@PalmerLandTrust awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner recap

Photos by Allen Tian, The Colorado Independent, and courtesy of Dark Skies Inc of the Wet Mountain Valley.

From the Palmer Land Trust via The Wet Mountain Tribune:

The Palmer Land Trust in Colorado Springs has announced the names of the three award winners, and a prestigious honorary recognition, for the 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards (SCCA). Among the winners were Valley ranchers Randy and Claricy Rusk. The event recognizes individuals and organizations that are dedicated to stewardship, education and innovation in conservation impacting southern Colorado. The winners were honored at The Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, September 27, with an awards ceremony and farm-to-table dinner.

“SCCA showcases the exemplary conservation work being done in southern Colorado. This year’s slate of award winners highlights inspiring stories from an incredibly diverse range of people and projects, including ranching in Westcliffe, recreation in Canon City, and water and land conservation on a statewide scale. We are excited to tell these stories at what has become the premiere conservation event in southern Colorado,” said Rebecca Jewett, Executive Director of Palmer.

Award winners were nominated by the community at large and underwent a rigorous selection process by a Blue Ribbon Panel. The Stuart P. Dodge Award honors a lifetime achievement in conservation.

The winners, Randy and Claricy Rusk of rural Westcliffe, are conservation pioneers. Their vision, leadership, and influence within the ranching community has largely been credited for the conservation success achieved in the Wet Mountain Valley and beyond over the last two-and-a-half decades. Working alongside The Trust for Public Land, San Isabel Land Protection Trust, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, the Rusks have inspired their community to band together to conserve the rich ranching and open space heritage that has long defined the Wet Mountain Valley.

The Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes an individual or organization that has positively impacted the land and the way members of our communities understand and respect their relationship to it.

This year’s winner is Kalem Lenard of Canon City. Since 2012, Lenard has improved more than 17 miles of trails enjoyed by hundreds of bikers, hikers, trail runners, and horsemen every year. Without Lenard’s vision, passion, and expertise, the Oil Well Flats trail system might never have come to fruition.

The Innovation in Conservation Award honors an individual, group, project, or program that has advanced the cause of conservation by developing new conservation models, creating new conservation funding mechanisms, or implementing unique partnerships that protect our natural heritage. The winner this year was the Colorado Water Trust.

The Colorado Water Trust was formed in 2001 to partner with Colorado’s Instream Flow Program and amplify its work by supporting and promoting voluntary, market-based efforts to protect and restore Colorado’s streamflows. Today, the Colorado Water Trust is the only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to restoring flows on Colorado’s rivers using market based transactions. The Water Trust has revealed water-sharing possibilities that have never been done before, helping meet the needs of agricultural partners while providing water for rivers.

Also honored was Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) with the Distinction in Conservation award, a prestigious discretionary award recognizing catalytic excellence and influence in conservation in southern Colorado. Since its inception in 1992, GOCO has committed more than $917 million in state lottery proceeds to more than 4,800 projects in all 64 counties in Colorado without any tax dollar support. Through their efforts they have helped protect more than one million acres of land.

More science needed to assess the safe treatment of oil and gas operations produced water #KeepItInTheGround

Oil and gas evaporation pond

From The Greeley Tribune (Nikki Work):

The U.S. produces about 900 billion gallons of wastewater per year from oil and gas development, such as hydraulic fracturing. Some of the reuses proposed for this water include irrigation or discharging into surface water, but the chemical content and potential health implications of this water are still largely question marks to the scientific community. Currently, this wastewater is disposed of, either through evaporation, into pits or through underground injection.

But according to recent research out of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, the question at this point isn’t even about what is in the water or if it is safe. It’s about coming up with the methods necessary for science to even tackle those questions.

Karl Oetjen, Mines doctoral candidate and one of the lead authors on the paper, published in August in “Trends in Environmental Analytical Chemistry,” said there’s no adequate way to measure the chemical makeup of the wastewater from hydraulic fracturing. All of the current methods used to test the quality of water — such as surface water, ground water and even wastewater from other sources — don’t take into account the high saline content of the water or the numerous chemicals in it. These methods weren’t intended to test water so complex, he said. And since there’s a high level of variability in the water resurfacing from each well, it’s difficult for researchers to even pinpoint what they should be testing.

“If you’re worried about introducing this water to places where it could interact with the environment or human health, it’s impossible to say if it’s dangerous or not dangerous because we simply don’t know,” Oetjen said.

He describes the process of looking for certain contaminants in surface water as looking for a needle in a haystack. But when you’re looking for contaminants in oil and gas wastewater, you’re looking for a needle somewhere in a million haystacks.

Eagle: Officials meet to discuss need, financing for new water treatment plant

Eagle circa 2010

From The Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

Interim Town Manager Tom Boni launched the discussion by noting the proposed Lower Basin Water Treatment Plant, which would be built upstream from the existing Eagle Wastewater Treatment Plant, is the town board’s top priority.

“How do we supply reliable water to the town of Eagle now and into the future?” Boni said.

Boni said discussions about the plan construction actually began 10 years ago, when the town realized it was approaching capacity at its existing 4.3 million-gallons-per-day water plant during the summer months when residents water their lawns and landscaping. Usage during the summer brings the plant operations to 80 percent of capacity.


Chris Lehrman, consulting engineer with SGM of Glenwood Springs, has been working with the town on the plant project. He noted the new facility has been planned so that it can expand to treat as much as 5 million gallons per day, but the initial operation would be at the 2.5 million-gallon-per-day level.

“One of the comments we had seen over the past few months is, ‘Can we put off this new plant with conservation?'” Lehrman said.

He said the short answer is no.

Lehrman explained that Eagle already has engaged a number of conservation efforts, including improvements to its water-delivery system to prevent leaks and institution of summertime watering restrictions. But he said Eagle cannot solve its long-term water needs through conservation alone.

While the capacity issue is one of the driving needs for the new plant, according to Lehrman, the town’s system also lacks redundancy — the ability to find alternate ways to deliver water in the event of a break in one part of the delivery system. Part of the new plant design would address that issue.

As for the location of the plant, Eagle doesn’t have the water rights it would need to expand the existing water plan located up the Brush Creek Valley.

Study: Dry #groundwater wells in the western United States — @IOPscience #CA

California Central Valley graphic credit USGS.

Click here to read the paper. Here’s the abstract (D Perrone1 and S Jasechko):

Declining groundwater levels are common in parts of the western US, but their impact on the ability of wells to pump groundwater is not known. Here we collate groundwater well records for the western United States and present the recorded locations, depths, and purposes of more than two million groundwater wells constructed between 1950 and 2015. We then use the well records to estimate the percentage of wells that were dry during the years 2013–2015. During the two year period, dry wells were concentrated in rural areas with high agricultural productivity, such as parts of the California Central Valley and the High Plains. Our results support anecdotal evidence that wells used for domestic purposes are more susceptible to drying than wells used for agricultural purposes throughout California’s Central Valley because the former tend to be shallower. However, this is not the case in all regions. Our findings suggest that declining groundwater levels are threatening drinking water reliability and agricultural productivity, and consequently, have key implications for both domestic and agricultural water security. Ongoing reductions to groundwater storage are drying groundwater wells in the western US, and this manifestation of water scarcity warrants innovative groundwater management transcending status quos.

@SenBennetCO Leads Effort to Standardize the Cost of Climate Pollution #ActOnClimate

Rush hour on Interstate 25 near Alameda. Screen shot The Denver Post March 9, 2017.

Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today led 11 colleagues in introducing the Pollution Transparency Act to standardize the metric used by federal agencies to measure the cost of climate pollution. This counters a directive from the Trump administration to agencies to ignore existing metrics-uprooting years of progress and economic certainty-and an attempt made yesterday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the revised BLM methane rule to change his department’s metric without any prior consultation or transparency.

Cosponsors of the Pollution Transparency Act include Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patty Murray (D-WA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

“We cannot stand by idly as the Trump administration blatantly disregards broad scientific consensus and economics,” Bennet said. “This irresponsible ploy to upend years of progress is playing fast and loose with the health of our nation’s children. Although we cannot avoid all of the effects of climate change, we can create market certainty about how much those effects harm our children and our economy. This legislation would ensure the federal government runs a transparent process-grounded in science, with public and industry input-to quantify those effects.”

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Donald McEachin (D-VA-4).

“The next generation will have a better opportunity for a healthy economic and environmental future with the implementation of this bill,” McEachin said. “There are clear and undeniable costs of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions in our economy: the cost of poor air quality in our neighborhoods, the loss of a day’s work when taking an asthmatic child to the doctor, droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and sea-level rise – we have had enough. We need to ensure that the federal government is accurate and consistent in calculating the price of greenhouse gases when issuing regulatory and substantial procurement decisions. We can best address the root-cause of climate change by taking an intellectually honest and evidence-based approach to quantify its impact. This method will allow us to build a more resilient infrastructure and leave a better Earth for our children and our children’s children.”

Background on the Pollution Transparency Act:

Since the George W. Bush administration, the federal government has been required to consider the economic damages that result from climate pollution in the rulemaking process. This metric was developed through a rigorous process, using the best available economics and science and revised when necessary. In March, the Trump administration directed federal agencies to ignore the existing metric and instead select their own metrics-uprooting years of progress and economic certainty.

The Pollution Transparency Act would codify a scientifically-developed value for the cost of climate pollution across all federal agencies. The requirement to consider this cost already exists; this legislation would simply streamline the regulatory process by standardizing the metric and re-establishing a process to revise it through a public process. Ultimately, it would create greater market and regulatory certainty by ensuring federal decisions are transparent, standardized, and grounded in facts.

A Fact Sheet can be found HERE. A copy of the bill text can be found HERE.

Statements in support of the legislation:

“Quantifying the true cost of GHGs helps tell the full story so that we can make more informed policy decisions. This bill move us in an appropriate direction so that we can better review how GHGs impact Colorado communities.” – Larry Wolk, Director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment

“I applaud Senator Bennet’s leadership in bringing forward the Pollution Transparency Act to ensure full and accurate consideration of the cost of carbon pollution in decision-making. Ignoring proven science and clear economic risk will not make climate change disappear. Only consistent and transparent accounting for the impacts of climate change can prevent waste of taxpayer funds on subsidies for shaky infrastructure and obsolete technologies.” – Mary D. Nichols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board (Full letter of support can be found HERE)

“The social cost of carbon is a linchpin of national climate policy, providing a guidepost to balance the costs of climate change to our economy today with the damages that have started to arrive and are projected to grow. This bill ensures that this critical guidepost continues to be robust and grounded in the latest available science and economics, while providing certainty to businesses eager to have a consistent regulatory process.” – Michael Greenstone, Milton Friedman Professor in Economics, the College and the Harris School and Director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago

“It is critically important for policymakers to account for the economic costs of greenhouse gas emissions in their policy decisions. These costs should be quantified using the best available science and economics, in order to inform decisions that affect public wellbeing.” – Richard Revesz, Lawrence King Professor of Law and Dean Emeritus and Director of the Institute of Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law

“Proper evaluation of the benefits and costs of regulations that affect emissions of greenhouse gases requires that the federal government use the best available estimate of the damages that such emissions cause. This bill would guarantee that this happens. It is consistent with a recent report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. We, the undersigned, strongly support the Pollution Transparency Act.”

– Maureen L. Cropper, Distinguished University Professor of Economics, University of Maryland
– Robert Litterman, Former Head of Risk Management, Goldman Sachs
– William Pizer, Susan B. King Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
– Richard Schmalensee, Professor of Management and Economics, Emeritus, MIT, Member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1989-1991
– Glen Hubbard, Dean of Columbia School of Business, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush

From Denver to Australia: The art of sensing leaks underground – News on TAP

Aussies welcome dogs to leak detection team; Denver Water relies on super-human hearing to find hidden problems.

Source: From Denver to Australia: The art of sensing leaks underground – News on TAP

The @COWaterTrust scores the Innovation in Conservation Award from @PalmerLandTrust

Click here to read the announcement from the Colorado Water Trust:

Last week, we were honored to receive the Innovation in Conservation Award at the 2017 Southern Colorado Conservation Awards celebration from Palmer Land Trust. It was wonderful to be recognized with other outstanding leaders in the conservation world. What a proud moment!

I was part of a table top exercise one time at the CWCB Drought Conference in 2012. Amy and I were assigned to the same team and charged with solving a drought crisis in a river basin with cities, farmers, and the prior appropriation doctrine. Our group was the only one that carved out environmental flows as part of our solution. That’s Amy for you.

@ColoradoStateU: Stories of Water Equity & Environmental Justice Symposium, October 18

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:


You are invited to participate in a day of stories and dialogue with authors, academics, and citizens about their experiences with the privatization of water, water as a human right, and access to safe water and sanitation for everyone.


8:00 am Registration & Coffee

Morning Sessions: Water Utilities & Communities – Flint, MI Water Crisis

12:00 pm Keynote Luncheon

The Dakota Access Pipeline Conflict

David Archambault II

Chairman, Standing Rock Indian Reservation

Afternoon Sessions: Hazards, Natural Disasters & Underrepresented Communities

5:30 pm Reception

The full agenda is avilable online at http://watercenter.colostate.edu/watersymposium.shtml

There is no charge and the campus and local communities are invited to attend, though space is limited so registration is required.
This event is co-hosted by the CSU Water Center, the Environmental Justice Working Group sponsored through SoGES, and the Colorado Water Institute. Email csuwatercenter@gmail.com with questions and/or dietary restrictions. We look forward to seeing you there!

@COParksWildlife opens new State Wildlife Area east of Montrose

Joel Evans, an outdoor writer and angler from Montrose, holds the first tiger trout caught at the new Cerro Summit State Wildlife Area located east of Montrose. He caught the fish on Sept. 29. Fishing at the area is catch-and-release only. Photo credit Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Joe Lewandowski):

An innovative project developed cooperatively by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the city of Montrose has resulted in the establishment of a new state wildlife area for CPW and a new park for the city

The Cerro Summit State Wildlife Area, a 162-acre parcel that includes a 40-acre reservoir, opened on Sept. 29. It’s located about 15 miles east of Montrose just off U.S. Highway 50.

“This is a win-win-win for the public, the city and CPW,” said Renzo DelPiccolo, area wildlife manager in Montrose. “This is a great example of what can be done by some out-of-the-box thinking.”

CPW operated Chipeta Lake State Wildlife Area, located just south of Montrose, for many years. As the city grew it became obvious that the Chipeta Lake parcel would be more valuable as a park. DelPiccolo proposed to Montrose leaders that the Chipeta Lake property could be turned over to the city in exchange for using the Cerro Summit area as a state wildlife area.

City leaders and CPW negotiated an agreement that will protect the reservoir’s water quality and keep the property in city ownership. The reservoir is the city’s emergency water supply. CPW will regulate use at the state wildlife area, and the public will gain limited access to a property that has been closed. The agreement was signed in the fall of 2016.

No money needed to be exchanged to complete the agreement.

Patt Dorsey, southwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and wildlife, praised the deal.

“In the era we’re living in, we’re not going to get projects like this done unless we have great partnerships,” Dorsey said. “The city of Montrose has been a great partner; this wouldn’t have happened without the city’s leadership. We hope we can do more projects like this throughout Colorado.”

Also helping to assure the success of the project was Montrose Mayor Judy Ann Files, State Senator Don Coram, Montrose County Commissioner Glen Davis, and the Bostwick Park Water Conservancy District.

The new wildlife area is open for fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing. To protect water quality, dogs are not allowed on the property. All fishing is catch-and-release by artificial lures and flies only.
The reservoir was stocked last fall with fingerling tiger trout that have already grown to 12 inches.

The property is also open to big-game and small game hunting during regular seasons. Because the area provides excellent winter range for deer and elk, and Gunnison-sage grouse habitat, the property will be closed seasonally from Nov. 30 through March 31.

DelPiccolo explained that state wildlife areas are managed differently than other public lands, such as U.S. Forest Service or BLM property. The areas are paid for by revenue from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses, and the properties are managed only for wildlife conservation and wildlife-related recreation. Access to Cerro Summit State Wildlife Area is by foot only; it’s an easy half-mile walk to the reservoir.

“At Cerro Summit we’re protecting important wildlife habitat and providing an opportunity for people to hunt, fish and view wildlife in a beautiful setting,” DelPiccolo said.

An entry sign is posted on the north side of U.S. Highway 50 at the entry that leads to the parking lot. The trail to the wildlife area is well marked. Visitors are asked to be sure to read the regulation signs before entering.

The latest @CWCB_DNR newsletter is hot off the presses

Photo credit: AgriExpo.com.

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

It’s clear that there is great interest and support for implementing alternatives to permanently drying up irrigated agriculture. This is not only true to maintain the bounty of locally grown food and feed products that come from the lower Arkansas River Valley and other farming locations throughout Colorado, but also to preserve all of the other consequential benefits that would be lost.” – Jack Goble

Karen Budd-Falen under consideration as next director of @BLMNational

Rio Grande del Norte National Monument via the Bureau of Land Management

From WyoFile (Jennifer Yachnin):

Budd-Falen, who spoke with E&E News from her Cheyenne law office, said she has spoken with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke about the post, although she does not know when the Trump administration will select a nominee.

A spokesman for the Interior Department said this week he did not have any information on potential nominees or the selection process.

But while Budd-Falen, who served on the Trump administration’s transition team at Interior, acknowledged that she is interested in leading the agency, she added that she is torn about potentially leaving her home state.

“I live in Wyoming — where we don’t have humidity — and we really like it,” she said, referring to her husband, attorney Frank Falen. “We’ve got a law practice here … if the president and the secretary of Interior were to ask me to serve, I’d have to seriously, seriously consider that.”

Budd-Falen, who worked at Interior for three years during the Reagan administration, demurred when asked about her vision for the agency she could lead, saying she has “not really” focused on specifics and that she has not discussed Zinke’s plans to reorganize the department.

Why a #ColoradoRiver reunion with the sea isn’t a guarantee — @HighCountryNews #Minute323 #COriver

Colorado River pulse flow (Minute 319) reaches the Sea of Cortez for the first time since 1998 on May 15, 2014 via the Sonoran Institute

Here’s a report from Emily Benson writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole analysis. Here’s an excerpt:

For many people, the 2014 “pulse flow,” a large release of water from Morelos Dam, on the U.S.-Mexico border, was the defining feature of the 2012 agreement. The agreement also addressed drought, reservoir storage and environmental restoration in the Colorado River Delta. The 2014 release reunited the Colorado River with the Gulf of California for the first time since the late 1990s; it was both a scientific and symbolic success as communities along the Colorado River saw its dry channel once again fill with water. But the pulse flow also showed that a single release of water may not be the most efficient way to revitalize the Delta. So while the new agreement, called Minute 323, includes environmental water releases, it doesn’t specifically call for another pulse flow.

Lake Nighthorse update: Annexation by the City of Durango, completion of recreation infrastructure in the works

Lake NIghthorse September 19, 2016.

From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

…the city of Durango must annex the lake on County Road 210 and finish several construction projects before it’s ready for visitors, said Parks and Recreation Manager Cathy Metz. Durango City Council also needs to address a request to make the lake a no-wake area.

While there is no exact opening date, the city is targeting April 1, but this will depend on the construction season during the winter, Metz said.

City staff members have forecast an opening year for the lake in the past, but this time, the city is setting aside funding for operation in its 2018 budget. Lake operation, including staffing and materials, is expected to cost about $478,000, according to the city budget. City staff members will manage the lake and an entrance station where they will inspect boats for invasive species, such as zebra mussels.

Operational costs not covered by user fees will be split with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Metz said. The cost split with the bureau will include the cost of providing police presence at the lake.

The city is also planning to finish construction projects, including an overflow parking lot and a breakwater before the lake opens.

The city has proposed spending $300,000 next year on a breakwater and a courtesy dock. A federal grant will pay for the overflow parking lot, which is in the design stage.

Efforts to annex the property into the city are also underway. The lake and shoreline need to be within city limits so Durango Police Department can patrol the area…

The Animas La Plata Operation Maintenance Replacement Association is also discussing how to direct visitors away from areas around the lake where there are archaeological sites and cultural resources…

While a lot of work remains to be done to open the lake, some construction is finished, including an access road, boat ramp, parking lot and restrooms.

The entrance station where boats will be inspected is also close to completion, she said.

The city anticipates charging $5 for a day pass and $50 for an annual pass, she said.

San Juan Water Commission amends operating rules

Navajo Lake

From The Farmington Daily Times (Hannah Grover):

The San Juan Water Commission approved the amendments during its Wednesday meeting in Farmington. Commissioner Jay Burnham, who represents Farmington, abstained from the vote because the city is still waiting for legal analysis on the changes.

Burnham favored tabling the amendments for a month, but the commission approved the amendments to enable a pending application for water rights to be reviewed and presented to the commission next month.

One amendment will allow the executive director, Aaron Chavez, to approve short-term emergency allocations. The short term is defined as less than 90 days. The San Juan Water Commission can approve longer emergency allocations of up to a year. The commission consists of representatives from the county, cities and rural water associations.

Commissioners also discussed a template agreement for temporary water allocation of reserve water for member entities. The commission directed staff members to create options for temporary and permanent allocations because of concerns that an entity could be granted water for 10 years and have to fight to keep the allocation after that term expired…

The template would help the commission get permission from the Office of the State Engineer to create points of diversion to send water to various entities. If the commission does eventually adopt a template, it would serve as a guidance and not be set in stone for every allocation.

“Each instance is going to have its own issues and nuances,” said Commission Chairman John Beckstead, who represents San Juan County.