After 36 years working at the River District, this will be Eric Kuhn’s last seminar on staff. Now a renowned Colorado River statesman, he will give a glimpse into his upcoming memoirs via his candid, well-studied perspectives. His legacy includes many durable agreements that have brought peace to the once turbulent Colorado River; he will not only speak to the many lessons learned but of the uncertain future of the west’s lifeblood.
Keynoting the lunchtime program is Dr. Jack Schmidt (Utah State University and former Glen Canyon Monitoring and Research Center Director) who has authored a critical analysis of a controversial proposal to drain Lake Powell and fill Lake Mead first. Although the proposal is touted as a way to open up the submerged Glen Canyon, reduce evaporation and thereby increase water supply, Schmidt’s analysis raises serious questions about the technical viability of this approach.
During the main program, two western Colorado ranchers, Don Schwindt of Cortez, Bill Trampe of Gunnison and Dave Kanzer of the Colorado River District, will discuss how the move to irrigation efficiency equipment can have both desired benefits and unintended consequences, especially to late season streamflows.
Addressing one of the many complexities for the Lower Colorado River Basin will be Bill Hasencamp, Manager with Metropolitan Water District of Southern California by presenting on the challenges of the Salton Sea and the Bay-Delta.
Our line-up also includes a good report from Grand County collaborators Paul Bruchez, Mely Whiting and Lurline Curran on transforming the Upper Colorado River with healthy improvements.
Authors Heather Hansman and Eric Kuhn will discuss their respective upcoming books on the Green River and the Colorado River.
Additionally, newly named Director Becky Mitchell of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Board members John McClow and Heather Dutton will discuss the current water picture and how to move ahead on solving Colorado’s water challenges.
The very full and detailed agenda is on line at http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org. To register, please contact Meredith TODAY for the reduced rate via email to email@example.com or by calling 970-945-8522. Credit cards accepted.
From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Elaine Chick):
Tens of millions of people, billions of dollars of agricultural production and an enormous amount of economic activity across a vast swath of America from California to the Mississippi River are all dependent on rivers born in the mountains of Colorado.
In a time of mounting demand and limited supply, the need for all citizens to better understand and participate in decisions affecting this critical resource is paramount. Colorado’s population is expected to double by 2050, with a good portion of that occurring on the Western Slope. Where will all that water come from?
To discuss this, as well as a multitude of other issues, Pagosa Springs will once again be the location for the educational 11th annual Water 101 and 201 seminars.
Sponsored by the Water Information Program, the seminars will take place on Oct. 5 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Oct. 6 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Ross Ara- gon Community Center (451 Hot Springs Blvd.).
The seminar qualifies for 11 continuing education credits (CECs) for Realtors and six CECs for lawyers for completion of both days. The seminars are open to the general public as well.
Topics include water law, an explanation of water-related agencies and organizations, the Colorado Water Plan and implementation, as well as discussion about timely and important water topics and issues. The 201 session will provide more in-depth information on water law to include compacts and the water court process.
The seminar features a lineup of quali ed speakers, including the keynote, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs (retired), as well as representatives from fed- eral, state and local agencies.
Space is limited, so register early. The early-bird registration fee is $40 before Sept. 22 for the 101 workshop, $30 for the 201 session before Sept. 22, and $60 for both days. For those seeking CECs, add $10 to each of the preceding. The registration fee includes snack and an information packet both days, as well as lunch on Oct. 5.
From The Fort Morgan Times (Paul Albani-Burgio):
The Morgan County Commissioners voted 3 to 0 Tuesday to approve a conditional use permit and variance for the construction of a solar farm on 20 acres of land near the intersection of County Road 21 and County Road N southeast of Fort Morgan.
The farm is being built by Starlight Energy Corporation on land owned by Peter V. and Karen V. Anderson. Commissioner Mark Arndt said Starlight is proposing to sell the electricity that is generated from the farm to the Morgan County Rural Electric Association to provide power for Morgan County residents but a power purchase agreement has not been finalized. Arndt said Starlight has also talked about Fort Morgan Light and Power as a possible buyer of the electricity that will be generated.
The facility is expected to generate about 2 megawatts of solar power per year and a half of a megawatt of natural gas power. Though the number of homes powered by a megawatt of solar energy depends on average sunshine, electricity consumption, temperature and wind in a given area, it is estimated that one megawatt can power about 650 homes.
Starlight Energy CEO Brian Bentley said the company was hoping to have the solar farm constructed and operational in the first quarter of 2018. Bentley said a portion of the facility that will generate natural gas when not enough solar power is being generated should be operational by the fourth quarter of this year.
92 percent of Denver Water’s customers are satisfied, but there is room for improvement.
From Metropolitan State University at Denver (Terry Bower):
In response to the reality of declining water resources, Metropolitan State University of Denver Innovative and Lifelong Learning has partnered with the One World One Water Center to offer a new Water Studies Online Certificate, an opportunity to learn about the history, law, and management of water in Colorado and the western United States.
From lifelong learners who want to know more about water preservation to those working in green and sustainable professions, this unique certificate provides introductory level training and skills relevant to a wide range of fields in the nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors, including water industries, conservation, agriculture, construction, engineering, and law.
What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:
Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry Real-world applications – Develop a capstone project to directly apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations Career opportunities – Find job demand in a growth industry. Wherever you live, someone’s job is to be in charge of water.
Registration opens October 3. Courses start January 2018. For more information, please contact Innovative and Lifelong Learning at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.721.1313.
Go Roadrunners! (John Orr, class of 1978)
Here’s the release from the United States Geological Survey (Clint Muhlfeld):
A new U.S. Geological Survey study provides a larger window into the future for understanding how seasonal stream temperatures may change in one of the most ecologically diverse ecosystems in North America – the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, USA and Canada.
Summary: Climate warming is expected to increase stream temperatures in mountainous regions of western North America, yet the degree to which future climate change may influence seasonal patterns of stream temperature is uncertain. Much of the scientific and management focus of future changes in stream temperatures has focused instead on average summer temperatures. This new study used a comprehensive database of stream temperature records (~4 million bi-hourly recordings) and high-resolution climate and land surface data to estimate monthly stream temperatures and potential change under future warming scenarios. Results imply increasing trends in stream temperature warming during spring, summer, and fall, with the largest increases predicted during summer. Additionally, stream temperatures characteristic of current August temperatures, the warmest month of the year, may be exceeded during July and September, suggesting an earlier onset and extended duration of warm summer stream temperatures. The study provides the first broad scale analysis of seasonal climate effects on stream temperature in this internationally important ecosystem for better understanding climate change impacts on freshwater habitats and guiding conservation and climate adaptation strategies for aquatic species.
The study, “Projected warming portends seasonal shifts of stream temperatures in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, USA and Canada”, was published in the journal Climate Change.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission has unanimously approved the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan submitted by Northern Water for the Northern Integrated Supply Project on the Poudre River in Northeast Colorado. This plan is designed to address the impacts to fish and wildlife due to the development and water diversion associated with NISP.
Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) staff has been talking with Northern Water about the concept of this project for the last decade. Northern Water, CPW and the Department of Natural Resources have been discussing the Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan project in earnest since October 2015. Following more than two years of discussions, Northern Water presented and released a public draft of the Plan at the June Commission meeting.
CPW staff feel that Northern Water’s plan provides a reasonable solution for fish and wildlife mitigation.
“We understand the public’s concern for the river which is why CPW staff has been engaged in discussions for close to a decade,” said Ken Kehmeier, senior aquatic biologist with CPW. “If we were not involved from the onset, the level of mitigation, enhancement and protection of the river corridor and aquatic habitat would not be such a large part of Northern’s plans,” said Kehmeier.
Northern Water has made modifications to its project design and operations, and has committed to work with CPW. Recommendations by CPW are aimed at minimizing impacts to fish and wildlife habitat during all phases of the project. Some of these include:
Peak Flow Operations Plan, pg. 46 the “conveyance refinement” flow, or year-round baseline flow plan for the river; the retrofit of four diversions that currently do not allow fish passage or sediment transport; Big game habitat mitigation and enhancements
The Peak Flow Operations Plan will minimize the impacts of NISP operations on peak flows, higher flows in the spring. Peak flow is important for maintaining spawning habitat for fish and aquatic life. Northern Water has agreed to ramping water diversions gradually to avoid sudden changes in river flows and allow fish to adjust.
The conveyance refinement is crucial for aquatic habitat and river connectivity. This process is intended to eliminate existing dry-up points on a 12-mile stretch of the Poudre River through Fort Collins. Average winter flows at the Lincoln Street Gate will be nearly doubled compared with current levels.
“The conveyance flow program is significant to the fishery and aquatic life because it keeps water in the river on a year round basis,” Kehmeier said. The conveyance flow will also meet the Fort Collins River Health Assessment Framework flow of 20 cfs 97 of the time at the Lincoln Street Gage.
“Overall, the conveyance flow will significantly benefit the aquatic life in the river during the low flow times of the year,” Kehmeier said.
As part Northern Water’s plan, a new reservoir will be created for water storage and recreation opportunities for the public. Northern Water has agreed to provide $3 million plus an additional $50,000 per year for CPW hatchery expansion so that the new Glade Reservoir can be managed as a recreational fishery. Additional fishing opportunities will benefit the local and Colorado economy, as the fishing industry generates $1.9 billion in economic activity annually.
Northern Water has also agreed to provide wildlife habitat mitigation and enhancements on the west side of the reservoir, including the purchase of 1,380 acres to protect the reservoir drainage area and big-game habitat from development. This is critical winter range habitat for a non-migratory elk herd.
CPW recognizes that the water quality mitigation is not complete and the proposed project still needs to go through a 401 certification as part of the federal Clean Water Act process. This certification will be conducted by Colorado Department of Health and Environment. As part of a recommendation prompted by the Colorado Water Plan, CPW staff will participate in that process and feel that it will further enhance protection of the Poudre River.
Temperature issues occur in the river on a year-round basis; the conveyance refinement and multi-level outlet tower at Glade Reservoir will aid in mitigating the temperature issues and other potential water quality issues, for example, sediment transport during low flow. The releases from the reservoir will be aerated and the multi-level outlet will allow water to be mixed if it is needed at a particular temperature.
The Poudre River Adaptive Management Plan, pg 97, will allow a collective group of interested parties that include the City of Fort Collins, Northern Water, CPW, Larimer County and others to go back and make corrections to the plan and operation if any are necessary. The plan will also allow CPW and other parties to continue conducting projects to benefit the river to include floodplain connection, fish habitat enhancements and mitigate sediment transport.
The Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan will now go to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for review.
The full Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan can be found here: http://www.northernwater.org/sf/docs/default-source/default-document-library/2017-08-22-nisp-fwmep_draft-final-1.pdf?sfvrsn=90f38624_2
Here’s the release from the US Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The Bureau of Reclamation is launching a new prize competition seeking innovative, interactive, and user-driven ways to display data that supports management of the Colorado River Basin. Visualizations improve data exploration, analysis, interpretation, and communication.
Reclamation’s Hydraulic Engineer Jon Rocha works on methods of presenting complex data in a user-friendly way. “Think about your daily weather forecast. Most people see a colorful map with temperatures,” Rocha said. “But, underneath that map is really lots and lots of data.”
Reclamation is making a total prize purse of $60,000 available, to be divided among the winners. A maximum single award for this competition is $20,000 with no prizes below $5,000 being provided for fully successful solutions. No cash prizes are guaranteed unless they meet or exceed the Solution Requirements. Partial cash prizes will be considered for solutions that meet some, but not all, of the requirements.
Successful solutions will include one or more of the following elements:
Integrated visualization of multiple relevant CRB data types and/or ancillary information. This may include mashups of data from Reclamation and other sources, combination of multiple data types, and/or integration of data with ancillary information. User-customizable visualization of data and/or ancillary information. This may include user-driven selection of data parameters, time periods, or geographical range, or configuration of visualization layout or content to meet user needs and preferences. Interactive visualization of data and/or ancillary information. This may include zooming or panning around a visualization, drilling down into data, clicking through animations, inputting information, and/or responding to queries or requests from the visualization.
Reclamation is collaborating with the U.S. Geological Survey, the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, the Natural Resource Conservation Service and the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission.
Learn more by visiting https://www.usbr.gov/research/challenges/datavis.html.
From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):
The National Weather Service isn’t expecting the winter to be dominated by El Nino, when temperatures in the Southern Pacific Ocean are above normal, or La Nina, when temperatures are below normal. Instead, they expect El Nino Southern Oscillation Neutral conditions, known as ENSO Neutral.
“Basically what that means for us in western Colorado is a wildcard winter,” said Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the weather service in Grand Junction. “There is no preferred track for storms. If we happen to be in the storm track, we can be wet and snowy. If we are more likely out of the storm track, we will be dry.”
Past winters with ENSO Neutral conditions brought a mixed bag to western Colorado. In 2012-13 and 2014-15 there was below normal precipitation across Colorado for the winter, she said. In 2013-14 there was above normal precipitation across the northern and eastern areas of the state.
“One thing that all three of those winters had in common was the presence of a persistent ridge of high pressure situated over the West Coast,” Stackhouse said. That tends to block low-pressure systems that drop in snowstorms from the northwest.
Aspen’s experiences during the three most recent ENSO Neutral winters were slightly different from the state as a whole. The Aspen Water Plant, which tracks weather data for the weather service, recorded 163 inches of snow in 2012-13 compared with an average of 155 inches going back to winter 1934-35. Snowfall at the water plant also was above average in 2013-14 with 200 inches.
Snowfall was below average in 2014-15 with just 149.5 inches at the water plant.
Winter outlooks are starting to dribble in from commercial forecasting firms and websites oriented toward skiers. AspenWeather.net, a micro-forecaster for the Roaring Fork Valley, will hold its annual winter outlook party Sept. 21 at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen.
Elsewhere, meteorologist Chris Tomer of OnTheSnow.com foresees the storm track cutting northwest to southeast through Colorado, producing “normal snowfall in the central and southwestern mountains and above-normal snowfall in the north.”
He fearlessly predicted 100 percent of normal snowfall at Aspen, Vail and Wolf Creek, while foreseeing 115 percent of normal snowfall at Steamboat and Loveland.
Tomer said the ENSO Neutral conditions in the Southern Pacific from September into early December were driving his forecast. However, he said he sees a shift toward a minor La Nina between mid-December and March.
Tomer also expects normal to slightly below-normal snowfall at California resorts after a monster season last year.
“Keep in mind this is an early-season, broad-brush forecast,” Tomer wrote. “It’s important to watch ocean temperatures in September and make adjustments.”
Joel Gratz, meteorologist at another online site for skiers, Open Snow, wrote this week that it is too early to make reliable predictions for the winter. Long-range forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, he said.
However, he was willing to share the latest of the long-range forecasts made by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. Its outlook, released Aug. 17, indicated warmer than normal temperatures across much of the U.S. for December, January and February. Most of Colorado was forecast to be significantly warmer than average during those months.
From National Geographic (Sandra Postel):
Floodplains, tributaries, wetlands, lakes, ponds, rivers and groundwater form an interconnected whole that helps ensure clean, safe, reliable water supplies. A well-functioning water cycle naturally moderates both floods and droughts, reducing societal risks from both.
The Trump administration’s proposal to rescind the Obama-era Clean Water Rule would further break the natural water cycle just at the time we need to double-down on repairing it…
The motivation for the Clean Water Rule arose from Supreme Court decisions, in particular the 2006 case of Rapanos v. United States, that sowed consideration confusion about which waters came under the jurisdiction of the federal Clean Water Act, and which did not.
Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) were spending considerable time and tax dollars determining whether or not a particular stream or wetland was protected under the Act. Just between 2008 and 2015, the agencies had to make some 100,000 case-by-case determinations, causing backlogs and delays.
The 2015 rule, also known as the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule, clarified the definition and expanded protection to headwater streams and some 20 million acres (8 million hectares) of wetlands. An EPA-Corps economic analysis of the rule published in May of that year found that while the additional water protections would have negative economic impacts on certain industries and farm enterprises, the benefits to society from cleaner and more secure water supplies exceeded those costs.
In June 2017, as the Trump administration moved to rescind the rule, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt ordered agency staff to redo the economic analysis and omit the half billion dollars of benefits associated with wetland protection, according to reporting by the New York Times.
Scientists are speaking out against the repeal of the 2015 Clean Water Rule.
A letter already signed by more than 320 scientists (including me) from academia, state agencies, nonprofits, and the private sector notes that more than 1,200 peer-reviewed publications clearly establish “the vital importance” of wetlands and headwater streams “to clean water and the health of the nation’s rivers.”
In an amicus curiae (literally, friend of the court) brief to the Supreme Court in the Rapanos case, ten scientists (including me) argued that “when it comes to the connection of tributaries, streams, and wetlands to navigable waters and interstate commerce, there is no ecological ambiguity….[I]f the Clean Water Act does not protect these resources, then it does not protect navigable waters from pollution, and it cannot achieve its goals.”