Into the dark, under the Divide and out the other side

#Snowpack news: Laramie and North Platte = 20% (best in state)

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

Below is the Westwide SNOTEL map.

Westwide SNOTEL map November 14, 2016 via the NRCS.
Westwide SNOTEL map November 14, 2016 via the NRCS.

#ClimateChange: @WMO says 2016 is set to be the hottest year on record, with temperatures that are 2.2˚F (1.2˚C) above pre-industrial times

From Climate Central (Andrea Thompson):

2016 is set to be the hottest year on record by a significant margin, with temperatures that are 2.2˚F (1.2˚C) above pre-industrial times, the World Meteorological Organization told diplomats gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, to discuss international action to limit global warming to less than 2˚C by the end of the century.

The year-to-date temperature anomaly using the 1891-1910 baseline. Graphic via Climate Central.
The year-to-date temperature anomaly using the 1891-1910 baseline. Graphic via Climate Central.

“Another year. Another record. The high temperatures we saw in 2015 are set to be beaten in 2016,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.

This banner year follows what was the hottest five-year period on record, 2011-2015, as noted in a separate WMO report submitted to the U.N. conference last week. When 2016 takes over the title of hottest year, it will also mean that 16 of the 17 hottest years in the books will have occurred in this century, the only exception being the intense El Niño year of 1998.

Global temperatures in both 2015 and 2016 were also given a small boost from an exceptionally strong El Niño, but the bulk of the heat has built up in the atmosphere over decades, trapped by ever-rising levels of greenhouse gases.

“The extra heat from the powerful El Niño event has disappeared. The heat from global warming will continue,” Taalas said.

While there is still a month and a half left in the year, preliminary temperature data through October suggests that 2016 will easily best 2015’s record temperature. Final temperature data for the month will be released this week by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Both reports also underscore other major climate milestones, including record-high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and record-low Arctic sea ice levels during many months of this year.

Warmth in the Arctic has been particularly notable, with parts of Arctic Russia running nearly 11˚F to 13˚F (6°C to 7°C) above the 1961-1990 average.

How temperatures in the five-year period from 2011-2015 compared to the long-term average. Credit: WMO via Climate Central.
How temperatures in the five-year period from 2011-2015 compared to the long-term average.
Credit: WMO via Climate Central.

“We are used to measuring temperature records in fractions of a degree, and so this is different,” Taalas said.

The five-year report, intended to give negotiators a longer-term perspective on recent climate trends, also noted that researchers are increasingly able to tease out the influence of climate change on extreme weather events. Rising temperatures have made some events, like extreme heat waves and rainfalls, more likely and more intense, research has shown.

Negotiators in Morocco are concerned about the election of Donald Trump derailing the international climate action that has been taken thus far, as he has promised to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris agreement and to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which is aimed at reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions.

Flatiron Reservoir, Marys Lake and Lake Estes drawn down for work — Loveland Reporter-Herald

Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities
Colorado-Big Thompson Project east slope facilities

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Starting Oct. 27, officials from the Bureau of Reclamation turned off the water diversion tunnel from the West Slope to the Colorado-Big Thompson Project that feeds many of the lakes and reservoirs in Larimer County. The reservoir levels have also been lowered through the release of water to storage downstream.

According to a news release from the agency, the shutdown has allowed for the inspection of dams at Marys Lake and Lake Estes near Estes Park, and Flatiron Reservoir west of Loveland.

While the reservoirs are at low levels, crews are also looking at the power generation facilities at the Marys and Pole Hill power plants and the Charles Hansen Feeder Canal.

According to agency officials, the work will continue on the reservoirs and facilities throughout November, with water diversions through the Adams Tunnel from the Western Slope slated to resume in mid-December.

#COWaterPlan faces new hurdles on one-year anniversary — @SummitDailyNews

A screenshot from the website for Colorado's Water Plan.
A screenshot from the website for Colorado’s Water Plan.

From The Summit Daily (Kevin Fixler):

Even proponents for the first-of-its kind strategy — a non-binding set of goals and guidelines that prepares for the year 2050, when Colorado’s population is anticipated to more than double to 10.5 million — acknowledge it’s gotten off to a slow start. But after all of the excitement, and with it some friction, surrounding the water plan’s unveiling last November, the biggest steps to come revolve around its actual execution.

“The plan is only as good as its on-the-ground implementation,” said Drew Beckwith, water policy manager with Boulder-based conservation nonprofit Western Resource Advocates. “If we really do want to secure our water future for communities and agriculture and business and wildlife and rivers, we’ve got to put some of these things into action.”

The water plan calls for some lofty objectives on that 35-year timeline. They include achieving an additional 400,000 acre-feet of urban conservation, attaining that same amount in new storage, and using alternative methods to share 50,000 more acre-feet of water designated for agricultural needs. Such techniques entail approaches like long-term rotational fallowing and short-term leasing and supply agreements to keep the water with farmers and ranchers as needed to continue raising the crops we all eat, but through procedures that also provide for the Front Range’s growing populations as available.

[…]

“The ability to lessen the pressure on rivers, and also give agricultural and recreational economies certainty, is some of the biggest value that the water plan provides,” said Sinjin Eberle, communications director of the Intermountain West chapter of water advocacy group American Rivers. “The river connects all of us all across the Southwest. All that water comes from up here, and how we manage it up here sets the tone all the way down the basin.”

ONGOING STRUGGLES

Colorado’s water year in 2016 was about average, which experts see as a strong season. Year to year, there can be serious volatility, with the Upper Colorado River Basin — made up of Colorado, Wyoming and parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — seeing record lows over the past 15 years in 2002 and both 2012 and 2013 for water available to the Lower Basin of California and Nevada, as well as the other portions of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The inflow into northern Arizona’s Lake Powell, where the Colorado River runs before terminating at Mexico’s Gulf of California, is the ultimate determining factor.

Those totals for the past year mean almost nothing for the one upcoming, however, with drought always a possibility in the Southwest. It’s another reason why settling on a comprehensive state plan that satisfies all of its needs, including the recreation and wildlife economies of places like Summit County and throughout the Western Slope, is so pivotal.

“All the reasons we created the water plan a year ago are still prevalent in Colorado,” said Beckwith. “The underlying issue is if we don’t act and we don’t change, we end up drying up our rivers, we don’t provide a sustainable water supply to our cities and we leave agriculture in the dust.”

At present, the biggest strides for the plan have been made with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) producing proposals for the allocation of grant money from its annual Water Supply Reserve Fund. The account, created from legislation passed by the state’s General Assembly in 2006, is spread across various water projects that theoretically align with those goals of the water plan. To date, the fund has provided more than $27.5 million for projects spanning the nine water basins.

The focus of late for how to spend those dollars consists of funding stream management plans and forthcoming water efficiency programs. At its bimonthly meeting in September, the CWCB also updated its eligibility criteria for what qualifies recipients to receive those funds based on a checklist. The focus of this month’s meeting, scheduled for Nov. 16 and 17, will now be on how to carry on financially supporting projects at levels of the past given momentous shortfall in revenues that fund the account.

The Water Supply Reserve is supported by severance taxes produced from energy purchases. With a weighty drop off in production of gas, oil and coal, on top of unremarkable sales, the CWCB will need to come up with a way to backfill millions of dollars in losses in the interim, while also finding a solution for the future, if it hopes to hit some of those targets in the state water plan along the named time frame. [ed. emphasis mine]

“The funding has just been hammered by low energy prices and cutbacks in productions,” explained the Colorado River District’s Jim Pokrandt. “That’s in the short term. And in the long term, the CWCB will need to come up with a funding stream dedicated to these water projects. Because even with full funding, the fund wouldn’t begin to scratch the surface of some of the work that needs to be done.”

FINDING SOLUTIONS

A proposal to help allevaite investment strains includes a loan guarantee fund that would back regional project requests with state dollars to ensure cash advances are obtainable to complete water ventures moving forward. Sales and container taxes, mill levies and water tap fees are other mechanisms the CWCB will explore — all of which would either need to come through possible legislation with the General Assembly or from future voter approval — to come up with the assets needed to resume with the implementation phase of the overall plan. But with both education and infrastructure accounts also impacted by the severance tax downturn and competing for the same funding, no easy answers currently exist.

It’s only after new dollars are discovered that further implementation of the water plan can occur. According to the state water roadmap, that means bolstering those stream management plans and applying additional scrutiny to potential large-scale water developments down the road, if deemed necessary. More emphasis on conservation and increased water efficiency will also be a large part of purported success.

The one thing that is certain, though, is that those who contributed to helping shape the framework of the water plan will keep at it given the promise the state spawned with its release. Holding decision-makers accountable and ensuring the plan does eventually have real impact across Colorado persists as their focus.

“The water plan really does create this full-on recognition that the environment and healthy, flowing rivers are important to Colorado’s brand, to our economy, to us as a state,” said Beckwith. “So many people spent a lot of time working on this plan that no one wants it to just sit on the shelf.”

Voluntary fishing closure lifted at ‘toilet bowl’ section of Fryingpan

toiletbowlnearruedireservoirviacpw

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has lifted the voluntary fishing closure at a popular area on the Fryingpan River below the Ruedi Reservoir Dam, effective immediately.

Known locally as the ‘toilet bowl,’ fish here became stressed and vulnerable to anglers after water normally released from the dam into this area was rerouted to accommodate for annual maintenance and inspections.

“We asked anglers for their cooperation to protect the resource while this situation was ongoing,” said Senior Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin. “In fact, it was anglers voicing their concerns to us that led to CPW instituting the voluntary closure in the first place. We are grateful to them for their regard for ethics, and their cooperation.”

The ‘toilet bowl’ is a heavily fished area of the Gold Medal trout waters of the Fryingpan River.