Trenchless technology is being used to extend the life of a pipe with reduced impacts to the community.
Click here to read the assessment. Here’s an excerpt:
The latest monthly briefing was posted [April 10, 2018] on the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard. The highlights, also provided below, cover current snowpack and drought conditions, seasonal runoff forecasts, March precipitation and temperature, and ENSO conditions and outlooks.
Snowpack conditions in Utah and the southern half of Colorado remain very poor after below- to near-normal March precipitation. Very low spring-summer runoff is increasingly likely in these basins. Severe to extreme drought conditions have spread and now cover more than half of both states. In nearly all Utah basins, and in Colorado basins south of I-70, the snowpack remains at near-record-low conditions, with 30-60% of normal SWE for early April. The Bear, Upper Green (within Utah), Yampa-White, Colorado River headwaters, South Platte, and North Platte basins have held steady or improved in the past month, with 80-100% of normal SWE. In Wyoming, all but a few basins have above-normal SWE, with most basins at 110-140% of normal. The seasonal runoff forecasts issued for April 1 by NRCS and NOAA provide a grim picture similar to previous months. The forecasted runoff for nearly all points in Utah and the southern half of Colorado is in the range of 20-65% of average, while in northern half of Colorado, the forecasted runoff is 65-90% of average. Wyoming’s outlook is much better, with most points expected to have above-average runoff, and few points below 80% of average. The April 1 NRCS and NOAA forecasts for Lake Powell inflows are down slightly from the previous month and call for 38% and 43% of average runoff, respectively. March precipitation was overall near-normal for Utah and Wyoming, but below normal for Colorado. March temperatures were above normal in Colorado and southern Wyoming, and overall cooler than normal in Utah and northern Wyoming. The first half of this water year (October-March) was the 2nd driest and 6th warmest on record for Utah, and the 4th driest and 5th warmest on record for Colorado. Since early March, drought conditions have worsened in central and northeastern Utah and central and southern Colorado, with D3 (extreme drought) conditions expanding in both states. As of April 3, 59% of Utah is in D2 or D3, and the remainder in D0 or D1; in Colorado, 51% is in D2-D3, and 38% in D0-D1; and in Wyoming, only 14% is in D0-D1, with no D2-D3. Weak La Niña conditions still persist in the central tropical Pacific, with a transition back to ENSO-neutral conditions still likely by late spring. Historically, weak to moderate La Niña events carry increased odds for below-normal March-May precipitation for Utah and Colorado, which is reflected in the CPC seasonal outlook for that period.
From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):
A Dolores Basin snowpack that came in at half its normal level means McPhee Reservoir will not fill to capacity, and farmers may receive 20 percent less water this season.
On Thursday, Dolores Water Conservancy District managers estimated that full-service irrigators will have 17 inches of water per acre available for their crops, down from 22 inches per acre when McPhee is full.
The shortage also will impact Ute Farm and Ranch water supplies drawn from McPhee, and the fishery pool reserved for habitat below the dam. Ute Farm and Ranch also is estimated to take about a 20 percent cut, with delivery at 18,900 acre-feet, compared with 23,300 acre-feet when there is a full supply.
The reserved fish pool, released from the dam over the year by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, dropped to 23,100 acre-feet from a supply of 29,300 acre-feet when the reservoir is full.
Municipal water supplies from McPhee serving Cortez and Towaoc do not share in the shortage and will receive full allocations.
Because of the dry winter and spring, there will be no recreational whitewater release this year below the dam.
Carryover storage of 125,500 acre-feet – active supply left in the reservoir from last winter’s above-average snowpack – is helping to buffer this winter’s lack of moisture, officials said…
The 2018 runoff forecast from the Dolores River into McPhee is comparable to the extremely dry years of 2013 and 2002, when farmers received just 6-7 inches per acre, a 72 percent shortage.
During an average winter, total runoff into the Dolores River from snowpack is 295,000 acre-feet. This year, models predict runoff of just 50,000 acre-feet…
Hurting this year’s McPhee supply is that there is no low-elevation snow. Feeders such as House and Beaver creeks are usually chock-full of rushing water this time of year, but they are now bone-dry.
Dry soil conditions left over from the fall are also negatively impacting supply.
Limited snowpack remains above 10,000 feet, but it might be absorbed into the ground before making it into the river.
The water-supply prediction is based on snowpack measurements in the mountains and runoff modeling. It is an inexact science, so final supplies could rise or fall.
Variables such as warm or cold weather, soil moisture, wind, dust on snow, spring precipitation and fall monsoons impact the final amount of water supply in myriad ways.
Farmers are closely watching supply forecasts in order to plan for the season. The amount of available water determines how many acres they will farm, and how much fertilizer, herbicide and seed they will buy.
From The Crested Butte News (Kristy Acuff):
The Bureau of Reclamation issued its preliminary summer operations plan for Taylor Park Reservoir and, while the numbers indicate low flows, water managers predict ample water for rafting and fishing enthusiasts alike.
The Bureau plans to release 250 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the month of June and then bump that up to 300 cfs for July. Flows will drop back down to 250 cfs during August…
In comparison, water managers released 757 cfs in the Taylor River during June 2017 and around 400 cfs during July and August 2017.
The release schedule is subject to change based on precipitation this spring. In May 2015, for example, the release schedule was forecast as 63 percent of normal (similar to this year), but after a month of heavy precipitation, the reservoir flows jumped to 87 percent of normal, prompting water managers to dub it a “miracle May.”
“We would love another miracle May,” says Frank Kugel, general manager of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District. “In 2015 the area received between four and seven and a half inches of precipitation for the month, which boosted the flow levels considerably.”
The Bureau’s Taylor Park Reservoir April 1 forecast estimates 62,000 acre-feet of runoff between April and July 2018. This is 63 percent of average and officially categorizes this year’s runoff as “dry.” The Bureau of Reclamation will update this estimate in May with another forecast.
From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):
Drought conditions continued to evolve in Colorado this week, with improvements for north central counties, and extreme drought continuing to encroach on areas in the south.
Extreme drought increased slightly in northeast Prowers county. Extreme conditions also spread to cover most of Archuleta county, and much of the southern half of Mineral county in southwest Colorado.
Severe conditions continued to advance northward in eastern Colorado, encompassing the eastern third of El Paso county, most of Lincoln county, and southeast Elbert county.
The north central and northwest parts of the state continued to show improvement. Jackson and Summit counties are largely drought-free for the first time since December. Moderate drought conditions across the area improved to abnormally dry for Routt county and the northern half of Park county. Severe drought also gave way to moderate conditions in Eagle county. The area is under a winter weather advisory going into the weekend, with some potential for further improvement with the next update.
Overall, more than 12 percent of the state is drought-free, up slightly from last week. Abnormally dry conditions increased by about two percent as areas shifted out of higher drought categories. Moderate drought also improved from about 22 percent of the state to just under 16 percent. Severe drought increased to a bit more than 29 percent from just under 28 percent. Extreme drought increased to nearly one quarter of the state’s area.
From The Las Cruces Sun News:
Some of the lowest snowpack reports on record will mean difficult decisions ahead for water managers, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Office and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Thursday in their annual operating plan for the Rio Grande.
The April forecast data released by the Natural Resources Conservation Service shows drought conditions throughout the state. The Jemez River Basin is at just 6 percent of average. The Chama River Basin is at 18 percent of average, and the Upper Rio Grande is at 50 percent of average. El Vado Reservoir could be nearly empty by July.
On the Rio Grande Project in southern New Mexico, the allocation to the two irrigation districts and Mexico is about 60 percent of a full allocation, the Bureau of Reclamation said. Both irrigation districts had some carryover water in storage from last year.
Little inflow is expected to Elephant Butte Reservoir this spring, and it could be left holding less than 5 percent of its capacity at the end of the irrigation season.
The federal drought map shows dry conditions have expanded in Arizona and intensified across northern New Mexico…
Some areas of Union and Colfax counties in northeastern New Mexico have received less that 5 percent of normal precipitation over the past six months, leaving wheat crops in poor shape. Many areas went over 100 days without moisture…
Overall, nearly half of New Mexico and Arizona are facing extreme drought or worse conditions while about 60 percent of Utah is under severe drought, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center.
The Bureau of Reclamation is working with its partners to implement a survival strategy for the Rio Grande silvery minnow, as outlined in the 2016 Middle Rio Grande Biological Opinion. They are coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure fish rescue crews are active in the areas of the river that have dried. And, they are working with the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Albuquerque Water Utility Authority, and other stakeholders to facilitate silvery minnow egg collection efforts.
Drought is prevalant across the American Southwest as extreme conditions spread from Oklahoma to Utah, according to new federal data released Thursday.
On the southern high plains, Oklahoma remains ground zero for the worst drought conditions in the United States. About 20 percent of the state is facing exceptional drought conditions — the worst possible classification.
Most of Colorado also is under severe drought and almost all of the Texas Panhandle is seeing extreme drought or worse conditions.
From the New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):
As high winds whipped dust, Siberian elm seeds and recycling bins around Albuquerque Thursday afternoon, dozens of people filed into the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Albuquerque office to hear the agency’s 2018 forecast for water operations on the Rio Grande.
“I’ll be the bearer of bad news,” said Reclamation’s Albuquerque Area Manager Jennifer Faler. “This is the most extreme shift we’ve had from one operating plan meeting to another.”
Last year at this time, snowmelt was pouring down the river, flooding riparian restoration projects, filling out farm fields and even pressing against levees. This year, the lack of snowpack throughout the watershed’s mountain ranges has left the Rio Grande low and slow—and dry for 14 miles south of Socorro. Currently, the river is dry through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge.
“It’s fortunate we have those dams and reservoirs up there,” Faler said, referring to reservoirs in northern New Mexico that store water for the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District and the Albuquerque-Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. “That’s why we have them,” she said.
But later this summer, the conservancy district’s water storage is expected to run out, as is Reclamation’s supplemental water. That refers to water the federal agency leases to boost flows in the river and protect endangered species like the Rio Grande Silvery Minnow.
“We do expect to see drying in the Albuquerque reach this year,” Faler said, of the stretch of the Rio Grande that runs through the state’s largest city.
“And misery loves company,” she said. “On the Pecos [River], we’re expecting zero runoff from snowmelt into the reservoirs this year.”
During his presentation of the 2018 operating plan for the Rio Grande, which is compiled each year by Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, hydrologist Ed Kandl offered more details.
In addition to the news about the conservancy district’s stored water, and Reclamation’s supplemental water, running out, Kandl said New Mexico will likely enter into what’s called Article 7 conditions on the Rio Grande by May.
Under the Rio Grande Compact—the agreement under which Colorado, New Mexico and Texas share the river’s water—New Mexico is not allowed to store water in upstream reservoirs if Rio Grande Project storage is less than 400,000 acre feet in Elephant Butte and Caballo reservoirs. Reclamation’s Rio Grande Project supplies water to Texas, and also farmers in southern New Mexico.
Kandl shared slides forecasting flows along the Rio Grande based on the winter’s snowpack analysis. Of the Embudo gage in northern New Mexico, he said, “We’ll be flirting with 100 cfs throughout most of the year.” Already this year, that stretch of the river has been running at less than half what it normally does.
The “scariest” one, Kandl said, is the 2018 flows for the Rio Grande at the Central Avenue Bridge in Albuquerque, where the river will likely dry this spring and summer.
Kandl and Faler both said area residents should be prepared to see the dry riverbed. “The worst part is still coming,” Kandl said, “Though, maybe we’ll have a good monsoon.”
Over the next several months, Reclamation will also begin working with its stakeholders to update a basin-wide study of the impacts of climate change on the Upper Rio Grande…
The one “bright spot,” according to Reclamation officials on Thursday, is for rafters and recreationists on the Chama River. Because the agency will be releasing water from upstream reservoirs, the river’s flows will be good for rafting and kayaking.
Here’s the release from the Trust for Public Land:
Broad coalition protects more than 4,300 acres with help from the largest-ever GOCO grant
The Trust for Public Land today announced the final-stage closing in the protection of 4,377 acres of working ranchland in the scenic valleys of the Gunnison and East Rivers between Gunnison and Crested Butte. The protection effort, for land on the Trampe Ranch, was completed through three working-ranch conservation easements and with help from a $10 million grant from the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) funding program, the largest single transaction grant in the organization’s history.
The easements prevent subdivision and development of scenic ranchlands stretching for 30 miles in one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes. These lands are essential to agriculture, with Trampe Ranch generating 20 percent of Gunnison County’s agricultural economy. In addition, the conserved lands provide scenic views that attract tourists and visitors, include habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, and serve as research lands for scientists from the nearby Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
“The lands and waters of the Trampe Ranch play such an important role in defining the character and sense of place of one of Colorado’s last, great mountain valleys,” said Jim Petterson, The Trust for Public Land’s Southwest and Colorado Director. “This project brought together a deep and broad partnership of individuals, governments and organizations, all allied around a shared commitment of helping local communities fulfill their visions for how they want to grow and what they want to preserve.”
Efforts to protect ranchlands and open space in the Gunnison Valley began in the 1980s in an alliance between local land trusts, national conservation groups, funders like GOCO, local governments, and agricultural landowners, including Trampe Ranch owner Bill Trampe, who has been a leader in encouraging ranchers to conserve their land with easements. With the completion of the most recent project, Trampe Ranch has more than 6,000 acres under easement.
“GOCO is proud to be one of the partners to help make this monumental land conservation effort possible, and our Board of Trustees and staff are eternally grateful to Bill Trampe for his vision, leadership, and generosity,” said GOCO Executive Director Chris Castilian. “Trampe Ranch received GOCO’s largest ever, single transaction grant award at $10 million, because conserving this iconic property means the protection of vital agricultural land and stunning scenic views for those who will recreate on beautiful, adjacent public lands for generations to come.”
“What this one very special place means to the Gunnison Valley and to our entire state cannot be overstated. Today we join our fellow Coloradans in celebrating Bill Trampe, his family, and all they have accomplished,” added Castilian.
In addition to the GOCO grant, funding for the project came from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the towns of Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte, Gunnison County, The Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, Crested Butte Land Trust, and 1% for Open Space, a consortium of Gunnison County businesses that collects a voluntary donation of 1% of sales for its customers to fund open space conservation in Gunnison Valley. Additional private funding came from a multi-million dollar campaign. Trampe Ranch also donated a significant portion of the conservation easement value toward the project.
“This land has been the heart of our ranch for more than 100 years,” said Bill Trampe. “Conservation of our home place means this land is available forever for agriculture.”
Local partners cheered the completion of the conservation effort.
“We are very excited to see this critical step in the conservation of the East River Valley,” said Dr. Ian Billick, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. “Keeping the properties in ranching is one of the most important things we could do to leverage the nation’s large investment in the field research that helps us manage our water, air, and food.”
“Nothing is more important than the preservation of the natural state of Colorado and its heritage of ranching. Especially in this day and age when there seems to be a valid threat to open spaces throughout the West,” said Mayor Jim Schmidt from the Town of Crested Butte.
“We are very excited about the completion of this final conservation easement,” said Carlos Fernandez, Colorado State Director for The Nature Conservancy. “The Trampe Ranch is a spectacular property with some of the most outstanding scenery in Colorado. Conserving this iconic ranch leaves an amazing legacy for the Gunnison Valley, reminding us of Colorado’s history and landscape.”
From The Crested Butte News (Mark Reaman):
One of the most significant land preservation actions in Colorado concluded Tuesday, April 10 with the closing of the last parcel of the Trampe Ranch property in Gunnison County. The final closing puts thousands of acres of prime ranchland stretching from Gunnison to Gothic into a conservation easement that is meant to keep the property free of development and focused on agriculture in perpetuity.
This multimillion-dollar deal was broken up into three parts totaling 4,377 acres. The first step took place in February 2017 when the 1,447-acre Trampe Home Ranch was preserved. That parcel, located near Gunnison, resulted in Gunnison sage grouse habitat being protected.
“This land has been the heart of our ranch for more than 100 years,” said Bill Trampe at the time. “The meadows and pastures are the resource base for ranch production, and also provide habitat for Gunnison sage grouse and other wildlife species. Conservation of our home place means this land is available forever for agriculture and for the birds.”
The second phase of the overall effort took place in October 2017 when 284 acres were preserved in the corridor between Gunnison and Crested Butte near Jack’s Cabin. And Tuesday’s 2,647-acre closing put land primarily located in the Upper East River Valley near Crested Butte into the conservation easement.
The Nature Conservancy is the holder of the Trampe Ranch conservation easement and the Trust for Pubic Land facilitated the transactions and led the public and private fundraising campaign…
While 4,377 acres were protected in these latest three closings, in sum total, the Trampe Ranch will have close to 6,000 protected acres from prior projects near Roaring Judy Fish Hatchery.
From The Denver Post via The Fort Morgan Times:
Conditions are setting up what could be the worst summer wildfire season in Colorado since the one-two punch of 2012 and 2013, officials said Friday, when devastating blazes ravaged areas across the state.
“It appears that this will probably be the worst one, forecast-wise, in quite some time,” said Mike Morgan, director of the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control. “Abnormally dry weather and a dry winter has left our mountains nearly barren.”
While state fire officials hedged that it’s too early to have a hard-and-fast prediction for what fire conditions will be this summer, things aren’t looking up.
Snowpack levels, especially in the southeast and southwest parts of the state, are much lower than normal. On top of that, the U.S. Drought Monitor says as of Thursday that 87.62 percent of the state is either experiencing abnormally dry, moderate drought, severe drought or extreme drought conditions.
Only extreme northeast Colorado and the northern mountains bordering Wyoming are in the clear…
Since the 2012 and 2013 fire seasons, when the Black Forest, Waldo Canyon and High Park fires caused hundreds of millions in dollars in damage and consumed hundreds of homes, Colorado has bolstered its ability to respond to wildland blazes, spending millions of dollars to be better prepared.
That includes the purchase of two high-tech, single-engine airplanes capable of detecting hot spots and problem areas from above. The airplanes — specially outfitted Pilatus PC-12s, which cost several million dollars each — are also able to identify new fires much faster than before…
The state also is in contract negotiations to get aid from the “Global Supertanker” — a converted 747 jumbo jet capable of dropping massive loads of water and fire retardant on blazes.
Fire behavior has been mild in Colorado since 2013, meaning this summer could be the first real test for the innovations.
State lawmakers this legislative session are seeking to spend even more on prevention efforts, in addition to federal wildfire-fighting funding changes that are expected to begin bolstering the U.S. Forest Service this year.
“I think it’s safe to say that we are more prepared now than we ever have been,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “We are now so much better prepared.”
Click here to read the letter.
From Inkstain (John Fleck):
Upper Colorado River Basin state leaders, in a letter Friday (April 13, 2018), said the water management approach being taken by the managers of the Central Arizona Project “threaten the water supply for nearly 40 million people in the United States and Mexico, and threaten the interstate relationships and good will that must be maintained if we are to find and implement collaborative solutions” to the Colorado River’s problems.
The letter accuses CAP of “disregard(ing) the basin’s dire situation”, providing more water for Arizona at the expense of the rest of the basin. In doing so, it highlights a rift within Arizona, where an internal political feud over this and related issues has pitted CAP against the state Department of Water Resources and many of CAP’s own customers. That rift, in turn, has stalled diplomacy over efforts to develop a broad new plan to cut back water use across the Colorado River basin.
The letter, using language that is striking in the normally staid interstate diplomacy of Colorado River interstate water management, takes issue with CAP’s practice of using more water than it might otherwise – avoiding “overconserving”, in CAP’s words – in order to ensure continue big releases from Lake Powell upstream. That has the effect of expanding water use in the Lower Colorado River Basin at the expense of draining Lake Powell, the critical reservoir for protecting Upper Colorado River Basin supplies. The managers of the Central Arizona Project are “disregard(ing) the (Colorado River) basin’s dire situation at the expense of Lake Powell and all the other basin states” by using more water than they need to, the letter said.