Rebecca Mitchell selected as new CWCB director — @COindependent

Photo of Becky Mitchell at Main Reservoir, Lakewood by Marianne Goodland

From The Colorado Independent (Marianne Goodland):

Rebecca “Becky” Mitchell, who currently heads up the water supply planning section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, today was named the agency’s new director, effective immediately.

Mitchell has been with the Department of Natural Resources since 2008 and joined the CWCB in 2009. She was selected as the next director by the agency’s 15-member board. The CWCB provides guidance on state water policy and is the state’s comprehensive source for water information, including technical assistance and training.

A native of Hawaii, Mitchell has lived in Colorado for the past 20 years. Colorado water has been the focus of her entire career.

She started off with an interest in the environment and biology but found water was her real passion. “Water is the corner in which I can make a difference,” she said.

That interest has taken her all over the world, but especially to Africa, and Ethiopia. Mitchell has five children, including several adopted from Ethiopia. She says she believes in giving back and has traveled to Ethiopia to help the country with water treatment as well as work on water systems for orphanages.

“It keeps you grounded in terms of why what you do is important,” she said.

“I’m excited and fortunate to have an opportunity to serve a state agency filled with committed and thoughtful stewards of Colorado’s precious water resources,” Mitchell said in a statement. “Coloradans and our water communities are working like never before to solve our state’s challenges collaboratively. The same kind of cooperation that led to Colorado’s Water Plan will fuel the long-running effort necessary to continue putting the plan into action. What a privilege to be part of this process.”

As section chief over water planning for the past five years, Mitchell has been a key liaison with water groups around the state, such as the basin roundtables, which represent environmental, recreational, agricultural, municipal and industrial water users in each of the state’s eight major river basins plus a separate group for metro Denver. She also has been responsible for directing and implementing the Statewide Water Supply Initiative, which provided some of the critical background data for the state water plan on water supply and demand.

Prior to joining CWCB, Mitchell served served as the Water Policy and Issues Coordinator within the Department of Natural Resources’ executive director’s office and in both the public and private sectors as a consulting engineer. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Colorado School of Mines.

Senate President Pro tem Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling, a critic of the previous director, James Eklund, greeted the news of Mitchell’s appointment with enthusiasm. “I’m confident the new director will rebuild the relationships with the legislature and work with us rather than working on their own,” he said.

Conservation Colorado also viewed Mitchell’s appointment as a positive. “Our number one priority is to see the water plan implemented,” said Kristen Green of Conservation Colorado. Mitchell “knows the plan inside-out. She’s great at being collaborative and reaching out to different stakeholders.”

Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Todd Hartman):

Rebecca Mitchell, who played an instrumental role in production of Colorado’s Water Plan, has been named the new director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

Mitchell, who was selected by the CWCB’s 15-member board, will oversee CWCB’s 45-member staff as it provides statewide policy direction on water issues and continues implementation of the water plan. Mitchell replaces James Eklund, who left recently for private law practice after serving nearly four years as the agency’s director.

“I’m excited and fortunate to have an opportunity to serve a state agency filled with committed and thoughtful stewards of Colorado’s precious water resources,” Mitchell said. “Coloradans and our water communities are working like never before to solve our state’s challenges collaboratively. The same kind of cooperation that led to Colorado’s Water Plan will fuel the long-running effort necessary to continue putting the plan into action. What a privilege to be part of this process.”

Mitchell previously served as the Section Chief for CWCB’s Water Supply Planning section, which includes the Office of Water Conservation & Drought Planning and focuses on ensuring sufficient water supplies for Colorado’s citizens and the environment. Mitchell played a significant part in working with the state’s Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee, the public at large and CWCB staff in producing Colorado’s Water Plan following Gov. John HIckenlooper’s executive order in 2013 directing CWCB to facilitate the development of the plan.

Mitchell has also served as the Water Policy and Issues Coordinator within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources’ executive director’s office. Before joining DNR she worked in both the public and private sectors as a consulting engineer. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Colorado School of Mines.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) was created over 75 years ago to provide policy direction on water issues. The CWCB is Colorado’s most comprehensive water information resource. The agency maintains expertise in a broad range of programs and provides technical assistance to further the utilization of Colorado’s waters. It is one of six divisions housed within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Aspen Moves Toward 100 Percent Renewable Energy #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Aspen

From NPR (Grace Hood):

More than 30 cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, have declared 100 percent renewable energy goals in the coming decades.

But is that really possible?

The story of Aspen’s path to 100 percent renewable electricity shows it’s complicated.

In 2006, the Colorado city’s utility was one of the first in the country to declare a 100 percent renewable energy goal as part of its climate action plan to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Aspen is built around the ski industry. Mayor Steve Skadron says that behind the glitz of downtown stores like Prada and Gucci is an environmental mission.

“Put aside crazy climate zealots telling everybody to sell their cars and eat tofu,” he says. “It makes economic sense for us to support these values because our economy’s based on the natural environment.”

The town had a good start with two hydroelectric plants it built in the 1980s. To get closer to 100 percent renewable energy, the city wanted to revive another hydroplant.

As part of that proposal, it spent millions on things like a custom turbine and generator, a move that Aspen voters approved. But some residents and groups ultimately worried the plan would reduce stream flows, and that would harm the environment. In 2012, Aspen voters reversed course and rejected the plan.

Instead, Aspen signed contracts to bring in hydropower, wind and biogas from other regions and states.

In 2015, the city utility became the third in the nation to be powered completely by renewable energy, Skadron says…

[A Coyote Gulch reader warns that it is just the utility not the entire city that is 100%.]

All that renewable power keeps the lights on downtown. But Aspen still uses natural gas to heat homes. And when you go to ski resorts or outlying homes, the power comes from a different utility that uses some fossil fuels…

Today, only a few cities besides Aspen have achieved 100 percent renewable electricity or energy: Georgetown, Texas; Burlington, Vt.; Greensburg, Kan.; and Rockport, Mo. Kodiak Island, Alaska, is 99 percent renewable energy but uses small amounts of diesel as a backup fuel source.

Van Horn says the Sierra Club pushes cities to create their own renewable energy. But even when they buy it from faraway places, like Aspen does, it has a wider impact…

The Sierra Club hopes all this will add up to lower carbon emissions for cities, and the country.

In Aspen, that’s still a challenge. A decade ago the city set out to bring down all its emissions 30 percent by 2020. Despite Aspen Utilities’ success, the city is not there by a long shot. Skadron says his next goal is the transportation sector. He’s talking with companies about using Aspen to experiment with lowering carbon emissions from cars…

After transportation, there are still emissions from the local airport and the natural gas used to heat homes. The city is working on a new climate action plan that it plans to issue this fall.

HydroVision conference recap

Here’s a guest column from Bob Gallo writing in the Denver Business Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

While the groundwork to unlock hydropower’s full potential has been laid, there is much more left to be done. The manufacturers, developers, engineers, consultants, utility managers, and others who came to Denver last week certainly agreed.

Congress also agrees that hydropower should be an important part of the country’s energy future. Last year, the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA) nearly made it across the finish line before running out of time as Congress adjourned for the year. EPMA enjoyed broad bipartisan support, and contained many hydropower provisions long sought by the industry, including designating the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) as the lead agency for licensing hydropower projects. These changes would reduce unnecessary delays and uncertainty.

Though that effort ultimately fell short, hydropower remains the one energy source that can narrow the massive chasm between the two political parties on energy. Just six months into the current legislative session, no less than 33 bills focused on hydropower have been introduced. Nearly every week, committees in the House and Senate are holding hearings or markups on hydro legislation. Republicans and Democrats alike are seeing the value in hydropower and exploring more ways to get this valuable energy source online.

This is particularly true for the Colorado delegation. Earlier this year, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado, introduced legislation that would encourage pumped storage hydropower at U.S. Bureau of Reclamation facilities. Pumped storage is the only proven large-scale energy storage technology and should be utilized to a much greater extent than it is currently.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, recently sponsored a bill that would reauthorize a Department of Energy Waterpower program that provides funding to retrofit dams and river conduits with electricity. There are over 80,000 dams in the country, and only 3 percent produce power. These non-powered dams hold great promise for additional generation.

Rep. DeGette has continued her leadership on hydropower, co-sponsoring new legislation earlier this month that would reduce the timeframe for approval of conduit hydro projects on Bureau facilities. The Colorado Small Hydro Association estimates that these types of canals and conduits could power an additional 65,000 Colorado homes…

The hydropower licensing process is one major roadblock to increasing our current installed hydropower capacity from 100 gigawatts to 150 gigawatts by 2050 – a goal set forth in the Department of Energy’s 2016 Hydropower Vision report. By utilizing some of those tens of thousands of untapped dams in the U.S., boosting pumped storage, and efficiency upgrades at existing facilities, hydropower can be a big part of our energy future. According to an earlier report, Colorado alone could produce 3.8 gigawatts of additional hydropower.

There’s an important side benefit to hydropower: infrastructure investment and job creation.

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Upper Colorado River Basin precipitation as a percent of normal June 2017 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to view the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

The current weather forecast doesn’t show a big chance for a downpour in Steamboat anytime soon.

The National Weather Service is calling for just a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms on Friday. Otherwise, the forecast calls for sunny skies and highs in the mid 80s through Monday…

Steamboat cancelled its annual Fourth of July fireworks show because of ongoing fire danger.

As thousands of people watched the holiday parade in downtown Steamboat on Tuesday morning, dozens of firefighters were working to try to contain the Mill Creek Fire burning in California Park near Hayden.

Department of the Interior Awards $6.9 Million to 17 Projects for Drought Preparation — @USBR

Augmentation pond photo via Irrigation Doctor, Inc.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

Entities in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma and Montana will receive funding to prepare for and address drought in advance of a crisis

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced today that the Bureau of Reclamation is awarding 17 projects in California, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Montana a total of $6.9 million to proactively prepare for and address drought in their communities. The federal funding will be leveraged to support more than $47.9 million for the development of drought contingency plans and implementation of drought resiliency projects.

“Drought continues to have serious adverse impacts throughout the West,” Secretary Zinke said. “Reclamation and its partners have been leaders in combating this drought for a hundred years. The newest infusion of Reclamation funds announced today will help communities in five states prepare for and respond to drought.”

Reclamation’s Drought Response Program supports a proactive approach to drought. It aids water users for drought contingency planning. The Drought Response Program also provides funding for the implementation of mitigation actions through drought resiliency projects, giving priority to projects that are supported by a drought planning effort.

Complete descriptions of all the selected projects are available at http://www.usbr.gov/drought.

Five projects in California and one project in Montana were selected through a competitive process to receive funding to develop drought contingency plans. They are:

  • Bella Vista Water District (California)
    Reclamation funding: $86,580; Total Project Cost: $173,160
  • City of Rialto, California
    Reclamation funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $404,474
  • Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
    Reclamation funding: $150,000; Total Project Cost: $300,000
  • Schafter-Wasco Irrigation District (California)
    Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $456,500
  • Sonoma County Water Agency (California)
    Reclamation Funding: $200,000; Total Project Cost: $501,196
  • Southern California Edison Company (California)
    Reclamation Funding: $100,000; Total Project Cost: $200,000
  • Eleven projects in California, Colorado, Nevada and Oklahoma were selected through a competitive process to receive Drought Resiliency Project grants. They are:

  • Alameda County Water District (California), Rubber Dam #3 Fish Ladder
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $7,121,600
  • Central Colorado Water Conservancy District, Northeast Colorado Walker Recharge Project – Phase I
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $7,000,000
  • City of Bartlesville, Oklahoma, Caney River Water Augmentation and Intake Improvements
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $7,152,097
  • City of Torrance, California, Torrance Van Ness Well Field
    Reclamation Funding: $750,000; Total Project Cost: $16,703,900
  • Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (California), West Fork Russian River Bank Stabilization and Habitat Restoration
    Reclamation Funding: $300,000; Total Project Cost: $600,000
  • Merced Irrigation District (California), Merced River Instream & Off-Channel Drought Habitat Project
    Reclamation Funding: $744,489; Total Project Cost: $2,707,763
  • Mountain Park Master Conservancy District (Oklahoma), Groundwater Supply Augmentation Project
    Reclamation Funding: $300,000; Total Project Cost: $618,500
  • Round Valley Indian Tribes (California), Mill Creek Streamflow & Riparian Corridor Restoration Project
    Reclamation Funding: $689,101; Total Project Cost: $1,444,461
  • San Gabriel River Water Committee (California), San Gabriel Inlet Structure Project
    Reclamation Funding: $300,000; Total Project Cost: $689,093
  • To learn more about Reclamation’s Drought Response Program and to see a complete description of all the projects, visit https://www.usbr.gov/drought.

    #ClimateChange exacerbates SW #drought

    Las Vegas Lake Mead intake schematic, courtesy SNWA.

    From The Las Vegas Sun (Mick Akers):

    [Colby] Pelligrino said the average temperature was up 8 degrees during March in Colorado, home of the snowcap that feeds the Colorado River and, in turn, Lake Mead. “It clocked in as the warmest temperature for the month in the state of Colorado ever.”

    This year’s unseasonably warm temperatures in the West have had sizable impacts on the snowpack in the Rockies this year, Pelligrino said.

    “It caused an adjustment in the forecast of over 2 million acre-feet just as a result of the temperatures in March,” she said.

    Data recently published on the issue said the drought was caused by temperature changes. In contrast, there was a similar shortage of water in the 1950s, which was caused by the lack of precipitation.

    Dr. Matthew Lachniet, a UNLV geoscience expert, said Pelligrino was alluding to what is known as a hot drought. Studying cave deposits from various areas in Nevada, Lachniet and his associates have been able to create a climate history showing how temperature and precipitation have changed over a span of 11,000 years…

    A temperature curve created for the 11,000 years of data shows that temperatures peaked about 8,000 years ago and dropped thereafter, but recently the temperature is beginning to rise again, which Lachniet said is the effect of global warming.

    “The answer is, yes, it’s really unquestionable that climate is changing and humans are driving it,” he said. “We know that since the 1980s that temperatures have exceeded the long- term means.”

    When it gets hot, it gets drier, and the data show that Nevadans can expect to see hotter and drier conditions to persist heading into the future, Lachniet said.

    Those higher temperatures will play a big role in the flow of the Colorado River going forward.

    “As the temperature increases, we have a greater evaporate and demand and lots of reasons that water gets used up faster,” Lachniet said. “That leads to less water staying in the river system.”

    The worst-case scenario shows the Colorado River being at 50 percent less volume in 2100 than what the current levels are.

    Lachniet said that humans can play a role in how hot it gets and, in turn, how much water is lost, by reducing greenhouse gases to keep the temperature from rising too dramatically.

    States that depend on the Colorado River have worked together to ensure everyone involved is doing their part to conserve as much water as they can.

    “The Colorado River is really the hallmark of cooperation for river basins working together,” Pelligrino said. “People from the Colorado River Basin are asked to come all around the world to talk about the way we work together and they way we cooperate.”

    Through that work, Pelligrino said they have aggressively advanced the tools needed to adapt to drought,” she said.

    They are continuing to work to enforce current guidelines that address shortage in Lake Mead.

    “Since 2007, since shortage probabilities of hitting low lake elevations were figured out, we’ve doubled and tripled the probabilities of hitting those same elevations,” she said. “This current drought is throwing us in a place we never thought we would be this quickly.”

    Drought contingency planning is the major initiative for the Colorado River Basin members.

    The SNWA, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, UNLV, UNR, and MGM Resorts International are among the partners in WaterStart. Initially started to spur economic growth by bringing in new water-smart technology, it has evolved into allowing those entities to develop water-conservation technology.

    “We provide grant funding to help get those things off the ground and are able to test them,” Pelligrino said.

    The latest project being tested is a water-smart meter used by some of Nevada’s largest water users.

    The meters provide information about water usage at large resorts and institutions. The data can then be used to address any issues relating to water conservation to be as efficient as possible.

    “We can go back and digest it and evolve our programs to continue to tackle water use and achieve conservation where it makes sense,” she said.

    Infrastructure improvements such as adding a third intake at Lake Mead and a new associated pumping station with that are other ways SNWA is taking the proactive approach.

    “By the end of 2020 we’ll be able to pump from a level in Lake Mead that provides better water quality than we have now,” she said. “We’re already starting to access that portion of a project — the ability to pump water from the Colorado River, even if there’s not enough water in Lake Mead to deliver it downstream.”

    The project’s $1.4 billion cost was financed without any state or federal funding.

    Upper Colorado River Basin March 2017 precipitation as a percent of normal via the Colorado Climate Center.