Can States Protect Our Waters? — @FieldandStream

Fly fishing on the Gunnison River outside of Delta, Colorado. Photo credit: © Mark Skalny for The Nature Conservancy

Here’s a report from Hal Herring writing for Field and Stream. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

You may wonder why so many Conservationist posts dwell so obsessively on the recent decision by the Trump Administration to review and replace the so-called Waters of the U.S. Rule, and why we’ve written about this topic so many times.

The answer is that most of us have lived in a nation where, until very recently, water quality has steadily improved. Many of us have never experienced the kind of wholesale water pollution that was common in the U.S. before the 1972 Clean Water Act, with the ruin of property values and fisheries and drinking water supplies. Although this situation of steadily improving water quality is actually unique in a world that is mostly growing dirtier and more crowded by the hour, we seem to take it for granted in a way that I just cannot understand, and that is totally different from the way we think about all our other freedoms and responsibilities. Freedom isn’t free. The price of liberty is constant vigilance. To whom much is given, much is expected.

@NOAA: Assessing the U.S. Climate in March 2017

Spring at Mt Sopris Colorado. The Roaring Fork River is in the foreground and located just outside Carbondale CO.

From NOAA:

The United States had its second warmest year to date and ninth warmest March on record

During March, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 46.2°F, 4.7°F above the 20th century average. Record and near-record warmth spanned the West and Great Plains, with below-average temperatures in the Northeast. The year-to-date contiguous U.S. average temperature was 40.3°F, 5.1°F above average. This was the second warmest January–March on record, behind the record of 41.4°F set in 2012.

The March precipitation total was 2.56 inches, 0.05 inch above the 20th century average, and ranked near the middle of the 123-year period of record. Much-above-average precipitation across the Northwest offset much-below-average precipitation in the Southeast. Warm and windy conditions across the South created ideal wildfire conditions with over 2 million acres burning during March—a new record for the month. The year-to-date contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 8.09 inches, 1.13 inches above average. This ranked as the 10th wettest January–March on record and wettest since 1998.

This monthly summary is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.

  • Most of the West, Great Plains, and parts of the Midwest and Southeast were warmer than average. Thirteen states were much warmer than average, with Colorado and New Mexico being record warm. The Colorado statewide average temperature was 42.5°F, 8.8°F above average, while the New Mexico temperature was 51.4°F, 7.9°F above average.
  • Near- to below-average temperatures were observed across the Great Lakes and from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. The coldest temperatures, relative to average, were observed across New England. Following the record warm February in the Northeast, some locations had March temperatures that were colder than February—an unusual, but not unprecedented occurrence.
  • The Alaska statewide average temperature was 4.1°F, 6.7°F below average. This was the 12th coldest March in the 93-year record for the state and coldest since 2007. This ended Alaska’s stretch of 17 consecutive months, beginning in October 2015, of an above-average statewide temperature.
  • Locations from the Northwest through the Northern Rockies, Central Plains, and Midwest were wetter than average, with Idaho, Oregon, and Washington having much-above-average precipitation. The above-average precipitation in the Plains and Midwest was accompanied by severe weather outbreaks including damaging tornadoes. Abundant snowfall earlier in the season from California to the Central Rockies, combined with above-average March precipitation across the Northwest and Northern Rockies, resulted in above-average snowpack at most mountain locations on April 1.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed in parts of the Southwest, Northern Plains, and along the East Coast. Florida and Georgia had much-below-average precipitation during March.
    Alaska had its fifth driest March on record with 1.16 inches of precipitation, 1.00 inch below average. Record dryness was observed across the southern parts of the state.
  • According to the March 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 14.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up 0.1 percent compared to the end of February. Drought improved across some areas of the West, Mid-South, and Northeast. Drought conditions expanded on Hawaii’s Big Island. Drought conditions also developed and intensified across parts of the Central and Southern Plains and Southeast, where warm, windy and relatively dry conditions increased wildfire danger, with 2 million acres burning during the month. This was nearly seven times the 2000–2010 average and more than 600,000 acres above the previous record set in 2006.
  • Above-average temperatures spanned the nation with only the Northwest being colder than average. Thirty-eight states were much warmer than average during January–March with six states, stretching from the Southern Rockies to Southeast, record warm.
  • Above-average precipitation spanned most of the West into the Great Plains and Great Lakes. Seven Western states, in addition to Michigan, had year-to-date precipitation totals that were much above average. Below-average precipitation was observed for the Mid- and Lower-Mississippi River Valley and along the Southeast Coast.
  • In the first three months of 2017 there have been five weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included a flooding event, a freeze event, and three severe storm events collectively causing 37 fatalities.
  • The number of billion-dollar events for January–March (five) is the largest number of first-quarter events in the 1980–present period of record and doubles the average number of events for January–March over the last 5 years (2.4 events).
  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was the highest value on record at more than double the average. On the national scale, extremes in warm daytime and nighttime temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, days with precipitation, and the spatial extent of drought were much above average. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, and drought across the contiguous United States.
  • #Drought news: Positive change in depiction for E. #Colorado plains

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

    Summary

    During the past 7-days, an active weather pattern ensued across the contiguous United States. Larger, contiguous areas of heavy precipitation (greater than 2 inches) were observed from Kansas east-northeastward across the Midwest to Lower Michigan, the Lower Mississippi Valley and Gulf Coast area, parts of the Appalachians and adjacent foothills, portions of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, and the Pacific Northwest. Light precipitation (less than 0.5-inch) was observed across most of California and the Southwest, leeward slopes of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon, the north-central CONUS, eastern Maine, and central and southern Florida. Moderate precipitation (0.5-2.0 inches) was generally reported elsewhere. During the past week, there have been numerous severe weather reports, primarily across the southeastern quadrant of the CONUS, but also overspreading the Midwest and Ohio Valley. After some consideration, it was decided that a few small changes should be made across southern and eastern Georgia and adjacent counties in South Carolina, which have seen increasing dryness and well above-normal temperatures this past week. Once the storm currently influencing this area departs, there will be more time available for a more realistic reassessment of conditions next week…

    The Plains

    Widespread one-category improvements were made to the depiction across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, where heavy precipitation (mostly 2-5 inches) was reported by the Applied Climate Information Service (ACIS) in the past week. In Texas, the city of Del Rio in Val Verde County received 5.07 inches of rain on April 2nd, which is a record for the date and nearly one-third of their annual rainfall. In addition, all severe drought (D2) areas were removed from the Lone Star state, as short-term wetness was minimizing impacts. In Oklahoma, Interstate 44 served as a surprisingly good demarcation line between heavy precipitation to its north and west, and light precipitation to its south and east. The extreme drought (D3) area was reduced to severe drought (D2) over the Oklahoma Panhandle. In a small area encompassing portions of Osage, Pawnee, and Creek Counties, 4.0-5.5 inches of rain fell, justifying a rare two-class improvement to the U.S. Drought Monitor. In eastern Oklahoma and adjacent portions of western Arkansas, the three areas of D2 drought were combined into a single entity. In Kansas, a one-category improvement was made across practically the entire state, with the exception of the far northwest, which has been drier. In the southeast Nebraska Counties of Gage, Pawnee and Richardson, abnormally dry conditions (D0) were eliminated. Moderate drought (D1) was removed from the far northern counties of the Nebraska Panhandle, including Sioux, Dawes, and Sheridan. In northeastern New Mexico, moderate precipitation (0.5-2.0 inches) warranted a one-category improvement in the drought depiction, with the exception of Union County, which mostly missed out on recent precipitation events. In eastern Colorado, several small-scale one-category improvements were rendered to the depiction. No changes to the depiction were made in the northern Plains this week…

    The West

    In California, reservoirs are mostly above-average (Percent of Average Reservoir Storage values mostly between 100-170 percent), though there are a few exceptions. One of the more notable exceptions being tracked is the Cachuma Reservoir northwest of Santa Barbara, CA, which is reporting a Percent of Average Reservoir Storage of 57-percent. No changes to the USDM map were deemed necessary in California, Nevada, or Arizona…

    Looking Ahead

    During the next five days (April 6-10), the Weather Prediction Center (WPC) precipitation forecast calls for moderate precipitation (0.5-1.5 inches) to reach perhaps as far south as Santa Barbara, CA. The Northern Plains is predicted to receive close to a half-inch of precipitation during this 5-day period, which should at least offset any additional deterioration. Light precipitation (less than 0.5-inch) expected over the Central and Southern Plains offers little in the way of additional drought improvements. One to two inches of rain anticipated for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain provides improved prospects for additional drought relief in that region, as does moderate to heavy rainfall (0.5-4.0) inches across the Southeast, with the possible exception of Florida.

    For the ensuing five-day period (April 11-15), there are elevated odds for above-median precipitation across the south-central CONUS, northern California, the Pacific Northwest, the northern Rockies, and parts of the Upper Mississippi Valley. There are elevated odds for below-median precipitation across the Southeast, and in a band stretching from the southern Sierras of California eastward across much of the Rockies and Plains, the north-central Mississippi Valley, the southern Great Lakes region, and the Northeast. Below-median precipitation is also favored for most of Alaska, south of the Brooks Range.

    A Single Drop

    Your Water Colorado Blog

    Each year brings warnings of drought and with it, the implementation of water conservation measures. How do climatologists know if a lack of precipitation is a drought indicator or simply part of the earth’s natural cycle?

    In a word: Data.

    Everything water related, including drought, begins with precipitation. Systematic weather reporting in Colorado began in the 1870s and 1880s, with the first weather reports coming from Pike’s Peak in 1873. In the late 1880s, the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation supporting the “Colorado State Weather Service” and in 1890, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took over climate monitoring and reporting. It was also in 1890 that the Cooperative Observers, a group of now more than 8,700 volunteers, began providing observational meteorological data in real time.

    Today, precipitation in Colorado is tracked by a statewide network made up of the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Cooperative Observers. Together, they…

    View original post 1,005 more words

    The fallacy of Trump’s vow to restore the coal economy — The Mountain Town News

    One of the generating units at the power plant at Kemmerer, Wyo., is being shut down this year to reduce emissions that are causing regional haze. 2009 photo/Allen Best

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Trump vows to bring back coal, but coal has lost favor for many reasons

    With coal miners at his side, President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order that seeks to undo the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

    In coal towns, there was rejoicing. The plan requires a gradual switching of power sources to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 32 percent by 2030. Unless carbon capture and storage technology advances rapidly, this puts coal at a great disadvantage.

    Coal plants were already closing in droves. They’ve been losing out to cheaper natural gas, which has fewer greenhouse gas emissions and can be dispatched in a matter of minutes, unlike coal plants, which take about a day to crank up. This makes natural gas a better fit with renewables, whose prices have tumbled dramatically in the last five years.

    But coal plants in the Rocky Mountains have also been closing because of their dirty environmental footprint, not even considering greenhouse gas emissions. The sulfur dioxide and other emissions contribute heavily to regional haze, also called smog.

    For example, PacifiCorp announced it would close one of its generating units at its power plant at Kemmerer, Wyo., located south of Jackson Hole. The plant provides power for Park City. The reason: the electricity wasn’t needed, because of improved energy efficiency, and to upgrade the plants to reduce pollutants was too expensive.

    In northwest Colorado, Tri-State Generation and Transmission and other electrical providers have agreed to shut down a 427-megawatt power plant at Craig by 2025. This is 42 miles west of Steamboat Springs. Again, the problem is regional haze and other environmental pollutants.

    The Four Corners power plant, in northwestern New Mexico. Photo/Allen Best

    In New Mexico, it’s the same story. There, two units of the San Juan Generating Station are to be shut down by the end of this year, notes the Durango (Colo.) Herald.

    The Herald says Public Service Co. of New Mexico is deciding whether the remaining units at the San Juan complex will operate beyond 2022.

    The New York Times today makes the same point in this story by Coral Davenport: “Coal is on the Way Out at Electric Utilities, No Matter What Trump Says.”

    At the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association conference, former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter pointed to action at state and local levels, along with that of private companies, all aiming to clean up energy sources. Among those pushing are a variety of Republican governors in an organization called the Conservative Energy Network.

    “What this makes me believe is that no matter what happens at the federal level for the time being, there are opportunities,” said Ritter.

    Wyoming didn’t join that coalition, even if Gov. Matt Mead continues to prod his state into making changes.

    Coal trains await loading in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. Photo/Allen Best

    Jonathan Schechter, writing in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, while pondering his own mortality, wants Wyoming to similarly quit denying that the day for the end of coal is drawing nigh. Wyoming has been living high as the go-to source for low-sulfur coal since the 1980s. You can still see mile-long coal trains grinding their way through Denver’s booming LoDo section on their way to plants as distant as Texas, Mississippi and even, for a time, Florida.

    Nearly 40 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants closed between 2006 and 2016, and most remaining plants are on the verge of functional obsolescence. In 20 years, Schechter observes, nearly 90 percent of the plants will be 40 years old or older. As these plants close down – likely to be replaced by natural gas and renewables – “so too will the market for Wyoming’s coal, and with it the economic benefits coal has bestowed upon our state.”

    Wyoming has no income tax. That simple fact, as much as the amazing sight of the Teton Range, may explain why Jackson Hole rivals Aspen for billionaires per capita. “When the day comes that income is taxed, Jackson Hole will start to become home to a much different demographic,” Schechter concludes.

    As for Trump’s vow to bring back coal, the logical question in the face of all this evidence is, will the president also promise to bring back cheap gas, like the 18.9 cents per gallon of his youth?

    @USBR: Lake Nighthorse Recreation Management Lease Agreement Signed

    Lake Nighthorse from the Ridges Basin Dam September 19, 2016.

    Here’s the release from the USBR:

    Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office and City of Durango finalized and signed a lease agreement for recreation management at Lake Nighthorse on January 27, 2017. The 25 year agreement transfers recreation management and related responsibilities to the city; including developing, construction and maintaining facilities and other improvements within the recreation area. Under the agreement, the city will ensure that recreation area administration and associated land use comply with all applicable Federal and State laws and regulations.

    The agreement is contingent on the city annexing approximately 500 acres of land at Lake Nighthorse including 1,500 water surface acres in order to provide management, law enforcement and emergency services at Lake Nighthorse. WCAO and the city will begin the annexation process soon. The WCAO is currently in the process of negotiating a new Programmatic Agreement with the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office that will cover Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act compliance for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the Animas La-Plata Project, as well as for the recreation plan. When enacted this Programmatic Agreement will replace the Programmatic Agreement that was originally developed for the construction of the project. The WCAO is conducting tribal consultations with 25 tribes on the cultural resources management plan and Programmatic Agreement for the area.

    In December 2016, WCAO released the Finding of No Significant Impact and final Environmental Assessment for the Lake Nighthorse Recreation Plan. The selected alternative is the 2014 Recreation Plan proposed by the City of Durango. The 2014 Recreation Plan recommends implementing a small-scale, staged approach to the development of recreational opportunities and facilities, while protecting water quality, cultural resources, and the primary purposes of Lake Nighthorse.

    Recreation development will include: public restrooms, and overflow parking area for the boat ramp, access road improvements, and development of a courtesy dock system at the boat ramp. Recreation activities will be day use only and include: canoeing, kayaking, rowing, sculling, and stand-up-paddle boarding; swimming and scuba diving; and fishing. Motorized boating would be allowed, however, the lake will be closed to all motorized boating from late fall to late spring.

    Durango: Fluoride dosing will continue after Tuesday’s vote

    Durango

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    Election totals showed about 1,735 people voted for an ordinance that would require the city to stop adding fluoride to its water system, far behind the some 3,094 voters who supported keeping the system in place.

    The issue was heatedly contested leading up to Tuesday’s election, with supporters and opponents of water fluoridation disagreeing with the health benefits of the program…

    This winter, a petition that called for the city of Durango to stop adding fluoride to its drinking water circulated around town, causing a vitriolic debate over the health benefits of the program.

    While advocates of community water fluoridation say it has immeasurable oral health benefits, particularly for low-income residents, opponents say the program is a form of forced medication, and called into question the impacts of consuming too much fluoride, as well as the source of the substance.

    Jim Forleo, a local chiropractor who was one of the most vocal anti-fluoride organizers, said the effort, which raised about $4,500 for the campaign, was over-run by big money interests. The pro-fluoride side raised nearly $22,500, mostly from Healthier Colorado, a Denver-based non-profit.