#Colorado counties qualify for @USDA disaster assistance

High Plains Drought Monitor March 27, 2018.

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

The United States Department of Agriculture has declared four southern Colorado counties to be primary natural disaster areas due to losses and damages caused by ongoing drought conditions in the area.

This week, Bent, Custer, Huerfano and Prowers counties joined Baca and Las Animas Counties, which were declared earlier this month, in qualifying for assistance from the USDA. Adjoining counties, including Alamosa, Costilla, Fremont, Kiowa, and Saguache, also qualify for disaster assistance. Other counties adjoining the four new designees were already qualified in the previous declarations. Farmers and ranchers in Greeley, Hamilton and Stanton county, Kansas, are also eligible.

Qualified producers in the designated areas and adjoining counties can apply for emergency loans through the Farm Service Agency. Those who are eligible have eight months from the date of a declaration – March 29, 2018 – to apply for loans to cover part of their losses. Farmers and ranchers can contact their local USDA service center for additional information about the application process, or check http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.

Aspinall Unit operations update: Gunnison Tunnel diverting for the season

Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit have been increasing over the last couple weeks as diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel have begun. So far these release changes have kept the flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon around 630 cfs. Diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are expected to increase again this week. This time releases from Crystal Dam will remain unchanged and Gunnison River flows will decrease accordingly. It is expected that river flows will decrease by 100-200 cfs this week. Currently snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is at 72% of normal. The latest runoff volume forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir projects 360,000 AF of inflow between April and July, which is 53% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 890 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 890 cfs for April and May.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 620 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 630 cfs. By the end of the week Gunnison Tunnel diversions could be in the 700 to 800 cfs range and river flows could be in the 400 to 500 cfs range. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

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Denver Water discount program makes creating your own vibrant, low-water landscape inexpensive and easy.

Source: No green thumb required! – News on TAP

2018 #COleg: HB 18-1301 would update the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act, or CMLRA

Colorado abandoned mines

From The Durango Telegraph (Tracy Chamberlin):

In an effort to prevent the remnants of hard-rock mining from tainting the region’s waterways in the future, Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, along with co-sponsors Reps. Dylan Roberts, D-Eagle, and Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, introduced HB 18-1301 last week.

Conservation groups, like San Juan Citizens Alliance and Conservation Colorado, lauded the bill’s introduction.

“It’s simple: our drinking water should be clean,” Kristin Green, water advocate for Conservation Colorado, said in a press release. “That’s why (this bill) is so critical. Our state’s mining laws are in dire need of an update.”

The bill is meant to be just that – an update to the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Act, or CMLRA. Under the act, mining companies are required to reclaim and clean up the land they mine, but those same protections don’t extend to water quality. This new bill, which only applies to new mining permits, would make water as much of a priority as land is under the CMLRA.

First, it would require water quality – including treatment and monitoring – be a part of the calculations used to determine how much funding in the form of bonds needs to be set aside for cleanup. The bill also eliminates self-bonding, which is when the bond is backed only by the mining company itself. The concern with self-bonding is if the company goes bankrupt, Colorado taxpayers would be stuck with the bill. Finally, HB 18-1301 requires mining companies submit a plan for water-quality treatment and set an end date for operations.

“These common-sense updates to existing policy would move Colorado toward a more sustainable and responsible mining future,” Marcel Gaztambide, Animas Riverkeeper for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said in a press release.

The next step for the bill is review by the Colorado House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee on Mon., April 2.

Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 11-12, 2018

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

From the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum via The Pueblo Chieftain:

Streams of funding will become important to keep streams of water flowing in Colorado in the coming decades, Gov. John Hickenlooper’s top water adviser says.

“We are looking at the appropriate revenue streams,” said John Stulp, the governor’s adviser. “One of the key questions is: How do you build certainty that new methods don’t dry up agriculture?”

Stulp, whose home base is a farm-ranch operation in Prowers County, will speak at the 2018 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, April 11-12 in La Junta. This year’s forum is dedicated to the issues facing the Lower Arkansas Valley. Water lawyer David Robbins, who defended state interests in the Kansas v. Colorado case before the U.S. Supreme Court, will open the conference, while Stulp will offer closing remarks.

Colorado’s Water Plan, completed in 2015, calls for $3 billion of new state investment in water projects from 2020-50, or about $100 million annually. Much of Stulp’s time working with the state Interbasin Compact Committee has been spent figuring out just how to do that.

“We looked at 110 possibilities, then narrowed that to about 12. About four of those rose to the top,” Stulp said.

Those ideas included:

An excise tax on water activities, including recreation.

A tap fee on all water users’ bills.

A bottle fee on beverage containers.

A one-time tap fee on new construction.

In addition, a bill introduced late in the 2017 legislative session proposed a 0.1 percent sales tax to fund water.

“None of the ideas have been implemented,” Stulp said. “It’s been a very general discussion.”

Funding is also a very real issue at present. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has borrowed $10 million from its construction fund to fund Basin Roundtable projects that formerly would have been funded through mineral severance fees, which were curtailed by a court decision. Roundtables have been more selective in choosing projects that adhere to the Water Plan.

“I think it’s been a good refresher for the roundtables to look at their Basin Implementation Plans and decide which projects to fund at the local level and which to take to the state level,” Stulp said. “The Arkansas Basin Roundtable has been very active and has come up with good ideas for the valley and to take back to the rest of the state.”

[The] water forum at Otero Junior College in La Junta will include a series of presentations on agriculture, municipal water supply, environmental concerns, water quality and watershed restoration. For information, go to http://rbwf.com.

CDPHE seeks volunteers who were exposed to Widefield aquifer pollution

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From KOAA.com (Jessica Barreto):

Investigators with the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado School of Mines are looking for volunteers who were exposed to tainted water in the Fountain, Security and Widefield area back in 2015…

“The compounds are persistent so they are still in people’s bodies, likely if they were exposed,” said Dr. John Adgate, principal investigator at the Colorado School of Public Health.

In order to know for sure, for their sake and the sake of those affected, researchers will need to look at blood samples.

“It’s important for individuals because they’ll get to know what their body burden is, what their levels are,” Dr. Adgate added.

Investigators will use those blood samples to see whether immune function, liver function and cholesterol levels changed because of the previous exposure to those chemicals.

These blood samples, along with samples from private wells in Fountain and Security, will also help researchers figure out how long the contamination was occurring prior to 2015.

Liz Rosenbaum, founder of the Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition, says it’s important the community learn more about these possible health effects.

“We need to be aware of what we’ve been exposed to, potential health effects later on in our lives so we can deal with it so it’s not a surprise,” she said.

A $275,000 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences is helping fund the study.

Right now, researchers need more than 200 volunteers to sign up and they plan to follow up with 50 volunteers again the following year so see how these compounds are changing over time…

Volunteers will also have to fill out a questionnaire and they’ll receive a gift card for participating.

In order to qualify for this study you must meet the following criteria:

  • be 18 years old or older
  • live within the affected area for at least 3 years
  • be a non-smoker (tobacco and marijuana within the past 12 months)
  • cannot be pregnant
  • cannot have certain serious chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes or lupus
  • You can find out out how sign up for the study here.