ENSO Alert System Status: Final La Niña Advisory
Synopsis: ENSO-neutral conditions have returned and are favored to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2017.
La Niña conditions are no longer present, with slightly below-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) observed across the central equatorial Pacific and above-average SSTs increasing in the eastern Pacific. The latest weekly Niño index values were -0.3°C in the westernmost Niño-4 and Niño- 3.4 regions, and +1.5°C in the easternmost Niño-1+2 region. The upper-ocean heat content anomaly increased during January and was slightly positive when averaged across the eastern Pacific, a reflection of above-average temperatures at depth. Atmospheric convection remained suppressed over the central tropical Pacific and enhanced over Indonesia. The low-level easterly winds were slightly enhanced over the western tropical Pacific, and upper-level westerly winds were near average. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system is consistent with ENSO-neutral conditions.
Most models predict the continuation of ENSO-neutral (3-month average Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°Cand0.5°C)through the Northern Hemisphere summer. However,a few dynamical model forecasts, including the NCEP CFSv2, anticipate an onset of El Niño as soon as the Northern Hemisphere spring (March-May 2017). Because of typically high uncertainty in forecasts made at this time of the year for the upcoming spring and summer, and the lingering La Niña-like tropical convection patterns, the forecaster consensus favors ENSO-neutral during the spring with a ~60% chance. Thereafter, there are increasing odds for El Niño toward the second half of 2017 (~50% chance in September-November). In summary, ENSO-neutral conditions have returned and are favored to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2017 (click CPC/IRI consensus forecast for the chance of each outcome for each 3-month period).
From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Ben Wade):
The next Water Availability Task Force meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 from 12:30-1:30pm at the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Headquarters, 6060 Broadway, Denver in the Red Fox Room. (Please note the earlier start time of 12:30p.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor Website. Here’s an excerpt:
This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw a very active pattern in parts of the western U.S. as a series of Pacific storms brought significant rain to coastal areas of central and northern California, Oregon, and Washington while heavy snows blanketed higher elevations of the Sierra, Cascades, and northern Rockies. Continued snowfall this week across the Sierra is making a positive impact on the overall drought situation where the snowpack statewide is 176% of normal according to the California Cooperative Snow Surveys. Most of the major reservoirs in California are currently above historical averages. Some lingering hydrologic impacts (low reservoir levels and below-normal groundwater levels) are still present in portions of the central Coast, southern California, San Joaquin Valley, and the western foothills of the Sierra despite abundant precipitation during the past several months. Elsewhere in the West, mountain snowpack levels are normal to above normal across the Great Basin, southern Cascades, Wasatch, as well as central and southern Rockies. In the southern Plains and portions of the South, overall dry conditions have persisted, especially across Arkansas and Oklahoma. During the past week, temperatures were above normal across most of the conterminous U.S. with the exception of the northern Plains and much of the Pacific Northwest where temperatures were 5 to 20 degrees below normal with the greatest departures observed across Montana…
On this week’s map, only minor changes were made across the region in the Panhandle of Nebraska in an area of Abnormally Dry (D0) where precipitation during the past 30 to 90 days and increased soil moisture led to improvements. Overall, the region was dry during the past week. Average temperatures were well below normal (5 to 15 degrees) in northern portions while southern portions were above normal…
During the past week, a series of storms bringing widespread rain and snow showers impacted the states along the Pacific Coast and northern Rockies. In California, the cumulative effect of several months of abundant precipitation has significantly improved drought conditions across the state. Nearly all of California’s major reservoirs are currently above historical average levels with the state’s two largest reservoirs, Oroville and Shasta, currently at 126% and 124%, respectively. To date, the statewide percent of normal snow water equivalent sits at an impressive 176%, according to the California Cooperative Snow Surveys. Heavy snowfall this week in the Sierra led to improvements on the map in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), and Severe Drought (D2). Along the central Coast, continued heavy rains in the Santa Lucia Range led to improvements in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0), Moderate Drought (D1), and Severe Drought (D2) where streamflows and soil moisture levels are above normal. Along the southern California coast, one-category improvements were made in areas of Severe Drought (D2) where a wide variety of drought indicators (Palmer Drought Severity Index, Standardized Precipitation Index, streamflow activity, soil moisture levels, drought impact reports) at various timescales (30 days to 2 years) led to improvements in an area extending from southern Ventura County to San Diego County. In Santa Barbara and northern Ventura counties, an area of Extreme Drought (D3) has remained in place as local reservoirs and groundwater levels have been lagging behind other indicators as a result of the cumulative effect of significant long-term precipitation deficits. The Municipal Water District of Orange County (as of February 6, 2017) declared an end to the drought emergency. Elsewhere in the region, improvements were made in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) in western Nevada. In Utah, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) were reduced in western and northern portions in response to improvements in soil moisture and above-normal precipitation amounts during the past four-month period. The remaining area of Abnormally Dry (D0) in Utah covers areas in which below-normal reservoir levels persist…
The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for moderate-to-heavy precipitation accumulations in northern California as well as western Oregon, western Washington, northern Idaho, and northwestern Wyoming. Moving eastward, lesser precipitation accumulations (less than 1.5 inches) are forecast for Texas, northern portions of the Mid-Atlantic, and eastern portions of the Midwest. Some heavier precipitation amounts (2 to 3 inches) are forecast for New England for the seven-day period. The CPC 6–10 day outlooks call for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the entire conterminous U.S., with the exception of New England where below-normal temperatures are forecast to prevail. Below-normal precipitation is forecast for the Intermountain West, central and northern Plains, and the Midwest while above-normal precipitation is expected along the West Coast, South, and New England.
From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):
Officials from all three and the Bureau of Reclamation have been “scrambling” to find the money for the inspections so the boat ramps can open, as usual, at the beginning of April, noted Ken Brink, visitor services specialist for the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources.
“It’s less than two months away, so there’s a little pressure on us to get it squared away,” Brink said at a recent Parks Advisory Board meeting.
This funding arrangement is a bridge to cover 2017 while the state looks for permanent funding through new boat and fishing fees…
“This is our drinking water supply,” County Commissioner Tom Donnelly said Wednesday at a work session to talk about boat inspections. “You are concerned about recreational users. We have a bigger concern. This is our drinking supply for much of Northern Colorado and agricultural water.”
Larimer County manages recreation at the reservoirs, which are owned by the Bureau of Reclamation and hold Colorado-Big Thompson water that is managed by Northern Water.
Because of that stake in Carter and Horsetooth, Northern Water should help pay for the inspections this year, said Lew Gaiter, county commissioner.
“Ask your board to ante up,” he said to Brad Wind, deputy manager of the water district’s operations division. “You guys probably have more skin in the game than anyone else.”
Wind said he believes the board of directors for the water district will agree to pay $100,000 because the request is for a single year only until Colorado Parks and Wildlife can find a different funding source.
“We’re going to give our board the view that it’s very critical that we do something,” Wind said at the county commissioners’ work session.
“We’re optimistic we can convince them, at least for 2017.”
By 2018, Colorado Parks and Wildlife hopes the Legislature will have passed a new law creating an Aquatic Nuisance Species stamp that will be required on all boats at a cost of $15 to $50, depending upon the size of boat, where it is from and the risk for contamination. The law also would add a $1 fee to fishing licenses.
Both of these measures would bring in about $4 million per year, which would cover the cost of inspections throughout the state, Reid DeWalt, assistant director for wildlife and natural resources with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, explained at the county commissioners’ meeting Wednesday.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has spent about $4.5 million per year since 2009 to pay for inspections at many of the lakes and reservoirs around Colorado, with all of the funding coming from oil and gas severance taxes.
However, a recent Colorado Supreme Court ruling that changed the tax rules and exemptions resulted in that source of funding drying up.
For this summer, the state agency found $2.8 million within its reserves and budget, which it will use to cover the highest-risk waters, and it will partner with local governments for inspections on their waters.
The hope is for a three-way partnership in Larimer County. The last needed approval is from Northern Water, which meets Thursday.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
Ursa Resources and the developer of Battlement Mesa have dropped a zoning change proposal necessary for Ursa to pursue…operating a wastewater injection well near the community’s water intake on the Colorado River.
Battlement Mesa Co. is cutting by about half the size of a proposed zone district that would allow injection wells as a special use. The move eliminates the northern portion of what had been a 37-acre proposed district. That northern portion included a well-pad location where Ursa has approvals to drill for natural gas and had hoped to operate the injection well.
The revised zone district proposal still would encompass another location to the southwest where Ursa has begun the process of seeking approvals for an oil and gas pad that also could hold an injection well if local and state approvals are obtained.
The Garfield County Planning Commission was to have considered the original zone district proposal Wednesday night, but instead agreed to consider the revised application March 8.
Ursa had encountered considerable opposition to its original planned location for the injection well, which would have been about 600 feet from the water intake.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had objected to that location because of concerns that leaks from the well and associated storage tanks could threaten the water supply. That agency’s opposition was a primary factor in Garfield County planning staff also recommending that the Planning Commission and county commissioners reject the zoning change.
On Tuesday, Kent Kuster, an environmental specialist for CDPHE, wrote to the county that in a recent meeting with Ursa representatives his agency was made aware of an alternative injection well location to the west of Ursa’s originally envisioned site. Kuster wrote that the potential location would “reduce the associated risk to the public water supply,” is more protective of that supply and may warrant further local discussion.
Battlement Mesa is an unincorporated community of several thousand people. Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens said the group’s members don’t want an injection well anywhere within Battlement Mesa. But the group had been particularly alarmed by the idea of an injection well in the vicinity of the water intake.
In a news release Wednesday, Devanney called the change in Ursa’s plans a victory for residents.
“It was clear that public opinion was against the idea of creating an injection well zone in our community, especially one so close to our drinking water supply,” Devanney said. “Although we may see this proposal resurface in another form, tonight residents of Battlement Mesa can take comfort knowing their water is safe — for now.”
Matt Honeycutt, Ursa’s operations superintendent, declined to say much Wednesday night about the revision in the injection well plans.
“Ultimately it’s to make a better project,” he said.
Don Simpson, Ursa’s vice president of business development, said earlier Wednesday, “We think we’ve come up with a better plan. We’re always looking at different locations, better locations.”
Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co., which as the landowner is the applicant for the zoning change, said a number of considerations played into its decision to revise its proposal, from public input, to its own research and additional due diligence.
One member of the Planning Commission, Greg McKennis, sought unsuccessfully Wednesday night to postpone further consideration of the zoning application for 60 to 90 days to give Battlement Mesa residents a chance to fully learn what’s now being proposed and be able to better comment on it.
“This is a big change and we have no idea what those impacts will be,” he said. “… It’s vital that that community … has more than a couple weeks to do what they need to do to review this,” he said.
However, the applicants had a right to request another hearing sooner unless they waived it, which they weren’t willing to do.
“This timing becomes critical down the road to remove trucks off the road for our development plan,” Honeycutt told the commission.
Ursa says having an injection well will eliminate the need to truck away wastewater from drilling. It currently has approvals to drill more than 50 wells from two pads in Battlement Mesa and now is seeking approvals for three more well pads there.
From The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent (Alex Zorn):
Battlement Mesa Partners, requesting the zoning change for Ursa Resources’ natural gas operations, asked commissioners before a packed hearing room for time to amend the proposal…
The hearing was moved to the March 8 Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission staff last week recommended rejecting the proposal in large part because it is close to the community’s water intake.
“I think it would be in the board’s best interest to allow for a continuance so that we can make changes to our application,” said Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co. “A continuance would allow us to bring you more complete information on the request.”
Among the biggest changes would be to change the size of the area requested for rezoning to allow wells to dispose of wastewater from the fracking process. Drilling within the Planned Unit Development already has been approved by Garfield County and the state.
According to Schmela, the revised application will reduce the area of the project by nearly half. The previous proposal sought to rezone 37 acres along the north end of the community by the Colorado River. An updated application will reduce that area by 50 percent, stated Schmela.
Not only will the new application reduce the size of the injection zone, but it will also move the well away from the Colorado River and water treatment intake.
From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):
The Durango City Council unanimously voted to place the question on the ballot following more than a year of heated meetings and debate. The council’s other option was to adopt an ordinance prohibiting fluoride, and none of the councilors seemed to support it.
The question will ask voters whether they wish to prohibit the addition of fluoride or any chemical containing fluoride to city water…
The city has released a series of documents on its website on the fluoride it adds to the water, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said.
The city does not add pharmaceutical-grade fluoride to the water, he said…
Residents can also review the results of tests done on the water before it’s treated and afterward, he said. The documents can be found at http://bit.ly/2loX6oj or by searching the “fluoride” on the city’s website.
From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Billie Stanton Anleu):
Pueblo County – having already received a commitment of $460 million in stormwater projects from Colorado Springs over 20 years – now wants to join in a federal and state lawsuit citing Colorado Springs for violating its federal stormwater permit…
Wednesday, Pueblo County commissioners decided to try to join in the lawsuit, following a December effort by the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District to also become a plaintiff. The motion to include the Lower Ark, as it is known, hasn’t been decided.
The Lower Ark, representing Bent, Crowley, Otero, Prowers and Pueblo counties, has seen Colorado Springs break stormwater promises repeatedly, said district Executive Director Jay Winner.
Pueblo County commissioners echoed such complaints, saying the city doesn’t adequately fund its stormwater management program, maintain the infrastructure or reduce discharge of pollutants.
In addition to the $460 million stormwater pact, the city has increased stormwater funding to $19 million a year, including $3 million from Colorado Springs Utilities. That’s up from $5 million in 2015.
Pueblo County and Lower Ark both cite increased E. coli levels, erosion, sedimentation and flooding.
The county’s action was another blow for Mayor John Suthers, who has committed to rectifying the city’s stormwater problems since he took office in June 2015…
Said Pueblo County Commission spokeswoman Paris Carmichael: “This isn’t about picking a fight with Colorado Springs. This is about giving the citizens of Pueblo County a voice.”
The county had threatened last year to withhold a permit essential for completion of the $825 million Southern Delivery System, a massive water project delivering Arkansas River water to Colorado Springs, Security, Fountain and Pueblo West.
So Suthers and other city officials worked with Pueblo city and county officials to hammer out the $460 million intergovernmental agreement, which facilitated release of the permit.
Meanwhile, Suthers also got to work reorganizing the city’s Stormwater Division, bringing in new director Richard Mulledy, who had worked in Pueblo; ratcheting up its staff from 28 to an eventual 66; and releasing an inch-thick new Stormwater Program Implementation Plan on Nov. 2, one week before the EPA filed suit.
The mayor now is asking voters to approve an April 4 ballot measure that would let the city retain $6 million in excess sales tax revenues to further improve the stormwater system. The city’s extra tax money is expected to top out at $9 million or more, with any amount above the $6 million request being refunded to residents if the ballot issue passes.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Anthony A. Mestas):
The Pueblo County commissioners on Wednesday asked staff to file a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed Nov. 9 in U.S. District Court in Denver by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment against Colorado Springs.
Pueblo County wants to join the case to protect its interest during the litigation.
“We did it primarily to make sure we have a seat at the table,” said Pueblo County Commission Chairman Terry Hart.
“It’s one of those issues that whenever any kind of conversation is going on that concerns Fountain Creek or the water volume or quality that’s in the creek, we feel it affects the citizens in our community.”
Hart and fellow Commissioners Sal Pace and Garrison Ortiz said although there are pros and cons in entering the lawsuit, representing Pueblo County citizens is the most important issue.
“I feel that we have an obligation as a board, as elected officials and as leaders in Pueblo County to ensure that we are doing absolutely everything we can to protect our infrastructure, quality of water and the health and welfare of our citizens,” Ortiz said.
Pace said he greatly cherishes the relationship the county has developed with Colorado Springs through negotiations over the Southern Delivery System’s 1041 permit agreement and hopes this will not do anything to damage it…
Suthers’ office issued a statement from the mayor when contacted Wednesday.
“In light of the fact that Pueblo County is well aware of the outstanding stormwater program Colorado Springs is putting together and that we are meeting and exceeding our commitments under the intergovernmental agreement between our entities, I am very disappointed in their decision to seek to intervene in the EPA lawsuit. Intervention by parties without regulatory authority will only serve to make the litigation more complex, more lengthy, more expensive for all parties and possibly more unproductive.”
The Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District also wants to join the case as an intervenor to protect the district’s interest during the litigation.
The district filed the same motion in November. A federal judge has yet to make a decision on if the district can join the suit…
Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki said the city manager will ask Council on Monday to give him direction on the issue…
WHAT IT MEANS
By intervening in the lawsuit Pueblo County hopes to:
Support the EPA and CDPHE in its regulatory mission.
Ensure that stormwater control infrastructure within Colorado Springs is properly operated and maintained.
Ensure that there are no conflicts or inconsistencies between the stormwater intergovernmental agreement recently entered by the county and Colorado Springs and any remedy, judgment or settlement entered in this case.
Require Colorado Springs to become, and then remain, compliant with the Clean Water Act, the Colorado Water Quality Control Act, stormwater regulations and the conditions of Colorado Springs’ MS4 permit, and protect against future violations.
Work with Colorado Springs to develop, implement and enforce its’ Stormwater Management Program as required by the MS4 permit.
Prohibit Colorado Springs from discharging stormwater that is not in compliance with its MS4 permit or its SMP.