@ColoradoClimate: Weekly Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through October 30, 2017 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current summary. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

@MSUDenver: Water Studies Online Certificate, classes start in January 2018

MSU Denver’s Water Studies Online Certificate is one of the only certificates in the country with a special focus on water in Colorado and the American West. The certificate will allow you to expand your knowledge about water stewardship under the direction of highly qualified instructors, in a self-paced format, with an applied real-world project.

What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:

  • Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online.
  • Expert faculty – Our instructors are experts in their field, with deep experience in water.
  • One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry.
  • Career opportunities – Find job demand in a growth industry. Wherever you live, someone’s job is to be in charge of water.
  • Register now! Courses start January 2018. For more information, visit us at https://msudenver.edu/water-studies-online/ or contact us at lifelonglearning@msudenver.edu or 303.721.1313.

    Pine beetles and S.W. #Colorado forests

    Beetle kill via USGS.

    From the Associated Press via The Fort Collins Coloradoan:

    Over the past two decades, more than 120,000 acres of the Weminuche Wilderness — Colorado’s largest designated wilderness area at 488,210 acres — have fallen prey to the destructive spruce beetle.

    In its wake, the spruce beetle has left vast areas of dead trees, most visible over Wolf Creek Pass. However, the spruce beetle, for the most part, targets only Engelmann spruce at elevations of about 9,000 feet.

    The pine beetle, on the other hand, is another destructive force all its own.

    From 1996 to 2016, the pine beetle ripped through more than 3.4 million acres of Colorado’s forests – about 14 percent – according to the Colorado State Forest Service, by far the state’s largest infestation.

    However, the majority of forests affected by the pine beetle were in northern areas of the state. Southwest Colorado, for the most part, has been relatively unaffected by Colorado’s most harmful tree pest.

    That is until recently.

    The Forest Service’s Fitzgerald said an annual survey of an area by Vallecito Lake, northeast of Durango, found that a number of ponderosa pine trees appeared dead because of beetle kill.

    “We did what we could do to remove the population there, but it made me concerned the beetles may be increasing up there,” she said. “We just haven’t seen too much pine beetle on the Columbine District.”

    Upon further inspection, it turned out there were three subspecies of bark beetle that appeared responsible for the kill-off.

    The western pine beetle hit the tree’s main body. The ips beetle worked on the top of the tree, as well as its limbs. And the red turpentine beetle ate away at the base of the tree.

    “Any one of those beetles don’t necessarily do enough to kill a tree, but when they all get together, you start seeing mortality,” Fitzgerald said. “The length and number of different kinds of beetles attacking all at once is unprecedented as far as we know.”

    This particular kill-off is a new discovery for forest managers in this region, which prompted other surveys that found the pine beetle at work near Rockwood, Junction Creek and Falls Creek.

    Kent Grant, a district forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, said southwest Colorado has seen periodic outbreaks of pine beetle, but current conditions in the forests here have spelled out a sort of perfect storm.

    Most of the ponderosa trees at risk are more than a 100 years old in densely forested areas.

    “When trees are getting older, and at the same time competing for sunlight, nutrients and moisture, they’re stressed and easier targets,” Grant said.

    Plus, Grant said the effects of climate change are added to the mix: warmer winters translate to longer seasons for beetles to take their toll, and drought weakens a tree’s ability to defend itself.

    “Bark beetles are native, but when the conditions are right, then that’s when we start to see more and more tree mortality,” he said.

    And with climate change, “we’re not used to seeing this kind of mortality.”

    Unfortunately, there’s not much in the way of preventing a beetle outbreak. Certain steps, such as thinning and prescribed burns, can hold off a massive die-off, but those costly measures can work only for so long…

    Fitzgerald said at this point, the pine beetle activity is not at an “epidemic” level, but it’s worth keeping a very cautious eye on. The Forest Service is evaluating its options to get out on the front end.

    Some good news, she said, is that there are tree stands in the area that seem to have fought off the pine beetle’s attack.

    In the meantime, Fitzgerald said people need to be aware that cutting wood could attract beetles at certain times of the year. And, it’s important that recreationists do not damage any trees, thereby making them easier prey for beetles.

    “So far, it’s natural,” Fitzgerald said. “I just don’t want it to get any bigger.”

    An ambitious new climate plan for #Denver — The North Denver Tribune #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Colorado Convention Center Solar Power System

    Here’s an in-depth report from Laurie Dunklee writing in The North Denver Tribune. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Their 80×50 Climate Goal Stakeholder Report suggests accelerating the strategies already underway in order to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80 percent in Denver by the year 2050 (compared to 2005 levels). That goal was set in Denver’s 2015 Climate Action Plan. “Future generations will judge us on how well we preserved the habitability of our only home—Earth,” says the report’s introduction.

    One of the accelerated targets of the recent 80×50 Climate Goal report is to power 100 percent of Denver’s electricity through renewable sources by 2030. “More renewable energy on the grid is the most important thing because the grid powers other points, like heating office buildings, homes and electric vehicles. The cleaner the grid, the cleaner it is to power all these things,” said Tom Herrod, Climate & GHG Program Administrator with the Environmental Quality Division of Denver’s Department of Environmental Health.

    Electricity providers have been required since 2004 to increase the percentage of their power from renewable sources. In 2016, 29 percent of Xcel Energy’s power mix was renewable energy. “Xcel already has made a big commitment to raise that percentage to 55 percent by 2026,” said Herrod. “We’re having discussions with them about lots of options. Innovation is moving quickly, so the 100 percent goal is possible.”

    CPW: Harvey Gap inspection complete, popular reservoir begins to refill, emergency fish salvage lifted

    Harvey Gap Reservoir via the Applegate Group.

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife has lifted an emergency fish salvage at Harvey Gap Reservoir. Effective immediately, all usual bag and possession limits for the various fish species are back in place.

    The reservoir is steadily refilling after the Silt Water Conservancy District lowered levels to perform an inspection of the reservoir’s outlet infrastructure. According to Silt Water, they found no significant concerns.

    “It depends on snowfall, but even if we have an average winter, water-based recreation at the reservoir should be pretty much back to normal by spring,” said Park Manager Brian Palcer. “However, folks may still have an opportunity to enjoy canoeing or kayaking before the reservoir ices over this winter.”

    Harvey Gap Reservoir currently does not have an Aquatic Nuisance Species inspection station. All watercraft normally requiring an inspection cannot launch at Harvey Gap until further notice.

    Muddy conditions still exist around the water’s edge and everyone is advised to use caution and avoid becoming stuck in deep mud.

    Harvey Gap State Park is a day-use area only, except when fishing. Overnight camping and pets are prohibited.

    A valid park pass is required, available at self service stations at Harvey Gap State Park or at the Visitor Center at nearby Rifle Gap State Park.

    Farmers Irrigation Company owns Harvey Gap Reservoir. The Silt Water Conservancy District is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the reservoir and associated irrigation water delivery infrastructure. CPW leases the surface of the reservoir and manages the park’s trails, day-use areas and fishery.

    CPW: Voluntary fishing closure in place at ‘toilet-bowl’, near Ruedi Reservoir, effective immediately

    Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Mike Porras):

    Effective immediately, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is instituting a voluntary fishing closure at a popular area on the Frying Pan River located downstream from the Ruedi Reservoir Dam. The fishing spot – known locally as the ‘toilet-bowl’ – will experience significantly reduced flow as water that normally feeds the pool will be re-routed to facilitate required dam maintenance.

    Work on the dam – owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation – could continue through Nov. 10; however, it could take longer if additional work is necessary.

    “The situation will leave the fish in the pool isolated, stressed and very easy to catch,” said Area Aquatic Biologist Kendall Bakich. “It would not be very sporting to fish in this area until after conditions improve.”

    Bakich says the angling community complied with a voluntary closure when a similar situation occurred last year.

    “We appreciate everyone’s patience.” she said. “We will let the public know when conditions improve and when the voluntary fishing closure is lifted.”

    Anglers can expect to see signage advising of the closure and are urged to find alternative fishing locations in the meantime.

    Although the closure is voluntary, CPW officials say a more stringent emergency closure enforceable by law is an option if angler compliance is minimal.

    For more information about the voluntary fishing closure, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920.

    For more information about work on the dam and dam operations, contact Tim Miller of the Bureau of Reclamation at 970-962-4394.