Designers busy enhancing Arkansas River features through Cañon City

Cañon City via DowntownCanonCity.com.

From The Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

The plan focuses on the whitewater park between First and Fourth streets, which is a small part of the overall Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, which also meshes with the Centennial Park Master Plan.

The overall goal is river beautification by removing concrete debris and other hazardous materials from the site and then recreational and habitat enhancements, said Nathan Werner, a designer and engineer with S2O Design.

“For recreation, we are creating structures that give the river more character to create more eddies and pools for in-stream users,” he said. “Random boulders and jetties create this recreational enhancement, but they also create fish habitat.”

Right now the river is largely just uniform with not a lot of velocity breaks, Werner said, so designers are creating a more diverse river.

The estimated cost of this multi-user, multi-use project is about $700,000, half of which is expected to be funded through a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, said Will Colon, who spearheaded the fundraising and creation of the Whitewater Kayak & Recreation Park. The park, built at a cost of about $450,000, also includes a feature near Black Bridge. The annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival since 2010 helps to fund improvements on the river…

Construction is expected to begin in the fall and winter of 2018, making the area usable in the spring of 2019.

The latest “Headwaters Pulse” is hot off the presses from @CFWEwater

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

Webinar: Aquatic Nuisance Species, the Threat and Solutions Oct. 24

From 12-1 p.m. on Oct. 24, the Colorado Water Congress and Colorado Foundation for Water Education are partnering to host a webinar on the threat of aquatic nuisance species, specifically zebra and quagga mussels, to our waterways and delivery systems in Colorado. Join us for this free offering to hear about the threats these invasive mussels pose and how Colorado is working to educate the public and our policy makers so we can maintain healthy waterways and infrastructure.

Speakers:
Mike Preston, Dolores Water Conservancy District
Ken Curtis, Dolores Water Conservancy District
Doug Vilsack, Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Doug Krieger, Colorado Department of Natural Resources
Registration is FREE! Register here.

Cloud-seeding is gaining acceptance

From the SummitDaily (Jack Queen) via The Aspen Times:

[Larry] Hjermstad and his company, Western Weather Consultants, now run cloud seeding programs across the state, including in Summit County.

For decades, local ski areas have paid him to send plumes of silver iodide up to their slopes when opportune storms approach, squeezing out a couple of extra inches of snow each time.

In recent years, however, water managers on the Front Range and even states further down the Colorado River have started to pitch in some of the $250,000 to $300,000 it costs to run the program in the Summit County area, hoping the extra snow will flow into their water system when it melts.

Here, in the Central Colorado Mountains River Basin, the company operates about 36 cloud seeding generators. They’re small, almost homebrew-looking devices that burn a solution of inert silver iodide and send it into the atmosphere.

Some of the generators are on private land, and when Western Weather Consultants detects an optimal storm coming, it sends instructions to the landowners to fire them up. It varies, but Hjermstad says the process can boost snowfall by as much as 25 percent…

SNAKE OIL OR SCIENCE?

The concept of cloud seeding has been around since the 1940s, when Bernard Vonnegut (brother of author Kurt) discovered that silver iodide could produce ice crystals when introduced into cloud chambers.

In those heady days, cloud seeding was heralded as a way to produce rain where there was none, boosting crop yields and filling reservoirs to the brim.

That was a wild overstatement, and cloud seeding’s reputation suffered for it…

Studies in Australia and Israel have debunked the idea that airplanes spewing silver iodide willy-nilly will do much of anything. But a targeted approach that hits the right clouds at the right time high in the mountains has gained scientific currency in recent years.

@ColoradoStateU: New state climatologist up for the challenge of #Colorado’s ‘fascinating, diverse’ climate

Russ Schumacher, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science, Director of the Climate Center and Colorado State Climatologist, Colorado State University, October 6, 2017

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):

Most of Russ Schumacher’s atmospheric science research career has centered on weather extremes: heavy rain, flash floods, snowstorms and the like.

This knowledge and experience makes Schumacher a perfect fit for the job of Colorado State Climatologist. Take the flood of 2013, the Windsor tornado of 2008, or the perpetual threat of drought and wildfire in summer months.

An associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, Schumacher became Colorado State Climatologist Oct. 6. He’ll continue in his academic role while taking on the added, vast responsibility of key statewide climate expert and spokesperson.

“Part of our mission is to help people understand what sort of extreme weather we need to prepare for and be cognizant of here in Colorado – which of course varies hugely from one part of the state to the other,” Schumacher said. “Yet the majority of our work deals with day-to-day aspects of measuring and understanding our state’s unique weather and climate, from normals to extremes.”

As State Climatologist, Schumacher will lead the Colorado Climate Center, the CSU-based office that provides climate monitoring and research for the benefit of scientists, educators and the general public. The center’s long list of activities includes drought monitoring for the National Integrated Drought Information System; operation of the Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network; and administration of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.

Filling big shoes

Schumacher succeeds Nolan Doesken, who has served as Colorado State Climatologist since 2006 and as assistant state climatologist for close to three decades prior. Schumacher says “it will never be possible to fill the shoes of my predecessor,” who built up the visibility of the Colorado Climate Center and created a vast network of stakeholders – from farmers to government officials to meteorologists.

What Schumacher brings to his new position is an extensive research background, teaching prowess, and intimate familiarity with Colorado’s climate.

Coming from the academic side of weather and climate, Schumacher hopes his dual role can forge stronger connections between the Department of Atmospheric Science – his academic home – and the activities of the climate center. That might include more integration of department graduate students with climate center outreach and research, for example.

Established roots

Schumacher’s CSU and Colorado roots are well established. He first came to Colorado as a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Science in Fall 2001, completing his M.S. in 2003 and Ph.D. in 2008. He became a faculty member in 2011 following a postdoctoral stint at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, and two years as an assistant professor at Texas A&M.

Schumacher received a National Science Foundation CAREER award in 2010, and he is editor of the American Meteorological Society’s Monthly Weather Review. His research is in mesoscale meteorology; mesoscale convective systems; weather analysis and forecasting; climatology of precipitation; precipitation extremes; flash floods; and societal impacts of weather.

Schumacher’s expertise matches his enthusiasm for the weird, wacky world of Colorado weather.

“The weather and climate of Colorado is fascinating, it’s diverse – and it’s hard to understand sometimes,” he said.

“I’m asking you to save civilization” — Auden Schendler #ActOnClimate

The frozen Snake River east of Keystone is one of Dillon Reservoir’s three main tributaries.

From the SummitDaily (Kevin Fixler):

Last week in Keystone, a modern-day prophet on climate change addressed a room of several hundred High Country residents as they chomped away at their breakfasts, daring each of them to accept a simple challenge.

“I’m asking you to save civilization,” he said unabashedly. “You’re being asked to do a major thing and your response should be, ‘Oooh, I don’t know if I’m your person, I can barely wake up in the morning.’ But the truth is history is replete with people of no power at all who have done incredible things.”

The directive seemed straightforward enough to Auden Schendler, who is regarded by many as an oracle on the future of outdoor-centric life and sustaining human existence as we know it, but it was perhaps not the lesson attendees might have expected over their buffet bacon and eggs. However, if maintaining the mountain lifestyles they’ve come to enjoy is important, he said, the time to act is now.

“There’s risk in not taking action vocally on climate,” said Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of sustainability. “There’s opportunity in moving (on it), and we can solve this problem.”

Schendler, also the chair of the activist group Protect Our Winters, was the keynote for the annual winter season kickoff and he took the opportunity to present a grim yet optimistic portrayal of the ski industry’s prospects if they don’t collectively work to combat the warming of our globe. Efficiency-minded activities like swapping out light bulbs, no matter the scope, aren’t going to do it alone.

@COWaterTrust: “Celebrating Rivers” 2017 Photo Contest

Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Trust:

Send us your best pictures of your favorite river!

Second Runner Up, 2016 Celebrating Rivers Contest
Grace Carberry, Watching the River – Platte River

Our second annual “Celebrating Rivers” photo contest is underway!

Last year, we announced our first annual photo contest in celebration of our 15th anniversary. We were thrilled to see over 70 photos, including the second-runner up winner above, from Grace Carberry. Grace is a junior high student in the Denver metro area who works on river restoration projects on the Platte River, and her affection for “her river” is seen in her photo above.

We loved sharing her story and her photos last year, so are you ready to share your story about your favorite river? We’re accepting photos now through next Friday, October 20. More details about the contest, including the contest rules, can be found here.

We’re lucky to have generous and loyal friends, like Peter McBride and Down River Equipment, who have offered prizes for our contest winners and finalists. Our grand-prize and runner-up winners will receive a free ticket each to our annual fundraising event, RiverBank, in June 2018, gear from Down River, and this gorgeous hard-copy book, “The Colorado River, Flowing Through Conflict,” featuring two award-winning National Geographic contributors, photographer Peter McBride, and writer Jonathan Waterman. All this and bragging rights? Get your entries in!

The Colorado River: Flowing Through Conflict — McBride/Waterman

So don’t delay! Submit your entries via email with the subject line “Photo Contest Entry” by next Friday, October 20, to Missy Yoder at myoder@coloradowatertrust.org.

We can’t wait to see your favorite spots on your favorite rivers.

Cheers!

The Water Trust Team

Durango: Russian Olive mitigation

Russian Olive

From The Durango Herald (Mia Rupani):

Mountain Studies Institute and Southwest Conservation Corps continue to wage war against the Russian olive, an invasive species that chokes out native trees and degrades the quality of the watershed.

Last year, MSI was awarded a $195,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and an additional $52,000 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife for a three-year Russian olive-removal project.

Removal efforts continued Saturday morning at Animas Valley Elementary and Christ the King Lutheran Church with two saw crews from SCC, and help from Durango Daybreak Rotary Club.

MSI’s Amanda Kuenzi said the project specifically targets Russian olive trees on private land…

Originally introduced for ornamental landscaping, the plants are native to East Asia and Russia, and consume nearly 75 gallons of water per day.

They are considered a “List B noxious weed,” which requires local governments to manage their spread under Colorado state law…

“Russian olive reduce wildlife habitat, interfere with nutrient cycling and outcompete native species,” Kuenzi said. “The wetlands have been deteriorating in the West because of irrigation practices and water storage. We have to protect these important ecosystems.”

She said crews will be working on removal efforts through mid-November with about 60 private landowners throughout the Animas River Valley.

On Saturday, the Rotary Club collected wood from the removal effort for its firewood-distribution project.

Denver: City Park Golf Course is scheduled to close for stormwater project on Nov. 1, 2017

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

From 9News.com (Dan Grossman):

The $270 million project is part of a proposal to improve drainage and prevent catastrophic flooding to neighborhoods north of the park.

“Water goes where it wants to go and it wants to go here,” said Denver Department of Public Works communications manager Nancy Kuhn.

Kuhn was one of several city employees at the City Park Golf Course clubhouse Saturday for an informational session on the project.

It was the final one before the course closes on Oct. 31 until 2019.

“[This project] will greatly minimize the flooding potential to the homes to the north of here,” said Denver Director of Golf Scott Rethlake.

The project has been in the works for two years. The city says the course is the largest basin in Denver without a natural waterway. It means most of the area’s rain water trickles into it, where it pools and floods.

The plan would cut 261 trees on the course to make room for the ditches, but it would also replant nearly 750 more to make up for the lost canopy in 10 years.

The city would also relocate the club house and driving range, increasing the yardage from 240 to 320, which would allow for drivers, a club that can’t be used on the current driving range…

Eight people are suing the city over this project. A ruling hasn’t been made by the judge but the attorney on the case, Aaron Goldhamer says they are meeting with the judge for an update on Oct. 26.

Sneffels Creek water quality concerns delaying Ouray County mine

Mount Sneffels

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Marianne Goodland):

Ouray Silver Mines wants to reopen a mine that produces silver, gold, lead and copper and would bring 152 jobs to Ouray County, along with, its proponents say, a 10 to 20 percent boost to the county’s tax base.

But that mine is on hold, due to issues with water quality at a nearby creek tied to the mine that the mine owners say they have worked on for 18 months without any concerns raised by CDPHE until now.

Sneffels Creek, the surface water source near the mine, is about halfway between Ouray and Telluride, as the crow flies. The creek has a long history with mining, going back 140 years.

The mine dates back to 1876 and ran until its mill burned down in 1912. During its early operations, the mine produced 25 million ounces of silver.

Sneffels Creek joins up with another creek and then into Canyon Creek downstream, and then into the Uncompahgre River. Briana Greer, an environmental consultant with Ouray Silver Mines, said when the water originating in Sneffels Creek reaches the Uncompahgre, water quality in that river improves by 50 percent. It’s better water quality than area drinking water, she told the committee.

The idea of starting the mine back up for its silver, gold, zinc and copper began in the 1980s. The mine passed through numerous hands until 2014, when Fortune Minerals of Canada bought it hoping to mine its silver veins. But the company couldn’t sustain production and defaulted on its loans. The chief investor, Lascaux Resource Capital of New York, took over the mine and renamed it Ouray Silver Mines.

Mine CEO Brian Briggs told the General Assembly’s interim Water Resources Review Committee Wednesday that the company has invested $70.5 million to get the mine up and running, and it will take another $36 million to get up to full production. The payoff? Fourteen million ounces of silver, which costs $7.89 per ounce to mine and can bring in about $17 per ounce on the market. The mine also has rich veins of gold, lead and zinc, and the company expects a net a profit of around $76 million, along with 152 well-paying jobs for experienced miners, according to Briggs.

A fifth-generation Ouray native, Briggs has several decades experience in mining, called Ouray “a very, very good mine, the best I’ve every worked on for economic results.”

Ouray County could benefit more than just how the mine will improve its tax base. Briggs explained that Ouray has no gravel pits or other sources for road base. So mine tailings and waste rock, which metallurgical tests show are “benign,” are ground up by the company and provided to the county for road base.

Starting up an old mine has not been without its problems. According to a chart from the company, lead, zinc and cadmium discharges briefly exceeded state standards in 2014, leading to a violation notice last year from CDPHE. Lead discharges exceeded the standards again this past summer due to the failure of a lining in a mine tunnel that is being replaced.

Then there’s the water quality issue, and that’s delaying the mine’s startup.

The mine’s previous owner had a permit to discharge water to Sneffels Creek. The new owners set up a passive water system that could discharge either to surface or to groundwater (underground) water sources.

Briggs explained to the committee that the passive system is not only one for today’s mining but for 50 or 60 years from now. Briggs said the system, which has been piloted in Wyoming, for example, should prevent the kinds of problems that happened at the old Gold King Mine near Durango two years ago, when contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally released more than a million gallons of toxic mine waste into the Animas River.

In the mine’s passive system, used mining water is passed through a clay liner that contains fabric with peat moss to absorb metals and then a layer of topsoil. “It makes a tremendous impact on the three metals we’re concerned about: cadmium, lead and zinc,” Briggs said.

The hangup has been just who’s in charge of making sure the system is in compliance at the CDPHE. Briggs said the mine had provided quarterly updates, explaining the passive system, to CDPHE’s enforcement division. In November 2016, the mine owners applied for a termination of its surface water discharge permit, believing it was no longer necessary since the passive system was discharging its water into underground water sources.

In July, CDPHE denied the request, stating the surface water interacts with groundwater sources. “We can’t confirm” whether that’s true, Briggs said.

That left the owners in a pickle – tear up the previous system? Install a new one? “If they want us to discharge into surface water we’ll do that,” Briggs said. But he also appeared to be frustrated that after 18 months of telling CDPHE what they were doing that the agency came back and said that system doesn’t work.

Installing another system will take another year, Briggs said.

The story from CDPHE is a tad different. In a September 3 letter to Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, CDPHE’s Karin McGowan said the mine had an active permit for a surface water discharge. “They are not waiting for a new permit, but may be frustrated because they have not been able to successfully modify their permit because they have not provided the necessary information needed to execute a modification. We are currently working with them to get the necessary information needed,” McGowan wrote.

McGowan further added that the mine changed its manner of discharge, from surface to groundwater, without notifying the division.

The September, 2016 notice of violation was for discharging to a new location without a permit, effluent violations, and administrative violations, McGowan pointed out. “The facility has consistently failed whole effluent toxicity testing permit requirements,” she wrote. The 2016 notice pertains to a 2014 discharge, when the mine was owned by Fortune Minerals, in which water contaminated with lead, cadmium and zinc was dumped at a rate of 400 gallons per minute into Sneffels Creek for about 18 hours.

Briggs told the committee CDPHE has never even visited the site, despite numerous requests by the mine owners…

In a statement, CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley told Colorado Politics that most enforcement is completed through evaluations of self-reported data. “Resource limitations makes it impossible to visit every site on an annual basis and hence permittees are put on a schedule for inspection,” he said.

2018 #COleg: Two bills come out of Water Resources Review Committee

HB12-1278 study area via Colorado State University

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

…when Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District Manager Joe Frank reviewed them for his board of directors at the board’s October meeting, there was much shaking of heads and rolling of eyes.

The first draft document, identified only as Bill 9, would attempt to address rising water tables in a couple of places on the South Platte River, and in at least one area that would mean allowing un-augmented irrigation pumping to lower the artificially high water table.

The draft legislation was triggered by a series of reports by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources on high water tables in the town of Gilcrest, south of Greeley on U.S. 85, and the Sterling area subdivision of Pawnee Ridge…

the Colorado Legislature’s Water Resources Review Committee was not. In September the WRRC drafted a bill, tentatively labeled Bill 9, that requires owners of “artificial recharge facilities” (ie. augmentation ponds) in District 2 of Water Division 1 to install monitoring wells; if their groundwater comes up within 10 feet of the surface, they have to stop augmenting, notify the state engineer’s office, and continue pumping until the water table goes down.

Water Division 1 is simply the South Platte River watershed; District 2 is an area directly north of Denver that includes Gilcrest.

Here on the lower reaches of the river, in District 64, there are two reasons that bill could cause a whole lot of trouble.

First, and most obviously, there isn’t sufficient data yet to make such a sweeping requirement of every irrigator in District 2. Bob Mari, a member of the LSPWCD, said during the board’s meeting on Tuesday that it’s a typical one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t need to be applied so broadly.

“You’ve got just a few sections of land where there’s a high water problem, but (legislators) want a statewide law to address the problem in that one spot,” Mari said. There was almost unanimous head nodding around the table when Mari made his remarks.

The second problem, according to Frank, is that allowing un-augmented pumping is simply not legal and would almost certainly harm downstream water users.

“Don’t get me wrong, we are very sympathetic to the problem, and we know it has to be addressed,” Frank said. “But it has been proven in the past that any pumping that goes un-replaced does cause harm. Even legislation that allows (un-augmented pumping) goes against legally binding water decrees. Taking water out (of the river aquifer) and putting it on crops without replacing it and putting it on crops is taking water that would have ended up back in the stream. Since they’re upstream from us, that creates a domino effect that affects us.”

State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who chairs the WRRC, said the committee wanted to address the situation legislatively because, frankly, the $11 million solution just doesn’t make sense. He pointed out that the draft bill, which still needs some work, applies only in the district where the most severe problem exists. He said the committee believed the augmentation forgiveness shows promise, but needs some improvement.

“The idea was to try to figure out how to deal with high groundwater rather than pumping the water into the river from a dewatering well,” he said. “I don’t think it makes sense to dewater when they’re augmenting. Let’s consolidate the augmentation, move it closer to the river so we can control it better.”

Thus, the second document Frank shared with his board at that meeting, a bill draft tentatively called “Bill 10,” which directs the CWCB to engage “a qualified engineering consultant” to answer those questions and others. The bill tentatively directs that a report on the scope and goals of the study be delivered to the CWCB by Aug. 31, 2018, that a five-year pilot project be designed and begun by April 2019, and that the pilot project end by June 30, 2024.

Frank is hopeful that the study will identify ways other than un-augmented pumping, and he ticked off a list of ideas including improving surface drainage, cleaning out barrow ditches, finding new supplies for augmentation sources, tile drains in the area that move the water to the river, and moisture monitoring to avoid over-irrigating.

“Unfortunately, everyone points to that one solution, which is pumping un-augmented,” he said. “For us, that’s just not a solution.”