Update: Big Thompson restoration project

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From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

This stretch of the Big Thompson River, from the Jasper Lake bridge to just before the Cherry Cider Store, was scoured and severely changed during the 2013 floods. It was left too wide and entrenched, with vegetation ripped away from the banks.

The new face of the river has a narrower channel with more areas along the banks for waters to disperse in the event of another flood.

It has large boulders specifically placed to control the flow of the water and to create pools for fish habitat.

There are large trees that extend from under the banks into the river, stabilizing the bank, preventing erosion and creating habitat.

And trees, forbes and shrubs were strategically planted, again to stabilize the banks, prevent erosion and create shade and habitat.

“We’ve really made it look like a river again,” said Shayna Jones, watershed coordinator with the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition.

The goal was to mix several different restoration techniques — the planting, the rocks, the tree trunks — to improve the river while keeping it natural, which from the look of the river is mission accomplished.

“It’s a really good mix of types of restoration,” added Jones.

Even the planting is mixed for diversity and meticulously planned out. The project team chose all native vegetation and placed different shrubs, trees, forbes and grasses in different zones along the banks. The willows, live stands transplanted from the river corridor nearby, are close to and in some spots in the water, while pine trees are further away up the shore.

The trees and shrubs are planted in clumps to mirror nature, not in neat rows as a gardener would do.

Much of the vegetation was transplanted from the natural surroundings, while other plants were specifically grown by the Colorado State Forest Service for river restoration.

This project is among five already completed by the Big Thompson Watershed Coalition and its partners, which have more planned this year in the Big Thompson as do other entities like the city of Loveland and Colorado Department of Transportation.

The recently completed work, called the Jasper Lake project, spans a half mile of the river on both the north and south sides of the highway and crosses private, Larimer County and U.S. Forest Service land.

It cost $800,000 with the money coming from a mixture of federal, state and private sources, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Department of Local Affairs, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Rocky Mountain Flycasters and the Trout and Salmon Foundation.

Though the river project abuts Narrows Park, that piece of public land has not yet been restored. Owned by Larimer County, that park will serve as the site of a temporary bridge crossing the river while the county replaces the Jasper Lake Bridge this fall, so restoration is planned by the county after that bridge project, according to officials involved with the restoration project.

The Big Thompson Watershed Coalition worked with contractors and several partners, including private landowners, on this project. Walsh said one of the greatest parts was to meet the people, to listen about the river’s past and to explain the new, healthier river that was being created.

@NOAA: Globe had 2nd warmest year to date and 3rd warmest June on record

From NOAA:

Arctic and Antarctic sea-ice coverage remains small

In terms of Earth’s seasonal change, June is a significant month: It marks the summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere and the winter solstice for the Southern Hemisphere. It also means the calendar year is half-over, and it’s time for a climate check-up.

Let’s dive deeper into our monthly analysis to see how the planet fared for the month and the year to date*:

Climate by the numbers — June
The average global temperature set in June 2017 was 1.48 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 59.9 degrees, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. This average temperature was the third highest for June in the 1880-2017 record, behind June 2015 (second) and a record-breaking June 2016. June 2017 marks the 41st consecutive June and the 390th consecutive month with temperatures at least nominally above the 20th-century average.

*Year to date | January through June 2017
The year-to-date average temperature was 1.64 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 56.3 degrees. This was the second-warmest for this period, 0.29 of a degree behind the record set in 2016.

A map of significant climate events that occurred around the world in June 2017. (NOAA NCEI)

Other notable climate events and facts around the world last month included:

Below-average sea ice at the poles continues

The average Arctic sea ice extent (coverage) for June was 7.5 percent below the 1981-2010 average, the sixth smallest for the month since satellite records began in 1979. The average Antarctic sea ice extent was 6.3 percent below average, the second smallest on record for June behind 2002.

Warmer-than-average lands and oceans

The globally averaged land-surface temperature (fourth warmest for the month of June) and the sea-surface temperature (third warmest) ranked second highest on record for the year to date.

Africa and Europe lead the continents in warmth rankings

Africa had its warmest June on record; Europe, its second (tied with 2007); South America, its third (tied with 2005); Asia, it’s eighth; North America, its 10th; and Oceania, its 50th (tied with 1927).

Navajo and #NM lawsuits preclude @EPA review says agency #GoldKingMine

The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott) via The Durango Herald:

In a written statement, the EPA said the law prevents it from reconsidering claims from anyone who has filed suit.

That could rule out a review of the two largest claims from the 2015 spill in southwestern Colorado, which the EPA inadvertently triggered…

More than 70 governments, businesses and individuals sought about $420 million in damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which is a way to settle without a lawsuit. The Navajos filed claims for $162 million and New Mexico for $130 million.

New Mexico and the Navajos sued the EPA for damages in federal court…

President Donald Trump’s appointee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt, pledged during his confirmation hearing he would review that decision. On Friday, the second anniversary of the spill, he announced a new course.

“A new review is paramount to ensure that those who have, in fact, suffered losses have a fair opportunity to have their claims heard,” he said.

Monday’s EPA statement appeared to narrow the scope of the review considerably.

“EPA won’t be able to reconsider a claim once the claimant has sued the U.S. in court, which the state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation have done,” it said.

The EPA designated the Gold King and 47 other mining sites in the area a Superfund district and is reviewing options for a cleanup.

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

Mood: Monsoonal

Katie Klingsporn

“Tomorrow’s forecast: high shred alert.”

My buddy had scrawled this cheeky message on a sheet of paper he left on my desk. In actuality, the forecast was looking wet: 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after noon. Typical weather for late summer in the San Juans, when clouds pile up nearly every afternoon to leak rain in various states of downpour, thunder crashes off the valley walls and lightning makes everything a little spicier. Monsoon season.

Despite the forecast, we were hungry to test out an alluring linkage of singletrack that ventured far into the San Juans — from Lizard Head Pass, the route connected into the Colorado Trail before climbing over the red-streaked notch of Blackhawk Pass and bombing back down toward Rico.

It was going to be a big day in the saddle. But with an early enough start, we figured, we’d be fine. A little rain…

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@USBR: Paonia Dam intake structure repair open house, August 15, 2017

Intake structure during construction in 1961. Photo Credit Reclamation.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Tom Fowlds, Justyn Liff):

The public is invited to a public meeting on Tuesday, August 15, at 7 p.m. to meet with project representatives from the Bureau of Reclamation, Fire Mountain Canal Company and North Fork Water Conservancy District to learn about Paonia Dam intake structure repairs. The meeting will be held at Memorial Hall, 175 North 1st Street, in Hotchkiss, Colo.

Repairs will begin in mid-September 2017 to the Paonia Dam intake structure and bulkhead, part of the Paonia Project located near Paonia, Colo.

Crews will dismantle the damaged concrete bulkhead located within the intake structure and then install an aluminum trash rack and bracing to the top of the intake structure. Prior to and during intake structure repair, increased turbidity downstream of the dam will be noticeable due to reservoir operations and drawdown. These repairs are necessary to help ensure continuation of normal dam operations and water delivery to downstream users.

During repair and construction, work crews and heavy construction equipment will be operating at the dam. Turbidity will increase in Muddy Creek and the North Fork of the Gunnison River downstream of Paonia Dam, and sediment deposition will occur primarily in Muddy Creek from the dam to the confluence of Anthracite Creek until flushing flows are released in spring 2018. Repairs are expected to be completed in November 2017.

To learn more about the Paonia Project, upcoming repair work or sedimentation issues in the reservoir, visit our website at: http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wca/progact/paonia/index.html. You can also join our email list for project updates by clicking the “Contact Us” link.

@USBR: Future scientists study with current scientists at Nature High Summer Camp

Students looking at and learning about an animal pelt.

Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Chris Watt):

Bureau of Reclamation employees Shane Mower and Dave Snyder taught students hands-on lessons in fish data acquisition using seining, animal skull anatomy and physiology, wildlife adaptions, wildlife tracks and possible impacts to fish and wildlife from natural and human-influenced changes in the environment, at Nature High Summer Camp held July 31 to Aug. 5.

Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region, along with other Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, Utah State University, and local agencies, sponsor and participate in the Nature High Summer Camp. Started in 1991, the goal of the camp is to introduce high school students to science and natural resource fields of study and careers they might not have otherwise considered.

Federal professionals share their expertise by providing students with actual field activities and experiences in hydrology, rangeland conservation, wildlife biology, soils, and forestry. Students learn how to use information from these disciplines in creating team-based camp projects that address natural resource issues from the differing perspectives of environmentalist, farmers, ranchers, recreationists, and government agencies.