#Drought news: Four Corners sees little to no precipitation over the last week, D3 (Extreme Drought) expanded in SE #Colorado

Click here to go the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

Summary

Moderate precipitation fell in a wide swath covering an area from Kansas and Nebraska, eastward into parts of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Additionally, moderate precipitation fell in the South and Southeast. Locally higher amounts fell in northern Florida late in the USDM period. Moisture laden systems continued to provide much needed precipitation to coastal California and the Sierra. Light to moderate precipitation fell in the Northeast, High Plains, and parts of the Rockies. The drought stricken areas of the Four Corners and the Southern Plains saw little to no precipitation…

South

Precipitation was generally below normal (0.25-1.0 inch deficits) across the region during the USDM period. During the last 30 days, much of Texas was running about 1 inch below normal for the period while the rest of the region was as much as 10 inches above normal. The dryness is beginning to affect agriculture, plant and wildlife. It was reported that cotton and corn growers in the Rio Grande Valley may begin to irrigate earlier than normal due to the abnormally dry conditions in the area. According to the USDA, 60% of wheat in Texas was in poor to very poor condition while 66% of topsoil moisture across the state was short to very short. Moderate drought was expanded in western and parts of southern Texas. Severe drought was expanded in western Texas. Drought and dryness is not currently effecting the majority of the other states of the region…

High Plains

Precipitation was a mixture of above and below normal across the region during the USDM period. Precipitation surpluses of 0.25 to 1 inch was widespread across much of the western Dakotas, eastern Wyoming, much of Nebraska, the northeastern corner of Colorado and parts of western Kansas. The eastern Dakotas, north central Wyoming and much of southern Colorado had precipitation deficits of 0.25 inch during the period. Winter wheat conditions were rated 55% poor to very poor in Kansas where 60-day precipitation departures are as much as 3 inches below normal. Recent precipitation allowed for D0 to be removed in northern Nebraska and parts of western Minnesota. Moderate drought (D1) was trimmed back in central North Dakota. Extreme drought (D3) was expanded southern Colorado…

West

Precipitation amounts during the USDM period were above normal in parts of Montana, much of Idaho, eastern Oregon, northern Utah and Nevada, and much of California. Below-normal precipitation occurred elsewhere, but was most notable in the Desert Southwest and coastal Pacific Northwest. Precipitation departures for the 30- and 60-day time periods are apparent in most of the region. The important water year-to-date precipitation amounts were running above normal in the north but running at least 25-50 percent below normal for much of the region. Mountain snowpack is less than 25 percent of normal across much of the Sierra Nevada and Intermountain West. Extreme drought (D3) was expanded in Arizona.

*For details on Eastern Colorado and Eastern Wyoming, refer to the High Plains region…

Looking Ahead

During the next 5 days, precipitation amounts are forecast to be high in much of California along with the risk of flooding. Precipitation amounts may approach 2 inches in the Intermountain West, Northwest, and parts of the High Plains. Elsewhere, a large swath totaling 0.25-2.00 inches of precipitation is projected to fall in parts of the Midwest and Northeast. The drought stricken Four Corners region, western Texas and eastern Colorado is expected to continue to be dry.

The 6-10 day outlook from the Climate Prediction Center calls for an increased chance of below-normal precipitation in the West while the highest probability of precipitation is forecast for the South. The probability of above-normal temperatures are also highest in the South. Below-normal temperatures are most likely to occur across the western third of the U.S.

Seasonal temperature, precipitation, and #drought outlooks via the CPC: Warm and on the dry side for #Colorado

Seasonal temperature outlook through June 30, 2018 via the CPC.
Seasonal precipitation outlook through June 30, 2018 via the CPC.
Seasonal drought outlook through June 30, 2018 via the CPC.

Steamboat “State of the River” meeting recap

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

“The key with Lake Powell is that it is our river savings account,” Andy Mueller told a gathering of more than 200 people who packed into the Steamboat Springs Community Center Tuesday night for the Steamboat State of the River meeting, less than 50 feet from the banks of the Yampa River…

Less understood, Mueller said, is the Colorado River District’s stake in power generation at Glen Canyon Dam, where water levels are coming perilously close to dropping below the intakes for the power plant.

“It really starts with power generation at Lake Powell,” Mueller said. “That dam is a cash register for those of us on the river. It pays for the Colorado Endangered Fish Program, which allows all of us in Colorado to continue to divert water while the endangered fish are being protected.”

[…]

Mueller told his Steamboat audience that agricultural water rights continue to be of preeminent importance in the district.

“On the Western Slope, try to picture what it would look like without ag. It is a very different world if we don’t have irrigated agricultural land,” he said. “That’s where the water is. Eighty percent of the water consumed on the Western Slope is in ag. We have to protect this agriculture, and a lot of that has to do with agricultural water rights.”

[…]

The district represents about 28 percent of the physical land mass in Colorado but is home to just 500,000 of the 5 million people in the state. And 57 percent of the water produced statewide comes from the Colorado River District…

Lake Powell, backed up by Glen Canyon Dam, just above the Grand Canyon, is where the Rocky Mountain states, including Utah, Wyoming and the northern portions of Arizona and New Mexico store water to ensure they can meet their obligations to send water to the lower basins states including California, Nevada and southern New Mexico and Arizona.

As of 1999 the reservoir was almost full. But subsequent drought years, notably 2002, drew the reservoir down. It took until 2012 to slowly re-build storage in the vast reservoir, but snowpacks in the Colorado Basin have not been generous since.

As winters have grown milder, river flows are sapped and extended growing seasons are also resulting in plants absorbing more of the available water.

“We’re working on cloud seeding, but you have to have storm events in order to hit them with the silver iodide,” Mueller said.

Jerry Forte announces retirement from @CSUtilities

Southern Delivery System map via Colorado Springs Utilities

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, who oversaw the massive expansion of the city’s water supply and the decision to eventually shutter the downtown, coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, will retire at the end of May.

Forte, 63, who was earning nearly $450,000 this year, said he told the Utilities board of his plans Wednesday in an executive session.

“It’s something that we’ve worked on, we developed a transition plan and it was just a matter of when the time is right,” Forte said. “And for me, I think the time is just right.”

A Colorado Springs native, Forte was with the municipal utility since 2002. He was the chief operating officer his first four years with Utilities before being promoted to chief executive officer in 2006.

Omnibus bill for funding U.S. government now includes #FireFix funds for fighting wildfire @SenBennetCO @SenCoryGardner

Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012

From US Senators Bennet and Gardner via The Kiowa County Press:

After years of work, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D) and Cory Gardner (R) today secured a long-term fire funding fix in the omnibus spending bill being considered in Congress this week to end fire borrowing and improve how the federal government pays to fight wildfires.

“The Forest Service plays an important role in Colorado’s economy –affecting our water supply, outdoor recreation, and timber industry,” Bennet said. “Its ability to budget effectively and efficiently is critical to our economic success. Because of the pressures that wildfires have brought to the West, as well as the challenges of climate change and development, the antiquated way we pay for firefighting needed dramatic change. This bipartisan fix transforms and modernizes the Forest Service’s capacity to restore forest health and mitigate and fight wildfires. It allows the Forest Service to complete the entirety of its mission, without being undermined by the pressures of fire.”

“I have been working on ending the practice of fire borrowing throughout my time in the House and Senate, and today’s announcement that our bipartisan fire funding fix is included in the spending bill is good news for Colorado,” Gardner said. “Year after year, much of the West is forced to deal with horrible wildfires that burn millions of acres, and funding that should be applied to fire prevention and mitigation projects is instead spent by the Forest Service fighting these fires. Our provision will ensure the Forest Service has the necessary funding for cleanup and prevention efforts that will help reduce the amount of catastrophic wildfires the Forest Service has to fight.”

Unlike for other natural disasters, where agencies can draw from an emergency fund to pay for disaster response, the U.S. Forest Service and Interior Department do not have access to disaster funds and are forced to “fire borrow” – or take money from fire prevention and other non-fire accounts to pay to fight fires.

The deal secured in this week’s omnibus, based on the framework from Bennet and Gardner’s Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, restructures how the Forest Service pays to fight wildfires, putting an end to fire borrowing and providing much-needed budget certainty through Fiscal Year 2027. The fire fix is two-fold: It freezes the ten-year average cost used to budget for wildfires at Fiscal Year 2015 levels, and also establishes a separate account for fire suppression that can be used once the cost exceeds these levels.

The deal also includes conservation priorities that Bennet and Gardner have cosponsored, such as the reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA) that funds high-priority land conservation projects in Western states, and a two-year reauthorization of Secure Rural Schools.

Lastly, the deal includes bipartisan forest management reforms, several of which improve upon Bennet-authored laws passed in the 2014 Farm Bill, such as stewardship contracting and Good Neighbor Authority.