GOCO funds two San Luis Valley projects

1869 Map of San Luis Parc of Colorado and Northern New Mexico. “Sawatch Lake” at the east of the San Luis Valley is in the closed basin. The Blanca Wetlands are at the south end of the lake.

From Great Outdoors Colorado via The Alamosa News:

The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) board on Thursday announced funding awards for two San Luis Valley projects.

GOCO awarded the City of Alamosa $347,794 for construction of a community park in the Montaña Azul subdivision and awarded Costilla County a $225,274 grant to add approximately 125 acres to Batenburg Meadows, creating permanent access to public lands for residents along Rito Seco Creek. The projects were two of 14 selected for funding from a pool of 59, with funding requested totaling more than triple what was available.

The GOCO Local Park and Outdoor Recreation grant for Alamosa will help complete the first phase of building Montaña Azul Park, pictured above, which currently serves as a stormwater retention area. After development, the 5.6-acre park will continue to store storm water but will also provide close-to-home recreation for residents. The dual-purpose nature of the park makes it the first of its kind for the city.

The park is within walking distance of all Montaña Azul residents, who currently have no neighborhood park and who have cited transportation as a barrier to recreation, and is a short distance from Alamosa Elementary School, which will encourage more children and their families to play.

As part of phase one, centered around development of the eastern half of the park, the city will create an irrigated, youth soccer field, which will allow for multiple uses beyond soccer including football, Frisbee ®, and kite-flying. It will build a concrete basketball court, a quarter-mile walking track with native plantings, a community pavilion and shade structures, and an adaptive, ADA-accessible playground.

Construction will begin in April, and the park is slated to open to the public this fall.

To date, GOCO has invested nearly $7 million in projects in Alamosa County and has conserved more than 10,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the Alamosa Multi-Use Pavilion and Ice Rink, the Cole Park Skatepark, and the Recreation Inspires Opportunity (Alamosa RIO!) effort to get kids and families outside.

For the Costilla County project, the county has partnered with Colorado Open Lands to acquire 14 parcels comprising 125 acres of land, a particularly rare opportunity to acquire forested land for public use. Expanding Batenburg Meadows was identified by local residents as a top priority, and expanding the park will legitimize and increase public access.

Youth Conservation Camp has long been a rite of passage for generations of Costilla County youth to learn how to fish, get their hunter safety cards, and learn about local wildlife, but the program was in danger of ending due to accidental trespassing. Acquiring the additional 125 acres of land will solve that issue not only for the camp but for local residents who use the area for picnicking, fishing, and collecting firewood and piñon nuts.

Expanding public access along Rito Seco Creek will allow the county to more effectively manage wildfire risk and overall forest health. Permanently protecting the land from subdivision will also conserve wildlife habitat for elk, deer, beaver, and turkey.

In addition to the GOCO grant, $225,000 from the US Forest Service will help Costilla County complete the land acquisitions. Costilla County expects to complete all 14 acquisitions by the end of 2018 and plans to partner with San Luis Valley Great Outdoors to build a trail connecting Rito Seco Park to Batenburg Meadows.

To date, GOCO has invested $10.1 million in projects in Costilla County and has conserved more than 5,000 acres of land there. GOCO funding recently supported the Brownie Hills conservation project, which will create critical public lands access in the area. GOCO grants have also supported the Sangre de Cristo Greenbelt Trail and the county’s outdoor fitness center and exercise park.

Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,000 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

How Water Reuse Can Help Meet the West’s Water Needs — @wradv

Water reuse via GlobalWarming.com.

From Western Resource Advocates (Laura Belanger):

The West faces a water supply gap, and the reasons are simple. Our quickly growing cities and towns are adding demands on our already stretched water supplies. Water reuse can help us fill the gap.

So what is water reuse and why is it important? First, it’s important to understand the difference between the two primary types of reuse: potable and non-potable reuse. Many states in the West currently allow for non-potable – or purple pipe – reuse for things like landscape irrigation, industrial purposes, commercial laundries, and fire protection, among other things. But a majority of purple pipe reuse is for outdoor landscape irrigation which really only benefits us during irrigation months (less than half of the year). But with potable reuse – where water is treated to very high quality standards to ensure it’s safe and often blended with other supplies – that water can be used anytime, anywhere and for anything. Potable reuse helps stretch supplies and meet more demand with the same volume of water. And it doesn’t require an entirely separate set of pipes (purple) to deliver it.

Western Resource Advocates is working with water utilities, local and state agencies, and other organizations to help increase water reuse around the West to address this growing problem. In Colorado specifically, WRA is working with a diverse group of stakeholders to help develop regulations for direct potable reuse and advance legislation to increase reuse to help the state’s water supplies. Recycled water has been used for decades in Colorado and states across the nation and has long been proven to be a safe, cost-effective tool for additional water supply. In fact, the State of the Rockies Poll found that 78% of westerners “support using our current water supply more wisely by encouraging more conservation and increasing water recycling.“

Currently, WRA and our partners are working to advance four bills in the Colorado legislature that would allow recycled water to be used for:

  • toilet flushing,
  • marijuana cultivation,
  • edible crop and community garden irrigation, and
  • growth of industrial hemp.
  • Other states, like Florida, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, currently allow for recycled water to be used for toilet flushing and edible crop irrigation, and have successfully supplemented their water supplies this way. Colorado’s Water Plan also specifically calls for state agencies to identify how the state can foster increased reuse to help address growing demands, and these initiatives are a great step in that direction. By embracing water reuse for these applications and others we can help bolster our stretched water supplies, and work to help shrink the gap between those supplies and the demands of our growing cities and towns. Water reuse, in concert with other water-smart tools and strategies, can help us provide for our communities while also protecting our beloved rivers and lakes, keeping them healthy and preserving the quality of life that they afford for all of us.

    We are all neighbors along the Rio Grande — Wild Earth Guardians

    The drying riverbed of the Middle Rio Grande near the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge on April 4, 2018. Photo credit: USBR

    From Wild Earth Guardians (Jen Pelz):

    To protect the river as a whole, we must join together in a basin-wide community

    I admit that I personally had all but abandoned the 1,250 miles of the Rio Grande from Elephant Butte Reservoir in New Mexico to the Gulf of Mexico. It is difficult to work on more than 600 miles of the river, let alone the entire 1,896 miles. It seemed necessary for self-preservation. The reality of the problems the Rio Grande faces from source to sea is vast:

  • Climate change is predicted to reduce flows in the Rio Grande by 25 percent in Colorado, 35 percent in New Mexico, and over 50 percent in Texas and Mexico in the remainder of this century;
  • A border wall (or series of walls) could destroy connections between countries as well as migratory corridors for rare and beautiful ocelots and jaguars, among other species;
  • A 200-mile stretch of the Rio Grande known as “the forgotten reach”, between El Paso and Presido, Texas (or Ojinaga, Mexico), is already channelized and bone-dry year round;
  • Flows in the 75-mile stretch of one of America’s first Wild & Scenic Rivers—the Rio Grande from the Colorado-New Mexico state line to south of Taos, NM—is in danger of disappearing due to unsustainable use in Colorado and implementation of the Rio Grande Compact, especially during dry years; and
  • The lack of flooding and peak flows, as well as the lack of accountability of agricultural water use from the Rio Grande in central New Mexico, threatens to increase ecological damage to one of the largest contiguous cottonwood forests in the world.
  • There is no doubt the solutions to these problems are complicated and hard, but we can chart a new course for this iconic river.

    You should hear what these two rock stars of climate change have to say — The Mountain Town News

    Katharine Hayhoe. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Gina McCarthy and Katharine Hayhoe both can hold a stage like few others. McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, brims with Boston sass, her arms slicing the air as her words pound out her arguments.

    “The simple fact of the matter is that these two actions by the (Trump) administration—to pull out of the Paris agreement and also to try to repeal the Clean Power Plan—use a fundamentally flawed strategy,” she said during a recent speech at the Climate Leadership Conference in Denver. “It is fundamentally a misread of the United States of America. It is a misread of what we care about. … They have made a serious error of judgment.”

    That error, she went on to say, was to think that a new president could stop the world from changing. “The world ain’t stopping, baby. It’s changing. You can’t look at the planet and say you’re not changing.”

    Hayhoe, who is both an atmospheric scientist and an associate professor of political science at Texas Tech, lays out her arguments with less overt fire. But she, too, dazzles, her talking points sequenced like dominoes, one tripping over into the next. She employs powerful analogies.

    “Why does climate change matter?” she asked in a speech at the same conference. She pointed out that building codes, plans for snow removal, and flood-plain planning are all based on the assumption that past intervals predict those of the future.

    “What happens if the past is no longer a reliable guide and what if the variability is changing?” she asked.

    She then showed an aerial map of West Texas, flat as few places are, and the roads that are straight as arrows. You can, she said, drive down most roads looking in the rear view mirror to guide forward movement.

    But there is a highway that, after miles and miles of straight, takes a turn. She showed a picture of that curve in West Texas. Science, she went on to say, has three very important things to say about this planetary climate curve that we’re one.

    One, the climate is curving. Weather observations made over the last 20 to 30 years clearly represent a collective change in the climate. It is now changing faster than any time in the history of human civilization.

    Science can also tell us why this is happening. It’s not because of the change in solar intensity. Sunlight has been weakening for the last 40 years. Our global climate should be cooling. Instead, it is heating rapidly. Debris spewed into the atmosphere by volcanoes also fails to explain what is being observed.

    “There is no convincing alternative explanation to the warming that we see today—and trust me, we have looked at all of them,” she said.

    “There is no analog in the last 100 million years to what we see happening.”

    What does explain this rapid warming is the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused primarily by the exhausts from combustion of fossil fuels.

    The third thing science tells us is that the risk is serious.

    “We care about a changing climate because it takes the threats we face today and exacerbates them.” We are already, she added, in the crosshairs of change because of the impacts of floods, droughts, wildfire, heat waves, and hurricanes. They are natural events, “but they are being amplified. “

    This gives us three choices: mitigation, adaptation, and suffering, said Hayhoe.

    Hear and see Katharine Hayhoe talk about “Bridging the Gap between the Science and Stakeholders.”

    McCarthy, now a professor at Harvard University, was EPA administrator when the Clean Power Plan was drawn up. In Denver before her keynote address, she told reporters she doesn’t think the Trump administration will be able to cast aside the Clean Power Plan, as Trump has promised.

    “This is not going to be a downhill glide for them. It will be a big slog, and it will be in court for a very long time if they choose to do it,” said McCarthy, minus the theatrics but no less analytical.

    She said that the Clean Power Plan was carefully premised in science, every step taken to create a sturdy legal foundation. In issuing the rule in 2015, the EPA estimated it would reduce greenhouse gas emission from the power sector 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

    In fact, by 2016, emissions from the energy sector had fallen 14 percent compared to 2005 levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. But more narrowly within the electricity sector of energy, they were 25 percent below 2005 levels, according to a 2017 Congressional Research Service report. This occurred even as prices of wind and solar began tumbling with comparable price reductions for storage.

    Carl Pope, the former long-term executive director of the Sierra Club, drew from “Climate of Hope,” the book he and co-author Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor. In it, they argued that there was “actually nothing the president of the United States could do to prevent” the United States from its rapid adoption of a non-carbon-based economy. “So far, we look like pretty good prophets,” said Pope.

    The United States has continued to cut its carbon dioxide emissions, he added, and the pace of retirement of coal-fired power plants has accelerated.

    “We are retiring coal plants twice as fast since Donald Trump became president as we were in the period before Trump became president.”

    Transportation, now the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, is also changing. Electric vehicles are coming on like a tsunami, as one speaker at the conference said. Pope pointed out that the adoption rate is accelerating. Each year, new predictions are issued for 2030. Each year is 20 percent more aggressive than the year before.

    See and hear Carl Pope.

    Pope’s observations jibed with those of McCarthy in her remarks with reporters. “The world is changing,” she said. “Are we losing any momentum? Maybe, but I haven’t see that happen yet.”

    But if the changes the Clean Power Plan sought to instigate are already happening, what should happen now is investment for innovation and technologies of the future. She said restarting the Clean Power Plan will not be enough for the next presidential administration.

    Several hours later, in a keynote address at the conference, McCarthy was back to her sassy self before a friendly, even adoring audience. Here, she skewered a favorite argument of environmentalists. Saving the planet, she said, is not an effective political argument.

    “The planet will be just fine. We won’t be able to live on it. That’s a significant clarification,” she said.

    “We need to stop talking to people about the health of the planet. I don’t give a damn about the health of the planet. I give a damn about my kids’ and my future. That is what we need to remind people of. That’s what this is all about. That’s what the Paris agreement was all about.”

    It being an awards banquet, McCarthy then swiveled to recognize the businesses being recognized for their efforts to effect an energy transition. That was a theme of the conference, perhaps a play to donors. But conveniently, there’s abundant evidence that businesses—along with cities and states —are, in fact, driving the change in the absence of federal leadership.

    “We are celebrating companies that are not really doing business as usual,” said McCarthy. “They are actually doing business as unusual. That’s what we want to celebrate. That’s not the same old, same old. Businesses, cities and states are stepping up.”

    The most effective action, especially in the environmental realm, has been driven by the grassroots. “It takes a lot of us working together,” she said.

    And then she also had this key message, another theme of the conference: Government has a key role in helping disadvantaged sectors. McCarthy spoke to this “sense of equity that government can provide when we level the playing field. ,I want everybody’s world to be stepped up, everybody’s world to be elevated.”

    Hayhoe had come at the same topic a little differently. A self-described evangelical Christian, she said part of the discussion needs to be about suffering, what does it look like around the world?

    She also talked about how to talk about climate change with those who may be dubious about the need for changes. She suggested there are ample opportunities, because the changing climate “affects everything that is already high on our priority list.”

    To create a common ground with disbelievers or those who don’t think it’s a problem, first find out what they do indeed care about it.

    If it’s about water, then talk about water variability. If they care about their kids, talk about how it can affect their kids. If they’re birders or people of faith – almost everything that people consider important offers a shared value for continued conversation. Then talk about solutions. “It’s everything to do with what they perceive to be solutions.”

    Partnering to Ensure Healthy Farms on a Healthy River — @WaltonFamilyFdn

    The Grand Valley Irrigation Canal, in Palisade, heading for Grand Junction. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Walton Family Foundation (Sheldon Alberts):

    In Colorado, Farmers and Conservationists Unite to Save Water, Protect Agriculture

    High above the fertile fields of Colorado’s Grand Valley, a century-old dam stretches almost 550-feet across the mighty Colorado River.

    For 100 years, the water stored behind the gates of this iconic ‘roller’ dam – an early 20th century engineering marvel built by the US Bureau of Reclamation – has been diverted down dozens of canals and pipeline to irrigate 33,000 acres of farmland on the state’s western slope.

    Water is why agriculture remains the engine of the economy in Grand Valley. Its reliable supply is the only reason peach orchards and corn and vineyards can thrive in this arid desert landscape at all.

    Mark Harris intends to keep it that way.

    As general manager of the Grand Valley Water Users Association – the largest irrigation provider in the region – Mark’s job is to make sure he delivers the water his member farmers need to grow their crops.

    As population growth in the West fuels higher demand for water, and a changing climate increases scarcity, Mark and the GVWUA are embracing creative conservation measures – such as water banks –designed to keep the Colorado River flowing and western farms and ranches in business.

    “If you have two dry years here on the Colorado River, your toes are sticking out over the edge of the abyss from a water supply perspective,” says Mark. “We have good water here. We have a high percentage of very senior water rights. But that doesn’t make any difference if there isn’t any water in the river.”

    Concerns about water have grown steadily over the past 18 years as the West suffered through one of the most prolonged droughts in history.

    In the Colorado River’s Upper Basin, farmers and ranchers began to think the unthinkable: Would they ever be forced to curtail water use, or pressured to sell water rights, because of shortages in major cities like Denver, Phoenix or Los Angeles.

    “If we’ve got 40 million people down the river from us, looking up the river at our water, we definitely have a target on our back as far as being a potential place to look for water,” Mark says. “We wanted to get ahead of this curve a little bit. We needed to be thinking about how we protect our interests.”

    Seeking to avoid the potential chaos created by a shortage, the GVWUA is working closely with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), federal and state agencies and private funders, including the Walton Family Foundation, to test the viability of water banks as a way to prevent future crises.

    This market-based approach to conservation pays willing ranchers and farmers to temporarily limit their water use, giving them the opportunity to lease their water without selling their rights.

    In 2017, 10 Grand Valley farmers who enrolled in the Conserved Consumptive Use Pilot Project withdrew 1,250 acres of land from agricultural production, saving water they would have otherwise used to irrigate crops.

    The conserved water – about 1 billion gallons, or 3,200 acre feet – was not sent in the ditch to irrigate farms. Instead it was sent through a different ditch to the association’s hydropower plant, and returned back to the Colorado River just upstream of critical habitat for threatened native fish species. The conserved water benefited hydropower revenues and endangered fish, and bolstered storage at Lake Powell, the main reservoir in the Colorado River’s Upper Basin.

    “We are attempting to create conservation benefit that’s economically sustainable. The farmer is made whole. They receive income in lieu of his crop that he would have grown,” says Mark.

    “Instead of growing corn, or wheat, or alfalfa, on those acres, they’re actually creating available water. That’s the yield.”

    In addition to compensating farmers, the Grand Valley Water Users Association received payments to fund irrigation infrastructure improvements that will increase efficiency and keep even more water in the river.

    The $2 million program was conceived and developed over several years by the Colorado Water Bank Work Group, which brought together water users and conservationists, groups often at odds with each other.

    Taylor Hawes, director of TNC’s Colorado River Program, says farmers are willing to explore ways to protect the river because they can protect themselves in the process.

    “The one thing all water users want is certainty. Farmers and ranchers understand that if a crisis occurs on the Colorado River, they will be some of the first impacted,” she says. “They are interested in crafting a solution proactively rather than having a solution imposed on them.”

    Those scented products you love? @NOAA study finds they can cause air pollution

    Here’s the release from NOAA (Theo Stein):

    Emissions from volatile chemical products like perfumes, paints and other scented consumer items now rival vehicles as a pollution source in greater Los Angeles, according to a surprising new NOAA-led study.

    Even though 15 times more petroleum is consumed as fuel than is used as ingredients in industrial and consumer products, the amount of chemical vapors emitted to the atmosphere in scented products is roughly the same, said lead author Brian McDonald, a CIRESoffsite link scientist working at NOAA.

    The chemical vapors, known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs, react with sunlight to form ozone pollution, and, as this study finds, also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere to form fine particulates in the air.

    “As the transportation sector gets cleaner, these other sources of VOCs become more and more important,” McDonald said. “A lot of stuff we use in our everyday lives can impact air pollution.”

    Pollution sources then, and now

    Since adoption of the Clean Air Act in 1970, air quality programs have focused on controlling transportation-related pollution emitted by everything from cars and trucks to oil and gas refineries. But McDonald and his colleagues couldn’t reconcile atmospheric measurements made over Los Angeles in 2010 with estimates of transportation emissions. So, they reassessed urban pollution sources by cataloging chemical production statistics, evaluating indoor air quality measurements made by others and then determining if the new information filled the gap.

    All emissions are not created equal

    The disproportionate air-quality impact of chemical products is because of a fundamental difference between those products and fuels, said NOAA atmospheric scientist Jessica Gilman, a co-author of the new paper.

    Fuel systems minimize the loss of gasoline to evaporation in order to to maximize energy generated by combustion, she said. But common products like paints and perfumes are literally engineered to evaporate.

    “Perfume and other scented products are designed so that you or your neighbor can enjoy the aroma,” Gilman said. “You don’t do this with gasoline.”

    A pollution source hiding in plain smell?
    Gilman added that researchers studying the problem ended up taking a close look at things they once took for granted. “Some of my colleagues at NOAA literally spent days watching paint dry,” said said. “We learned a lot.”

    While the focus of this study was Los Angeles, the authors believe the results are applicable to all major urban centers.

    “We hope this study spurs collaboration between atmospheric scientists, chemical engineers and public health researchers, to deliver the best science to decision-makers,” said McDonald. “The strategies that worked in the past might not necessarily work as well in the future.”

    Variability of hydrological #droughts in the conterminous United States, 1951 through 2014

    Click here to go to the USGS website to read the report. Here’s the abstract:


    Spatial and temporal variability in the frequency, duration, and severity of hydrological droughts across the conterminous United States (CONUS) was examined using monthly mean streamflow measured at 872 sites from 1951 through 2014. Hydrological drought is identified as starting when streamflow falls below the 20th percentile streamflow value for 3 consecutive months and ending when streamflow remains above the 20th percentile streamflow value for 3 consecutive months. Mean drought frequency for all aggregated ecoregions in CONUS is 16 droughts per 100 years. Mean drought duration is 5 months, and mean drought severity is 39 percent on a scale ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent (with 100% being the most severe). Hydrological drought frequency is highest in the Western Mountains aggregated ecoregion and lowest in the Eastern Highlands, Northeast, and Southeast Plains aggregated ecoregions. Hydrological drought frequencies of 17 or more droughts per 100 years were found for the Central Plains, Southeast Coastal Plains, Western Mountains, and Western Xeric aggregated ecoregions. Drought duration and severity indicate spatial variability among the sites, but unlike drought frequency, do not show coherent spatial patterns. A comparison of an older period (1951–82) with a recent period (1983–2014) indicates few sites have statistically significant changes in drought frequency, drought duration, or drought severity at a 95-percent confidence level.