Fountain Creek damage in 2015 pegged at $76 million — The Pueblo Chieftain

Overton Road flood damage photo via
Overton Road flood damage photo via

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

More than one-quarter of the banks along Fountain Creek were severely damaged by last year’s continual high water that would cost $76 million to fully repair.

Mostly in Pueblo County.

That assessment was given Friday to the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District by Executive Director Larry Small…

That’s significant because it shows the prolonged flows from increased water in Fountain Creek are more destructive than the one-time spikes in volume typical of flash flooding. It also shows there was more damage than the high visibility impacts, such as the washout of Overton Road, the exposure of buried cables and utility lines, the threat to operational railroad tracks and damage to individual property owners.

The results came after an aerial survey that is part of collecting data for an upcoming needs assessment study. Both sides of Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo were studied, about 102 miles of river bank.

Severe damage — altering the shape of the bank or the course of the stream — was found along sections totaling 28 miles. The damaged areas are not in one place but spread throughout the 50 miles along Fountain Creek, Small explained.

Small estimated the damage at $76 million based on the average cost of restoration to stream banks at $500 per foot.

The district does not have money to make repairs on that scale. Right now, it is embarking on a $2.5 million project to repair about 1,500 feet of bank on the Masciantonio property in Pueblo County, about 10 miles north of Pueblo.

A demonstration project on the Frost property in El Paso County had been completed but washed out in the 2015 flooding because of the high volume of water over a six-week period.

Small said assessments of how to proceed will be determined with more on-the-ground inspections.

EPA lawsuit accuses Wildcat Mining Corp. of violating Clean Water Act near Durango


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The EPA lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court, accuses Wildcat of violating the Clean Water Act by dumping fill material without permission into Little Deadwood Gulch as part of a road work to reach a mine portal. The gulch seasonally feeds water into the La Plata River. The EPA also contends Wildcat improperly enlarged the road and built a wastewater pond in wetlands.

Wildcat has responded by negotiating a deal with federal prosecutors to settle the lawsuit, if approved by a judge. Wildcat would pay $50,000 in fines and begin work to restore the damaged creek.

“As long as Wildcat/Varca pay the civil penalty and comply with the restoration and mitigation plan, they can go forward with their mining activities from EPA’s perspective, though subject to regulation by (the Colorado) Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety and other state entities,” U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said.

The feds said they’d make the consent deal available for public comment once it is published in the Federal Register.

Wildcat owner George Robinson did not return phone calls and could not be reached to comment.

The August 2016 Headwaters Pulse is hot off the presses from CFWE


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

Paying for what’s ahead

Money. We all know it doesn’t grow on trees. As Colorado works to balance funding priorities for public safety programs, human services, transportation, education, and other government spending areas, Coloradans will need to come up with about $20 billion by 2050 for water projects across the state. The question is: How will we do it, and what will it mean for our bank accounts? That $20 billion figure is what the Colorado Water Conservation Board estimates is necessary to implement Colorado’s Water Plan.

“[The water plan] identifies a lot of solutions for the state and comes with a very high price tag,” says Margaret Bowman, a consultant working with the Water Funder Initiative to develop impact investing in the West. “Now the state’s got to figure out how to finance it.”


Our summer issue of Headwaters magazine takes an in-depth look at water finance and other aspects of water economics. Click here to read the issue’s feature article “Paying for What’s Ahead” by Headwaters associate editor Caitlin Coleman as she explores traditional water financing mechanisms like bonds, loans and grants, plus new innovative pathways to securing funding through private investors, public-private partnerships, and philanthropic institutions. And read the rest of the issue for more water economics coverage such as water rates, water markets, and other valuation methods that attempt to put a price on an indispensable good.

#Drought news: The South Platte Basin is drying out some

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

The Plains and Midwest

Moderate to heavy rain fell in a band from northern New Mexico northeastward through much of northern Oklahoma, Kansas, and the southern and northern reaches of Missouri, and adjacent Iowa last week, with amounts of 3 to 5 inches recorded in a few spots in north-central Missouri and adjacent Iowa, northern and southern Kansas, and northeasternmost New Mexico. Farther north, moderate to heavy rain was also observed in a smaller swath covering south-central to southeastern Nebraska. Light to moderate totals were observed in the central High Plains and eastern Iowa, and only a few tenths of an inch at best fell elsewhere. This pattern of variable precipitation amounts prompted numerous changes of relatively small scale. For instance, patches of deterioration were noted in South Dakota, western Iowa, and south-central Oklahoma while improvements were introduced in southern Nebraska, southeast Oklahoma, southern Kansas, and areas near the Iowa/Missouri border…

The Rockies and West

Seasonable monsoon rainfall was observed in Arizona (generally eastern areas), New Mexico, and the southern half of Colorado while little or no precipitation fell elsewhere, which is not uncommon this time of year. The precipitation pattern per se did not warrant making Drought Monitor changes, but water supply assessments undertaken in some states led to a more pessimistic re-assessment of conditions, particularly in Montana, and these are reflected in the Drought Monitor this week. Reservoir levels, streamflow levels, and surface moisture conditions prompted expansion of abnormal dryness and moderate drought, along with the introduction of large areas of severe drought, across the southern, central, and western sections of Montana. Smaller-scale deteriorations were also introduced in part of Idaho and Oregon…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days (August 11 – 15), heavy precipitation (more than 1.5 inches) is expected in a broad swath from the Big Bend region in Texas eastward through upper central Texas, most of the Mississippi Valley, the adjacent central Gulf Coast, the Ohio Valley, the western Great Lakes region, and interior sections of the Northeast and New England. Amounts may reach 4 to 8 inches in the eastern half of Louisiana and adjacent locations, 3 to 6 inches in the Big Bend, 2 to 5 inches in the upper Midwest (centered near the Wisconsin/Iowa/Minnesota triple point), and 2 to 5 inches along and just north of the Ohio River. Moderate amounts are anticipated in the Southwest, eastern Colorado, most of Florida, the central Plains, and the southern reaches of the Northeast and New England. A few tenths of an inch at best are expected in most other areas, although amounts may approach an inch in the southern Appalachians. High temperatures will average a few degrees above normal in the Great Lakes region, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast, as well as the West Coast states away from the immediate coastline. Near- or below-normal temperatures seem likely elsewhere.

During August 16 – 20, the odds favor wetter than normal weather in a broad swath from the southern Rockies eastward through the southern Plains, lower Mississippi Valley, mid-Atlantic region, and Southeast (outside the Florida Peninsula). The odds also favor wet weather in the northern Great Plains. However, enhanced chances for drier than normal weather exist in the Northwest, the Intermountain West, central sections of the Rockies and Plains, and southern and eastern portions of the Great Lakes region. The odds favor warm weather from the Rockies westward, from the Appalachians eastward, and along the northern one-third of the Nation. In contrast, cooler than normal weather is favored from the Southwest eastward through the lower Mississippi Valley away from the immediate Gulf Coast.

Drones help scientists track changing conditions — The Pueblo Chieftain


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Early warning of floods coming off wildfire scars to more accurately estimating runoff from snowpack could be improved with drones, the Arkansas Basin Roundtable learned this week.

“It’s another tool to validate Snotel data to focus on the timing and volume of water,” said John Fulton, a hydraulic engineer with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Drones, along with new technology that uses groundbased portable radar equipment to measure water levels and velocity, can detect in advance when debris flows come off burn scars such as Waldo Canyon, a 2012 fire near Colorado Springs, or this year’s Hayden Pass Fire still smoldering in Fremont County. The drones are able to map steep terrain that otherwise would be inaccessible, Fulton said.

“We use the drones along with ground-based imagery to gauge the probability of debris flows,” he said.

Fulton explained the practical applications of drones in the Arkansas Valley along with Jeff Sloan, who heads the national Unmanned Aircraft Systems project for the USGS. They brought a couple of samples to the roundtable meeting at Pueblo Community College Wednesday, a fixed-wing model and a four-rotor hovercraft.

“I’m disappointed you didn’t fly one around the room,” laughed Sandy White, the roundtable chairman.

The technology has improved tremendously since the USGS started its drone program in 2008, Sloan said. The USGS started using the Honeywell T-Hawk, an Army surplus model. Now, equipment runs more silently and some of it is easy to learn to fly.

“It sounded like a flying lawn mower, so it wasn’t very good for observing wildlife,” Sloan laughed.

The Department of Interior began looking into the program to improve mapping vast tracts of federal land with better accuracy. Smaller drones are able to fill a gap with sharper images — down to 4 square centimeters — than higher flying drones, aircraft or satellites provide.

And cheaper.

Showing side-by-side images, Sloan pointed out that a $400 digital camera mounted on a small drone at low altitude produced a clearer image than a $1 million imaging system on a satellite.

Besides cameras, drones can provide images using thermal, multispectral, hyperspectral, Lidar (light radar) and magnetometry equipment.

Using GPS, it is possible to create multilayer maps of areas relatively cheaply.

Drones also allow better real-time monitoring, such as the landslide-prone DeBeque Canyon in Western Colorado, Sloan said.