.

Bronen says that relocating residents from such communities should happen years before natural disasters force relocations, but presently there isn’t funding or any programs in place. “It fills me with despair,” she says. “If the United States doesn’t have the capacity to do this, what’s the hope that any other country will?”

Public Invited to Discuss Progress on Monument Creek Watershed Restoration Planning

Monument Creek, taken looking south from the northern section of Monument Valley Park via Loraxis
Monument Creek, taken looking south from the northern section of Monument Valley Park via Loraxis

Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District will hold its second round of public open houses to present information on the Monument Creek Watershed Restoration Master Plan project and to collect input from the public. The public will have an opportunity to learn about analysis results to date and provide input on alternatives being considered to mitigate flooding and erosion issues within the study area.

Please join the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Colorado Springs Utilities and the United States Air Force Academy at public information open houses regarding flood restoration and mitigation planning within the Monument Creek Watershed.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has received funding from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs to investigate restoration planning options for the Monument Creek Watershed. Several of the creeks within the watershed suffered from extensive flooding during the summer and fall of 2013, as well as from the recent Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires. El Paso County, the City of Colorado Springs, the United States Air Force Academy and other regional municipalities and agencies have undertaken various projects to mitigate the risk and maintain the proper flow and water levels in the main stem of Monument Creek and a number of tributaries. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District has organized the public stakeholders to coordinate the restoration planning and implementation of projects to restore the Monument Creek Watershed to a resilient and naturally-stable condition and mitigate the risk of future flooding.

Two open house meetings will be held in July 2016 in ADA-accessible facilities. Each meeting will address the alternatives being considered for restoring the watershed.

Public Invited to Discuss Progress on Monument Creek Watershed Restoration Planning
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
5 to 7 p.m.
Discovery Canyon Campus, Middle School Library 1810 North Gate Blvd.
Colorado Springs, CO 80921

Thursday, July 21, 2016
Rockrimmon Library, Meeting Room 832 Village Center Drive
Colorado Springs, CO 80919

A Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TDD/TTY) is available to the public at each of these meetings by calling 7-1-1 and asked to be connected to 719-447-9012. Persons with disabilities may contact the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District and request reasonable accommodations such as a sign language interpreter by contacting Larry Small or Graham Thompson at the numbers/email addresses below as soon as possible.

For more information contact Larry Small, Executive Director, Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District at (719) 447-5012 (lsmall42@comcast.net) or Graham Thompson, Matrix Design Group at (719) 575-0100 (graham_thompson@matrixdesigngroup.com).

Building a New Future for the #ColoradoRiver — Audubon #COriver


Here’s an interview with Audubon’s new Colorado River Project director, Jennifer Pitt, from Xander Zellner writing for the Audubon website. Here’s an excerpt:

Over the past century, the dams and diversions built to support the explosive growth of cities and agriculture in the American West have left the once-mighty Colorado River a shadow of its former self. The river, which once flowed straight to the Gulf of California, and through parts of Mexico, is now fully allocated for human use, and dries up some 100 miles short of the sea, disrupting the riparian ecosystems along the river’s banks. With climate change promising to make water an even scarcer commodity, it’s more important than ever that water-management plans in the West take the health of the river and the wildlife it supports into account.

That’s where Jennifer Pitt, the National Audubon Society’s new Colorado River project director, comes in. Before joining Audubon last winter, Pitt spent 17 years working on Colorado River projects for the Environmental Defense Fund, including taking part in the negotiations for Minute 319, an historic water-sharing agreement between the United States and Mexico. Through that treaty, conservationists were able to secure a delivery of 34 billion gallons water to the Colorado River Delta; that release of water allowed the Colorado River to flow all the way to the Gulf of California for the first time in decades, providing a desperately needed shot of hydration to the delta’s ecosystems. In her role at Audubon, Pitt is working on the negotiations for the second iteration of the Minute 319 agreement, in addition to increasing Audubon’s role in western water policy to ensure the Colorado River is used to support both people and wildlife.

Pitt spoke with Audubon about how she’s hoping to change the future of the Colorado River, and why the moment is ripe for productive partnerships between conservationists and other Colorado River stakeholders.

Audubon: Why are we at a such a critical moment for the Colorado River?

Jennifer Pitt: There is no excess water in the Colorado River; it’s all been over-allocated. From a water supply perspective, or water user’s perspective, the fact that demand now exceeds supply is the big story. The reservoirs are 50 percent empty right now—as an average—and in the last 15 years of drought, instead of reducing uses, we’ve been emptying what’s in storage. And we can’t do that forever, obviously.

A: What’s been the impact on wildlife that depends on the river?

JP: Eighty percent of the water in the Colorado River starts out as snow: It snows in the mountains and then over the late spring and summer, that snow begins to melt and it flows into headwater creeks and flows downstream and into the bigger rivers, eventually flowing all the way down to the Upper Gulf of California. The riparian forests—the cottonwoods and willows—evolved along with these big spring and summer floods. For those trees to grow or reproduce, they need to have floods that get onto the river bank. That’s how you sustain healthy riparian forests over time.

But that water cycle has been quite altered by the extensive building of reservoir storage on this river and by all the diversions. From the bird’s-eye view, there’s been a loss of the healthy riparian forests extensively through the entire watershed.

In the Colorado River Delta, the environmental impact of the imbalance between supply and demand has been quite extreme. The delta was North America’s most significant desert estuary—380 bird species have used the habitat in the delta. Remnant wetlands in the region support 70 percent of the entire population of the Yuma Ridgeway’s Rail, an endangered bird. But until the Minute 319 treaty in 2012, the delta had been decimated.

A: How do we ensure that in the midst of this water crisis, wildlife and their habitats get their due?

JP: A couple of decades ago, the conservation community on its own had all these ideas about how to change water management to be more in line with what we need for healthy rivers to support fish and wildlife. And we weren’t making a lot of progress, because water users had a management system that was working for them.

We’re now in a moment where everything is not working for the water users. The water stored in Colorado River reservoirs is declining nearly every year, and we’re witnessing an extended drought. Climate change is already decreasing water availability in this region, and over the next several decades we’ll see the impact of those reduced flows playing out to an even greater degree. On top of that, more and more people continue to move into this region.

Water users and managers across this region have been forced to a day of reckoning; they have to take a fresh look at how water is managed and used in this region. And as they’re doing that, Audubon has an opportunity to come to the table to look for places where river and water management can align better with what we need to sustain healthy habitats for birds and wildlife.

A: Why has the existing legal framework been so challenging to work with?

JP: Let me take you back to the first European settlers who moved out to this region to mine. There was a gold rush here around 1859 and in order to do the mining they needed a water supply. Some guy went up to the mountains and he diverts the creek so he has a flow going through. So he’s got his mine up and running and he’s getting gold and getting rich. The next spring, some other dude comes and claims a mining claim further up the mountain. Now the first guy who was there, his water dries out because the guy uphill from him is diverting the water. It’s on that settlement pattern that the one of the fundamentals of water management was established—and it’s called the Doctrine of Prior Appropriations: The first person who diverted the water has the most senior right and the new guy is not allowed to take water until the first person gets all of their water.

A: Is this system outdated?

JP: It’s just the way it is. There’s not going to be a revolution; we’re not trying to wipe the legal system clean and start over from scratch. Thousands of people own water rights, and this is the United States of America, so we’re not going to seize their property. So the question is, how can you—within the constraints of this existing system—build policies and programs and investments and infrastructure that meet 21st century water needs? The fundamental thing we need to ensure is that we’re taking care of our rivers is to include river health as one factor when making decisions.

A: What’s the big project on your plate right now?

JP: Minute 319 expires in 2017, and at the moment, the United States and Mexico are engaged in figuring out the next agreement. They don’t want to just let the agreement expire; they want a new version, which might be exactly the same or it might be modified. I’m working on trying to make sure that that agreement has solid components that ensure that the water deliveries go to environmental purposes. And I’m also working on making sure that we’re implementing the existing commitments to flows and dollars in restoration [for the existing agreement].

New report shows how global warming will affect birds and reptiles in the Southwest.

Summit County Citizens Voice

 red-tailed hawk Global warming will take a toll on reptiles and birds in the Southwest. @bberwyn photo.

Many bird species could lose between 78 and 85 percent of their existing habitat

Staff Report

Birds and reptiles in the Southwest that live in fragmented habitat will be hit hardest by global warming in the decades ahead, according to a new study by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the Northern Arizona University.

The researchers took a close look at about 30 different animals, including well-known species such as the Gila monster, horned lizard, chuckwalla, Sonoran desert tortoise, pinyon jay, pygmy nuthatch, sage thrasher and black-throated sparrow.

A few species could see their habitat expand as the climate warms, but many others will be hit hard by global warming. Most climate models project temperatures to increase by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit in the Southwest in the next century, while precipitation is expected…

View original post 541 more words

Retrofitting dams in the West for hydroelectric — The Mountain Town News

Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR. Granby Dam was retrofitted with a hydroelectric component and began producing electricity earlier this year (2016) as water is released in the Colorado River.
Lake Granby spill June 2011 via USBR. Granby Dam was retrofitted with a hydroelectric component and began producing electricity earlier this year (2016) as water is released in the Colorado River.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

One by one, many of the dams built during the 20th century are being retrofitted with hydroelectric turbines to create non-carbon electricity.

In May, power generation began at Granby Dam. The 298-foot-tall dam on the Colorado River was completed in 1959. It is used to hold water that is sent via a tunnel under Rocky Mountain National Park (and the Continental Divide) to cities and farms along Colorado’s Front Range.

The installation cost $5.7 million and can produce 4 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. That’s enough for 370 customers of Mountain Parks, the local electrical co-operative for the Grand Lake-Winter Park area.

In Wyoming, the Snake River originates in and near Yellowstone National Park, flowing south through Jackson Hole, where it is impounded by a dam in Grand Teton National Park. Paul Hansen, who has spent the last 40 years as an environmental advocate for the Izaak Walton League and other organizations, says he would never have built a dam there. But the dam exists, and so it should be evaluated for its potential to produce electricity, he says.

The Snake River, Jackson Lake Dam and the Teton Range. 1997 photo/Wikipedia
The Snake River, Jackson Lake Dam and the Teton Range. 1997 photo/Wikipedia

The potential, he says, is to produce enough electricity for more than 3,000 homes in the town of Jackson. It’s also almost exactly the amount that Grand Teton National Park and its concessions use.

“That would effectively make Grand Teton National Park the first carbon-neutral national park in America,” he says. In 2012, a smaller hydro generator was brought on line in Yellowstone.

Currently, most of the power in Jackson Hole comes from hydroelectric dams in the Columbia River Basin, including the Snake River, a tributary. That allocation is now fully subscribed. New demand is supplied from fossil fuel plants.

Hansen, writing in the Jackson Hole News&Guide, says that the hydro conversion has been blocked in the past by sentiments of “not in my backyard.” That, he says, is not a pro-environment position.

#ColoradoRiver: Berkeley Lab to Lead the Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area — Berkeley Lab Earth & Environmental Sciences #COriver

Here’s the release from Berkeley Lab (Maryann Villavert):

Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division Ecology Department Environmental and Biological Systems Science Program Domain Environmental Remediation & Water Resources Program Geochemistry Department Geophysics Department Hydrogeology Department

The mountainous headwaters East River catchment, located in the Upper Colorado River Basin, serves as a testbed for the SFA team. Credit Roy Kaltschmidt (2014), Berkeley Lab.
The mountainous headwaters East River catchment, located in the Upper Colorado River Basin, serves as a testbed for the SFA team. Credit Roy Kaltschmidt (2014), Berkeley Lab.

Berkeley Lab will lead the Watershed Function Scientific Focus Area (SFA) to quantify how perturbations to mountainous watershed—floods, drought, fire and early snowmelt—impact the downstream delivery of water, nutrients, carbon, and metals. Researchers will observe and model watershed response to perturbations over seasonal to decadal timeframes, and from genome to watershed scales. The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research greenlighted the Watershed Function SFA earlier this week. DOE will fund the project at over $20 million for three years.

The Watershed Function SFA takes a “system-of-systems” approach, as depicted in this illustration, to quantify how fine-scale processes occurring in different watershed subsystems aggregate into downgradient export of water, nitrogen, carbon, and metals. (Credit: D. Swantek)
The Watershed Function SFA takes a “system-of-systems” approach, as depicted in this illustration, to quantify how fine-scale processes occurring in different watershed subsystems aggregate into downgradient export of water, nitrogen, carbon, and metals. (Credit: D. Swantek)

The SFA’s research site is the mountainous East River watershed in the Upper Colorado River Basin. Mountainous watersheds are recognized as the ‘water towers’ of the Earth. The Upper Colorado is perhaps the most important basin in the Western U.S.—it supplies water to more than one in ten Americans, irrigation water and nutrients to more than 5.5 million acres of land, and more than 4,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power. The East River mountainous headwaters catchment provides an ideal testbed for the team to discover and predict water and biogeochemical cycles, and how disturbances influence downstream water discharge, carbon cycles, and nutrient delivery.

“The East River catchment represents an incredible natural laboratory for pursuing research that links climate, hydrology, biogeochemistry and vegetation, with the site constituting an exciting new “community watershed” for DOE, Berkeley Lab, and their collaborating institutions,” says deputy lead Ken Williams.

“The project will develop the first ever scale-adaptive approach that will enable scientists to zoom into a watershed, simulating microbially mediated and other fine-scale processes only when and where that information is needed to accurately predict watershed behavior,” says Susan Hubbard, SFA lead. “Capabilities to predict the multi-scale response of watersheds respond to extreme weather, land use change, and climate change are not currently available, but are increasingly needed as resource managers strive to optimize hydropower, agriculture, water quality, and water resources over seasonal to annual timescales. This project will tackle that gap by developing modeling capabilities, observational tools, and deep insights about how vulnerable mountainous watersheds respond to increasingly common perturbations.”

The team is taking a ‘system of systems’ perspective to explore and simulate the aggregated response of complex multi-scale, multi-physics processes that occur across bedrock to canopy compartments. A key aspect is the development and testing of a scale-adaptive watershed simulation capability.

The project takes advantage of and integrates the team’s deep expertise in environmental microbiology, hydrology, geochemistry, ecology, geophysics, data science and computational science. The project builds on the team’s previous Genome-to-Watershed SFA efforts, and the scale-adaptive modeling will use the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a Department of Energy user facility located at Berkeley Lab.

The Watershed Function SFA is led by Susan Hubbard, the Associate Lab Director for the Earth & Environmental Sciences Area at Berkeley Lab, and involves more than 65 scientists. Partner institutions are: University of California, Berkeley; Colorado School of Mines; Fort Lewis College; University of Arizona; Desert Research Institute; Navarro, Inc.; Subsurface Insights. Scientists at several other institutions also are participating.

Several Earth & Environmental Sciences Area scientists help to lead the SFA, including Ken Williams, deputy SFA lead, and team leads Eoin Brodie, Jill Banfield, Harry Beller, Tetsu Tokunaga, Nick Bouskill, Phil Long, Deb Agarwal, Peter Nico, Carl Steefel and Haruko Wainwright. Other team leads include Heidi Steltzer of Fort Lewis College and Reed Maxwell of Colorado School of Mines.

The Watershed Function SFA team. Credit Deb Agarwal, Berkeley Lab (2016).
The Watershed Function SFA team. Credit Deb Agarwal, Berkeley Lab (2016).

More coverage from Simmone Shaw writing for The Daily Californian:

Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory received $20 million from the Department of Energy last week to lead a three-year research project in the Upper Colorado River Basin, where they will study the processes that influence water availability and water quality as a result of climate change…

The University of Oregon is working on a similar study, the Alsea project, which focuses on how logging affects watershed in Oregon creeks. Another related project, the Flood Prevention Authority, is working on a four-part plan to understand the characteristics of watershed and the changes over time that affect flooding of California’s Pajaro River, with an end goal of preventing floods.

According to Williams, the team hopes to artificially create conditions for early snow melt by the winter of 2017-18. Researchers then plan to compare and contrast how the artificial melt and snow melting in current conditions will impact their respective environments, though Williams noted that the experiments would have to be continued for multiple years to get an accurate understanding of the longterm effects of snow melt times on vegetation.

“As a resident of a state where we are fundamentally dependent on the Colorado River, I am excited to participate in a project that is looking to understand the impact of system disturbance on the Colorado River system,” Williams said.

#RioGrande: Texas gets boost in New Mexico water fight — Midland Reporter-Herald

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins
Rio Grande and Pecos River basins

From The Texas Tribune (Jim Malewitz) via The Midland Reporter-Herald:

More than three years after Texas filed a complaint in the U.S. Supreme Court alleging that New Mexican farmers were slurping up too much water along the river — illegally curbing the flow downstream into Texas — the justices appear likely to take up the challenge.

That’s after Gregory Grimsal, a court-appointed special master, issued a draft report recommending that the court deny New Mexico’s motion to dismiss the complaint, a major development in the high-stakes dispute.

“This is a big victory for the state of Texas,” said Russell Johnson, a water rights lawyer who is not involved in the case. “The special master has in essence swept aside the impediments to Texas pursuing a claim.”

If Texas ultimately prevails, it could receive more than just extra water. New Mexico could be forced to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, experts say.

Like most interstate water skirmishes, this one is complicated and has deep historical roots. Grimsal’s report, currently in draft form, spans 273 pages.

Here are five things you should know about the battle.

  • — The Rio Grande holds some of the most studied and squabbled-over waters in North America. And it’s drying up.
  • The river is lifeblood for folks in three U.S. states and Mexico. It’s an international border. It’s ravaged by drought. The river begins about 12,000 feet above sea level in Colorado and flows southeast after cutting through New Mexico. It forms the Texas-Mexico border between Chihuahua State and El Paso, where it flows through a concrete channel.
  • Elephant Butte Reservoir back in the day nearly full
    Elephant Butte Reservoir back in the day nearly full
  • Before reaching Texas, the Rio Grande collects at New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is currently just 13 percent full.
  • Of the American West’s four iconic river basins, the Rio Grande is “facing the largest climate-change water-supply deficits,” according to a December 2015 report in the journal Ecological Applications.
  • — The three-state Rio Grande Compact prevents states from claiming more than their fair share of the water. Except when it doesn’t.
  • In the 1910 Rio Grande Project, the federal government established an irrigation system aimed at helping agriculture and industry in the states the river flows through. But that project, which also upheld a 1906 treaty that promises Mexico 60,000 acre-feet of water annually, didn’t specifically address state-by-state allocation. Historically, Texas has received 43 percent of the water, with New Mexico getting 57 percent.

    Congress approved the Rio Grande Compact in 1938, which determined how much water folks in Texas — the most downstream state — should get before those upstream sucked it up. Or so Texas argues.

    Now, the states are fighting over whether the compact actually requires New Mexico to cede a certain amount of water to Texas.

    — Both states’ arguments have quirks.

    Texas claims New Mexico is siphoning off more water than the compact allows by drawing too much from the river itself and pumping too much groundwater from wells nearby.

    The groundwater argument “is probably what makes New Mexico go batshit crazy,” said Johnson, the water rights attorney.

    That’s because Texas law does not recognize the nexus between groundwater and surface water — that over-pumping can lower river levels. Since New Mexico’s law does make the connection, however, Texas argues that it has the responsibility to ensure its wells are not curbing the river’s flow.

    New Mexico points out that the compact does not explicitly state that it must deliver 43 percent of water to the state line. Rather, the agreement aims only to ensure enough water flows into the Elephant Butte Reservoir and is properly stored, the state claims. Previous agreements, in fact, had split the water between the two states.

    That line of defense may be “ignoring reality,” Johnson said. “That seems to fly in the face of what the compact was intended to do — apportion the water between the states.”

    — This time, the feds are siding with Texas

    Despite Texas’ often-testy relationship with the federal government, the Obama administration actually supports the state’s position here.

    In 2014, the U.S. solicitor general filed a motion to intervene on the Lone Star State’s side, arguing that the 43 percent figure of water New Mexico must send into Texas was “frozen” by the time the compact took effect.
    The federal government also believes it has a stake in the outcome because of its international duties to provide Rio Grande water to Mexico, as detailed in the 1906 treaty.

    But the federal government might not get the chance to make those arguments before the justices. That’s because Grimsal, the special master, recommended that the court dismiss the federal motion “to the extent that it fails to state a claim” under the compact.

    New Mexico officials have focused on that partial victory in their public statements.

    “We applaud the Special Master’s suggestion to limit the claims of the United States, and we will continue to work diligently in protecting the interests of all New Mexicans and our water,” Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, said in a statement this week.

    — Resolving this case could still take years and plenty of taxpayer money.

    It’s not clear when the Supreme Court will decide whether to accept the case. And if the challenge moves forward, that will take some time.

    Though Grimsal’s report was filled with plenty of facts for the justices to evaluate, his job could be just beginning. If the case continues, he would oversee a full-fledged trial — complete with extensive discovery — before the justices ever heard oral arguments.

    Together, the states and federal government have already been charged nearly $400,000 for Grimsal’s services, according to court documents. That tab will likely grow.

    Meanwhile, the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has spent nearly $116,000 litigating the case, its records show.

    Paxton declined to comment on the case.

    A spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said that agency agrees with Grimsal’s recommendation. “We believe we have a strong case and the draft opinion validates the need to litigate Texas’ concerns,” Terry Clawson said in an email.

    Each party has until Aug. 1 to comment on the report. Grimsal can still make changes before submitting his final recommendations.