RRWCD meeting in holyoke Thurs., july 13

Holyoke photo credit dankalal.net.

From the Holyoke Enterprise:

The Board of Directors of the Republican River Water Conservation District will be holding its regular quarterly meeting in Holyoke Thursday, July 13, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Phillips County Event Center Biesemeier Room.

The agenda includes board president’s report; general manager’s report; quarterly financial report and expenditures; report regarding the Compact Compliance Pipeline; program updates and reports, including reports from the RRWCD’s engineer and legal counsel; RRWCD committee reports; Associated Organization Reports, including Colorado Water Congress, South Platte Roundtable, Water Preservation Partnership, Yuma County Water Authority and Yuma County Weed Control; report on South Fork Project by Nancy Smith, The Nature’s Conservancy; report by Yuma County Pest District; report by Mike Sullivan, assistant state engineer, and Scott Steinbrecher, Colorado attorney general assistant on negotiations with Kansas regarding Bonny; donation to Yuma County Pest District, WPP Resolution 17-01; and engagement letter for 2017 audit with Winfrey, County and Hays.

Hermosa Trail to be Impacted by Construction of Fish Barrier

Proposed Hermosa Creek watershed protection area via The Durango Herald

Here’s the release from the San Juan National Forest:

Construction activities will begin in the Hermosa Creek Special Management Area on Monday, July 10, 2017 to erect a fish-migration barrier on Hermosa Creek as part of the ongoing Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Reintroduction Project. Trail users and visitors to the area should expect to encounter delays and closures until October 1, 2017. The barrier is being installed on the main stem of Hermosa Creek downstream of its confluence with the East Fork of Hermosa Creek. About one-half mile of the Hermosa Creek Trail from its northern trailhead must be widened to allow heavy equipment to access the construction site. The trail widening is temporary and will be rehabilitated to the extent possible. Tree removal is expected to be minimal.

Throughout the construction project, trail users traveling in both directions may encounter temporary delays of up to one hour. Short-term closures lasting up to a full day are also possible, especially when heavy equipment is being moved in and out of the area. No more than four days of closures are expected during the three-month project, but construction schedules are subject to changing conditions. Public notices will be posted when trail closures are expected. The project is not expected to affect fishing, because flows will be bypassed above the construction site; however, some sedimentation is expected downstream. The barrier represents the final and most important phase of the Hermosa Creek Colorado River Cutthroat Trout Reintroduction Project, which began almost 30 years ago. The goal is to protect native cutthroat trout above the barrier from non-native fish located downstream.

For more information, please contact the Columbine Ranger District at 970 884-2512 or Clay Kampf at 970-884-1403.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

US Supreme Court declines to hear #GoldKingMine lawsuit, #NM v. #Colorado

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From The Naitional Law Review:

On June 26, the US Supreme Court denied New Mexico’s petition seeking to institute an original action against Colorado for the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. An original action in the US Supreme Court is a lawsuit between states. Invoking that rarely used procedure, New Mexico sought to hold Colorado liable for the Gold King Mine spill. New Mexico asserted claims under the intricate provisions of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA). New Mexico also sought analogous relief against Colorado under federal interstate common law.

Attorneys assisting the State of Colorado, successfully argued that the US Supreme Court should not entertain New Mexico’s novel lawsuit. As explained in Colorado’s briefing, New Mexico’s RCRA claim failed because a CERCLA response action had been initiated to address the relevant hazardous substance release. New Mexico’s CERCLA claim failed, Colorado argued, for a number of reasons, including that once a site is under investigation under CERCLA authority, several of New Mexico’s claims are barred because they would interfere with the CERCLA investigation and remedy decision making. Colorado additionally argued that Congress displaced New Mexico’s putative federal common law claims through its enactment of comprehensive environmental statutes, most importantly the Clean Water Act, but also CERCLA and RCRA. Finally, Colorado’s briefing also explained that Colorado should not be held liable for its regulatory activities in remediating and managing abandoned mines…

Colorado’s victory at the US Supreme Court protects Congress’s carefully constructed statutory scheme for the effective management and remediation of water pollution across the country. It also protects Colorado’s sovereign ability to remediate abandoned mines.

On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

#ColoradoRiver: Happy Birthday Boulder (Hoover) Dam, construction started on this day in 1930

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Click here to view a gallery of photos of Lake Mead National Recreation Area from the USGS>

The #California #drought isn’t over, it just went underground — @HighCountry News

Typical water well

From News Deeply (Mark Grossi) via the High Country News:

The race to dig deeper wells is a losing game for small rural communities.

Evelyn Rios wept in 2014 when the well went dry at her home of 46 years – the home where she and husband Joe raised five children on farm-worker wages. They cannot afford another well, so they do without. Her angst only grew as California’s five-year drought dragged on.

Finally, after one of the wettest winters on record, Gov. Jerry Brown announced in April that the drought had ended. But situation remains grim, says Rios, 80, who lives in rural Madera County in California’s San Joaquin Valley. She thought she was being hooked up to the city of Madera’s water system. Now the emergency money for such projects has dried up.

“So, the drought is over?” she asks. “What about us? What about the plans to hook up to Madera’s water? How long will we have to wait now? The drought might be over for you, but it isn’t over for me.”

Full reservoirs and swollen rivers don’t mean that much to people living in rural San Joaquin Valley, where about 1,000 people still have dry wells. Their water sits underground in the nation’s second-largest groundwater aquifer, which was mined and dramatically drawn down by farmers protecting the valley’s $40 billion-a-year agriculture industry.

Legislation passed in 2014 will help regulate groundwater pumping, but it will be at least two decades before the law is fully implemented, leaving communities vulnerable to further groundwater shortages and having to compete with big farms digging deeper wells. In addition, many of those people live in small, unincorporated communities, which often lack the resources to properly maintain community water systems.

Waiting years for safe drinking water has now become a way of life in the valley. It’s one more stress for people who live in California’s most vulnerable social and environmental conditions. They face contaminated water, dirty air, lack of healthcare and language barriers, according to a state environmental screening tool called CalEnivroScreen.

People of color in this farm country die up to 15 years sooner than people who live in more affluent areas of Fresno, according to the Central Valley Health Policy Institute at Fresno State.

Many of these rural residents will still be without reliable water this year while the rest of California debates landscape watering rules.

The state is trying not to abandon people with dry wells. Starting July 1, an additional year of free water will be delivered to massive tanks that were placed at many dwellings with dry wells, including the Rios’ home.

Which only raises more questions, say water advocates in Central California. One year won’t be enough time to fix all the problems out there. What will happen afterward? Will the state continue to buy water?

El Niño/La Niña update: 50-60% chance for continuation of ENSO neutral

From the World Meteorological Organization:

ENSO neutral conditions currently prevail in the tropical Pacific Ocean, despite sea surface temperatures being near the El Niño threshold. Most climate models surveyed indicate that ENSO-neutral conditions will continue through July-September 2017, followed by a 50-60% chance of a continuation of ENSO-neutral during the subsequent months of 2017. The development of El Niño conditions is slightly less likely, while the emergence of La Niña appears unlikely. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will continue to closely monitor changes in the state of ENSO over the coming months.

Two water agencies petition U.S. Supremes to rule on tribal groundwater rights

Coachella Valley photo credit the Water Education Foundation.

From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Ian James and Jay Calderon):

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on whether Indian tribes hold special rights to the groundwater beneath their reservations, and the court will now have a chance to settle the question in a case that could redraw the lines in water disputes across the country.

The case revolves around whether the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has a federally established “reserved right” to groundwater on its reservation in Palm Springs and surrounding areas in the desert.

Two water districts have been fighting the tribe in court for four years, and on Wednesday the districts filed petitions to appeal to the Supreme Court. The Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water District are challenging a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the tribe has a right to groundwater that was established when the federal government created the reservation in the 1870s.

Managers of the water agencies argue the aquifer is a public resource and the tribe has the same rights under California law as all other landowners to use water pumped from the aquifer.

“This case is important because it’s about the shared resource,” said James Cioffi, president of DWA’s board of directors. “We think it’s our duty to maintain the ownership of the water for everyone.”

Cioffi pointed out that the agency has long provided water to the Agua Caliente tribe for its hotels, casinos and golf courses. He said the motivations behind the tribe’s lawsuit remain unclear.

“Certainly it’s not about access to the water because they along with everyone else in this community has access to all the water they want,” Cioffi said. “We have been partners with the tribe on a lot of their projects and will continue to do so.”

He and other board members at the water agencies say they worry that if the tribe prevails, its privileged rights could drive up water costs for customers and complicate efforts to manage groundwater.

The Coachella Valley Water District’s legal team said in their 47-page petition to the Supreme Court that water scarcity is one of the most pressing problems facing the western U.S. and that if the appeals court’s ruling is allowed to stand, Indian reservations “would have preemptive federal rights that override the vigorous and ongoing state and local efforts to ensure the future availability of groundwater in the West.”

The Supreme Court hears a small number of the cases that are petitioned for review, and the court is expected to announce in the fall whether it will take up the Agua Caliente case.

Groundwater movement via the USGS