A majority of the Venetucci Farm revenue came from leasing wells on the property to Security Water Sanitation District.
But that lease has ended, because of perfluorinated compounds have contaminated the water in Security-Widefield.
“There’s a water remediation plan that needs to come together and we’ve decided we can be part of that solution because the wells to provide drinking water for those communities,” Sam Clark with Pikes Peak Community Foundation, which owns Venetucci Farms, said. “This is essentially kind of an agreement to row together over the next couple of years working on a solution… The consequence of that is we have to make some staff changes and change some of our operations in 2018 and until the remediation plan for the water is implemented.”
“This farm is one of the many casualties of this water contamination,” [Susan] Gordon said.
The United States experienced its 7th warmest November and 10th warmest autumn
The November nationally averaged temperature was 45.1°F, 3.4°F above the 20th century average, and ranked as the seventh warmest on record. Record warmth spanned the Southwest with much-above-average temperatures stretching to the West Coast, Central Rockies, and Southern Plains. Near-average temperatures were observed across the North and along the East Coast. The autumn (September–November) temperature was 55.7°F, 2.1°F above the 20th century average, and the 10th warmest on record. Record autumn warmth was observed in the Southwest and New England. The year-to-date U.S. average temperature was the third warmest on record at 56.4°F, 2.6°F above average. Only January–November of 2012 and 2016 were warmer.
The national precipitation total was 1.58 inches, 0.65 inch below average, marking the 19th driest November on record. Below-average precipitation was observed for large parts of the nation, with drought developing and expanding in the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower-Mississippi Valley, and Southeast. The autumn precipitation total was 6.43 inches, 0.45 inch below average, and ranked in the driest third of the historical record. Record dryness was observed in parts of the Southwest and Lower-Mississippi Valley. The year-to-date precipitation total for the nation was 30.60 inches, 3.01 inches above normal, and the ninth wettest on record.
This monthly summary from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate information services NOAA provides to government, business, academia, and the public to support informed decision-making.
Much-above-average temperatures stretched from the California Coast into the Southwest, Central Rockies, and Southern Plains. Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah each had their warmest November on record. The Arizona statewide average temperature of 57.7°F surpassed the previous record set in 2007 by 2.4°F. Near-average temperatures were observed across much of the northern U.S. and along much of the East Coast.
Much-above-average temperatures were observed along the western and northern coasts of Alaska where Arctic sea ice extent offshore was record and near-record low for the month. Barrow had its warmest November on record with a temperature of 17.2°F, 16.4°F above the 1981–2010 normal, and 1.9°F warmer than the previous record in 1950.
Below-average precipitation accumulated for most locations from the Southwest into the Great Plains, Southeast, and along the East Coast. Record low precipitation totals were reported in parts of the Southwest and deep South, with five states having the tenth driest, or drier, November on record. Mississippi ranked third driest, Alabama and Arkansas fourth driest, Oklahoma fifth driest, and Louisiana tenth driest. Little Rock, Arkansas, had its driest November on record with only 0.41 inch of rainfall.
Above-average precipitation was observed in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and parts of the Midwest. Ohio had its ninth wettest November on record.
According to the November 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 21.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up nearly 9.2 percent compared to the end of October. Drought developed, expanded and intensified in the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, and Southeast. Drought improved in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and parts of the Midwest. Drought also improved for much of Hawaii.
Autumn (September–November) Temperature
Above-average temperatures spanned most of the nation during autumn, with the exception of the Northern Rockies and northern High Plains. Record warmth was observed in the Southwest and New England, where Arizona, New Mexico, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire were each record warm. The record autumn warmth in the Southwest was driven largely by warm November temperatures, while the record warmth in New England was mostly due to warm October temperatures.
Below-average precipitation was observed for parts of the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley, and Mid-Atlantic. Parts of the Southwest, including Flagstaff and Phoenix, Arizona, were record dry. Arkansas was also record dry, receiving only 36.1 percent of average rainfall statewide. Little Rock, Arkansas, received just 2.24 inches of precipitation during the season, dipping below the previous record of 2.90 inches set in 1904.
Above-average precipitation was observed in the Northwest, Northern Rockies, and parts of the Plains, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast.
Year-to-Date (January–November) Temperature
Above-average temperatures spanned the nation during the year-to-date. Two states in the Southwest—Arizona and New Mexico—and six states in the East—Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia—were record warm for the first 11 months of the year.
Many locations had a wetter-than-average year-to-date with much-above-average precipitation totals across the West and the Great Lakes. Michigan had its wettest January–November on record with 37.31 inches of precipitation, 8.19 inches above average. This bested the previous record of 37.04 inches set in 1985.
Parts of the northern Plains were drier than normal for the year-to-date. North Dakota had the eighth driest January–November, resulting in large part from the significant drought there earlier this year.
The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was the third highest value on record at more than double the average. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, days with precipitation and landfalling tropical cyclones contributed to the elevated USCEI. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, drought, and landfalling tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S.
A Note on Alaska Data
In early December 2017, due to a sharp, but real, increase in temperature during the 21st century at Barrow (Utqiaġvik), NCEI’s quality assurance algorithms retroactively rejected the station’s monthly temperatures dating to late summer 2016. Because the Barrow temperature was not considered, it resulted in an underestimate of recent monthly temperatures for Alaska Climate Division 1 and to a lesser extent the Alaska statewide average. NCEI is working to correct this issue in the coming weeks. The station’s daily data are available and correct in the Global Historical Climatology Network–Daily (GHCN-D) dataset.
Will high-pressure ridge in Pacific cause Rockies to stay dry ’til January?
Chilling new evidence of link to melting Arctic sea
Might it be a dry Christmas in Colorado, Utah and perhaps other locations, the result of yet again a high-pressure ridge that has formed off the West Coast?
That’s one possibility suggested by Eric Kuhn after examining two stories out of California posted on Tuesday. Kuhn is in the final months as general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, but he continues to monitor the news that affect water users on the upper Colorado River.
The two, overlapping postings concern formation of a high-pressure ridge off the West Coast that causes moisture-laden storms to go northward. Whistler has been getting hammered with snow. Mammoth? No, not all that much.
One posting forecasts a “remarkably persistent weather pattern will begin to develop across North America and adjacent oceanic regions.” The writer, Daniel Swain, writing on Weathewest.com, pointed out that “patterns like this have a tendency to become self-reinforcing, lasting for much longer than more typical transient weather patterns and leading to prolonged stretches of unusual weather.”
The result: “an extended, multi-week warm and dry spell” in California while “much of the East Coast shivers through repeated blasts of cold, Arctic air.” Swain expects this pattern to last “at least two weeks” but suggests possibly longer.
Kuhn points out that when this stubborn high-pressure ridge forms off the West Coast, it has always produced problems for California and sometimes for the Rocky Mountains, too. He would have you imagine a clock, the storms moving across the top of the clock and down to the right, just as some of these storms have slid down into the Great Plains and others down the spine of the Rocky Mountains.
Will the weather be like clock-work this year? Forecasts of more than a week or two, if improving, remain subject to a great deal of variability, he points out.
That same posting by Swain in Weatherwest.com discusses the link between disappearing Arctic sea ice and the formation of the high-pressure ridge off the West Coast.
“The Arctic is warming more than twice as fast as the rest of the world, and sea ice has been disappearing at a greater rate than had projected by climate models—a rapid rate of change…” Swain writes. He goes on to say that there is no clear link between the vanishing sea ice and the persistent high-pressure ridge but that does not discount the possibility.
However, on the same day, a study conducted by scientists from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California claims to have found evidence of this link.
The story goes on to say that the study, published in the journal Nature Communications “provides compelling evidence of the link between the disappearance of sea ice in the Arctic and the buildup of high ridges of atmosphere pressure over the Pacific Ocean. Those ridges push winter storms away from the state, causing drought.”
Kuhn, from his purview in Colorado, extends the story inland. “To me, it’s a potentially troublesome for both California and Colorado and the states between.”
The result of that high-pressure ridge was devastating to California in 2012 and 2013 and, to a lesser extent, in 2014 and 2015. Colorado fared better, as storms tracked down the spine of the Rockies. But that weather system left Utah more exposed. “We had one winter where Colorado was in decent shape, but Utah was in bad shape.”
This new research will undoubtedly be discussed next week in the hallways of Caesar’s Palace, site of the annual Colorado River Water Users Association. The story during the 21st century in the Colorado River Basin has been of the effects of rising temperatures but also the effects of that high-pressure ridge along the West Coast and its impact on states from Wyoming to Arizona.
Mountain towns in Colorado and other interior states are less directly affected than those of the Sierra Nevada. Even in drought years, headwater valleys usually get water. But Powell, Mead and other reservoirs of the Colorado River Basin have been slowly ebbing.
About 70 percent of all the water in the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry, at the head of the Grand Canyon, below Lake Powell, comes from Colorado, mostly as a result of snow. Very little water is added to the river below Lee’s Ferry. In this way, ski towns are directly connected to the vegetable fields of California’s Imperial Valley and Yuma, Ariz., source of the winter veggies their restaurants will be serving Christmas week.
John Stulp, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s chief advisor on water issues, told the Progressive 15 Ag-Water Conference Wednesday that Denver already has made great strides in water conservation, but now storage is needed to meet ever-growing demand.
“Denver is using the same amount of water today as it did 30 years ago, but serving 350,000 more people,” Stulp said. “Denver Water has said we cannot water the next 5 million people like we did the first five million people in Colorado.”
Stulp alluded to the supply-demand gap of 560,000 acre feet by 2050, most of which will be in the South Platte River Basin. That number comes out of the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, commissioned by Hickenlooper two years earlier.
If nothing is done to close that gap, Stulp said, between 500,000 and 700,000 acres of irrigated ag land will be lost, in addition to the 1 million acres already lost over the past century.
“It’s not that we’re gonna run out of water, but we’re gonna get it somewhere else, from agriculture or the Western Slope, and we’re both feeling the pressure,” he said.
The major hurdle in providing storage is financing. Water storage projects, of whatever form they take, are expensive, and the costs are going up all the time, Stulp said. While the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District has struggled to build the Windy Gap Firming Project for water storage near Loveland, the cost of building the project rises by about $1 million a month.
“In terms of funding (water storage) we need to invest $20 billion in the next 20 to 30 years, and a lot of that is going to come from rate payers,” he said. “But even at that, there’s still a $3 billion gap, and there’s no obvious source for that funding.”
A traditional source of water funding, Colorado’s severance tax revenues, have declined sharply lately as the oil and gas industry has endured a prolonged slump in the U.S. Combined with a judgment against Colorado that forces the state to refund $125 million because tax deductions were not properly calculated, Stulp said, the severance tax fund could actually run a deficit in the near future.
There may be other sources of revenue, however. Stulp said one idea being batted around is a penny-per-bottle fee on bottled water.
“Apparently, we drink a lot of bottled water in Colorado,” he said, “so we may see that as a source of revenue down the road.”
Stulp said there is reason to be optimistic about the state’s water future. He said the nine river basin roundtables — one in each of the state’s eight river basins and one for metro Denver — are working together like never before to resolve the water shortage.
“We’ve got people working together who never saw each other except in court when they sued each other,” he said. “But now they’re collaborating, and that’s a very good thing.”
The Western Regional Climate Center designated all of Grand and San Juan counties, and a portion of Uintah County, as in a “moderate drought,” as of Nov. 21. Prior to the drought listing, the Moab area was categorized as “abnormally dry” for this time of year.
The freakish warm weather has some people worrying, and, if it continues, there will be significant impacts down the road, but keep in mind current temperatures are much the same as they were this time last year, said Randy Julander, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Last year’s dry spell was interrupted by a mid-December storm that dumped snow in the La Sal Mountains, replenishing the region’s water supply for another year.
Grand Water and Sewer Service Agency (GWSSA) customers who depend on irrigation water are safe for now as the reservoir level at Ken’s Lake is half full, GWSSA Manager Dana Van Horn said…
“There basically isn’t any snowpack at all in the La Sals, except for a few inches on random, very high elevation north faces,” said Eric Trenbeath, an avalanche forecaster for the U.S Forest Service’s Utah Avalanche Center…
Moab’s irrigation storage facility, located at the south end of Spanish Valley in San Juan County, held 1,173 acre-feet of water as of Nov. 30, compared to 861 acre-feet in 2013. Van Horn said she has seen some years with less than 300 acre-feet of stored water…
The region has been abnormally dry since May 2, 2017, said Jim Pringle, a National Weather Service warning coordinator meteorologist in Grand Junction, Colorado. He’s responsible for monitoring weather conditions in southeast Utah, as well as western Colorado.
“Even though reservoirs may be full, there can be other indicators,” that warrant a drought listing, Pringle said. “When we look at Utah, we see a 50 percent probability of above normal temperatures,” for the next three months.
Pringle said that it’s no reason to be overly concerned – yet – that it’s part of the traditional cycle of random weather patterns. Moab has experienced moderate droughts many times over the years…
A long-term winter outlook shows Moab “sandwiched” between above-normal precipitation patterns in northern Utah, and below-normal precipitation in the south – and Moab could go either way, Pringle said.
There’s a 60-40 probability for a long-term forecast for drier and warmer than normal temperatures in the Moab area, meaning that there is a 60 percent chance of the forecast’s being correct, and a 40 percent chance of its being wrong, said Julander, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Salt Lake City. In other words, “anything can happen,” he said…
Trenbeath, along with 40-plus other national forecasters, provides regularly updated snow, mountain weather and avalanche information for winter backcountry users such as skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers.
He told the Moab Sun News that less snow in the mountains actually presents greater risks of avalanches because of the instability it creates.
“That’s because snow that sits around for a long time under cold, clear skies tends to weaken into sugary ‘faceted snow,’” Trenbeath said. “This makes an unstable base for new snow to land on,” and can cause “very destructive” avalanches.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Thursday approved a $28.8 million budget for 2018, which includes the District’s general fund, Enterprise water fund and a newly created hydropower fund within the enterprise.
The general fund totals $16 million, most of which reflects Fryingpan-Arkansas Project payments to the Bureau of Reclamation. Those payments total $13.1 million, including $7.4 million from property taxes in parts of nine counties for Fry-Ark Contract obligations, and $5.3 million in payment from the Fountain Valley Authority in El Paso County. Other payments to Reclamation include $265,000 for excess-capacity contracts and an estimated $117,000 for winter water.
The District assesses a 0.940 mill levy, of which 0.9 mills goes toward the Reclamation Fry-Ark Contract; 0.035 mills for operation; and 0.005 mills for refunds and abatements adjustments. Tax collections total about $7.8 million.
Operating revenues and expenditures for the District are expected to top $2.5 million in 2018.
The water activity enterprise, the district’s business arm, has a $2.7 million budget in 2018. Enterprise funds are generated from water sales, surcharges on water storage or sales and contractual arrangements.
The hydroelectric fund supports an electric generation plant under construction at Pueblo Dam. The Colorado Conservation Board approved a $17.2 million loan in 2016 toward the $20 million project. The remainder of the project is funded by the enterprise. Expenditures in 2018 are expected to be nearly $10 million.
Construction began in October 2017, after purchase of power details were finalized. The power plant should begin operations in 2018, with the first full year of electricity production in 2019.
The funding includes about $10.6 million in clean water infrastructure and $14.3 million in drinking water state revolving loan funding.
“The State Revolving Fund programs are critical for Colorado as they have provided the ability to fund more than $1.2 billion for clean water and $600 million for drinking water infrastructure projects throughout the state,” Pat Pfaltzgraff, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said in the release. “The SRF programs continue to help offset the $12 billion dollar funding gap.”
According to the release, Colorado’s water infrastructure projects also are funded with state match, repayments from State Revolving Fund loans and interest earnings. Key projects for wastewater treatment and drinking water State Revolving Fund loans include: $43 million to Evans for its new consolidated wastewater treatment plant, $320,000 to Larimer County’s Wonderview Condos Association to replace its collection system and $58 million to Breckenridge for an intake structure, raw water piping and a water treatment plant.
A federal-state partnership, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides financing for water quality projects through low-interest loans. The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund was created in 1996 and provides financial support to ensure safe drinking water.
Mountain snowpack is sparse, with more brown ground showing than snowy white. Snotels situated at various elevations in the Dolores Basin are recording 18 percent of normal precipitation for this time of year, according to the National Resource Conservation Service. Last year at this time the basin was at 122 percent of normal.
“We are concerned about lack of snowpack, but it is still early in the season,” said Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District that manages McPhee.
A silver lining is that McPhee has strong carryover storage of 137,000 acre-feet because of above average snowpack and runoff last winter.
Active storage of 270,000 acre-feet is needed to provide full water supply for farmers in 2018, “so we are already at half the supply needed,” Preston said.
Enough excess water for a 2018 boating release below McPhee Dam would require at least an average winter snowpack. While full farmer supply is anticipated even with a below average winter snowpack, a weak winter could create a lack of carryover at the end of the season, putting the 2019 season more at risk, Preston said.
The U.S. Drought Monitor shows that western Colorado and eastern Utah have moved into the moderate drought category. And the dry trend is expected to continue, according to forecasts.
A strong high-pressure ridge stretching across the western U.S. is preventing storms from reaching Colorado, said Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This U.S. Drought Monitor week saw continued intensification and expansion of areas of drought across portions of the Southwest, Plains, lower Midwest, South, Southeast, and the Mid-Atlantic. For the conterminous U.S., this past autumn (September-November) was the 10th warmest on record according to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). In terms of precipitation this fall, October and November were very dry in various regions with the South experiencing its 11th driest on record and the Southwest its 6th driest. Conversely, areas of the Midwest experienced above normal precipitation with Michigan having its 2nd wettest and Ohio its 5th wettest on record. Looking at changes in drought conditions nationwide during the past three months, the focal point of drought development has been centered over portions of the Desert Southwest, Deep South, and southern Plains while conditions have steadily improved across the Pacific Northwest…
On this week’s map, conditions deteriorated in eastern portions of the Dakotas as well as in eastern Nebraska and Kansas. In the Dakotas, areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) expanded as a result of unseasonably warm temperatures and below normal precipitation during the past 30-to-60 days. Moreover, the lack of snow cover and warm temperatures have raised concern in relation to the condition of the winter wheat crop. According to NOAA’s NCEI, North Dakota experienced its 4th driest October-November period on record. In Nebraska and Kansas, below normal precipitation and above normal temperatures during the past 30 days led to the introduction of new areas of Abnormally Dry (D0). During the past week, the region was generally dry and temperatures were well above average (5-to-15 degrees)…
During the past week, the region was dry with the exception of the Pacific Northwest where coastal areas of Oregon and Washington as well as the North Cascades received liquid accumulations ranging from 2-to-3.5 inches. Some lesser precipitation accumulations were observed in the northern Rockies where Water Year-to-Date precipitation accumulations are normal to slightly above normal. In southern California, four rapidly spreading large wildfires (exacerbated by strong Santa Ana winds) broke out this week near Los Angeles and further north in Ventura County. Elsewhere in the region, the Southwest continued to be unseasonably warm and dry leading to expansion of areas of Moderate Drought (D1) across northern Arizona. According to the National Weather Service in Flagstaff, several locations saw their Top-5 warmest autumns on record including: Flagstaff (4th warmest), Prescott (warmest), Payson (2nd warmest), and Winslow (2nd warmest). As a region, the Southwest experienced its 6th driest and 2nd warmest October-November period on record. Further north in Montana, conditions have been improving in the western portion of the state leading to slight reductions in areas of Abnormally Dry (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1). During the past week, average temperatures were near normal in the Far West and above normal (5-to-15 degrees) across the remainder of the West…
The NWS WPC 7-Day Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF) calls for dry conditions across the western U.S., Plains, and lower Midwest while liquid precipitation accumulations of <1.5 inches are expected in the upper Midwest, New England, eastern portions of the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Gulf Coast. Some slightly higher accumulation (2-to-3 inches) are expected across the coastal plains of the Carolinas. The CPC 6-10-day outlook calls for a high probability of above-normal temperatures across the western half of the conterminous U.S. as well as in Alaska while below normal temperatures are expected in the eastern third of the U.S. In terms of precipitation, below normal precipitation is expected across most of the West, southern Plains, South, Southeast, lower Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic while there is a high probability of above normal precipitation for the upper Midwest and western portions of New England.
Throughout many parts of the U.S., a warm, dry November made autumn seem more like an extension of late summer, allowing people to get out and enjoy the mild weather.
Here’s how last month, the fall and the year to date fared in terms of the climate record:
Climate by the numbers
The November average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 45.1 degrees F, 3.4 degrees above average, making it the seventh warmest November on record, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Record warmth spanned the Southwest with much-above-average temperatures stretching to the West Coast, Central Rockies and Southern Plains. The precipitation total for the month was 1.58 inches, 0.65 of an inch below average, making November the 19th driest on record.
The average autumn (September through November) U.S. temperature was 55.7 degrees F, 2.1 degrees above average, making it the 10th warmest autumn on record. Record warmth was observed in the Southwest and New England. Precipitation totaled 6.43 inches, 0.45 of an inch below average, putting this autumn among the driest third on record.
The year to date (YTD)
The year to date (January through November) for the contiguous U.S. was the third warmest on record, with an average temperature of 56.4 degrees F, 2.6 degrees above average. All of the Lower 48 states and Alaska observed above-average temperatures during this 11-month period. YTD precipitation totaled 30.60 inches, 3.01 inches above normal, ranking it the ninth wettest such period on record.
More notable climate events include:
Record heat in the Southwest: Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah each had their warmest November on record. Arizona and New Mexico were also record-warm for autumn and the year to date.
Record-low rainfall in the South: November saw record low precipitation fall in parts of the Southwest and deep South. Mississippi ranked as third driest; Alabama and Arkansas tied for fourth, Oklahoma ranked fifth; and Louisiana ranked tenth. Arkansas saw its driest autumn on record; the state received 36.1 percent of its average rainfall this fall.
A warm, dry fall expanded drought in South: On November 28, 21.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up nearly 9.2 percent compared with the end of October. Drought developed, expanded and intensified in the Southwest, Southern Plains, Lower Mississippi Valley and Southeast.
A wet year for parts of West and the Great Lakes: Many locations across the West and Great Lakes had much-above-average precipitation totals for the year to date. Michigan had its wettest January-November on record with 37.31 inches of precipitation, 8.19 inches above average.
Here’s a report about the proposed reductions at Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments from Rebecca Worby writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Trump’s executive orders scale back Grand Staircase-Escalante by nearly 50 percent and slice away roughly 85 percent of Bears Ears. Grand Staircase-Escalante, a monument designated over two decades ago but still locally contentious, will consist of three separate units totaling just over a million acres. Bears Ears will be reduced to two areas totaling just 228,700 acres. The monument was designated by President Barack Obama late last year and holds great cultural and historical significance to the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute tribes.
These controversial monuments became focal points in the Interior Department’s review of 27 national monuments designated since 1996. The president spent less than three hours in Salt Lake before returning to Washington D.C. “I’ve come to Utah to take a very historic action to reverse federal overreach and restore the rights of this land to (Utah’s) citizens,” he said.
The announcement came amid criticism that Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke did not take into account the concerns of supporters of the monuments, including tribes, conservationists, business owners in gateway communities and other concerned citizens locally and nationwide. “Secretary Zinke and Utah politicians say that they have talked to tribes about the president’s decision, but none of our Council leaders, executives, or our Commissioners were contacted,” Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Tribe Cultural Preservation Office and a member of the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes, said in a statement. An outspoken faction of Utahns, including state lawmakers and county commissioners, strongly opposes the monuments, and those voices ultimately drove the president’s decision.
Thousands of monument supporters protested the reductions in front of the Capitol, both during Trump’s remarks and at a larger planned protest two days earlier. Utahns who support the reductions assembled to celebrate on Saturday in Monticello, county seat of San Juan County, where Bears Ears is located.
Inside the Capitol, Utahns — including many conservative state and local leaders — filled the marbled rotunda, where murals depicting the state’s history reach the high ceiling. The audience, dotted with cowboy hats and red “Make America Great Again” caps, greeted Trump’s announcement with loud cheers. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who recently introduced a bill to overhaul the Antiquities Act, said this was “just the beginning.”
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November finished with no measurable snowfall for just the ninth time since reliable records began in 1882. It’s also the first time Denver will finish snow-free in the month since 2005, and just the second time since 1949.
Temperatures were also seven degrees above average for the month, making it the tenth-warmest November on record. This included a stunning 81-degree temperature on November 27, the warmest November temperature on record in our dear city.
In the nine seasons that had no measurable snowfall, eight finished with seasonal below-average snowfall. Of course, part of that has to do with losing November’s 7.7-inch average snowfall, typically Denver’s fifth-snowiest month of the year. But in those nine snow-free Novembers, seven had less December snowfall than average, too.
Winter’s not dead, but this winter may end up with less snowfall than average, which could be caused by the current weak La Niña pattern in the Pacific.
A dominating “ridge” of high pressure kept us dry (we only recorded 0.29 inches of rain and snow in November, less than half of November’s average) and warm. The jet stream — the narrow ribbon of extremely strong winds about six miles up that dictates a lot of our weather — stayed to our north through most of November. This allowed warm air to consistently flow in from the south and west, and those winds tend to be drier as they roll down the Rockies and into Denver, drying and warming as they do so.
Is climate change to blame for our current weather patterns? It’s hard to say; climate change is best analyzed over longer time periods. And extreme temperatures — both warm and cold ones — will still happen, even in an overall warming environment. Denver’s third-coldest November temperature on record — negative 14 degrees — took place just three years ago, on November 13, 2014. Denver’s second-coldest overall November took place as recently as 2000. In other words, it’d be inaccurate to attribute this November’s warmth solely to climate change.
[Don] Coram was among legislators and policy leaders selected by JEWISHcolorado for its recent Jewish Community Relations Council Public Officials Mission. The mission took a bipartisan group, including Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne, to Israel last week.
Coram and the others got up-close looks at how the Israelis desalinize seawater and recycle water for agriculture in their arid landscape. Although the nation is many thousand miles removed from landlocked Western Colorado, what’s being done there may have potential here, Coram said.
“It’s pretty amazing what they do. I’m trying to figure out how we could make this work in Colorado,” the Montrose Republican said by phone from Jerusalem on Nov. 30.
In his estimation, Israel leads the world in water technology such as the drip irrigation Western Slope farmers have begun employing. Israel also leads in water savings — and in ways to re-use water.
“I think a lot of things I can certainly bring back home to benefit Colorado,” Coram said, making note of the Colorado Water Plan. The plan, prompted by a 2013 executive order and now two years old, set the framework for future water conservation decisions, as well as ambitious implementation goals at the state and local levels.
Sixty percent of water used in Israel comes from desalinization and it is piped into Arab states, too, Coram said. The nation’s fresh water comes from the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a large lake.
The public officials mission took participants on a “full gamut” tour of Israel’s renewable resource efforts…
Last Thursday, the mission took its guests about 50 miles along the Egyptian border toward the largest solar project in the world, per Coram.
The public officials mission is designed to educate and connect Colorado policymakers and business leaders with people in Israel to share cutting-edge initiatives in technology, agriculture, water rights, conservation and cyber intelligence, according to information from the Denver-based JEWISHcolorado.
“JEWISHcolorado’s mission is to strengthen and steward Jewish life in Colorado, Israel and around the world,” Andra Davidson, the organization’s vice president of marketing and events, said.
“There is no substitute for first-hand experience, and we have created a dynamic trip that gives those attending a first-hand look at the many rich facets of Israel’s culture, business world, innovations and history. We know that the relationships that develop between Colorado and Israel will be beneficial for many years to come.”
The organization’s Jewish Community Relations Council focuses on making its public officials missions bipartisan, and invites people its representatives think are up-and-coming leaders.
The council is a coalition of 38 Jewish organizations and 15 at-large members in the state, who speak as a single voice on issues of concern to the Jewish community.
They can track feral animals, survey invasive species, check fencelines and photograph rare plants on the highest, steepest cliffs. In doing so, the Nature Conservancy’s newest conservation workers float like butterflies over the native forest.
“Drones are revolutionizing the way conservation can be conducted, and for far less than the cost of a helicopter or sending in ground teams,” said Alison Cohan, the Conservancy’s director for Maui Nui forest programs.
Unmanned aerial vehicles—drones—are performing jobs that would otherwise be time-consuming, dangerous and, in some cases, impossible. And with every passing week, wildland managers are identifying new applications for this remarkable technology.
Like herding—using drones as airborne sheepdogs to move feral animals out of areas where they threaten native plant communities. Or taking drones out over the ocean to assess the health of coral reefs. Or flying up the side of a tall native palm to inspect flowers and fruit, to confirm it is a new find or an endangered species.
“We started thinking about this years ago, but the technology wasn’t there yet,” said Trae Menard, director of forest conservation for The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.
Menard led the Hawai‘i program into the world of drones. At first, the batteries didn’t last long enough. They were far too expensive. And they didn’t have first-person viewing—the ability for the operator to see what the drone is seeing in real time.
About two years ago, those matters had been largely resolved. Drones were cheaper, you could view their imagery on an iPad or a cell phone, they were linked with cameras of superb quality, and they had enough power to do real work. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruled that to use a drone for non-recreational purposes would require a pilot’s license.
“We would have needed pilots on staff,” said Melinda Ching, the Conservancy’s senior regional attorney.
Ching worked with the mainland law firm Morrison & Foerster, which in turn worked with the FAA to develop a special certification for conservation drone operators—detailed enough to ensure public safety, but you didn’t need to know how to fly a full-size plane.
“Morrison & Foerster has a whole team that does aviation law. We were able to influence regulations for small commercial operations and to develop a remote pilot certification. The Nature Conservancy’s examples of conservation use were cited in the commentary on the new rule,” Ching said.
The Conservancy’s Hawai‘i forest program operates drones from three of its offices—Kaua‘i, Maui Nui and Hawai‘i—and in just six months to a year of use, their value has become apparent. Shalan Crysdale, the Conservancy’s Hawai‘i Island director for forest conservation, listed a few of his drone applications:
● Assessing the effectiveness of a mountain slope to serve as a natural barrier against pigs by flying a drone out over the edge to measure its steepness.
● Gathering close-up imagery of suspect incipient weeds in remote areas, specifically vines in Ka‘ū that appeared to be banana poka or bitter melon, but were proven to be native hoi kuahiwi, or Smilax melastomifolia.
● Identifying endangered plant species in remote areas, such as Pritchardia lanigera, a rare loulu palm, in Ka‘ū preserve.
● Mapping trails and village sites within lava fields along the Hīlea coast at Kawa Bay.
“Shalan has also used drones to make a video for a grant proposal,” Menard said. “We realized that this could be an outreach tool, a way to bring the forest to the people.”
Maui Nui’s Cohan said her teams have used drones to check on the effectiveness of herbicide treatment on invasive Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine and Sugi pine. Those weedy trees often grow on steep slopes that are too dangerous to access regularly on foot.
“We are able to fly these areas to do pre-and post-treatment comparisons—to monitor the dieback,” she said.
Drones are used on several islands to scout possible fenceline routes for natural geological barriers where fences can terminate. And once fences are in place, the drones can check their condition—to see whether pigs or deer have breached the wire mesh, or whether trees have fallen and damaged the fences.
LOWER COSTS, INCREASED SAFETY
At the Conservancy’s Kānepu‘u Preserve on Lāna‘i, drones are used to check on whether deer have managed to gain entry to the state’s best remaining natural assemblage of dryland forest, with its mature stands of native ebony (lama) and olive (olopua) sandalwood (‘iliahi) and Hawaiian gardenia (nā‘ū).
And if deer are observed, Cohan said, the buzzing drones can be used to drive them out of the protected forest area. “We can do this work at far less cost and with greater safety than traditional helicopter and ground operations,” she said.
Lucas Behnke, the natural resource manager for Kaua‘i, is one of the Conservancy’s certified drone pilots. He was licensed in September 2016.
“The drone changes the angle from which we can observe the environment,” he said. “That perspective is the most exciting part about drones.”
Of course, it’s not all good. Drones can also cause problems.
“They make a lot of noise. They clearly can affect invasive ungulates (hooved animals like goats, pigs and deer), but they also have the potential to affect bird behavior,” Behnke said. “We need to be careful.”
That said, drones have the potential to allow researchers to regularly fly the forest and create images that map changes over time—seasonal changes, changes in weed invasion, changes in forest composition, even progression of diseases through the landscape.
The Conservancy’s drone corps is anxious to hook up forward-looking infrared capacity to the drones—perhaps to identify the presence of invasive ungulates under the canopy. With the help of heat-sensors, drones could also potentially identify remnant hot spots after forest fires have been largely extinguished, Menard said.
The Conservancy’s Hawai‘i marine program is also experimenting with drones. Community-based Program Manager Manuel Mejia and Fellow Bert Weeks are testing whether a drone called the “aquacopter” can be used to detect coral bleaching and the regrowth of invasive algae on patch reefs in O‘ahu’s Kāne‘ohe Bay.
The aquacopter can be programmed to land on water and uses a camera on its underbelly to capture underwater photos and video as it moves from point to point along a pre-determined flight path. “If we are successful, the aquacopter could substantially reduce the long man hours normally required for surveying,” Weeks said. “Another potential application is using the cameras to create 3-D models of the reefs.”
As Conservancy staff continue to identify new uses of existing drones, the drones themselves are getting better. The expectation is that engineering advances will create drones that are smaller, lighter and have a longer battery life.
“It’s powerful. A new frontier,” said Menard. “It’s changing the way we do conservation.”
FromThe Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Lindsay Fendt):
A novel case seeking personhood for the Colorado River will not proceed in federal court after the plaintiffs filed a motion Sunday to dismiss their own lawsuit and a judge on Monday granted the motion and dismissed the case.
The case, filed against the state of Colorado, would have been the first federal lawsuit seeking to establish legal rights for nature in the United States.
“The undersigned continues to believe that the [rights of nature] doctrine provides American courts with a pragmatic and workable tool for addressing environmental degradation and the current issues facing the Colorado River,” reads the motion to voluntarily dismiss the case from attorney Jason Flores-Williams. “That said, the expansion of rights is a difficult and legally complex matter.”
Flores-Williams opted to pull the complaint in part due to possible sanctions threatened by the Colorado attorney general’s office if he continued with the case in U.S. District Court in Denver.
“Situations change,” Flores-Williams said speaking Monday after withdrawing the case, “and what is best for the rights of nature movement is not to get involved in a lengthy sanctions battle, but to move forward with seeking environmental justice.”
According to a letter sent Nov. 16 by Scott Steinbrecher, a senior assistant attorney general for Colorado, the state was considering seeking sanctions against Flores-Williams under Rule 11 of the federal rules of civil procedure, which allows U.S. District Courts to punish lawyers for pleadings with improper purpose or frivolous arguments. The rule allows punishments ranging from censure to disbarment and the sanctions typically carry hefty fines.
“The purpose of this letter is to request that you consider voluntarily dismissing with prejudice the amended complaint,” Steinbrecher wrote to Flores-Williams on Nov. 16. “If you choose not to voluntarily withdraw your amended complaint with prejudice … you are hereby on notice that the defendant will pursue all sanctions and remedies available … .”
Flores-Williams filed his own voluntary motion to dismiss on Sunday, two days after he gathered with rights of nature activists outside the federal courthouse in downtown Denver. The group passed around a bowl of water from the Colorado River and played music affirming their commitment to creating a legal right to nature in U.S. courts.
The filing by Flores-Williams was titled an “unopposed motion to dismiss amended complaint with prejudice.” And in the process of agreeing to dismiss his own case, Flores-Williams summarized the situation as he saw it.
“The complaint represented a good faith attempt to introduce the rights of nature doctrine to our jurisprudence,” he wrote. “The rights of nature — specifically, the legal standing of natural entities — was first recognized by the Honorable William O. Douglas in his dissent in Sierra Club v. Morton and is being increasingly utilized as a legal doctrine by countries around the world.”
On the other hand, Flores-Williams also told the court that, “when engaged in an effort of first impression, the undersigned has a heightened ethical duty to continuously ensure that conditions are appropriate for our judicial institution to best consider the merits of a new canon. After respectful conferral with opposing counsel per (state law) plaintiff respectfully moves this honorable court to dismiss the amended complaint with prejudice.”
The case was filed on Sept. 25 and was titled “The Colorado River Ecosystem a/n/f (and next friends) Deep Green Resistance, the Southwest Coalition, Deanna Meyer, Jennifer Murnan, Fred Gibson, Susan Hyatt, Will Falk v. State of Colorado.”
The state filed a motion to dismiss the case on Oct. 17.
Flores-Williams then filed an amended complaint, on Nov. 3, that also named Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper as a defendant and added two new plaintiffs, both from Moab, Utah: Owen Lammers, as Living Rivers’ executive director, and John Weisheit, as the “Colorado Riverkeeper.”
The attorney general’s office then sent its letter to Flores-Williams on Nov. 16, to which he responded, with a defiant tone, on Nov. 28.
On Dec. 1 the state filed a second motion to dismiss the case, and then on Dec. 3, Flores-Williams took the step to pull the lawsuit.
Judge Nina Wang issued a court order Monday granting the motion to dismiss.
“When it comes to these big ideas no one owns them,” Flores-Williams said Monday. “There is movement on the ground now, and as long as that is there it will make its way into the courts.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating on coverage of rivers and water with Glenwood Springs Post Independent, The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily, and the Summit Daily News. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.
DENVER — Protesters spurred on by the environmental group Deep Green Resistance gathered at dusk in front of the Alfred A. Arraj Courthouse in downtown Denver Friday. High above their heads, the words “Colorado River Rights of Nature” loomed, lit by a spotlight projector placed outside the protester circle.
The activists had come in support of a first-of-its-kind lawsuit in the United States, the Colorado River Ecosystem v. the State of Colorado, which seeks to grant direct rights to nature in the U.S. If successful, the case would allow anyone to file a lawsuit on behalf of the Colorado River ecosystem, including all the river’s tributaries.
And even as the protesters gathered on Friday, the attorney general’s office filed a second motion with the federal court to dismiss the lawsuit. A Dec. 1 deadline to do so had been set by the court in response to an amended complaint filed by the plaintiffs on Nov. 6.
But Friday’s protest was in response to a Nov. 16 letter sent by the Colorado attorney general’s office. The state’s attorneys threatened that if the plaintiffs did not withdraw the case they would file sanctions against Jason Flores-Williams, the lawyer representing the Colorado River and its “next friends” — members of Deep Green Resistance and others that have been appointed to represent the river’s interests.
Sanctions could range from censure to disbarment and could bill Flores-Williams for the hours incurred by the attorney general’s office while managing the case.
Responding to an interview request, the attorney general’s office declined to comment on its letter threatening sanctions.
On Friday, standing before the crowd in a blue plaid suit and a backwards baseball cap, Flores-Williams reaffirmed that he would go forward with the case despite the sanctions at stake.
“They thought that by trying to intimidate me they would intimidate the rights of nature movement, instead it is going to invigorate it,” Flores-Williams said in a previous interview.
On Nov. 28, Flores-Williams had responded to the attorney general’s office with an open letter.
“Lacking actual legal grounds, the attorney general’s letter can only be understood as an attempt to harass me and silence the rights of nature movement,” said Flores-Williams’ response.
The pursuit of sanctions is a severe and rarely used tactic that courts will use to punish a lawyer for bringing a case with no real standing, and while Flores-Williams has rebutted claims that the case is frivolous, there is confusion over what exactly the plaintiffs are asking for in the lawsuit.
“They are not making any claims, this is more of a political statement,” said Mark Squillace, a law professor at the University of Colorado specializing in water law and natural resources. “[Sanctions are] extreme, but I do think it makes some sense in this case. If you are deliberately using the court to try to make a political statement and you don’t have a legal basis for the claim you’re making, the court can come down hard.”
Flores-Williams and the environmental groups aligned with him have made no secret about their intentions to build a movement around their case. Though this lawsuit looks only at the Colorado River ecosystem, its underlying implication is that nature should have rights in the same way people — and often corporations — do under U.S. law.
But the state’s second motion to dismiss argues again that the lawsuit filed by Flores-Williams violates the Eleventh Amendment, which bars private citizens from suing states in federal court. The state also says neither the Colorado River ecosystem or the “next friends” listed in the lawsuit hold legal standing.
“[The amended complaint] asks the court to transfer sovereign authority over the state’s public natural resources and bestow control on a handful of “next friends,” the state’s motion to dismiss said. “The amended complaint, however, is not based in law. Rather, its arguments are based in rhetoric that fails to establish this court’s jurisdiction or to present a valid legal argument to support its claims.”
Rights of rivers?
The idea of rights of nature dates back to at least 1972, when lawyer Christopher Stone published the article “Should Trees Have Standing?” in Southern California Law Review.
The article caught the eye of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and that same year he heard the case Sierra Club v. Morton, where the Sierra Club sought to block the construction of a ski resort in California.
The court ruled that because the Sierra Club did not allege a specific injury that the ski resort presented to the club, that it lacked legal standing. But in a dissenting opinion Douglas asserted that nature itself should have standing.
“The ordinary corporation is a ‘person’ for purposes of the adjudicatory processes, whether it represents proprietary, spiritual, aesthetic, or charitable causes,” Douglas wrote. “So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life.”
Legal efforts to establish rights of nature have made some headway in some states, but Colorado courts have continuously struck them down.
“Colorado is maybe the worst of the western states to have this conversation because in some respects we are further behind than everybody,” said Doug Kenney, the director of the Western Water Policy Program at the University of Colorado.
In Colorado, this type of legal thinking is particularly sensitive with water resources due to the state’s complex and deeply entrenched system of water rights.
“It would certainly upturn the whole water rights system and drop a whole foreign concept into how we determine who gets water in the state, which our whole economy is based on,” said Doug Kemper, the executive director of the Colorado Water Congress, a lobbying organization for the water industry. “The constitution is clear that the water belongs to the people and that is what we believe.”
Many legal experts believe the rights-of-nature case has little chance of going forward, but it does come at a pivotal moment for the future of managing the Colorado River.
“The states are all getting along with each other right now and they are making these little incremental changes,” Kenney said. “On one hand it’s a huge success story and on the other hand it’s one of those issues where, do you solve the issue with incremental reforms or do you need some sort of fundamental leap forward? Kind of like this lawsuit.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, The Aspen Times, the Vail Daily and the Summit Daily News on coverage of rivers and water. The Post Independent published this story on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017.
Officials from CDPHE and the Environmental Protection Agency decided to move a hearing on the proposal from December 12 to November 2019, citing the need for further study of the proposed limit increase on humans and the environment.
Summit County officials, while welcoming the public health’s delay in making a decision, are standing together against the proposal to allow more molybdenum in Summit’s waterways.
A group of local stakeholders issued a joint statement opposing the increase before Wednesday’s hearing. Representatives from the Town of Frisco, Copper Mountain Consolidated Metropolitan District, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, and several other local government bodies stated that Climax’s proposal carried “unacceptable levels of uncertainty and risk” to human and animal health.
Lane Wyatt, co-director of the NCCG’s Water Quality/Quantity Committee, has been advising local leaders on the molybdenum issue. Wyatt believes the state is prudent in delaying its decision and welcomes Climax’s attempts to be transparent.
However, Wyatt says the initial research done by independent experts have already shown that high concentrations of molybdenum pose increased risks to human health, and that is enough to consider the molybdenum increase a non-starter.
Additionally, he sees Climax’s effort to get the state’s approval on increased molybdenum levels as a small foothold for its bigger ambitions to export molybdenum to other places, such as the European Union with its stricter environmental standards.
“Climax has been a good neighbor to Summit County,” Wyatt says, “but the community does not want to be a guinea pig for fooling around with how much molybdenum is in the water before it becomes a problem.”
Before the November 2019 hearing, the department of public heath’s water quality commission will hold other limited-scope hearings. One such hearing will take place on January 8 on whether to extend a site-specific temporary modification. The NCCG says it welcomes comments regarding molybdenum, and the public may do so by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The commission is requesting all public input by Wednesday, Dec. 27.
From the Associated Press (Matthew Brown) via The Durango Herald:
President Donald Trump’s administration announced Friday that it won’t require mining companies to prove they have the financial wherewithal to clean up their pollution, despite an industry legacy of abandoned mines that have fouled waterways across the U.S.
The move came after mining groups and Western-state Republicans pushed back against a proposal under former President Barack Obama to make companies set aside money for future cleanup costs.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt said modern mining practices and state and federal rules already in place adequately address the risks from mines that are still operating.
Requiring more from mining companies was unnecessary, Pruitt said, and “would impose an undue burden on this important sector of the American economy and rural America, where most of these jobs are based.”
The U.S. mining industry has a long history of abandoning contaminated sites and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for cleanups. Thousands of shuttered mines leak contaminated water into rivers, streams and other waterways, including hundreds of cases in which the EPA has intervened, sometimes at huge expense.
The EPA spent $1.1 billion on cleanup work at abandoned hard-rock mining and processing sites across the U.S. from 2010 to 2014.
Since 1980, at least 52 mines and mine processing sites using modern techniques had spills or other releases of pollution, according to documents released by the EPA last year…
The Obama-era rule was issued last December under court order after environmental groups sued the government to enforce a long-ignored provision in the 1980 federal Superfund law…
The proposal applied to hard-rock mining, which includes precious metals, copper, iron, lead and other ores. Coal mines already were required to provide assurances that they’ll pay for cleanups under a 1977 federal law.
Hard-rock mining companies would have faced a combined $7.1 billion financial obligation under the dropped rule, costing them up to $171 million annually to set aside sufficient funds to pay for future cleanups, according to an EPA analysis.
Here’s the release from Reclamation (Marlon Duke):
The Bureau of Reclamation and State of Utah are initiating negotiations for a water exchange contract, which proposes exchanging the state’s assigned Green River water right for use of Colorado River Storage Project water released from Flaming Gorge Dam. The negotiation meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 4, 2017, at 1:00 p.m. at the Dixie Convention Center, 1835 South Convention Center Drive, St. George, Utah.
The exchange will provide Utah with a reliable and certain water supply, while assisting Reclamation in meeting its legal obligations. It will enable part of the state’s Colorado River apportionment to flow from Flaming Gorge Dam to Lake Powell for diversion into Utah’s proposed Lake Powell Pipeline.
The negotiation meeting is open to the public. The public will have the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments pertaining to the exchange during an open house period immediately prior to formal negotiations and during a comment period following the negotiation session. The proposed exchange contract and other pertinent documents will be available at the negotiation meeting or can be obtained on Reclamation’s website at: https://www.usbr.gov/uc/provo/index.html, under “News and Highlights”.
The drought of the 1930s was the impetus for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.
Work started in 1938 and would span nearly two decades to complete.
The first project was the Green Mountain Reservoir on the Blue River. The water stored ran north into the Colorado River and is used to compensate for water that would be diverted to the Eastern Slope.
A significant year for the project was 1944 when work ended on the Alva B. Adams Tunnel, just over 13 miles long. It carried water under the Continental Divide.
Lake Granby, the largest reservoir in the system, stores Colorado River water during the spring runoff. A second project was the nearby Shadow Mountain Reservoir connected to Grand Lake by a short canal. The two bodies of water are nearly 90 feet higher than Lake Granby.
The Alva B. Adams Tunnel’s west portal is on the east side of Grand Lake which, incidentally, is the largest natural water body in Colorado.
After the spring runoff and to keep Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Grand Lake filled, a pumping station brings Lake Granby water up to their level.
Added in 1951-52 and on the west side of the Continental Divide is the Willow Creek Reservoir. A pumping station elevates the water 175 feet to a canal flowing into Lake Granby.
The 9 ½ -foot in diameter Alva B. Adams Tunnel drops 109 feet in its 13 miles, ending at the East Portal.
From a small lake at the East Portal, the water is carried via a siphon under Aspen Brook to the Rams Horn Tunnel and via a penstock, down to the Marys Lake power plant. This is a drop of 205 feet.
Running directly under the summit of Prospect Mountain, yet another tunnel and penstock delivers water to the Lake Estes power plant, a drop of 482 feet.
From Lake Estes, water flows east first through the Olympus Tunnel to the 5 ½ -mile long Pole Hill Tunnel.
Water is delivered to the top of a canal then to a penstock. It drops 815 feet to the Pole Hill power plant. From there, the water enters the 1 ¾ -mile-long Rattlesnake Tunnel, ending on the west side of Pinewood Lake. An intake on the east end of Pinewood Reservoir takes water through the Bald Mountain Tunnel to the penstock visible from Loveland.
Water is delivered to the Flatiron power plant at Flatiron Reservoir over 1,000 feet below.
This is where things get complicated.
During times of excess water, it is pumped up to Carter Lake, 277 feet higher.
Water also flows through a short tunnel north to the Hansen Feeder Canal to Horsetooth Reservoir.
From the south end of Carter Lake, water is delivered into the South St. Vrain Supply Canal. This long canal takes water under part of Rabbit Mountain all the way the Boulder Reservoir.
In all, West Slope water drops nearly 3,000 feet during its journey to the East Slope.
The Colorado-Big Thompson Project has created a dozen reservoirs, uses 35 miles of tunnels and also generates a substantial amount of electric power. These are the power plants:
Here’s an analysis from Emily Benson writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
To avoid the risk of further erosion, however, both spillways [at Oroville] needed to be patched up before this winter. By early November, following months of ‘round-the-clock work, the California Department of Water Resources announced that Oroville was ready for the rainy season, though final repairs will take another year. And the consequences of the incident could last far longer: Its sheer scale means it has the potential to affect legislation and policy, as did earlier disasters at other dams. Safety officials in California and across the West are already reassessing spillways, updating disaster plans and refining evacuation maps, hoping to prevent a repeat of Oroville — or worse.
Structural failures were the immediate cause of the Oroville catastrophe. The main spillway has successfully handled larger flows than what it saw last February. While it’s not yet clear exactly why it broke apart, some researchers say part of the blame lies in poor design and shoddy maintenance — and that those problems could have been addressed. An independent group of dam experts is investigating what went wrong, with a final report expected by the end of 2017. An interim report released in September notes that there was preexisting damage and repairs at the area that first crumbled. Weaknesses there could have allowed water to get beneath the spillway, potentially blasting apart the concrete from below.
Administrative failures — problems with inspections or regulations — may share the blame for what happened at Oroville. A patchwork of agencies meant to prevent such problems regulates dam safety in the United States. Federal agencies like the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers oversee inspection and maintenance at their own dams. Dams that belong to the state, like Oroville, or a utility company or other non-federal entity, are typically under the jurisdiction of a state agency; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is also involved in dam inspections at non-federal dams with hydropower projects they license, including Oroville…
In Colorado, Oroville confirmed that dam safety officials were already on the right track, says Bill McCormick, the chief of dam safety at Colorado Division of Water Resources. There, the big test came in 2013, when widespread flooding in north-central Colorado driven by torrential rain led to the failure of about a dozen small dams. Nobody was hurt or killed as a result of the failures, “but they did get people’s attention,” McCormick says. (Several people died elsewhere during the flooding.) Another wet season in the spring of 2015 made clear the need to plan for different levels of flooding and dam releases. “Our main lesson from Oroville is that we still need to be vigilant,” he says, “but we’re doing the right things.”
Agriculture is the economic engine that powers the Great Plains, the vast stretch of treeless prairie that covers parts of 10 states – and where the next drought can appear with little warning. Now there’s a powerful new tool that can provide farmers and ranchers in this arid region critical, early indications of oncoming droughts.
“Evaporative demand is the thirst of the atmosphere for any water — on the surface of lakes and rivers, in soil or in plants,” he said. “Drought is a function of supply and demand.
“Surface moisture is really hard to measure because a major component is soil moisture, which varies dramatically over very short distances, ” explained Hobbins. “Evaporative demand is relatively easy to measure because it’s based on air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and solar radiation, which we measure all the time.”
EDDI already has a good track record: The tool accurately signaled the onset of a 2015 Wyoming drought as well as 2016 droughts in South Dakota’s Black Hills and the southeastern United States.
EDDI is valuable because it detects drought emergence at weekly time scales, said Mark Svoboda, co-founder of the U.S. Drought Monitor.
The U.S Famine Early Warning System network, which helps governments and relief agencies plan for and respond to humanitarian crises, has also begun using EDDI to help provide early warning of food insecurity (i.e., limited access to sufficient food supply) around the world.
A case study over parts of East Africa shows that a combination of forecasts for both evaporative demand — atmospheric “thirst” — and precipitation would have provided early warning of severe droughts in 2002, 2004 and 2009 that contributed to substantial food shortages in the region.
“All else being equal, a warmer atmosphere is a thirstier atmosphere,” said Hobbins. “It’s likely we’ll see more frequent droughts in the future, and EDDI is uniquely designed to capture their emergence.”
On a 4-2 vote, a Longmont City Council majority on Tuesday night reduced the amount of water the city will contract to store in the Windy Gap Firming Project reservoir to be built in Larimer County.
Council members Polly Christensen, Marcia Martin, Joan Peck and Aren Rodriguez instead changed the city’s commitment to its share of the overall project expense to whatever would be needed to pay for Longmont’s storage of 8,000 acre-feet of water in the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, rather than the 10,000 acre-feet that a previous council majority had favored.
That smaller amount of Longmont water storage is expected to reduce the amount of bonds, if any, that the city would have to sell to help finance its share of the water storage.
It also is expected to reduce the amount of any additional water-rate increases — if any — that Longmont would have had to bill its customers to pay for the $36.3 million in bonds that Longmont voters in the 2017 election authorized the city to sell.
It would not, however, eliminate the 9 percent water-rate increase the previous council had already imposed for 2018, followed by another 9 percent increase in 2019.
Mayor Brian Bagley and Councilwoman Bonnie Finley dissented from the vote to reduce the amount of water that Longmont would have stored, and the resulting reduction in Longmont’s cost share for the reservoir project.
A Denver attorney representing the Colorado River Ecosystem in a bid for “personhood” is facing possible sanctions for refusing to drop the case…
In September this year, Flores-Williams sued Colorado on behalf of the environmental group Deep Green Resistance, asking that the Colorado River ecosystem be granted personhood in the same way a ship, an ecclesiastic corporation or a commercial corporation have it for purposes of constitutional protection and enforcement.
An assistant attorney general warned Flores-Williams in a Nov. 16 letter that if he did not voluntarily request dismissal with prejudice, he could face sanctions under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for knowingly presenting false or unwarranted claims to the court.
The letter from Colorado’s Senior Assistant Attorney General Scott Steinbrecher said that Flores-Williams’s amended complaint “fails to disclose law contrary to your position that Eleventh Amendment immunity does not apply,” and that it “fails to address the numerous other deficiencies identified in the State’s Motion to Dismiss.”
It adds: “If you choose not to voluntarily withdraw your Amended Complaint with prejudice by close of business November 30, 2017, you are hereby on notice that the defendant will pursue all sanctions and remedies available under Fed R. Civ. P. 11.”
On Tuesday, Flores-Williams released an open letter to the Attorney General’s Office, stating: “The Amended Complaint will not be withdrawn. Legally, it should not be. Morally, it cannot be.”
Flores-Williams’ 4-page letter chides Steinbrecher for his threat of sanctions.
“The Attorney General’s mandate is to protect and serve the rights of the people of this State, of which the undersigned is an engaged citizen, not to use those vested powers to intimidate and forcibly chill those with whom it does not agree,” Flores-Williams wrote.
In a statement accompanying the open letter, Flores-Williams said: “They didn’t threaten to sanction Exxon attorneys for lying about global warming, nor Bank of America attorneys for fraudulently foreclosing on people’s homes, nor Nestle attorneys for privatizing our water and selling it back to us — but attempt to equal the playing field between corporations and the environment and they try to personally damage you. It’s the playbook.”
Chronic ingestion of molybdenum can cause diarrhea, stunted growth, infertility, low birth weights and gout
Colorado health officials on Wednesday ignored state scientists and delayed for two years a decision on a mining giant’s push to weaken statewide limits on molybdenum pollution of streams, including a creek flowing into Dillon Reservoir, Denver’s drinking water supply.
Denver Water contends that Climax Molybdenum’s campaign to jack up molybdenum pollution limits 43 times higher than at present could cost ratepayers up to $600 million for expansion of a water treatment plant. Trace amounts of molybdenum — below a health advisory level — already flow out of Denver taps.
But Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials on Wednesday rescheduled a Dec. 12 molybdenum rule hearing for November 2019.
A CDPHE hearing officer said the delay will allow time for industry-financed studies to move through a peer-review process and for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry to make decisions on molybdenum toxicity. A “temporary modification” that currently allows elevated molybdenum pollution from the Climax Mine was extended this year through 2018, and CDPHE officials at Wednesday’s meeting opened the possibility it could be extended again.
CDPHE scientists opposed the delay. The scientists, Denver Water and a coalition of mountain towns have opposed the push by Climax to allow more molybdenum pollution of Tenmile Creek, which flows down from the Climax Mine above Leadville into Dillon Reservoir, where water flows out through a tunnel to Denver and the upper Colorado River Basin. CDPHE water-quality scientists have determined that molybdenum pollution at the proposed new limits would kill fish and could hurt people…
Denver Water treatment plants cannot remove molybdenum, and expanding one plant to do that would cost from $480 million to $600 million, utility officials said in documents filed to the CDPHE.
Those costs ultimately would hit ratepayers, the 1.4 million people who rely on Denver Water for their domestic water supply. The molybdenum pollution from Tenmile Creek that reaches Denver facilities today is “below the human health advisory levels,” Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.
“We’d likely exceed the human health advisory standard if that (new limit) were to become the statewide water quality standard. … Currently, the concentrations in Tenmile Creek have not been at a high enough concentration that would result in an exceedance of the human health advisory level, so an extension of the ‘temporary modification’ for molybdenum is acceptable,” Chesney said.
A subsidiary of the $46 billion mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, Climax Molybdenum runs the Climax Mine, which was closed for 25 years and reopened in 2012. This led to elevated molybdenum pollution at levels up to 2,500 ppb, 10 times higher than the current statewide limit. The “temporary modification” granted by CDPHE water commissioners, and extended this year, allows this elevated pollution through December 2018…
EPA officials recently said a molybdenum pollution limit as high as 10,000 ppb could be sufficient. But EPA scientists previously have advised lower limits.
“Denver Water’s current position is that the molybdenum limit should be based on scientific evidence. While Climax Molybdenum Company has presented scientific studies in support of its proposed standard, the studies fail to account for the effect high molybdenum concentrations will have on individuals with a copper deficiency,” Chesney said. “Because we do not know how high molybdenum concentrations will affect people with copper deficiencies, and EPA has not modified the Human Health Advisory for molybdenum to correspond with Climax’s proposed standard, the (state water quality control) commission should decline to increase the molybdenum standard to the level proposed by Climax.”
A coalition of mountain towns also is fighting the proposed higher limits for molybdenum pollution of waterways.
“Because of scientific uncertainty regarding the effects of varying molybdenum concentrations on human health, the commission should decline to make the changes that Climax Molybdenum Company has proposed in the statewide molybdenum standards,” Frisco attorney Jennifer DiLalla said. “The town’s primary goal is ensuring that any action the commission may take with respect to molydenum standards is protective of the health of those who live and work and play in Frisco.”
More than three years after water began seeping into Gilcrest and surrounding residents’ basements — the result of record high groundwater levels — the problem is spreading, impacting new homes.
Joanne Maes, a former Gilcrest town trustee, is one such resident. She doesn’t have more than a dozen sump pumps installed in her basement like a resident in 2014. She has one, and she and her husband did the work themselves, spending about $1,000 on materials.
Maes first noticed the problem a month ago. After 12 hours of continuous shop vac use, the family installed a sump pump, which runs automatically as water seeps in. Every 20 minutes or so, a PVC pipe in the backyard of Maes’ 12th Street house gurgles out water.
The same is true for a number of homes in Gilcrest, and Maes led the way around the quiet Weld County town Tuesday, pointing out more PVC pipes, connected to more sump pumps, dotting the front yards of more residents. An extra green patch of grass is another tell-tale sign.
Maes and her neighbors now, as residents did in 2014, blame the fact that farmers aren’t allowed to pump groundwater to water crops. She even testified before the Colorado Water Conservation Board, along with others from the area a couple weeks ago.
Residents here have largely given up hope anything will be done. And so, the sump pumps drone on, the water gurgles out of PVC pipes and residents hope things don’t get any worse.
Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Tom Udall (D-NM), introduced the Endangered Fish Recovery Programs Extension Act of 2017. The legislation will continue to fund the Upper Colorado and San Juan fish recovery programs through FY2023, and aims to protect four primary endangered species in the Upper Colorado River Basin.
“Protecting endangered species living in Colorado’s natural habitat can be done in a responsible manner, and I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation,” said Gardner. “Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is a great example of a partnership between federal, state, and local agencies to promote conservation. It’s important we provide adequate resources to this project to ensure our partners on the ground have the necessary tools to protect these endangered species.”
“I’m happy to join my Western colleagues—including Utah’s newly elected Representative John Curtis—in introducing this commonsense legislation. Our bipartisan bill builds on the successful conservation efforts on the Upper Colorado River, encouraging the federal government to work in cooperation with Western states,” said Hatch. “This proposal will help guide the sustainable usage of our water resources in a way that fosters both species recovery and responsible development.”
“The Endangered Fish Recovery Programs are exemplary of the successful, collaborative conservation championed in the West by states, tribes, federal agencies, and other stakeholders,” said Bennet. “This bipartisan bill provides the resources to continue recovery efforts in the Upper Colorado River and to ensure that these endangered fish species are protected for years to come.”
“The San Juan and Upper Colorado River Fish Recovery Programs are vital to rebuilding our native fish populations that are an important part of our state’s heritage,” said Heinrich. “We cannot allow these important conservation programs to lapse and threaten the progress we’ve made up to this point. This bipartisan legislation will ensure federal, state and local agencies have the resources they need to continue protecting endangered species in the Upper Colorado River Basin.”
“The San Juan River Basin is an important region in New Mexico’s ecology, and I am pleased to introduce this bipartisan legislation to continue the collaborative efforts to help protect the area’s endangered species,” said Udall. “The most successful way we can balance the needs of water security with species conservation is to work collaboratively with local, state, Tribal, federal and non-governmental partners to find solutions. This initiative has been an excellent example of how we can conserve natural habitats by working together.”
Representative John Curtis (UT-3) introduced the House companion legislation.
CWC supports the bipartisan efforts in both the House and Senate to provide funding for the Endangered Fish Recovery Program through 2023, and will submit letters of support for both pieces of legislation by tomorrow, December 1st, 2017.
A huge Thank You to Tom Pitts, who has worked tirelessly to further protection for endangered species in the Upper Colorado River.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):
Three Republicans and four Democrat senators introduced legislation Wednesday to extend a program aimed at recovering endangered fish in the upper Colorado River Basin.
The legislation would extend the program until 2023. It includes three states, including Colorado, in the program that was designed to recover the Colorado pikeminnow, razorback sucker and the humpback and bonytail chubs.
The program was established in 1988 as a way of recovering the fish while also allowing development of the river on the Western Slope, in Utah and downstream…
Program officials had voiced optimism that they might be able to remove the pikeminnow from the endangered species list, but told The Daily Sentinel that the pikeminnow is falling prey to walleye in the Colorado River below the Grand Valley.
Predation by walleye is a setback to the hopes of removing the pikeminnow from the endangered species list or “downlisting” it as threatened.
The bill also was introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, both New Mexico Democrats.
A Utah Republican elected this month, John Curtis, introduced companion legislation in the House.
Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased by 850 cfs between Friday, December 1st and Saturday, December 2nd. Releases are being increased as part of winter operations to lower the level of Blue Mesa Reservoir nearer to the winter elevation target as well as managing releases with consideration to wintertime hydropower demands.
Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for December.
Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are at 0 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at 0 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 1600 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.
Here’s an interview with Wade Crowfoot from Mitch Tobin that’s running in Water Deeply. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
A new poll commissioned by the Water Foundation looks at the views of residents of 12 Western states on a range of water issues, including climate change, policy and cost, explains Wade Crowfoot, the foundation’s chief executive.
WHAT DO WESTERNERS think about water issues? What worries them? What policies do they support? Where is there consensus and division?
To answer these questions, the Water Foundation recently commissioned a wide-ranging public opinion survey of voters in 12 Western states. The poll covered diverse topics, including general awareness of water issues, opinions on policy measures, perceptions about the value of water, and beliefs about both weather and climate change.
To learn more about the poll’s motivation, findings and implications, I recently interviewed Water Foundation chief executive Wade Crowfoot.
Mitch Tobin: What were the key takeaways from the poll? What was most striking or surprising?
Wade Crowfoot: Based on conventional wisdom about Western water involving a lot of conflict, I thought that there would be sharp disagreements about water issues in the poll. So I was really surprised that across 12 states and different demographic groups, a lot of similarity exists in perceptions of water issues.
The poll showed that across the region, Westerners believe that water supplies are becoming less predictable each year. But these folks also believe there is enough water for all users: cities, farms, recreation and the environment. Westerners are also strong on the need to modernize infrastructure, and actually willing to pay higher water bills for infrastructure investment. Strong majorities across the West support the idea of paying more on their water bill if it can deliver infrastructure that will secure reliable supplies of clean water in the future.