CPW: Alberta Park Reservoir dam to undergo maintenance

Alberta Park Reservoir photo credit GeoView.com.

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife via The Pagosa Sun:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is lowering the water level at its Alberta Park Reservoir to accom- modate repairs that must be made to the dam as soon as possible. The reservoir, about 40 acres in size, is located at an altitude above 10,000 feet just east of Wolf Creek Pass in Mineral County in southwest Colorado.

The earthen embankment structure is stable; however, CPW is moving quickly to make the repairs, according to John Clark, dam operations engineer for CPW. Work will start July 31 after the water level has been lowered 10 feet. Repairs should be complete by late September.

During a planned field evaluation of the dam that took place the week of July 17, a CPW contractor drilled into the dam. The contractor ob- served that the seepage, as a result of the drilling, was more than expected downstream of the embankment. Field activities were immediately stopped and the drill hole was filled with a mixture of cement and bentonite, which is standard procedure. “The overall integrity of the struc- ture is not in danger and we are monitoring the dam on a daily basis,” Clark said.

For the repair, a small area on the right side of the toe of the dam will be excavated. Sand, gravel and other material will be placed there to slow the flow of the water and provide a filter to mitigate further seepage.

“While this will stabilize that part of the structure, this is an interim measure. This dam is over 60 years old and we plan to initiate major rehabilitation activities as funds become available,” Clark said.

The evaluation of the dam by the contractor was initiated to support the planned rehabilitation of the dam. Constructed in the 1950s, the dam is at the top of CPW’s priority list for reconstruction. Clark said rehabilitation work could cost more than $6 million and is planned within the next two to three years.

CPW owns and operates more than 110 dams throughout Colorado and the average age of these dams is more than 70 years. Accord- ing to a 2014 study, CPW’s dams are in need of substantial repair and rehabilitation at a cost of at least $60 million within the next five years. In 2016, CPW completed a three-year, $15.5 million project to rehabilitate the dam at Beaver Creek Reservoir,
located in Rio Grande County. “Maintaining and repairing dams is an essential activity, not just to prevent loss of life and property damage, but to enhance outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, it is very costly,” Clark said.

The reservoir is located in an area managed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Rio Grande National Forest. Forest Service officials have put a closure order in effect for the area around the dam to protect human health and safety during repair work. The closure prohibits people from passing through or being in the restricted area from the boat ramp to 100 yards below the dam, including the dispersed camping site.

Alberta Park Reservoir impounds about 600 acre feet of water, which is used for fisheries management, fishing, wildlife conservation and recreational purposes.

Increased hay exports will drive opportunity for some farmers

Hay meadows near Gunnison

From The Western Farm Press (Todd Fichette):

A report by Rabobank suggests Saudi Arabia will need 1.3 million tons of high-quality hay annually by 2019 as the kingdom faces water conservation measures that will force tighter restrictions on the production of domestic forages for animal consumption.

In 2016 the U.S. exported 288,000 tons of hay to the kingdom, or an estimated 65 percent of total Saudi hay imports.

The Rabobank report does not break down hay by variety. Even so, alfalfa remains the top hay type produced in California and Arizona. Of the 315,000 acres of hay produced in Arizona in 2016, 280,000 acres of that was alfalfa. California growers that year produced 720,000 acres of their total 1.2 million acres of hay.

For the U.S. to hold to this figure and the kingdom’s projected needs, American hay production will need to increase by 45 percent, year-over-year through 2019, according to James Williamson, dairy analyst with Rabobank in Fresno, Calif.

This need is contributing to Saudi Arabia’s penchant for real estate as the country seeks irrigated land elsewhere around the world to secure the forages it needs. Since 2014 one Saudi company has purchased more than 14,000 acres in Arizona and California to grow alfalfa and export it to its dairies in the Middle East.

Rabobank also projects that Saudi Arabia could bolster its forage supplies in general through long-term contracts or joint ventures in the West, and could help meet its demand for dry-cow hay by working with East Coast producers to grow lower-quality, dehydrated forages…

Rabobank projects demand from the top-six international importers – China/Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia – will continue to increase over the next five years. Saudi Arabia will likely lead the increased buying as water availability there forces continued water conservation efforts.

Under the tightening regulations, Saudi dairies that export milk will be forced to stop producing hay by 2018 and those that sell milk only for local markets will be required to reduce hay production by 2019, the Rabobank report states.

While Williamson focused on Saudi Arabia in his report, in a phone interview he mentioned China as another large buyer of American hay. In 2016 the U.S. shipped 1.275 million tons of hay to China and Hong Kong.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Update: The film starts today in Denver.

Here’s a review from the New York Times:

In a summer movie landscape with Spider-Man, a simian army waging further battle for the planet and Charlize Theron as a sexy Cold War-era superspy, it says something that one of the most compelling characters is Al Gore.

“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” a follow-up to “An Inconvenient Truth,” Davis Guggenheim’s Oscar-winning documentary from 2006, is a reboot that justifies its existence — and not just because Mr. Gore has fresh news to report on climate change since his previous multimedia presentation played in multiplexes.

Now gray-haired and at times sounding angrier in his speeches, Mr. Gore, in “Sequel,” takes on the air of a Shakespearean figure, a man long cast out of power by what he casually refers to as “the Supreme Court decision” (meaning Bush v. Gore) but still making the same arguments that have been hallmarks of his career.

If there is a thesis in this new documentary, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (“Audrie & Daisy”), it’s that a rise in extreme weather is making the impact of climate change harder to deny. The movie touches on Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the wildfire in Fort McMurray, Canada, and the Zika virus. Mr. Gore visits Greenland and the flooded streets of the Miami area. (He acknowledges a complicated relationship with Florida.)

“The dots are seldom connected in the media,” he says at one point, but events like these are symptoms of global warming.

As positive developments, he notes the 2015 launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite, and visits a small city in Texas whose Republican mayor has decided that renewable energy makes market sense.

“An Inconvenient Sequel” delves deeper into the arcane details of compromise than its predecessor, with scenes of Mr. Gore working to find a middle ground between the needs of developed and developing nations. In a group meeting, Piyush Goyal, India’s power minister, pushes back against Mr. Gore’s desire to replicate in India the expanded use of solar energy in the United States. “I’ll do the same thing after 150 years,” Mr. Goyal replies.

During the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference, Mr. Gore, who wasn’t an official negotiator, tries to persuade Lyndon Rive, then chief executive of the American company SolarCity, to grant India the rights to a patent on a type of solar technology. (The results aren’t clear from the film; India signed on to the Paris agreement without making a deal with SolarCity and still hasn’t made one.)

Mr. Gore likens President Trump’s election to a quip often attributed to Mike Tyson: You always have a plan until you get punched in the face. The movie has been updated since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January to include Mr. Trump’s announcement of the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, a decision that probably forecasts another sequel.

Google says that the party starts next Thursday around the Denver area.

@CWCB_DNR: July 2017 #Drought Update

From the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Taryn Finnesey) and Colorado Division of Water Resources (Tracy Kosloff):

June was characterized by warm and dry conditions; statewide it was the 12th driest June on record and the driest we have seen since 2013. Above average temperatures have continued into July, particularly on the west slope where it has been as much as four degrees above average. Consequently, abnormally dry conditions have expanded west of the divide, should we have a strong monsoon season these conditions may be abated. Reservoir storage remains high, and municipal water providers have no immediate concerns with levels of supply and demand in their systems.

  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 113% of normal.
  • After receiving only 23% percent of statewide average precipitation in June at SNOTEL stations, July precipitation
    to date statewide is 125% of average as of July 24.
  • Long-term forecasts for the monsoon season indicate a continuation of above average temperatures and above average chances of precipitation, mostly in August.
  • ENSO-neutral conditions are forecast to persist throughout the fall.
  • 36 percent of Colorado is classified as abnormally dry (D0), with no other drought classifications in the state.
  • Warmer than normal temperatures have affected Colorado throughout the summer and are forecast to continue into the fall.
    Models indicate above normal chances of precipitation for parts of Colorado through the monsoon season (Aug-Oct). Should this forecast verify this would bring much needed moisture to parts of the state that are currently abnormally dry.
    Three month precipitation outlook through October 31, 2017 via the Climate Prediction Center.

    San Juan River: Scientists find yearling #Colorado Pikeminnow

    From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

    A fish that federal officials say was once widely known as the “salmon of the southwest” shows signs of recovering its diminished population in the San Juan River basin, according to data collected last year.

    Scientists say they have found evidence that the Colorado pikeminnow is reproducing in the San Juan River, and the offspring are surviving.

    This conclusion is based on data gathered last year following the spring peak release from Navajo Dam. Scientists found more Colorado pikeminnow in the San Juan River than in previous years, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services. They also found 23 yearling fish. Prior to last year, only one juvenile fish had been caught by scientists since work began in the 1990s to restore habitat.

    In a press release, Tom Wesche, a University of Wyoming professor emeritus and a member of the San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program’s biology committee, said finding the young fish that had been born in the river and survived the winter is great news. He said it “hopefully represents important progress along the road to species recovery.”

    More than 540 Colorado pikeminnow were counted in the San Juan River last year, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service…

    The San Juan River Recovery Implementation Program — which includes participation by several entities, including the state of New Mexico, that are working to improve habitat in the San Juan River — is credited with helping the endangered Colorado pikeminnow recover. The program’s goal is to eventually get the Colorado pikeminnow removed from the endangered species list.

    One of 23 yearling endangered Colorado pikeminnow captured in 2016 in the San Juan River by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish biologists is measured. This is only the second time that yearling fish have been captured in the San Juan River. (Photo: Courtesy of New Mexico Department Game and Fish) via The Farmington Daily Times.

    Whitmore said finding the juvenile fish was a step toward reaching that goal. There are still other milestones that need to be met before the fish can be removed from the list.

    There must be more than 800 adult Colorado pikeminnow and more than 1,000 juveniles in the San Juan River basin before the species can be delisted. Other criteria that must be met are listed on the program’s website.

    Whitmore said the Colorado pikeminnow’s decline was likely caused by human development along the river, including dams, diversions and depletion of water for agricultural uses…

    Snow melt, which increases the flow of the river, triggers the fish to spawn, but the dam at Navajo Lake has prevented large spring runoffs. When there is enough moisture, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation increases the flow in the San Juan River to 5,000 cubic feet per second. The bureau has able to conduct the spring peak release for the past two years.

    Danielle Tremblay of Colorado Parks and Wildlife holding a Colorado pikeminnow collected on the Colorado River in Grand Junction. An apex predator in the Colorado, pikeminnows used to be found up to six feet long and weighing 100 pounds.

    S.W. #Colorado “River Protection Workgroup” disbands

    Proposed Hermosa Creek watershed protection area via The Durango Herald

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    After more than a decade, the River Protection Workgroup, tasked with drafting a region-wide approach to land and river management in Southwest Colorado, has decided to disband after divided interests could not reach a compromise.

    “Water in the West is complicated and there are many, many interests,” said Marsha Porter-Norton, a facilitator for the group. “I think people left in a civil way … and agreed to disagree.”

    […]

    Wanting to start a community-wide conversation, the San Juan Citizens Alliance, a Durango-based environmental group, proposed forming a workgroup to look at what sort of management plan may work for the region.

    As a result, representatives from various interest groups partnered to form the River Protection Workgroup, including SJCA, the Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, and the Southwestern Water Conservation District – the entity tasked with developing water resources in the Southwest basin.

    Over the past decade, the group embarked on an extensive public outreach effort, holding up to 24 meetings in each river basin to get a sense of how nearby residents and water users would like to see the land and water managed.

    The group’s most notable success was in 2014, when after six years of negotiations, the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act was signed into law, designating 37,400 acres as wilderness area and 70,600 acres as a Special Management Area in the San Juan Mountains, north of Durango…

    But as negotiations came down to the wire, the group was unable to reach agreement on a region-wide package.

    The Southwestern Water Conservation District offered to place Hermosa Creek on the Wild and Scenic list, which would have been the second river in Colorado to carry such a designation, but only if the other rivers were dropped from consideration.

    However, SJCA argued that Hermosa Creek is already highly protected through the 2014 act, and conservation efforts would be giving up a lot to have all those other segments taken out of the Wild and Scenic designation.

    The final blow was the language in the draft legislation concerning new water projects. SWCD agreed to no new “major impoundments” on the Animas and Piedra within a quarter mile of the river corridor.

    But conservation groups wanted more of a concrete definition of “major impoundment,” fearing there could be loopholes for large-scale construction projects, which could possibly impact the wild quality of the rivers.

    Trout Unlimited was on board with the deal, but SJCA and the Wilderness Society were ultimately unsatisfied.

    “One of the reasons to do this (workgroup) was to avoid litigation,” said Jimbo Buickerood, with SJCA. “Because there was no concrete definition (of major impoundments), we didn’t see it as progress, and that there could be litigation in the future.”

    Bruce Whitehead, executive director of SWCD, said it’s the water district’s responsibility to ensure existing and future water needs, and that some of the environmental group’s demands would have conflicted with that mission.

    “It’s critical for us to maintain those balances,” Whitehead said. “(The group) just kept coming back around and talking about the same issues and eventually it ran its course.”

    On May 19, members of the River Protection Group decided to part ways.

    The latest “The CWCB Confluence” newsletter is hot off the presses from @CWCB_DNR

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    The CWCB is pleased to announce that Becky Mitchell is our new Director! Prior to becoming Director, Becky served as the Section Chief for the Water Supply Planning section, which focuses on ensuring sufficient water supplies for Colorado’s citizens and the environment. She’s played a significant role 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.

    “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. 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.” — Becky Mitchell, Coyote Gulch.

    The CWCB is thrilled to welcome Becky into this new role! Read more about her.

    Rebecca Mitchell was named to the Colorado Water Conservation Board on July 5, 2017. Photo credit the Colorado Independent.