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

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through November 27, 2017 via the Colorado Climate Center.

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

Pagosa Springs: Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership scores dough for two geothermal greenhouses

Graphic via Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership.

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.

Lamar: 2017 Annual Meeting Arkansas River Compact Administration, Thursday, December 7, 2017

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

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

@OregonState: Forest harvesting rules effectively protect water quality in the Alsea watershed

Here’s the release from Oregon State University:

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.

Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers program Basalt Whitewater Park forum recap

Proposed Basalt whitewater park via the Aspen Daily News

From The Aspen Daily News ( M. John Fayhee):

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.

Fort Morgan water rates to go up 3%

Fort Morgan vintage photo from Moody’s Vintage Collectible Postcards

From Fort Morgan Times (Jenni Grubbs):

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.