In a recent oped, the Audubon Society illustrated the difficult choices facing California at fending off an “ecological disaster” in the area of the Imperial and Coachella Valleys
The state of California has been struggling for years with the consequences of the Salton Sea drying up, including toxic air pollution, loss of bird habitat and myriad health hazards for the thousands of children living in the region.
Audubon’s Salton Sea program director, Frank Ruiz, recently provided a comprehensive update of the issues facing the inland sea, published in several southern California media, including the Riverside Press-Enterprise.
There is some good news to report, noted Ruiz, especially the fact that legislation recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown would allocate $200 million (out of a statewide package of $4 billion for parks, water, coastal and climate-related projects) to addressing the sea’s ecological crises.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw a series of storms impact the Pacific Northwest, northern California, and northern Rockies. The heaviest precipitation was observed across the Olympic Mountains and North Cascades of western Washington where precipitation accumulations (liquid) ranged from 4-to-12 inches. In the Puget Lowlands of western Washington, runoff from the storm event led to severe flooding on the Skagit River that peaked at 5 feet above flood stage on Friday. Elsewhere in the West, unseasonably warm temperatures were observed across parts of the region including record-breaking high temperatures reported across southern California, the Desert Southwest, western Great Basin, and along the Front Range of Colorado. In the Southwest, the warm and dry pattern of the past several months led to expansion of areas of moderate drought in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah while drought-related conditions improved in western Montana. In the High Plains, conditions were very dry this week, and temperatures were well above normal across the entire region. In the South and Southern Plains, the overall dry pattern during the past 30-to-60 days led to expansion of areas of moderate-to-severe drought across portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, eastern Oklahoma, and eastern Texas. In the Mid-Atlantic states, short-term precipitation deficits during the past 30 days led to deterioration of conditions across portions of North Carolina and Virginia…
On this week’s map, conditions deteriorated in central and eastern Kansas as well as in western North Dakota. In North Dakota, areas of Moderate Drought (D1) and Severe Drought (D2) expanded in response to below normal precipitation during the past 30-to-60 days as well as reports of signs of negative impacts to the winter wheat crop. According to the USDA World Agricultural Outlook Board, winter wheat conditions are currently rated as 38% poor to very poor for South Dakota. In Kansas, scattered below normal streamflows and below normal precipitation during the past 30 days led to expansion of areas of Moderate Drought (D1) in south-central. During the past week, the region was dry and temperatures were well above average especially in western portions of the Dakotas where temperatures were 15-to-18 degrees above normal…
During the past week, the warm and dry pattern continued across the Southwest, southern Rockies, and eastern portions of the Intermountain West while northern California, western Oregon and Washington, and the northern Rockies were impacted by several storms that delivered locally heavy rainfall and mountain snow to the higher elevations. According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service SNOTEL network, snowpack conditions are above normal in the following areas: Cascades (Washington), Sawtooth Range (Idaho), northern Rockies (Montana/Wyoming), and portions of the central Sierra (California). Conversely, snowpack conditions were well below normal in the mountain ranges of the Arizona, western Colorado, eastern Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon. On the map, areas of Moderate Drought (D1) expanded in central and northern Arizona, western Colorado, western New Mexico, and across Utah in response to short-term precipitation deficits (30-60 days), poor snowpack conditions, and anomalously warm temperatures. According to the USDA, California’s topsoil moisture is currently rated as 75% short to very short. During the past week, average temperatures were well above normal (5-to-18 degrees) across the region with numerous daily high temperature records broken from California to Colorado…
The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for liquid precipitation accumulations of 2-to-5 inches in western Washington and 1-to-2 inches across the Northern Rockies of Idaho and Montana. Accumulations of 0.5-to-1 are forecast for the central and southern Rockies. Accumulations of an inch are expected in the lower Midwest and northern portions of the South. The CPC 6–10-day outlook calls for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the eastern half of the conterminous U.S. as well as in western Arizona, California, and western Nevada while below normal temperatures are expected in a swath extending from west Texas to eastern portions of the Pacific Northwest. In terms of precipitation, below normal precipitation is expected across the western third of the conterminous U.S. while a high probability of above normal precipitation is forecast for the eastern third of the U.S. and eastern portions of the Desert Southwest.
As droughts intensify and development expands, the amount of dust blowing around the earth is increasing, affecting everything from mountain snowmelt to the spread of disease. Scientists are just beginning to understand the complex dynamics of dust in a warming world.
HHigh in the snowfields atop the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, things are not as pristine as they used to be. Dust from the desert Southwest is sailing into the Rockies in increasing quantities and settling onto the snow that covers the peaks, often streaking the white surface with shades of red and brown.
The amount of dust that settles on snow varies from year to year. From 2005 to 2008, about five times as much dust fell on the Rockies as during the 1800s, and those years are characterized by researchers as moderately dusty, according to a recent study. In 2009 and 2010, however, the Rockies saw an extreme dust scenario, with the amount of dust blowing onto the mountains mushrooming to five times more than those moderate years. The cause, scientists say, was increasing drought — linked to a warming climate — and human development.
Because darker, dust-flecked snow absorbs more solar energy and warms faster than pure white snow, it means snow cover melts earlier — a lot earlier. “It’s not subtle at all,” said Jeff Deems, a research scientist with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. “There is 30 to 60 days difference in the melt out. Over a larger watershed, it’s massive.”
With the snow disappearing earlier and the growing season significantly extended, plants consume more water and transpire it into the atmosphere. That is water that would otherwise go into streams but is now lost, and Deems says this translates into 5 percent less water flowing into the Colorado River in dusty years, a significant amount. The more rapid rate of snowmelt also has a cascade of effects, with the darker, bare ground absorbing more heat and warming the atmosphere.
The same phenomenon is happening in other mountain ranges across the globe, most notably the Himalayas and the Caucasus Mountains, where grazing, desertification, and development are taking place upwind of glaciers and snow-covered terrain, increasing the deposition of dust on those surfaces.
The major impacts of a warming climate are well known: hotter temperatures, more — and more intense — storms, melting glaciers and sea ice, drier climates in many regions and wetter weather in others. But some researchers say one major element of climate change is being overlooked: dust. Dust plays a fundamental role in the world’s ecological processes, and the dynamics of dust are changing as the climate changes.
Although the issue is poorly studied, it’s clear that dust dynamics are shifting in two main ways. Humans are the main cause of an increasing amount of dust in the atmosphere. As farming, grazing, and other development in places such as the Horn of Africa or the U.S. Southwest spread deeper into arid regions, vegetation is destroyed, exposing the soil to wind erosion. In addition, increasing drought due to a warming climate is a major cause of the dust problem, as it kills vegetation and uncaps the soil, allowing it to become windborne.
This has both positive and negative effects. More dust, for example, means more nutrients and minerals, such as iron, are being transported long distances, which stimulates the growth of oceanic plankton — an essential link in the marine food chain. But increasing quantities of dust could cause serious problems for parts of the world, from decreased water flow in some mountain regions to increased human exposure to dust-borne pathogens, a growing health concern.
In the United States, the 2017 National Climate Assessment found that warmer temperatures are reducing soil moisture in parts of the West, and also predicts more drought in the coming years. These factors kill vegetation that keeps soil in place and have already led to more dust storms. And winds that blow in from the Pacific Ocean are increasing as ocean temperatures heat up. That, in turn, draws in drier north winds that suck moisture out of the soil in the southwestern U.S. The frequency of dust storms there has more than doubled since the 1990s — from 20 per year to 48 in the 2000s — and will likely continue to increase, according to one study.
On the other side of the world, weather patterns in some regions have shifted in a different way. Rainfall in the Sahara has increased because of warmer ocean temperatures, which has meant less dust blowing westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Dust storms have also declined in the deserts of China and South America and are projected to be lower in the Great Plains of the U.S. — all because of an increase in precipitation that stimulates plant growth, which caps the soil.
Peripatetic dust is an ancient and vital geological phenomenon because dust carries nutrients that regulate the distribution of life across the planet. A recent study found that dust from the Gobi Desert — one of the world’s two major sources of dust, along with the Sahara — has long ridden the jet stream and settled in the Sierras in California, where it provides an essential source of life-giving phosphorous for the giant sequoias and other trees in that phosphorous-limited ecosystem. The study found that dust provides even more phosphorous than the other major source — the weathering of bedrock in the mountains.
“Dust is a connector of ecosystems around the world,” said Emma Aronson, a plant pathologist and microbiologist at the University of California at Riverside and a co-author of the study.
Nutrient-rich dust is critical, as well, in the oceans. “Dust depositions deliver nutrients that are in very, very scarce supply,” said Jason Neff, a professor of environmental biogeochemistry at the University of Colorado. “Iron, phosphorous, nitrogen, carbon, and other micronutrients in the open ocean lead to higher marine productivity.” A case in point: A massive 2009 dust storm in Australia called Red Dawn (the largest loss of soil in history there), followed by another large dust storm, caused a huge spike in the growth of phytoplankton in the Tasman Sea because of high levels of iron in the wind-blown soil. Such phytoplankton blooms can pull substantial amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as the marine algae photosynthesize.
Dust clouds and the aerosol particles they contain have major impacts on climate in other ways, such as the blocking of sunlight headed for Earth. But this field of research is young and complex, and the science is lacking, adding uncertainty to future climate models. “The way that aerosols affect climate depends on their size, their color, their height in the atmosphere, how they interact with water vapor,” said Neff. “Aerosols are a tough area, because they can warm or they can cool depending on their composition and their location.”
One proven impact from an increase in dust is on human health. In the U.S., an increase in dust storms is leading to many more cases of Valley fever, a fungus that lives in desert soils, becomes airborne as dust, and is then inhaled. The number of cases of Valley fever has increased dramatically in Arizona and California in recent years. In 2000, California and Arizona reported a total 2,757 cases of Valley fever. That number rose to 22,164 in 2011 following several extremely dusty years. The two states reported 11,459 Valley fever cases last year, with 57 fatalities occurring in Arizona. This sharp rise is due not only to increased wind and drought, but to increasing development, including the construction of utility-scale solar energy projects.
“At all of these solar ranches being put in out there, especially in the Mojave, there are huge areas being graded, all the vegetation is removed, and they keep it graded because they don’t want the vegetation to interfere with these solar panels,” said Antje Lauer, a microbial ecologist at California State University in Bakersfield who studies the disease. Changing patterns of drought and rain also favor the spores that cause Valley fever. Military training grounds in Texas and California create dust clouds so big they are visible from satellites.
In Japan, cases of Kawasaki disease — a rare malady that, among other things, causes inflammation of blood vessels, particularly coronary arteries — have been increasing. The bacteria or virus (no one is sure) can travel in events known as Yellow Dust — storms that blow in from the Gobi Desert.
Dust-filled winds that blow across a swath of central Africa during the dry season, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, create something called the meningitis belt, so called because of the rash of outbreaks of the bacterial disease there.
In the U.S., Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona are ground zero for giant haboobs — an Arabic term for dust storms — stirred by intense winds from thunderstorms that can be a mile high and engulf entire cities. Phoenix gets an average of three per year. Haboobs are the third-most dangerous type of weather in Arizona — after extreme temperatures and flash flooding — because they rise suddenly and without warning, greatly reducing visibility and causing traffic accidents. They also carry disease, bacteria, fecal matter from stockyards, herbicides, and pesticides and other pollutants harmful to human health.
The role that dust plays in the earth’s natural systems is only now coming into sharper focus as humanity’s impact on the planet intensifies. As researcher Aronson’s team put it in their study of Gobi Desert dust wafting over to California’s Sierras, “quantifying the importance of dust … is crucial for predicting how ecosystems will respond to global warming and greater use of the land.”
Water law is a serious issue in the arid to semi-arid west of the United States. Colorado and Nebraska have an agreement that Colorado will allow no less than a specified amount of water to flow along the South Platte River from Colorado to Nebraska.
The problem is most of the flow of the South Platte comes in the spring from the melting of the snowpack. Millions of gallons of water flow into Nebraska, far exceeding the amount required under the Colorado/Nebraska compact.
To remedy this, the Two Forks Dam was proposed to be built on the South Platte River, near Deckers, Colorado.
However, the permit to build the dam, which would have held enough to meet the annual needs of 400,000 people, was denied.
Now, fast-forward to the start of the 21st century. At about the time Two Forks was dying, state mining engineers decided mined-out gravel pits could be used as storage reservoirs. That decision changed the way aggregate companies and local municipalities looked at the pits. Not only could aggregate companies get the economic benefit from the gravel, but also they could turn the mined-out land into a water storage facility for the nearby communities.
Municipalities along the South Platte scrambled to permit new gravel operations, as long as they could purchase the hole. Gravel operators were happy to oblige because frequently the holes in the ground were worth more than the gravel that came out of them.
Some rock quarries also became suitable storage places for municipal water supplies.
One such pit is in Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of 22 inactive quarries storing rainwater reserves that are pumped via a 2.5km pipeline to the Indian city of Chennai. Another pit, in Glen Innes, New South Wales, has been enormously successful for the local council and residents, boosting the city’s water supply.
With the decline in the construction of new dams, this phenomenon has spread across the United States (and is also occurring in Australia).
From the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership via the The Pagosa Daily Post (Sally High):
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP) will begin construction of two more growing dome greenhouses — the Community Garden Dome and the Innovation Dome — in spring 2018. These two domes will be installed next to the existing Education Dome in Pagosa Springs’ Centennial Park on a parcel leased from the Town of Pagosa Springs.
The Colorado Water Plan (CWP) Engagement and Innovation Fund granted Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership $174,500 for the construction of the nonprofit organization’s second and third growing domes. The Colorado Water Conservation Board approved the CWP grant earlier in November. These funds, coupled with a $34,000 matching grant from Colorado Garden Foundation awarded last February, allow the GGP to fulfill its agreement to build three geothermal greenhouses.
Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership is a volunteer-driven 501c3 educational organization, building a Pagosa-scale botanic park within Centennial Park on the San Juan River Walk. Its mission is “to educate the community in sustainable agricultural practices by producing food year-round using local renewable energy.” Demonstrating the value of Pagosa’s geothermal resource remains an organizational priority.
The October 2017 Smart Growth America Report listed the GGP as an important amenity for the community. Both the Archuleta County Community Economic Development Action Plan and Downtown Colorado Inc. identified the GGP as a priority for downtown economic revitalization. With the Education Dome completed in 2016, the GGP began fulfilling its mission in 2017.
In GGP’s first year of operations, the Education Dome and Amphitheater became busy gathering places. GGP hosted its 5th Colorado Environmental Film Festival Caravan in downtown Pagosa. Five Lifelong Learning Workshops explored various environmental issues and celebrated the biodiversity of the San Juan River Walk. Two well-attended special events included the first San Juan Sounds live concert and the 2nd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons. Pagosa’s youth began horticultural activities and GGP’s volunteers nurtured an abundant garden for the community.
2018 promises more classes, educational workshops and special events in Centennial Park. Children from 4-H, public and charter school classrooms, and home schools are already learning each week in the Education Dome. The 6th Environmental Film Festival is planned for mid-April. Lifelong Learning Workshops will include in-depth education about the wise use of Colorado’s water. Live music and performance are planned for the GGP Amphitheater, as well as the 3rd Colorfest Breakfast with Balloons.
The Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership operates through a professional Board of Directors, numerous volunteers, five strategic committees and an enthusiastic membership base. GGP committees include (1) Soil, Seeds and Water; (2) Site; (3) Fundraising and Special Events; (4) Landscaping; and (5) Programming. An informational question and answer session for the community is planned for January 2018.
Learn more at the GGP website at pagosagreen.org.
Sally High is the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership Board President.
From email from the Arkansas River Compact Administration (Kevin Salter):
The 2017 Annual Meeting of the Arkansas River Compact Administration (ARCA) will be held on Thursday, December 7, 2017, commencing at 8:00 A.M. MST (9:00 A.M. CST) at the location noted above. The meeting will be recessed for lunch at about 12:00 P.M. MST and reconvened for the completion of business in the afternoon as necessary.
Notice is hereby given pursuant to Article XI.1 of the ARCA bylaws that the Administration will consider for adoption updates to the bylaws, for the purpose of modernizing communication between ARCA members.
The Engineering, Operations, and Administrative/Legal Committees of ARCA will meet on Wednesday, December 6, 2017, also at the location noted above, starting at 1:30 PM. MST (2:30 P.M. CST) and continuing to completion. The public is invited to attend the Committee meetings, however please be aware time for comments may be limited.
Lamar Community College
Bowman Building – Room 139
2401 South Main Street
Lamar, CO 8105
Tree harvesting methods designed to protect streams from soil erosion and sedimentation can be effective in maintaining water quality, scientists have shown in a study in the Oregon Coast Range.
By following rules enshrined in the Oregon Forest Practices Act, research in the Alsea River watershed showed that a stream draining clear-cut slopes carried no more sediment after harvest than before. In fact, the clear-cut watershed had lower sediment concentrations than streams in two nearby uncut watersheds.
While the study shows what can theoretically be achieved, researchers are cautious about applying their results to actual harvesting activities elsewhere. The practices in this study may not represent the variety of conditions faced in forest management across the state, they said. For example, no new roads were constructed in the process of carrying out the study. That’s significant because previous studies have showed that road construction can be an important source of sediment.
The results of the study were published in Forest Ecology and Management, a professional journal.
“This and a number of other studies provide some very nice evidence that current best management practices are proving to be much more effective than historical practices,” said Jeff Hatten, lead author and associate professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University. Studies in other parts of Oregon and the West show that the impacts of such practices depend on landscape characteristics including geology, soil type, slope and historical landslides.
In the 1960s, the Alsea watershed was the site of one of the first comprehensive studies of tree harvesting and water quality in the nation. Located in southern Benton and Lincoln counties, the river empties into the Pacific at Waldport and supports runs of chinook and coho salmon as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout. Research results provided evidence for standards included in the landmark 1971 Oregon Forest Practices Act, among the first such laws in the United States to set rules to protect streams from impacts of tree harvesting.
In that study, forests were clear-cut above Needle Branch and Deer Creeks, and significant increases of sediment were recorded in each stream after harvesting. Another watershed, Flynn Creek, was left uncut as a control.
Tree cutting practices at that time included widespread burning of branches and other non-saleable materials. For the most part, trees were harvested down to the stream edge; few uncut vegetation buffers were left along the streams. Even where such buffers were left in Deer Creek, storm-driven road failures caused pulses of soil to enter the water.
By the time the latest project was begun in 2005, sediment concentrations in Needle Branch and Deer Creeks had returned to their pre-harvest states. Researchers began a new round of monitoring sediment, stream discharge (a measure of how much water is flowing per second) and precipitation. In 2009, after five years of data collection, the upper portion of Needle Branch was clear-cut. Similar harvest operations were conducted in the lower portions in 2014, and to meet annual clear-cut limits in the Oregon Forest Practices Act, the remainder was cut in 2015. No trees were cut in Flynn and Deer Creek, which were maintained as control sites for comparison purposes.
Over the course of the study, which ended in 2016, more than 4,400 water samples were collected and analyzed at the Forest Hydrology Lab at Oregon State.
“We found that there was no evidence of an effect of contemporary forest practices on suspended sediment concentrations,” the authors wrote. For all years, both the mean and the maximum sediment concentrations were higher in Flynn and Deer Creeks, where there had been no harvesting, than in Needle Branch, where trees had been cut.
Among the harvesting practices used in the study were 50-foot-wide buffers along fish-bearing portions of Needle Branch, which are required by law. No buffers were left along non-fish bearing stream segments. Residual materials were burned in discrete piles rather than broadly across the harvested areas. Tree-cutting equipment was not allowed in the stream channels.
Large pieces of wood that fell into the stream channel of Needle Branch were left where they lay. The researchers did not directly measure the impact of this material on sedimentation, said Hatten, “but there is evidence (from other studies) that large wood can increase the formation of pools and riffles, increasing sediment retention. There is also evidence that wood can cause channel widening and steepening.”
Other authors of the report included Catalina Segura and Kevin Bladon at Oregon State; V. Cody Hale at Nutter and Associates in Athens, Georgia; John Stednick at Colorado State University; and George Ice (retired) of the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, a nonprofit research organization for the forest products industry.
The study was funded by members of the Watershed Research Cooperative at Oregon State University and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement. More information about the study is available on the Watershed Research Cooperative website.
From the get-go, the Basalt Whitewater Park was a balancing act designed to simultaneously enhance the riparian habitat of the Roaring Fork River, slow the flow of runoff, give anglers the opportunity to match wits with fish and provide kayakers and rafters with a means by which they could get their adrenal glands pumping.
While people seem to appreciate the effort, opinions expressed at a forum organized Tuesday evening by Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers program indicated there is work yet to be done.
The forum, which took place at the Basalt Library, brought together about 30 river enthusiasts covering the recreational gamut from fisherpeople to hard-core kayakers to boaters with a more recreational bent.
The consensus seemed to be that the engineers who did the work throughout last winter need to fine tune their efforts.
“It is more rowdy that we had hoped,” said Quinn Donnelly, a river engineer with Carbondale-based River Restoration, the company that designed and constructed the $800,000 whitewater park.
According to Donnelly, the park functioned at its best when the water levels went down from their peak of about 3,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) on June 19.
“At about 700 cfs, the flows worked really well for a wide range of skills,” Donnelly said.
But, when those water levels were higher, spam was definitely hitting the fan.
While Donnelly said the upper feature was classified at about Class-3 during the height of runoff, people in the audience begged to differ. One person speculated that the upper feature was closer to class-4, while another said it nudged up to class-5.
Several members of the audience related takes about spending significant time upside-down and bouncing off boulders while attempting to navigate the man-made rapids.
Starting in January, Fort Morgan residents can expect to pay at least $2 more per month for water, depending on their water usage.
The Fort Morgan City Council recently approved adjusting water rates for 2018 to include the 3 percent increase recommended by the latest rates study.
Water Resources/Utilities Director Brent Nation said that a residential household that currently pays $71.90 for a monthly water bill likely would have a bill next year of $73.90.
The increase was recommended to the council so as to keep the city’s water fund revenue on track for the possibility of going out to bond for construction on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP), as well as likely upcoming large capital projects at Fort Morgan Water Treatment Plant and ongoing maintenance of the city’s water delivery system, Nation and City Manager Jeff Wells explained…
He said the price of constructing NISP has not changed, but some of the projections for how it is expected to be financed for Northern Water by the 15 participants – including Fort Morgan and Morgan County Quality Water District – are changing. That meant the city needed to figure out how to “balance out” those financing expense projections with the water fund projections for revenue.
Nation said the latest water rates study included “a conservative approach” so that the city could “make sure that the fund is safely being funded for these projects” but also keep rates from having to skyrocket in the future.
For now, Nation said the 3 percent water rates increase for 2018 would “keep us moving forward towards where we’re projecting that we’re going to need over the next 10 to 15 years, depending on how NISP plays out.”
The current rate study did indicate that Fort Morgan’s water rates are on the higher end in northeast Colorado, but that had been the case since the Colorado-Big Thompson project began, Nation said.
“We pay for high quality water, and that’s what we’re getting,” he said.
But there also are other things the city’s water treatment and water delivery departments will look at doing so as to save money for rate payers, Nation told the council, not getting into specifics right now.
Wells pointed out that the city has been collecting a monthly NISP fee from rate-payers so as to start building up cash toward future bonding for that project, if or when it gets approved.
Construction of the 7.5-MW Pueblo small hydro project is well under way, with operations expected to begin in the spring of 2018, according to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
The plant is the first hydroelectric feature added to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project since the completion of the 233-MW Mount Elbert pump-back hydroelectric plant at Twin Lakes in 1981.
This new facility, on the Arkansas River, will be able to generate electricity at flows ranging from 35 cubic feet per second to 810 cfs. The powerhouse will contain three turbine-generator units and will use the authorized release from the dam to the Arkansas River to generate an average of 28 million kWh of electricity annually, which will equate to about $1.5 million in average revenue per year. Electricity generated will be purchase by the city of Fountain and by Colorado Springs Utilities. After 10 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated for the following 20 years.
The total capital cost of the project is estimated to be $19.5 million, which includes a $17.2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
The planning and permitting process for this hydro facility began in 2011. Because this facility is located at Pueblo Dam, owned by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and will connect to a pipeline also owned by Reclamation, the project required a Lease of Power Privilege. The preliminary LOPP was granted in February 2012, and the final LOPP was granted in April 2017.
The final design of the facility was completed in June 2016, and the construction contract was awarded to Mountain States Hydro in August 2017.
The district says construction complete and commissioning will occur in August 2018.
On Thursday, Nov. 16, the San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) Board of Health adopted new regu- lations governing on-site wastewa- ter treatment systems (OWTS) in Archuleta, La Plata and San Juan counties following a long stake- holder outreach process. These regulations will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
On June 30, new statewide regu- lations went into effect for OWTS in Colorado. These regulations required all local public health agencies in the state, including SJBPH, to revise their local OWTS regulations to meet or exceed the minimum statewide standard. SJBPH conducted outreach beginning in the fall of 2016 with wastewater industry professionals, county planning commissioners, state regulators, the real estate community and many others to write a regulation that protects public health and water quality while providing certainty to the industry and to homeowners.
The 2018 regulations include three major changes toward these goals:
• Direct adoption of statewide design and construction standards to reduce confusion and provide consistency with neighboring counties;
• Allowing more design options, including smaller active treatment systems, which may reduce costs for some homeowners and allow for septic systems to be more easily installed on dif cult sites;
• Beginning in 2019, requiring that most properties served by an OWTS be inspected prior to sale, to identify and quickly repair fail- ing or hazardous systems, and to protect buyers from unforeseen and costly repairs. This require- ment is delayed to allow more time for property owners, real estate professionals and the wastewater industry to prepare for the new requirements.
Click here to read the article. Here’s an excerpt:
Two US delegations
After Trump’s decision in June that he wanted to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, all eyes were on the US official delegation to see how they would navigate the negotiations.
During the first week of the talks, a civil society group known as the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance called for the US delegation to be barred from attending the negotiations, due to its decision to leave the Paris deal.
Meanwhile, a seemingly pointed message was sent on day two of the COP, when Syria announced it would sign the Paris Agreement. This now leaves the US as the only country in the world stating it doesn’t intend to honour the landmark deal.
However, the delegation itself kept a relatively low profile – bar a now infamous “cleaner fossil fuels” side event which anti-Trump protesters disrupted for seven minutes, singing: “We proudly stand up until you keep it in the ground…”).
The US delegation co-chaired a working group with China on Nationally Determined Contributions (country pledges, often known by the acronym NDCs) with reportedly high success. It’s worth noting, though, that many of the US negotiators are the same officials who have been representing the US at COPs for years. They seemingly continued their negotiations with little change in attitude, albeit possibly taking harder stances on issues such as “loss and damage” and finance.
There was a further chaotic appearance in the media centre by Trump adviser George David Banks, who vowed that his priority at COP23 was to fight “differentiation” (sometimes called “bifurcation”), namely, the division of countries into industrialised “annex one” countries and the rest in the UN climate arena. However, beyond this, the behaviour of the US delegation did not differ significantly from previous years.
Importantly, though, the official US delegation were not the only group from the US drawing attention at the COP.
An alternative “We Are Still In” delegation set up a large pavilion at their US Climate Action Centre just outside the main venue for the talks.
This group included major sub-national actors, such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and California governor Jerry Brown, keen to prove there are many US voices against Trump’s anti-climate policies.
Their “America’s Pledge” report outlined how their coalition of cities, states and businesses represented over half the US economy. At the report’s packed launch event, Bloomberg even argued the group should should be given a seat at the climate negotiating table.
From the University of Denver Water Law Review (Matthew Kilby):
This panel discussed the destructive impacts of large-scale cattle operations on landscapes and ecosystems. The panel focused on cattle grazing and industrial farming as some of the lead causes of environmental destruction in the American West.
Josh Osher spoke about the widespread damages caused by cattle grazing. Not only does cattle grazing affect more than two hundred million acres of land in the American West, but it has also contributed to the damage of eighty percent of streams and riparian areas in the region, which he described as “corridors for plant and animal species.” One way cattle destroy riparian areas is through “step-down,” which occurs when cattle walk over streams and incise stream or riverbanks. When cattle destroy banks, water channels become flat, which degrades instream flows and alters stream morphology. This, along with a reduction in water quality, can fundamentally change landscapes and eliminate local plant and animal species. Osher contended that the only way to prevent further degradation of western ecosystems through cattle grazing is to remove the cattle from the land. Once cattle are removed, he argued, lands have shown a surprising resilience and ability to rebound from substantial degradation.
George Wuerthner discussed how legislators and government agencies have failed to combat the cattle industry. Wuerthner highlighted this failure by exploring the Clean Water Act’s exception that allows industrial agricultural producers to operate without obtaining discharge permits, despite the fact that a single cow can produce up to one hundred pounds of feces in one day. He noted that cattle in Montana produce waste equivalent to a human population of 100 million. In addition to allowing the cattle industry to thrive without necessary environmental regulations, Wuerthner also discussed the disproportionate access the industry has to water. In Nevada for example, the cattle industry only provides some 25,000 jobs but it may take up to eighty-five percent of the state’s water. Wuerthner concluded his segment by imploring the attendees to fight this inequity by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Last, Julia DeGraw presented on how important it is for society to shift how we use water. To highlight this importance, DeGraw explored two mega-dairy farms, one in operation and the other slated for future operation, near Boardman, Oregon. The groundwater underneath Boardman has long been in decline, yet the combined dairy farms could withdraw an estimated 1.4 million gallons of water a day to support 100,000 cattle. This would not only severely affect local hydrologic conditions, but would also reduce local air and water quality. The cost of beef does not internalize its environmental destruction. To solve this conundrum, DeGraw, like Wuerthner, called on attendees to change their diet to help dismantle the industrial cattle industry.
The Colorado River Risk Study, commissioned by the Colorado River District and other West Slope parties, forecasts that if another drought like 2002-04 recurs,Lake Powell, now about half full rather than full as it was then, could fall below power generation levels or be drained unless Drought Contingency Plans (DCP) can be put in place.
Should the worst happen, Colorado and its sister Upper Division states (Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico) that are party to the Colorado River Compact of 1922 would be hard pressed to meet compact obligations to the Lower Division states (California, Nevada and Arizona).
The Risk Study is now in Phase II, which is a technical process to learn if federal and state Colorado River computer models can be used conjunctively to better predict what could happen in the state of Colorado. Other partners in the study are the four West Slope Basin Roundtables (Colorado Basin, Gunnison, Yampa-White and South- west) and the Southwestern Water Conservation District– with assistance from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
At its quarterly meeting on Oct. 17, the Colorado River District Board received an update on the work. John Carron of Hydros Consulting, the study contractor, said the takeaways from the study so far are:
• Should a drought on the order of 2002-04 recur with Lake Powell at its current half-full level, hydroelectric power generation is jeopardized;
• Hydrology, demands and future development levels matter — the higher the consumptive use in the Upper Division states, the higher the risk to existing users;
• The most successful Drought Contingency Planning requires joint participation by both Upper and Lower Division states;
• Drought Contingency Planning is essential;re-operations of reservoirs, such as Flaming Gorge, to move water down to Powell reduces the risk, but in more severe droughts (e.g., 1988-1993 and 2001-2005),demand management (reduced water use) would be necessary in addition to any
• Some of the volumes of demand management that the model is forecasting are large and may not be feasible, thus the need to consider the trade-offs and alternative strategies;
• Demand management combined with a water bank could limit the impact by spreading conservation over many years and providing greater control over conserved water — a must- have condition.
The four West Slope Basin Roundtables called for the Risk Study at a joint meeting held in December 2014 in order for the West Slope to better under- stand the risks to current water users of future water development and how development, basin by basin, might look against the risk. As Colorado River water is also used on the Front Range of Colorado, drought risk is important to Front Range Roundtables and their future development, but they opted not to participate in the study.
How we got here
Even though there had been some good snow years in the years 2000- 2013, it was clear that dry conditions and overuse of the Colorado River were driving down reservoir levels at Lakes Powell and Mead.
In July 2013, then U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asked the seven Colorado River basin states if they were prepared to deal with a continuation of these conditions. The answer was no, and the challenge was for the basin states to develop their own DCPs or have the work done for them.
The Upper Division states and the Lower Division states each started work on DCPs for their regions.
Against this backdrop, the four West Slope Basin Roundtables commissioned the Risk Study. In the meantime, Colorado’s Water Plan, released in 2015, calls for actions that will minimize the risk of compact curtailment, embodied in Point 4 of the Seven Point Framework of the plan.
The Upper Basin DCP
The Upper Basin States have a three-pronged DCP, that 1) entails moving water stored in Flaming Gorge, Aspinall and Navajo Reservoirs to Lake Powell as the first line of defense against critical Powell elevations being breached, and modifying releases from Powell to Mead; 2) institutes demand management (reduction of use); and 3) augments river flows through cloud seeding and phreatophyte (primarily tamarisk) reduction.
An agreement between the four Upper Division states and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is in the works on how to re-operate the reservoirs. The demand management piece will be controversial among the states and within each state; details are still to be worked out. One policy contention in Colorado is that municipal water users, including those on the Front Range, share the burden of reduced use – and that the reduced uses not all fall on West Slope agriculture.
Demand management in the Upper Basin would be the last action to implement in the “worst of the worst droughts,” General Manager Eric Kuhn said. “The goal is to limit it to that.”
General Counsel Peter Fleming said a Colorado River District policy issue would be implementing demand management at the same time as new and increasing water uses are being developed in the River District, the state of Colorado and throughout the Upper Basin.
Kuhn said that for Colorado, the Seven Point Framework in the 2015 Colorado Water Plan addresses that — calling for any new transmountain diversion to not increase the risk of curtailment, because of Compact or Lake Powell low levels, on current water users.
“It is a major milestone that the state has adopted that in its plan,” Kuhn said. “This is an issue for the Front Range as well. Existing users do not want to see the risk to their projects increase due to new diversions.”
The Lower Basin DCP
The overall goal of DCP in the Lower Division states is to erase the so-called “structural deficit” that over time has showed those three states depleting about 1.2 million acre feet (maf) annually more than their compact entitlement of 7.5 maf, due to use and evaporation. A section of the 2007 Interim Guidelines that pertains to the three states calls for reduction of water use equal to about half of the structural deficit once Lake Meads falls below certain thresholds. Current Drought Contingency Planning specifies further cutbacks would achieve the 1.2 maf goal.
The Lower Division states are nearing finalizing their DCP. As Mother Nature would have it, big rains in California helped to reduce depletions in the Low- er Basin to 6.6 maf this past water year.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will not hear an appeal by water agencies in the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ landmark lawsuit asserting rights to groundwater beneath the tribe’s reservation.
The Desert Water Agency and the Coachella Valley Water Disitrict appealed to the Supreme Court in July, challenging a decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled the tribe has a right to groundwater dating back to the federal government’s creation of the reservation in the 1870s.
The high court’s denial of the agencies’ petition means that the tribe has prevailed in winning legal backing for its claim to groundwater rights, and the next phase of the case in federal court focuses on whether the tribe owns storage space within the desert aquifer in Palm Springs and surrounding areas.
The case is likely to have far-reaching effects for Indian water rights throughout the West and across the country. By ruling that the tribe holds special federally reserved rights to groundwater, the court decisions so far in the case are expected to strengthen other tribes’ positions in negotiations or lawsuits over water disputes.
The case is being closely watched by tribes and water suppliers across the West.
In August, 10 states from Nevada to Texas weighed in to support the California water agencies. They said in a “friend-of-the-court” brief that every state “has an obvious stake in the preservation, maintenance and allocation of their most precious natural resource.”
If the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case, it would have had a rare opportunity to settle the question of whether tribes hold special federal “reserved rights” to groundwater as well as surface water, and to define more clearly the boundaries between state-administered water rights and federal water rights. Now that the Supreme Court has let the lower court’s ruling stand, it will be up to lower courts – at least for now – to decide on lingering ambiguities in the established law.
From the University of Denver Water Law Review (Alicia Garcia):
Need for a New System
Chicago has the largest wastewater capture quarry, water treatment facility, and water treatment plant in the world. However, Chicago still continues to experience significant flooding from stormwater runoff. In the past five years, there have been approximately 181,000 claims totaling over $753 million in flood-related property damage.
Brenna Berman, Chicago’s chief information officer, says that the city is, “still getting the same amount of rain annually that we got [in the past] but it’s coming at a different rate than it once did. However, we’re getting rain more quickly, rain for a shorter period of time, most likely due to global warming.” Therefore, the same solution does not work the same in every location.
A Greener Solution?
In response, Chicago has been installing green infrastructure to hold and treat stormwater. Currently, Chicago is in the midst of a five-year, $50-million plan towards creating ten million gallons of stormwater storage in hopes of reducing stormwater runoff by up to 250 million gallons per year. Permeable pavement has been installed in bike lanes and alleys, which allows for water to be soaked into the ground rather than flowing into the sewer system. Additionally, there are bioswales, tree pits, and infiltration planters, which are areas of vegetation and soil collecting and filtering stormwater that prevent flooding and allow cleaner water to enter the sewer system. Although there are a number of green infrastructure solutions available, there is not much data available regarding which types work best and how well they are working. That’s where City Digital comes in.
City Digital, a partnership of companies based at University of Illinois’ UI LABS, heads the pilot project which combines sensors and cloud computing as an innovative solution to stormwater runoff. The project aims to develop the next generation of sensing and monitoring tools for green stormwater infrastructure. The partnership is comprised of large, multinational companies including Microsoft, ComEd, Siemens, Accenture, Tyco, and HBK Engineering, as well as academic institutions such as the University of Illinois, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and Argonne National Laboratory.
These companies, universities, and the City of Chicago are collaborating together to identify and solve large-scale infrastructure challenges in order to develop solutions that can be broadly commercialized.
How it Works
Beginning in August of 2016, City Digital has been installing low cost sensors and innovative software tools throughout the city in order to monitor and evaluate the city’s current green infrastructure.
The ultimate goal of this smart green infrastructure monitoring is to create a system of sensors that combines weather information with surface and groundwater monitoring to evaluate the amount of water present, whether or not it is entering the green infrastructure, and what the water undergoes once it enters the infrastructure. Additionally, the system will measure the pH levels and the temperature of the water. Above the ground, the sensors work to monitor the weather conditions, such as precipitation amounts and air pressure levels. Below ground, the sensors monitor soil moisture, chemical absorption rates, and water quality to determine if the infrastructure is managing the water as intended.
The data collected by the sensors is then communicated via cellular network into an analytics platform. There, the effectiveness of the various green-infrastructures can be monitored in real time. As of this past spring, there are six sites throughout Chicago that are transmitting more than 20,000 streams of real time data that translate into site specific recommendations for green infrastructure being built in the future.
Ultimately, the purpose is not only to determine if the green-infrastructure is working, but where and when certain types of green infrastructure are most effective. Specifically, whether the green infrastructure is preventing rainwater from entering the sewer system and what green designs work best for different types of rain and lengths of the storm.
Supporters of the pilot project urge that smart green infrastructure monitoring can be a low-cost alternative to traditional monitoring. Joshua Peschel, one of the key players of the Chicago pilot project says, “the traditional way of monitoring stormwater infrastructure, if done at all, is with expensive measurements that are often very sparse in space and time. This project seeks to fill the data gaps by adding unique measurement techniques and intelligence to these new green streets in Chicago.”
By providing innovative, low cost monitoring for green infrastructure, the pilot project is changing the way not only Chicago, but cities all over the world address stormwater issues. The pilot project is designed to create a pathway to commercialization so that successful pilots can easily and directly be extended throughout other areas of Chicago and even further to other cities both nationally and globally.
The Swan hasn’t flowed freely since the dredges chewed up its banks, kept the gold and spat the rocks back out. All of the sand and silt that kept the water out of the ground washed downstream, so the river has quietly gurgled under the rocks for the century since.
“One way to think of it is like a bathtub full of marbles, and the water is just sort of flowing through those,” Lederer said. “Sometimes you see it on the surface and sometimes you don’t.”
The Open Space and Trail Department has teamed up with Breckenridge and at least a half-dozen other partners to breathe life back into the Swan. Clearing out all of the marbles is the first step.
For the past two years, workers have been collecting and milling hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of the gravel and rocks that have been suffocating the river.
On Wednesday, Nov. 22, crews are set to wrap up another season of work, pulling out more than 43,000 tons of material since July. Over that time, roughly $122,000 in royalties from the sale of that processed material have gone to help offset the cost of the project.
A big load of the rock from last season was used for the Iron Springs bypass project, an ambitious re-routing of Highway 9 between Breckenridge and Frisco that was finished just weeks ago…
Last summer, the project liberated one of four sections of the Swan, digging out a channel that now meanders across a wide floodplain.
“We look at the geometry of the valley as a whole: how wide it is, how steep it is, how big the floodplain is,” Lederer explained. “And looking at these different parameters, we can make an inference into what the channel should look like.”
This summer, workers planted thousands of willows along the new banks of the Swan to help anchor the river while it stretches it legs for the first time in years. But it’s not stuck in place just yet.
“We’ve given the stream a lot of flexibility to move across the floodplain,” Lederer said. “It’s able to move a little bit over time, and that’s OK — that’s kind of what we want up there.”
After a dry start to the season, the area greened up nicely before the first snowfall, a stark contrast to the moonlike surface from just two years ago.
The stretch that’s flowing, dubbed Reach A, is one of four sections identified for de-dredging. That phase cost around $2.3 million total, provided by a combination of state and local government grants.
Gravel milling work this summer has taken place upriver on Reach B, and that’s set to continue next summer. Workers need to clear at least 195,000 cubic yards of material before restoration can begin.
The final two sections, however, are being actively quarried on private land and could take some time to free up for restoration.
“Everyone in the valley is sort of supportive of this work, but I don’t have a good idea of the timing on anything on private property,” Lederer said. “But ideally, we’ll continue to move upstream as the opportunity allows.”
Today’s excavator work represents the latest step in a landmark project undertaken by local, state, and federal government agencies, as well as a group of private organizations that share a commitment to undoing the environmental damage inflicted by Summit County’s pioneers.
“It’s just basically a big mess. There is no real stream, to be honest. There’s no life,” Jason Lederer, an open space and trails resource specialist for Summit County, says while observing the scene last summer. “Our goal is to reintroduce the natural channel to the valley and restore the ecological and environmental value.”
Lederer watches as the earth mover pulls another few hundred pounds of melted chocolate from its expanding hole. When the restoration effort began, no one had a clue where the river was supposed to go—or where it ran before the dredges turned it upside down in the early 1900s. “We don’t have any pictures, but we can imagine,” Lederer says. Which seems a tad crazy, no? How could you not know where the river flowed as recently as a century ago?
Such is the legacy of dredge mining—not just in the Swan, but also French Gulch, one drainage south, and anywhere else a dredge ever operated.
Soon, though, this valley will be transformed, once again through a human touch. As part of a decades-long plan to restore three miles of the Swan, last summer’s work was a major step toward realizing the river’s potential once more. The envisioned final product evokes a page torn from a Colorado scenic calendar: a meandering stream with aspen and juniper on its banks, 10-inch brook trout snapping at your fly, native cutthroat trout flourishing just upstream (for the time being), and more than 130,000 cubic yards of dredge rock crushed and removed from the valley forever.
As Lederer says, “If we do our job right, nobody will ever know we—or the miners—were here.”
The first two dredges began churning up the river bottom in 1898, and two more followed in 1899. The four boats dug as deep as 70 feet, depositing their debris in giant piles next to the disappearing river channel. Before long, the Swan’s three forks—North, Middle, and South—no longer shared a visible confluence, having been driven underground by the mining. All that mattered was the gold. And if no one was making the mining companies clean up their mess, they weren’t about to do it of their own accord.
Just up the hill and south from where the boats were “flipping the river upside down,” as dredge mining’s impacts are described, the Cashier Mine pumped out ore in Browns Gulch (it remains one of the largest abandoned mines in the county). Workers loaded its waste into carts and scattered it about the valley, alongside the tens of thousands of smooth, round river rocks discarded by the dredge boats. This, of course, only made a bad problem worse.
What had once been a verdant river became a wasteland. People who have worked on the Swan restoration refer to the river they inherited as a “bathtub of marbles”—essentially a waterway that had been so churned up it no longer had a bottom … or any structure at all. Think of trying to contain water with a screen. That’s what the Swan had become: an underground trickle, dispersed to the brink of dissolution.
Even as work began last summer, questions remained: Was the river still there? If so, could it be channeled once more? What would it take to bring the ecosystem back to life?
There weren’t many precedents akin to the Swan, but one local project provided inspiration, and hope. From 2004 to 2006, Summit County government led an effort to restore the Blue River just north of Tiger Road along Highway 9. The 23-acre Four Mile Bridge Open Space, as it became known, turned out beautifully and served as a vital blueprint for the Swan, in that the remediated site was zoned strictly as open space with no concessions for development.
It took 10 years from when the county and town of Breckenridge began preliminary work on the Swan until the heavy equipment arrived last summer, but by the time operations ceased in mid-November, the progress was striking. They’d rebuilt nearly a mile of stream, including relocating a half mile of channel that had become a muddy ditch along Tiger Road. The reconstructed section of river—“Reach A” as it’s known in the broader plan—includes 22 riffles (minor rapids), glides (calm water stretches), and pools 3 to 6 feet deep, which combine to form optimal fish habitat. The river channel is 25 feet wide to accommodate high flows during spring runoff, anchoring a 65-foot-wide riparian corridor that will be populated this summer with native flora.
Best of all, the county did not have to line the riverbed to prevent water from seeping into the ground and disappearing. That’s because the Swan River, they discovered, is a “gaining stream” instead of a “losing stream”—that is, groundwater actually rises from the bed and into the river, increasing its flow. You could see this happening just upstream from the excavator last July; clear water spurted out of the gravel like a spring, then gradually coalesced as it moved downhill.
An uncommon range of backers has funded the restoration, with the largest financial contribution—$975,000—coming from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Summit County added $500,000, the town of Breck gave $300,000, Colorado Parks and Wildlife anted in $184,000, and the US Forest Service and US Fish and Wildlife Service combined to donate $250,000. Also part of the mix: the Blue River Watershed Group and Trout Unlimited’s Gore Range Anglers Chapter, which works to protect, preserve, and restore coldwater fisheries. “This project hits every aspect of our mission,” says chapter president Greg Hardy.
From CERES (Click through to read the brewery by brewery detail):
The beer brewing industry is a major economic driver in America. There are more than 2,800 breweries in the U.S. responsible for $246.5 billion in economic output in 2012 alone. Directly and indirectly, breweries create more than 2 million American jobs. For every 1 job in a brewery, 45 indirect jobs are created in agriculture, transportation, distributing, business, packaging, machinery, and retail. But the effects of climate change are beginning to threaten the industry, putting both jobs and the future of great beer at risk.
Warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are harming the production of hops, a critical ingredient of beer that grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Rising demand and lower yields have driven the price of hops up by more than 250 percent over the past decade. Clean water resources, another key ingredient, are also becoming scarcer in the West as a result of climate-related droughts and reduced snow pack.
That’s why leading breweries are finding innovative ways to integrate sustainability into their business practices and finding economic opportunity through investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture, and sustainable sourcing. To highlight the steps they are taking and issue a call to action to others, brewers are signing the Climate Declaration.
By signing the Climate Declaration, these breweries are showing their leadership and commitment to brewing with the climate in mind. They are already reducing greenhouse gas emissions, using less energy, choosing clean energy, and investing in new technologies. They are also recognizing that these practices help grow their business, create jobs and strengthen our economy.
The San Luis Valley Irrigation District and Rio Grande Reservoir is one of the biggest success stories to ever emerge from the Rio Grande Basin. As a key provider of water from critical sources to the San Luis Valley and beyond, this district plays a pivotal role in the water delivery cycle that stretches all the way to Mexico. SLVID is the keeper of the gateway for the Rio Grande.
Originally formed on December 8th, 1908 as a result of the Irrigation Act of 1905, the San Luis Valley Irrigation District continues to serve water users over 100 years later. SLVID is governed by a board of directors that is composed of five elected members. The current board is led by president Randall Palmgren. The district encompasses portions of Rio Grande, Saguache and Alamosa Counties with the headquarters being in Saguache County (Center).
Quite simply, SLVID exists to serve the famers who reside in the counties it is made of. SLVID delivers water to 62,000 acres of highly productive farmground in the Center-Hooper areas. Crops that are produced within district boundaries include fresh market potatoes, Coors barley, and dairy quality alfalfa.
One of the key assets that SLVID possesses is the Rio Grande Reservoir. In 1888, farmers near the Center-Hooper area established the Farmer’s Union Irrigation Company. The intent was to build a canal system that could deliver irrigation water to 90,000 acres. The Farmer’s Union Canal became a reality. However, the need for a secondary source of water quickly became apparent for the control of these deliveries and the insufficient amount of water that the canal was delivering because it had a junior water right. Due to an embargo from the federal government which prevented any new dams/reservoirs from being constructed on the Rio Grande this initiative was put on hold. The present site of the reservoir was purchased from A.V. Tabor who had claimed it in 1903. The construction plans began in earnest once the embargo was lifted in 1907. In 1908, the process of forming the San Luis Valley Irrigation District began in order to raise the additional capital that would be needed for construction. The first board of directors took shape. On June 10th, 1910, the San Luis Valley Irrigation District signed a contract for construction of a dam and spillway with Ellswoth, Knowles, and Klaner of Pueblo. An engineer by the name of J.C. Ulrich drew the plans and specifications and was hired as the project supervisor. The tunnel was drilled in 1910. By 1912, Rio Grande Reservoir was storing water. The dam and spillway were fully completed by September of 1913 and the reservoir was full by June 16th, 1914. The result was a reservoir that is still standing after over 100 years that continues to deliver water for agricultural needs, serve as a tool for compliance with the Rio Grande Compact, and aid for fish and wildlife habitat, recreation and flood control.
Age can bring the necessity for repairs and Rio Grande Reservoir was/is certainly no exception. The dam and spillway began to be in need of repairs. Out of this necessity resulted the Rio Grande Cooperative Project. This project is a public-private partnership that was established in 2002 when the SLVID board of directors recognized the need to address the dam safety issues of the Rio Grande Reservoir. In 2003, a Yield Analysis Study to find what benefits would be obtained from improved storage and release was conducted with the assistance of a $25,000 contribution from the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District. In 2005, SLVID was awarded Rehabilitation Study Grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Another grant came in 2007 for $230,000 from the Rio Grande Roundtable for a rehabilitation and enlargement study. In 2008, SLVID received another $100,000 grant for the development of an operations model.
Finally, in 2011 the Rio Grande Cooperative Project became official and plans were underway. In 2012, the Colorado General Assembly passed the Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects Bill which included a funding package for the repairs of Rio Grande and Beaver Reservoir.
Phase 1 of the Rio Grande Cooperative Project began following the 100th Anniversary of Rio Grande Reservoir. The Dam at Rio Grande was completely resurfaced to address seepage issues and saw completion in the fall of 2013. Repairs of the Beaver Reservoir Dam also took place. This monumental task was accomplished in spite of obstacles such as the West Fork Complex Fire. The Rio Grande Cooperative Project continues to move forward with Phase 2 which is the repair of the outlet tunnel at Rio Grande Reservoir.
The partners in this project are The San Luis Valley Irrigation District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The main purpose of the cooperative project is to optimize the use of available water through the reoperating and retiming of the reservoirs owned by the partners. Additionally, volunteer efforts have aided in the use of compact storage for the native trout species to adjust to water level changes and the benefit to recreation. Methods that were dismissed before are now being put to use and the larger water community is now profiting from the results. Travis Smith, superintendent of SLVID has observed that it is about “culture change” and addressing how needs can be met.
The story of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District continues to unfold, but there are many great chapters that have already been written. SLVID continues to be a mainstay for San Luis Valley water.
Click here to read the interview. Here’s an excerpt:
On improving climate models: “The smaller the spatial grids and the smaller the time step we use in the model, the better we’re able to actually explicitly resolve the physical processes in the climate.”
On the biggest unknowns of future climate change: “There are long-term processes in the climate system that we’re not yet incorporating in our models and when we do, the final outcome of this inadvertent experiment that we’ve been conducting with our planet is likely to be worse, not better, than we thought.”
On Donald Trump’s presidency: “I know this sounds very strange – but I really believe that his election galvanised people into personal action in a way that never would have happened if Clinton had been elected.”
The Water Leaders program is recognized as the premier professional development course for the water community in Colorado. Since 2006, the program has provided training to participants across Colorado, helping them become more effective leaders. Water Education Colorado staff has worked hard year after year to adapt and evolve the course to build the skills of water professionals that will prepare them to address current water issues by using the most advanced leadership development tools and trainings available, and we could not be more proud of the evolution of the program.
The goal of the Water Leaders program is to positively impact the Colorado.
The CH2M Foundation is proud to announce a new grant to CSU with a client-centric, sustainability and career-focused approach that is sure to make an impact for years to come.
Through a grant of $50,000 to the CSU National Western Center Sustainability Team and the CSU Water Fellows Program, the CH2M Foundation is investing in STEM education, while continuing the company’s long-time commitment to sustainability. CH2M is also reinforcing the work of many of its clients: the National Western Center, City and County of Denver, CSU and the Western Stock Show Association and Denver Water.
“The CH2M Foundation continues to partner with charitable initiatives that demonstrate our shared values with our key clients,” said Ellen Sandberg, executive director of the CH2M Foundation.
Investing in sustainability research and collaboration
The first part of the grant, $37,500, will go to CSU’s National Western Center Sustainability Team. This team is helping develop a campus that addresses innovations in water, energy, food systems, health and recreation, and improves the natural environment, while working toward goals like “net zero” energy. The work is occurring in two phases over three years.
During Phase I, the team focused on energy, waste and water system analysis and recommendations. Phase 2, beginning in fall 2017, will continue energy and water modeling, and will also integrate urban ecology, river restoration, air quality, community health, education and integrated design and organizational behavior. The Gates Family Foundation provided a matching grant of $75,000 for the second phase, so CH2M’s $37,500 grant will be matched.
Providing STEM opportunities for diverse and underrepresented students
The second part of the grant, $12,500, supports the CSU Water Fellows program. First-generation CSU students from diverse and often underrepresented backgrounds team with high school students from neighborhoods around the National Western Center to spend several months working on water issues. Gaining leadership and organization skills, the water fellows do outreach to the neighborhoods about water issues.
CSU’s presence at the National Western Center will be initiated at its Water Resources Center. As one of the first buildings to be constructed at the National Western Center, the Water Resources Center will host multidisciplinary, year-round programs such as these, which will draw tourists, K-12 students, water professionals and researchers, water conferences and community members. CSU and the National Western Center are working closely with Denver Water to create collaboration at the Water Resources Center around education, innovation, policy and research.
“Colorado State University is grateful for this generous grant from the CH2M Foundation, which will further CSU’s work in delivering cutting-edge research and outcomes in sustainability and water,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System. “Through its support of the CSU Water Fellows program, the grant also highlights the importance of sharing knowledge and empowering the next generation. Our university is appreciative of the support and looks forward to collaborating with our partners at the National Western Center to execute these initiatives.”
“This foundation grant leverages local funding, making the value of our charitable donation grow to $87,500 and thereby ensuring even greater success of the program,” according to Patrick O’Keefe, CH2M’s program manager for the National Western Center’s construction and buildout.
The National Western Center program is off to a fast start, with a kickoff event for physical work on November 1, 2017. This will begin a rapid period of removing old structures and replacing them with a multiuse community assets that will serve as focal points for agriculture, entertainment and educational programs.
A coalition of local government agencies that formed to prevent an invasive mussel contamination at McPhee Reservoir can claim victory in its first year.
A test in October showed no sign of the dreaded quagga or zebra mussels, which proliferate rapidly and can attach in suffocating layers to irrigation and municipal infrastructure.
“With the help of the community, we have avoided contamination and protected our water source,” Ken Curtis, an engineer with the Dolores Water Conservancy District, said during a recent community meeting to gather public comment.
The success is credited to stringent new rules that require all motorized and trailered boats to go through mussel inspection stations at either the House Creek or McPhee boat ramps during open hours. Mussels are carried in standing water of engines and ballasts.
Restricted access changed the culture of McPhee access.
Conservation advocates seek to ban U.S. seafood imports from Mexico
Last-ditch efforts to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal may include a lawsuit against the U.S. government that could force a ban on seafood imports from Mexico.
There are probably less than 30 vaquitas remaining in the upper Gulf of California, and continued use of gill nets in the region is the biggest threat to their survival, according to conservation activists. Other efforts to prevent extinction of the species appear to be faltering, so three conservation groups — the Natural Resources Defense Council, Animal Welfare Institute and Center for Biological Diversity — notified the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service that its failure to ban imports of seafood from the vaquita’s habitat in Mexico violates the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Why global warming lawsuits are gaining traction in courtrooms around the world.
Negotiators at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany, last week made some incremental progress toward fulfilling the Paris Agreement’s aim to limit global warming. But the intensifying urgency of the climate crisis requires bigger and bolder steps, including more lawsuits, according to a group of legal experts who met on November 15th in the basement of a converted church in downtown Bonn.
“We have a strong message for climate polluters: We’ll see you in court,” said Fijian activist Makereta Waqavonovono, a legal practitioner with the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network who made it clear that Fiji expects help from wealthier countries to pay for relocating about 800 coastal villages that will be flooded by rising sea levels in the next few decades.
At the panel, organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, climate activists and attorneys said that, as international climate policy keeps failing, litigation is becoming an increasingly important part of the strategy to force reductions of dangerous heat-trapping greenhouse gases—and to hold climate polluters financially accountable for the damage they’ve caused.
At the talks in Bonn, the question of compensation—Loss and Damage, in negotiator jargon—was once again shunted aside for the most part, said Naomi Ages, a climate liability expert with Greenpeace USA.
“Sometime soon there has to be a day of reckoning. Who’s going to pay for the climate damage already caused?” she said. “All governments are obligated to consider the human rights aspects of climate change, and the International Criminal Court has said that climate change is a possible reason for charges on crimes against humanity,” she added…
WILL LAW DRIVE POLICY?
Muffet tells Pacific Standard that it’s only a matter of time before the first major judgments in climate law cases start to trigger a tectonic shift in policy and in energy markets. And new research by his organization, identifying thousands of potentially incriminating documents in the Smoke and Fumes report released last week, will help provide the legal foundation for such cases, by showing that oil companies and governments knew about the potential harm and did nothing to avoid or reduce the risk.
That trail of evidence goes back to the 1940s and can be used in court by plaintiffs looking to hold big polluters and governments accountable for climate change loss and damage, Muffet says.
“By 1968, we can demonstrate the industry as a whole was on notice. We can demonstrate they had the opportunity to take another path. One of the things they could have done was to warn the public, but they did not. They did the opposite. Not only did they fail to act, you can demonstrate culpable conduct over years,” Muffet says, referring to years of misinformation campaigns by the oil industry.
The first few major judgments have the potential to fundamentally change the political and economic landscape, driving investment dollars away from fossil fuels in droves.
“Once the money starts to move, the energy system will start to move, too, and exposing the risks is key part of that,” Muffet says.
H2O Radio interviewed Glenn and Kim Schryver, the caretakers of Grizzly Reservoir, just east of Aspen, who access their home through a 4-mile water tunnel under the Continental Divide. Full story: http://h2oradio.org/TwinLakesTunnel.html
Here’s the release from the University of Oregon (Jim Barlow):
Geologists have long debated how and when the Colorado River made its first connection to the ocean. In a new study, a team led by the UO’s Becky Dorsey has helped pull the river’s story together.
The river did not, as many thought, simply roar down out of the Colorado Plateau and pour into the Gulf of California.
In a paper published in the journal Sedimentary Geology, Dorsey’s team proposes that lower stretches of river were influenced by shifts in underlying bedrock and changing sea levels. The river experienced a series of stops and starts between roughly 6.3 and 4.8 million years ago.
The clues emerged from examining layers of sediment exposed in rocks along the river, along with detective work to identify fossils found in the layering. Integrating that data opened a window on “the different processes that controlled the birth and early evolution of this iconic river system,” Dorsey said.
“The birth of the Colorado River was more punctuated and filled with more uneven behavior than we expected,” said Dorsey, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences. “We’ve been trying to figure this out for years.”
The team studied the southern Bouse Formation from near present-day Blythe, California, to the western Salton Trough. That area is north of where the river now trickles into the Gulf of California. The Bouse Formation and deposits in the Salton Trough have similar ages and span both sides of the San Andreas Fault, providing important clues to the river’s origins.
Last year, in the journal Geology, a project led by graduate student Brennan O’Connell, a co-author on the new study, concluded that tidal currents had left sediments along the river near Blythe. The Gulf of California, it was argued, extended into that region, but the age of the deposits and tectonic and sea level changes at work during that time were not well understood.
Analyses by Kristin McDougall of U.S. Geological Survey, also a co-author on the new paper, found that those deposits were laid about 6 million years ago when tiny marine organisms could have lived together in the water. About 5.4 million years ago, however, conditions changed.
Global sea level fell, but the bay’s water level, instead of declining, increased as tectonic activity lowered the bay’s bed. Materials left by marine organisms were covered by clay and sand brought downstream by the river.
About 5.1 million years ago, a tug-of-war lasting 200,000 to 300,000 years began when the river stopped delivering sediments from upstream, probably the result of earthquake activity. The delta retreated. Seawater and marine sediments returned. At about 4.8 million years ago, river-delivered sediments again returned and rebuilt the delta.
Today’s delta, however, reflects human-made modern disturbances.
To meet agricultural and drinking-water demands, Hoover Dam was constructed to form Lake Mead during the 1930s. Glen Canyon Dam, completed in 1966, formed Lake Powell.
“If we could go back to 1900 before the dams that trap the sediment and water, we would see that the delta area was full of channels, islands, sandbars and moving sediment. It was a very diverse, dynamic and rich delta system. But manmade dams are trapping sediment today, eerily similar to what happened roughly 5 million years ago,” Dorsey said.
The research, Dorsey said, provides insights that help scientists understand how such systems change through time.
Mindy B. Homan, a former UO doctoral student and now a geologist with Devon Energy in Wyoming, was a co-author on the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, Society for Sedimentary Geology and Geological Society of America.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
This funding opportunity announcement provides funding to develop a watershed group, fund an existing watershed group, complete watershed restoration planning activities, and design watershed management projects
The Bureau of Reclamation has announced its 2018 funding opportunity for Phase I of the Cooperative Watershed Management Program. This funding opportunity is seeking proposals for activities to develop a watershed group, complete watershed restoration planning activities, and to design watershed management projects.
Applicants must submit their proposals by Wednesday, January 31, 2018, at 4:00 p.m. MST. To view this funding opportunity, please visit http://www.grants.gov and search for funding opportunity number BOR-DO-18-F005. Up to $100,000 in federal funds may be awarded to an applicant per award, with no more than $50,000 made available in a year for a period of up to two years.
States, tribes, local and special districts (e.g., irrigation and water districts), local governmental entities, interstate organizations, and non-profit organizations, including existing watershed groups, within the 17 western states are eligible to apply.
The Cooperative Watershed Management Program contributes to the Department of the Interior’s priorities to create a legacy of conservation stewardship and to restore trust with local communities by providing funding to local watershed groups to encourage the development of collaborative solutions designed to address water management needs among Reclamation’s diverse stakeholders. By providing this FOA, Reclamation leverages federal funding to support stakeholder efforts to stretch scarce water supplies and avoid conflicts over water.
From Sterling Ranch via The Wheat Ridge Transcript:
A fifth-generation Coloradan has been named general manager of the Community Authority Board in Sterling Ranch, 3,400-acre mixed-use master-planned walkable community in Douglas County projected to have 12,000 residences and approximately 33,000 residents once the community is fully built out in 20 years.
Donald Rosier, who grew up in Arvada, now serves as a Jefferson County commissioner. He was elected in 2010 and again in 2014. His term ends in 2018, but Rosier will resign as commissioner to begin his general manager post in January.
Rosier graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in civil engineering, and he brings cross functional and cross industry experience to his new position.
“I am both excited and humbled to have been offered this amazing opportunity. Throughout my career, I have accomplished a track record of success in managing complex design projects, acquisitions, entitlements, land development and construction projects,” Rosier said. “Accepting the position of general manager for the Sterling Ranch Community Authority Board equates to a city manager’s position in a medium-sized town with all of the oversight that goes with it, but much more forward-facing to our residents, which is the most important asset we have.”
Rosier serves or has served on 15 boards and coalitions in a variety of capacities while a commissioner including being involved with the planning, design and ultimate completion of the Jefferson County Parkway. He is probably best known for forming and chairing the WestConnect Coalition, bringing former adversaries together for the completion of the western beltway, which has been fought over for almost 25 years.
“Don’s ability to approach issues in a manner of respect for all parties and with professionalism while listening to the concerns and creating new strategies to solving problems was a key trait we looked for in our new general manager,” said Diane Smethills, principal of Sterling Ranch and community authority board member.
In his position, Rosier will work with contractors, homebuilders, home buyers, residents and staff.
Rosier’s 25 years of private sector experience includes civil engineering design, project management, acquisition, entitlement, land development, construction and management with companies such as Metropolitan Homes, Neumann Homes, Sunrise Colony Company, Alliance Commercial Partners, Davis Partnership and Mueller Engineering.
He also oversaw the largest multi-use infill development executed on a former 2,000-acre Air Force Base in Colorado, including the design of an entirely new water system, sanitary sewer system, storm water drainage system and drainage plan.
“Don understands the hydrology of water and land planning design to execute and will execute the communities’ rainwater-harvesting plan and maximize the efficiency of the Sterling Ranch robust water system,” said Harold Smethills, managing director of Sterling Ranch and a pioneer in the way of development utilized water. “As chairman of both the Colorado Clean Water Coalition and the Chatfield Watershed Authority, he brings with him policy experience and the respect of the water community.”
Lake County is moving towards a domestic water solution. On Nov. 15 the Board of County Commissioners, Planning and Zoning Commission and Water Advisory Council met to discuss the future of Lake County’s newly acquired water rights.
Lake County has owned the three irrigation ditches on Hallenbeck Ranch, whose construction dates back to the 1800s, since 1998.
The county recently quantified the water right associated with Derry Ditch No. 3 and changed its use from agricultural, to commercial and residential, through legal process.
The Colorado Division Two Water Court approved Lake County’s augmentation plan on Jan. 9, 2017, after approximately 6 years in water court.
Derry Ditch No. 3 provides Lake County with the right to 74 acre-feet of water; 23 acre-feet are currently leased to Mount Massive Golf Course and 17 acre-feet will go to the City of Aurora. This leaves 34 acre-feet of water to Lake County’s will.
Currently, Lake County businesses and homeowners who live outside the Parkville Water District are dependent on individual groundwater wells. Residents must buy augmentation rights on the open market, an extremely difficult and expensive task said Mike Bordogna, Leadville Lake County Economic Development Corporation.
Under the proposed augmentation plan, businesses and residents within Lake County’s augmentation area would be able to buy affordable water rights from the county itself. “Water equals growth,” said Bordogna.
Lake County established a water enterprise, the legal mechanism by which the county can lease water rights, last January. So far, the county can only lease to the Mount Massive Golf Course and for the evaporative loss of Hayden Meadows Reservoir.
Though the Derry Ditch No. 3 water rights have been available to Lake County much of this year, a lot needs to happen before the water can be leased.
For one, Lake County needs to build a flume to measure water flow on Corske Creek. To do so, the Forest Service must clear out several beaver dams and fallen trees.
Lake County must also find a place to store the newly acquired water. Though there are a multitude of storage options on the table, they are far off in the future.
Lake County has a right to 20 percent of Box Creek Reservoir’s operational capacity; a project funded by the City of Aurora with a 2035 completion date.
Lake County has also won the right to store up to 49.7 acre-feet of water at Hayden Meadows Reservoir starting in 2021…
Lastly, Lake County has the initial permitting to build a reservoir at Birds Eye Gulch, an area that sits on Bureau of Land Management land north of town. The county has five years left, out of a seven year permit, to get the ball rolling.
The BOCC also discussed setting aside money in the 2018 budget to hire an administrative contractor and will start engaging in conversation with parties interested in leasing water.
The BOCC, Planning and Zoning Commission and WAC will meet quarterly to keep the water augmentation plan moving forward.
$100 million Hillcrest project concludes a decade of improvements to underground reservoirs and pumping stations.
When it comes to storing water, Denver’s picturesque mountain reservoirs get all the glory.
Less visible, but just as important, are the 30 underground storage tanks in 18 locations around the metro area, each storing anywhere from 2.5 million to 25 million gallons of water, delivered from one of Denver Water’s three drinking water treatment plants.
In 2011, Denver Water embarked on a decade-long transformation project that began with the expansion of the Lone Tree underground storage site. Three projects later, those efforts will culminate in 2020 when we complete a $100-million overhaul of the Hillcrest water storage facility in southeast Denver.
Hillcrest was born in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Denver Water built a state-of-the-art storage and pumping facility to replace several small, temporary pumping stations.
Much has changed in 50-plus years, and with increased water demands from the ever-booming Denver metro area, particularly southeast of town, it was time for a makeover.
Since early-2016, Denver Water has worked to replace Hillcrest’s two existing 15-million-gallon rectangular storage tanks with three 15-million-gallon, circular, “post-tensioned” concrete tanks…
The new tanks will sit slightly south of the existing tanks and will be buried up to their roofs, which will be visible.
In addition to the new tanks, the Hillcrest pumping station — one of 22 in the Denver Water distribution system — is getting its own upgrade.
Beyond Hillcrest, Denver Water plans to spend $1.25 billion on 143 capital improvement projects throughout the water system over the next five years.
Those projects include a $400 million state-of-the-art water treatment plant north of Golden, upgrades to the dam at Ralston Reservoir and replacement of a major water delivery pipeline in Jefferson County.
That small increase helps us make big system upgrades, ensure water reliability and plan for future needs.
Nobody likes to pay a bill.
No matter how much you like a service or how essential it may be, handing over your hard-earned money to somebody else — particularly if that bill often increases from year to year — is never fun.
But when it comes to your water bill, the simple fact is the cost of running a complex water system continues to rise. Your bill helps to maintain and upgrade a vast infrastructure that allows us to collect, treat and deliver safe, reliable water, while also providing for essential fire protection services.
You’ll see some slight increases in your water bill starting March 1, 2018.
FromThe New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):
The New Mexico Gold King Mine Spill Citizens’ Advisory Committee will meet Monday evening in Farmington.
According to the New Mexico Environment Department, the committee includes 11 citizen volunteers from northern New Mexico, including the Navajo Nation, and works with New Mexico’s Long-Term Impact Review Team to monitor and understand the long-term impacts of the 2015 Gold King Mine accident…
Monday’s meeting will include a presentation on the area’s hydrogeology and geochemistry and provide an opportunity for public comment.
In May, the team released a long-term monitoring plan for the Animas River.
In addition to monitoring the impacts of the Gold King Mine spill, the work scientists are doing will help people understand how waste runoff from other mines affects surface and groundwater resources in the area. The work will also help identify how any future releases from abandoned mines might affect the Animas watershed.
To read the plan click here. You can also find an associated, peer-reviewed study from the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources here.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Erin McIntyre):
Much of western Mesa County is in a “moderate drought” according to the updated U.S. Drought Monitor released this week, which reflects the change for several counties in western Colorado and eastern Utah…
Forecasters are expecting the majority of precipitation to fall in the northern mountain ranges of Colorado in the near future, as the La Nina weather pattern seems to leave the southern half of the state in a drier situation.
“It’s very uncertain what will happen,” Bolinger said. Last year, the winter season started out bleak, with lagging snowpack until December, when a few hard-hitting storms dumped precipitation on the mountains. “You’re right in an area where it could go either way but with the dry conditions that are occurring already I wouldn’t be surprised to see that pattern persist.”
While it’s early in the season to be considering snowpack data and streamflow information, other indicators led experts to recommend labeling a strip of western Colorado with moderate drought conditions, one step further than “abnormally dry.” The amount of water in reservoirs is in good shape, Bolinger said, but snowpack is beginning to lag in the southern part of Colorado compared to other years.
The Climate Prediction Center is expecting a warmer-than-average winter in Colorado, and if the jet stream brings windy, fire-prone conditions.
The only way to do business is to do it responsibly
This is American Water’s fourth biennial Corporate Responsibility Report. It was published in October 2017, and covers our corporate responsibility performance for the 2015 and 2016 fscal years, which ran from January 1 to December 31.
The data contained was generated using systems audited by our internal staff. The report has been created in reference to Global Reporting Initiative G4 guidelines.
Preparing this report is a valuable opportunity for us to assess and improve upon our corporate responsibility progress and performance. To continue to do so, we welcome your feedback.
Lovins recently traveled from his home near Aspen to talk about growing bananas at 7,100 feet in the Colorado Rockies. The house was built in the early 1980s, he told an audience at an energy conference held at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and since then he’s had 66 harvests.
But his point wasn’t really about the bananas. It was about the energy used to grow the bananas.
Temperatures in the Aspen area then could reach 46 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, he said. “But my house has no combustion (furnace),” he went on to say. “That is so 20th century.”
Lovins, considered by many to be among the most important thinkers about energy of the last half-century, has told about his bananas many times and in many places. It’s his look-see visual proof for the enduring theme of his career. For decades he has been saying that we need to embrace energy efficiency through both more thoughtful design and readily available technology.
His thoughts cohered In 1976 a seminal essay published in Foreign Affairs called “Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?” He was a young scholar at Oxford then. An Arab oil embargo in 1973 had left people in block-long lines waiting for their chances to refuel cars at gas pumps. The United States was binging on construction of new coal-fired power plants and also enraptured with nuclear energy even as the arms race of the Cold War continued.
In his essay, Lovins defined the soft energy path as a future where energy efficiency and renewable energy sources steadily replace a centralized energy system based on fossil and nuclear fuels.
Lovins, a friend of David Brower, the famous long-time leader of the Sierra Club, argued not environmental ethics but rather the business case. You should do it because you will save money, he said.
He made that same case in Fort Collins, at a conference sponsored by the Center for the New Energy Economy. His house near Old Snowmass, he explained, is designed with 99 percent passive solar and 1 percent active solar. Naturally, it’s super insulated, but even the stale air is processed to recover heat. The payback on this 1982 technology was about 10 months. The house, he added, has now inspired 40,000 such passive-solar houses.
On the dais at the energy conference, Lovins barely paused, the numbers and facts and thoughts rolling out precisely, pleasantly, and always with supreme authority, as if he was the smartest guy in the room. That confidence annoys lots of people, but they concede: He probably is the smartest guy in most rooms where he speaks.
Elizabeth Kolbert, now a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, was among those who have been to Lovins’s house to see his bananas and hear his gospel. “He is routinely described, even by people who don’t particularly like or admire him, as a ‘genius,’” Kolbert wrote in a 2007 report for the New Yorker. The story was headlined “Mr. Green: Environmentalism’s optimistic guru Amory Lovins.”
Responding to that profile, David Roberts, then with Grist, conceded Lovins’s genius. “Reading Lovins for the first time can be a life-changing experience, one of those moments when your entire perception of the world shifts and you see everything in a new light,” Roberts wrote. “But there’s the nagging thought. Lovins can always talk and explain and persuade better than we can—he’s a friggin’ genius—but the intuitive question keeps returning.”
Responding to that profile, David Roberts, then with Grist, conceded Lovins’s genius. “Reading Lovins for the first time can be a life-changing experience, one of those moments when your entire perception of the world shifts and you see everything in a new light,” Roberts wrote. “But there’s the nagging thought. Lovins can always talk and explain and persuade better than we can—he’s a friggin’ genius—but the intuitive question keeps returning.”
That intuitive question in 2007 was why wasn’t this happening, this new world of energy that Lovins had then been describing for three decades. The Economist, which has tracked Lovins’s work frequently through the years, in 2008 said this:
“Though he is now 60, Mr Lovins shows no signs of slowing down. The Sage of Snowmass is still busy coming up with big new ideas, though if history is any guide, they will take a while to catch on. Watch this space—for ten to 20 years.”
Almost a decade later, it does appear finally that Lovins’s predictions are coming true. Whether it is happening quickly enough given the ever-more troubling news about global greenhouse gas emissions is the big question.
But Lovins, as the New Yorker headline in 2007 suggested, has always been one to look into the future with a sly, knowing smile, not a frown. At the recent conference, Colorado’s former governor, Bill Ritter, asked about optimism vs. pessimism.
In his answer, Lovins cited the counsel of his late friend, the Sierra Club’s Brower, who had described optimism and pessimism as being on “opposite sides of the same coin, the same irresponsible surrender to fatalism, in which you treat the future as fate and not choice, and not taking responsibility for creating the future you want.”
“We call it applied hope,” Lovins went on to say, referring to his think-tank, the Rocky Mountain Institute. “It’s not theoretical hope. It’s not anywhere near blind optimism. It’s making choices each day to create a world worth being hopeful about,” he said.
“You can’t depress people into action,” he added.
Earlier in the program, Lovins had described the industrial titans of the early 20th century: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and John Rockefeller. The three men changed the world in ways that are now very much familiar.
Until very recently, with the arrival of LED lighting, most of our light came from incandescent bulbs, little changed from Edison’s invention. We’re mostly still driving internal-combustion cars fueled by the oil that made Rockefeller a name synonymous with wealth.
But we’re on the cusp of great change “because we have 21st century technology and speed colliding head-on with 20th century and even 19th century institutions, rules, and cultures.”
“The first two of these great industries are coming together to eat the third one.”
Lovins sees a dramatic reduction in demand for oil and tough times ahead for utilities that try to stick to existing business models. We’re on the cusp of massive adoption of electric cars. (See MTN story about adoption rates in Colorado). The batteries of those EVs will then be connected to the electrical grid, storing renewable energy. More renewable energy can be generated locally, instead of the giant central station power plants favored by utilities for the last 60 years.
Wind now undercuts all other new energy sources; power-purchase agreements with utilities last year averaged 2.5 cents a kilowatt-hour and some recently have come in at 1.2 cents a kilowatt-hour. That’s lower than coal, lower than gas, lower than just about anything. The resource has been enlarged by two-thirds, he added “not because the wind blew harder, but because we got better at capturing it.”
Electric cars, cheap renewables, and what do you get? “This is a perfect storm brewing for the oil and car industries,” he said.
Lovins frequently invoked his 2012 book, “Reinventing Fire,” and its “rigorous” research that shows how to triple U.S. efficiency and quintuple renewables by 2050, eliminating the need for coal, oil, and nuclear energy and a third less natural gas. This would “save $5 trillion in net-present value, grow the economy 2.6 fold, strengthen natural security and cut carbon emission 282 to 286 percent.”
This can all be accomplished by adoption of smart policies at the state and local levels and driven by businesses seeking to maximize profits. For inflexible utilities and oil and gas companies, though, these changes pose an existential risk, he said.
“You’re really a markets guy,” said Ritter, the former governor, before asking whether Lovins thought markets could achieve what its needed in a timely manner.
“Where allowed to work, yes, but policy and other factors can get in the way,” Lovins answered. But markets are good at short-term allocation of scarce resources. They were never meant to substitute for politics, ethics or faith.
Referring to “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution,” a book Lovins wrote with his ex-wife, Hunter Lovins, and Paul Hawken, he said that “markets make a great servant, a bad master, and a worse religion.”
Don’t renewables get subsidies? Yes, but they are being phased out, Lovins answered—and besides, other forms of energy also have received subsidies and continue to get them.
The Aspen Skiing Co.’s Auden Schendler, who once worked at Lovins’s Rocky Mountain Institute, believes that the big story is that “the trends have caught up to his predictions. Solar, wind, and batteries have finally started to decline in cost in ways that can enable a takeover of traditional technologies; and nukes, coal, and combustion engines are going extinct for all the reasons Amory has long argued,” he said in an e-mail.
“The challenge has always been how quickly this will all play out, and whether markets, such as they are, will be enough to get us to the finish line before the planet is cooked. For all the good news, the unfortunate fact is we’re not making it, as global emission data released today show.”
That was on Nov. 13, the start of the world climate conference in Bonn. In the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists reported a 2 percent increase in burning of fossil fuels in 2017 after nearly no growth in 2014, 2015, or 2016, mostly because of increased burning of coal by China. “It was a bit staggering,” said one of the scientists, Ralph Keeling, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “We race headlong into the unknown.”
Carbon dioxide emissions measured by Keeling’s father, Charles David Keeling, on Mauna Loa in Hawaii in April 1958 were 317 parts per million. By the time Lovins’s Foreign Affairs essay was published in 1976 they were at 334 ppm. Now, they’re at 409.
The message from Colorado State, though, was don’t get depressed, but do get active—and make a buck along the way.
This was in the Nov. 15 issue of Mountain Town News, a weekly e-magazine sent to subscribers. For subscription details, see click here.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
With a few exceptions, dry weather dominated the contiguous 48 states this past week, particularly in areas already experiencing dryness and drought. Heavy precipitation fell on the orographically-favored areas in the West (specifically, the Sierra Nevada, windward slopes of the Cascades, and much of the coastline from northern California to the Canadian border). Anywhere from 4 to locally 12 inches doused much of these areas. Between 2 and 4 inches fell from central and eastern Illinois eastward across central and northern sections of Indian and Ohio, Michigan, and northwestern Pennsylvania, and similar amounts were more isolated across the higher elevations of the northern Idaho Panhandle, south-central Idaho, western Wyoming and adjacent areas, and a few scattered areas in northern sections of Nevada and Utah. Southern New England and eastern Maine recorded 1 to locally 3 inches of precipitation. Elsewhere – the vast majority of the country from the Great Basin and Southwest eastward across most of the Rockies and Plains, the Mississippi Valley, the Southeast, and the mid-Atlantic region – only a few tenths of an inch of precipitation was recorded, if any…
South and Central Plains
Negligible precipitation, if any, was observed in areas of dryness and drought from Missouri and Kansas southward through Texas and Louisiana. As a result, short-term dryness continued to intensify at a fairly rapid clip, particularly from central Arkansas and adjacent Oklahoma southward. D1 and D2 conditions expanded in southeastern Oklahoma, part of southern Arkansas, northeastern Texas, the northern half of Louisiana, and west-central Mississippi. More limited growth of D0 and a small D1 areas was assessed from central Kansas southward through central and western Texas. For the last 3 months, accumulated precipitation deficits exceed 8 inches in most areas across northeastern Texas, central and western Arkansas, southeastern Oklahoma, and southern Missouri; shortfalls one foot in a small part of west-central Arkansas…
Very little precipitation fell on northern Minnesota, the Dakotas and the dry areas of Montana, but this is a dry time of the year climatologically for the region, so no substantial increase in precipitation deficits was noted, and last week’s depiction was not changed…
In the northern Intermountain West, light to moderate precipitation fell on the D0 areas in southern Idaho and interior Washington, with only scattered light amounts reported across interior Oregon; however, despite this week’s unimpressive precipitation, impacts resulting from below-normal precipitation have gradually eased over the past several weeks, and all abnormal dryness was removed from the region. Farther south, little or no precipitation fell on the Four Corners States and Southwest, as was the case in most of the other dry areas across the country. Drought evolves more slowly in this part of the country than in the climatologically wetter parts of the country, but some limited deterioration seemed appropriate in a few areas. Abnormal dryness was introduced in central Utah, leaving only the northwestern part of the state free from dryness. Farther east, moderate drought expanded into southwestern and west-central Colorado, east-central Utah, and the adjacent fringe of northwestern New Mexico…
The next 5 days (November 22-26) look similar to this past week, with most of the contiguous 48 states expecting little if any precipitation. Marginal relief may come to northern Florida and southeastern Georgia, where up to 1.5 inches of precipitation are forecast, and similar amounts should moisten the dry areas of eastern Maine. Moderate precipitation is also possible in far northwestern Montana and adjacent Idaho, but for the rest of the country, including the vast majority of the Nation’s dry areas, little or no precipitation is anticipated. In addition, the dry weather may be exacerbated by well-above-normal temperatures from the Plains westward to the Pacific Coast. Temperatures are expected to average at least 9 degrees F above normal across the western half of the 48 states, reaching as high as 20 to 24 degrees F in central and northern sections of the Rockies and High Plains, as well as the central Intermountain West.
During the 6-10 day period (November 27- December 1), abnormally light precipitation once again looks to dominate the 48 states. Odds favor below-median precipitation in the Southwest, central and southern sections of the Rockies and High Plains, most of the Great Plains and Mississippi Valley from South Dakota and central Minnesota southward to the Gulf Coast, and throughout the Nation east of the Mississippi River, save part of the northwestern Great Lakes Region. Odds favor above-normal precipitation in North Dakota and Montana, which would bring some needed moisture into the broad areas of D2 and D3 covering much of those states. The warmth observed in the central and western U.S. is expected to spread eastward to cover the entire country west of the Appalachians, though the intensity of the abnormal warmth may modify.
Proposed water projects in the San Luis Valley literally span from one end of the Valley to the other — dam improvements at Mountain Home Reservoir southeast of Fort Garland to a pipeline at the Mineral County Fairgrounds in Creede.
Both projects are receiving funding through the Valley-wide water organization the Rio Grande Roundtable, which heard requests for funding on Tuesday for five future projects and approved funding requests for two projects that had already made presentations to the roundtable, including the Mineral County project.
The roundtable board approved a request for $9,190 for the Mineral County project, which involves piping water from a recently replaced historic ditch head gate under reclaimed (capped and vegetated) mining-contaminated soil to the Mineral County Fairgrounds. Zeke Ward, who presented the request, said piping the water was more economical and would require less maintenance than a new ditch, which would have to be lined.
Ward said there are many benefits to the project including preserving a historic water right and benefitting the environment. He said it is not a big project but is important in getting water from the headgate to the land that needs to be irrigated.
Ward said the approximately $9,200 from the roundtable funds would be matched by about $1,500.
A much larger project that was approved on Tuesday was a funding request for $64,480 in basin-allocated funds for a three-year water education proposal. The Rio Grande Watershed Conservation & Education Initiative, directed by Bethany Howell, is taking the lead on educational and outreach efforts that range from web site content to video vignettes. For example, six video vignettes on water topics are proposed to be completed in the next three years. The funding will also be used to update and maintain a web site, produce newsletters and produce educational articles.
The other projects that were presented on Tuesday were previews, with the actions on funding them to occur at the next meeting in January.
The Trinchera Irrigation Company is seeking $50,000 from funds allocated to the Rio Grande Roundtable and $822,438 from statewide funds towards a $993,863 project to make necessary dam repairs at Mountain Home Reservoir. The roundtable has supported feasibility and design phases on this project in the past, consultant Nicole Langley reminded the roundtable board when she gave the presentation on Tuesday on behalf of the Trinchera Irrigation Company. The current funding request will go towards implementation of those designs.
Langley said the 1905-constructed Mountain Home Reservoir has provided irrigation and recreational uses for a long time and is still functioning, but the state engineer has some safety concerns about the current gate valves. One is in poor condition and the other two have never been used and have deteriorated over time.
Another important aspect of Mountain Home Reservoir operating to its full capacity, Langley added, is that it is also a state wildlife area under an agreement with the Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
She added that the Trinchera Irrigation Company is seeking other support such as Louis Bacon Moore Foundation and Great Outdoors Colorado via the Town of Blanca.
Two of the projects involve funds for conservation easements. One of the conservation easements is proposed on the Lazy EA Ranch along Pinos Creek near Del Norte. The total cost of the easement will be $202,951, and Colorado Open Lands is seeking $36,213 from the Rio Grande Roundtable, with other funding including $101,000 from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), $15,000 from Colorado Open Lands and approximately $50,738 from the landowner match, depending on the land appraisal. The plan is to get the conservation easement in place by next September, Judy Lopez told the Roundtable board.
Lopez, who is a conservation project manager with Colorado Open Lands, explained that a conservation easement on this piece of property is important for protecting it from development. She said there is just a narrow band left along the river corridor for farming and ranching. Encompassing 80 acres of flood-irrigated pasture, the property is used for hay production, is a corridor for wildlife and encompasses wetlands.
The land was originally homesteaded in 1849 and has a water right of 1.4 cubic feet per second.
RiGHT (Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust) is seeking funding for another conservation easement, this one on the Paulson Ranch in the Monte Vista area near Swede Lane and the Rio Grande. There are other conservation easements in the area, RiGHT Director Nancy Butler explained, making this conservation easement a good fit. The 180 acres that would be under conservation easement encompass senior water rights, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher habitat and wetlands.
RiGHT is seeking $18,000 from the basin-allocated funds and $157,000 from statewide water funds administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The total project is estimated at $405,000, with $100,000 to be sought from the Gates Family Foundation and $130,000 in landowner contribution, depending on the final appraisal.
Another project, seeking $46,000 from the basin-allocated funds and $300,000 from the statewide pot, as part of a half-million-dollar total project, is the “Conconco to the Confluence” project upgrading the Richfield diversion and diversions on the Conejos. This project will help correct some of the sedimentation problems. Nathan Coombs, SLV Water Conservancy District director, said sedimentation at the Richfield diversion, for example, is a big problem because the area is so flat. Irrigators are not able to use their water rights, he explained.
This project will also correct inconsistent measurements at the Conconco gage, which is not currently functioning properly, a problem not only for irrigators but also for Rio Grande Compact compliance.
Probably the most “dynamic” project presented on Tuesday was a project presented by Kevin Terry, Trout Unlimited, to use dynamite to fell trees around the Spruce Lakes in the Weminuche Wilderness area. Terry explained that two reservoirs, seven miles in from the Continental Divide, are clogging up with dead spruce trees, with more trees near the lakes threatening to cause further problems.
This is a problem not only for the water rights associated with the reservoirs but also for fish habitat.
Terry said since the lakes are in an area designated as wilderness, the tools that are permitted to be used there are limited. So far the efforts used to remove the dead trees have included large horses pulling the logs out of the reservoirs and using handsaws to cut down dead trees.
Trout Unlimited is working with the Forest Service and the owners of the reservoirs on what may be a more efficient and innovative manner of taking down the trees that threaten the lakes. They will use explosives to fell about 430 trees near the reservoirs. When it is finished, it will look like winds took down the trees, Terry explained.
The project will cost about $84,000, with the request for basin allocated funds being about $65,500. Half of the cost is for the explosives themselves, Terry explained.
From the Eagle River Watershed Council via The Vail Daily:
The Eagle River Watershed Council recently completed two riparian habitat restoration projects in collaboration with Vail Resorts’ EpicPromise. The Watershed Council worked with more than 160 volunteers from Vail Resorts to complete projects that restored and enhanced degraded riparian areas, which can cause diminished in-stream water quality and reduced wildlife habitat.
At the Edwards Eagle River Restoration Site, more than 100 EpicPromise volunteers helped install nearly 5,000 willow transplants along areas of the Eagle River that have experienced degradation due to undirected social trails and bushwhacking. Educational signage was also installed reminding riverside residents not to disturb these critical riparian plants by trampling them. The new willow plantings will help create wildlife habitat and improve water quality.
The Watershed Council used the help of more than 50 Vail Resorts volunteers for a second project, which was funded by the Colorado River District and the Forrest & Frances Lattner Foundation. The volunteers helped the Watershed Council improve a stretch of habitat along the Eagle River just outside of Eagle-Vail by planting 200 native trees and shrubs.
This area was selected for restoration because of significant impacts associated with storm water runoff from a recreational bike path, U.S. Highway 6 and Interstate 70. The establishment of a healthy riparian area will improve water quality by filtering sediment and pollutants that would have otherwise entered the Eagle River.
More information on other volunteer opportunities with Eagle River Watershed Council can be found in the organization’s monthly newsletter or online at http://www.erwc.org.