The endangered razorback sucker, a fish native to the Grand Canyon, has been hybridizing with another Colorado River fish – the flannelmouth sucker. Arizona Game and Fish biologist Pilar Wolters is conducting a 5-year research project to learn how hybridization could impact the recovery of wild razorback suckers. This video was produced by the Information Branch of the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Producer: David Majure
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
A couple [of] strong upper-level low pressure systems, moving in the jet stream flow, slowly crossed the northern half of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. The lows dragged surface lows and frontal systems with them. Supplied with abundant Gulf of Mexico moisture, these systems generated numerous mesoscale thunderstorm complexes which dumped heavy rain across parts of the Plains to Midwest and Mid-Atlantic coast. The clouds and rain associated with the lows and fronts also brought cooler-than-normal temperatures to the central Plains to Northeast. A moist low pressure system at the beginning of the week dumped heavy rains along the Texas Gulf coast. Contraction of drought and abnormally dry areas occurred in the Plains and Texas Gulf coast where precipitation was above normal for the week. However, these lows tracked within a larger-scale upper-level ridge system. Drier-than-normal weather dominated much of the West, large parts of Texas and the Southeast States, and from the western Great Lakes to most of the Northeast, with drought and abnormal dryness expanding in parts of the West, South, and Northeast. The week was warmer than normal across much of the West, along the northern tier states, much of Texas, and most of the Southeast…
Much of coastal Texas was inundated by heavy tropical moisture. Reports of 2 to 5 inches of rain were common, with 5 to 10 inches falling in the southern areas. An automated station near Weslaco Airport recorded 8.39 inches of rain in just 2 and a half hours. According to the Texas mesonet, Weslaco received 9 inches of rain. The average total precipitation is 6.73 inches there for the entire summer (June through August). The rains eliminated dryness on the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) drought indictor out to 6 months back in South Texas. The rains led to widespread 1 to 2 category reductions along the coast, with D1-D2 shrinking down to D0 (Abnormally Dry) or to no drought or abnormal dryness (“D-Nothing”).
Meanwhile, several mesoscale thunderstorm complexes over multiple days moved through Oklahoma and clipped the northern Texas panhandle, with their remnants making it into parts of Arkansas, while other thunderstorm systems brought rain to parts of northern Mississippi and southern Tennessee. These areas received 2 inches or more of rain for the week, with parts of Oklahoma recording over 5 inches. The D4 in western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle was eliminated, improvement occurred in the northern Texas panhandle, and D0-D3 shrank across much of Oklahoma, with some 2-category reductions. Elsewhere in Texas, the week was dry with multi-month precipitation deficits mounting, so D0-D3 expanded across the central half of the state. June 25 USDA statistics indicated that 41% of pastures and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition in Texas. The rains mostly missed northeast Oklahoma, where D1 expanded. D0-D2 expanded in parts of Louisiana, D0-D1 expanded in Mississippi, and there was expansion of drought and abnormal dryness and some contraction, as well, in Arkansas. D0 was added to northern Tennessee, with a little spillage into parts of southern Kentucky, where precipitation deficits have been mounting over the last 3 months…
Several rounds of heavy thunderstorms moved along frontal boundaries on multiple days in the High Plains states. Two inches or more of rain was measured across the western two-thirds of Kansas, the eastern half of Nebraska, and in parts of South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, with 5 inches or more indicated for southwestern Kansas, eastern Nebraska, and southeast South Dakota. The week was drier than normal for other parts of the High Plains, with western Colorado to southwestern Wyoming receiving little to no precipitation. The rains resulted in pullback of D0-D2 in Kansas, with some 2-category improvements in southwest Kansas, contraction of D0-D1 in Nebraska, and trimming of D0 in South Dakota. With the heavy rains missing eastern Kansas, the week ended drier than normal there, further increasing precipitation deficits for the last 1 to 3 months and, in northeast Kansas, out to 9 months, so D0-D2 were expanded in eastern Kansas. Some of the heavier rains crossed from Kansas into Colorado, but just barely. D2-D3 were pulled back a bit in far eastern Colorado, but the dry conditions further west resulted in D2-D3 expanding in central and west-central Colorado, and D4 expanding in west-central Colorado. June 25 USDA statistics indicated 53% of the pastures and rangeland in Colorado were in poor to very poor condition…
Dry weather and mostly warmer-than-normal temperatures dominated the West this week. June 25 USDA statistics indicated that pastures and rangeland were in poor to very poor condition for 90% of the pastures and rangeland in Arizona, 68% in New Mexico, 36% in Utah, 25% in Nevada, and 22% in Oregon. D0 and D1 expanded in parts of Oregon and Washington where streamflow was at near to record low levels for this time of year and SPI values were low for the last 1 to 3 months. The D2 was continued in eastern Oregon. In this region, drought impacts from Baker County include very dry soil conditions, blowing dust, no water for livestock, dry springs and storage ponds, below-normal range grass growth; drought impacts from Harney County include significantly low water supplies from early melt-out of winter snow pack are reducing water available for irrigators and ranchers; and drought impacts from Lake County include reduced water supplies for irrigators and ranchers due to low streamflow and low reservoir storage at some basin reservoirs. In Utah, D2 was expanded in the northeast and new ovals of D3 and D4 were added. But in southwest New Mexico, D1-D3 were pulled back where the rains from Tropical Storm Bud last week were reflected in SPoRT soil moisture and SPI indicators.
Several indicators, including SPI and other precipitation indices, evapotranspiration indices, soil moisture indices, and vegetation indices, showed worsening meteorological conditions in California. June 25 USDA statistics have 75% of topsoil moisture and 75% of subsoil moisture in California short or very short (dry to very dry), with 40% of pastures and rangeland in poor to very poor condition. D0 was expanded in northern and central California, and D1 crept in from the north to capture the extremely low 6- to 12-month SPI values. The water resources of California are carefully managed to mitigate the impacts of drought. With reservoirs in good shape, the D0-D1 in northern California reflects the climatological indicators. D0 was expanded to the California coast to reflect abnormally dry meteorological conditions over the last several months, and a low snowpack during the latter months of the wet season. Since drought impacts along the coast are not happening, the D0 reflects just meteorological conditions and further degradation (to a level of drought, D1) is extremely unlikely there this summer because even zero precipitation over the next few months would not be enough to drop water year precipitation into D1 levels…
Since the Tuesday morning cutoff time of this week’s USDM, additional heavy rains have fallen across parts of Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky, with rain falling over the East Coast states. For June 28-July 4, dry weather will continue across most of the West and southern Plains. An inch or more of rain is expected for much of the Southeast and New England, and parts of the northern Plains to Upper Midwest. The forecast models predict less than an inch of rain across other parts of the CONUS east of the Rockies. Temperatures are expected to be mostly warmer than normal, except some cooling in the northwestern CONUS. For July 5-11, odds favor above-normal temperatures across most of Alaska and the CONUS, with a chance for below-normal temperatures in the Northwest. There is a higher probability for drier-than-normal weather across the Northwest, central Plains to Great Lakes, and southern Alaska, and wetter-than-normal weather for the Southwest, southern Plains to Mid-Atlantic region, and northern Alaska, as well as the Upper Mississippi Valley.
Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The Bureau of Reclamation has allocated more than $4 million for federal, state, and tribal projects to prevent, contain, control, and monitor invasive quagga and zebra mussels in the West. This funding advances actions announced by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in June 2017 as part of the initiative called “Safeguarding the West: Actions to Strengthen Federal, State, and Tribal Coordination to Address Invasive Mussels.” This funding builds on $1 million in 2017 to support initiatives by the federal government, as well as work by the Western Governors’ Association, western states, and tribes to protect western ecosystems, water infrastructure, and hydroelectric facilities from invasive mussels.
“For more than a century, Reclamation and its partners in the West have invested in water infrastructure that is today at risk from invasive quagga and zebra mussels,” Commissioner Brenda Burman said. “The funding we are announcing today will be used on efforts to prevent their spread while improving ways to manage facilities when the first sign of these invasive mussels is detected.”
“The fight against invasive mussels in the West requires collaboration and partnership at all levels of government, including, importantly, those between Reclamation and Western states,” said the Western Governors’ Association. “With this new funding, western states will be able to enhance invasive mussel management at many levels, including research, monitoring, prevention, and enforcement.”
Highlights of the funded projects include these actions:
Purchasing inspection and decontamination stations to inspect and decontaminate boats leaving the lower Colorado River in California and Nevada, including supporting the National Park Service at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. Supporting the Salish Kootenai Tribe at Flathead Lake Aquatic Invasive Species program. Developing vulnerability assessments for facilities and infrastructure at risk of mussel infestation in the Columbia River Basin. Assisting the State of Arizona in providing law enforcement support at inspection stations. Funding research for the State of Montana and Reclamation on viability of veligers in residual water in boats. Supporting watercraft inspection stations at Reclamation reservoirs in Nebraska and Kansas. Implementing the state Aquatic Invasive Species Management Plan at water bodies owned by Reclamation in Utah. Analyzing water quality to determine which water bodies should be prioritized for invasive mussel monitoring and prevention in California. Continuing and enhancing water quality and quagga mussel monitoring program at high-priority programs in the Pacific Northwest and various reservoirs in the upper Colorado River Basin. Conducting watercraft inspections at Navajo and Elephant Butte reservoirs in New Mexico.
Invasive mussels pose challenges for Reclamation and others who manage water. Invasive mussels are prolific breeders and settle on or within water facility infrastructure such as water intakes, gates, diversion screens, hydropower equipment, pumps, pipelines and boats. Infested water and hydropower infrastructure can fail or choke off water transmissions. The mussels also negatively impact the natural ecology, which can be detrimental to native and endangered species, including native fisheries. To learn more about invasive mussel management and research at Reclamation, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/mussels.
From BizWest (Jensen Werley):
The city of Boulder signed a contract with the Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association for the sale of hydroelectric power generated at five of the city’s eight hydroelectric plants.
The deal is a 10-year agreement with an option to renew for another five years. It’s expected to generate about $500,000 per year in revenue, which will offset water utility capital improvements and operating costs that would otherwise be paid through higher water rates for customers.
The city had previously sold hydroelectric power to Tri-State from the Boulder Canyon Hydroelectric plant. This agreement renews the contract for Boulder Canyon and adds four facilities: the Kohler, Maxwell, Orodell and Sunshine plants…
Hydroelectric generation harnesses the energy generated during the downhill trip from water sources to the water distribution system. Boulder’s hydro program consists of eight plants that generate about 37 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, enough to power 4,600 households and displace 20,400 tons of coal.
From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:
Very low flows in the upper Colorado River system are now expected to trigger calls from senior water rights tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant and irrigators in the Grand Valley. And, starting Friday, more water is to be released from Ruedi Reservoir into the lower Fryingpan River to bolster downstream flows.
The Shoshone plant has two water rights, a very senior 1902 right and a less-senior right for 158 cubic feet per second with a 1929 priority date. A call for the 1929 Shoshone right is expected to take effect on Thursday, meaning those upstream from the Shoshone hydro power plant in Glenwood Canyon who hold junior rights must stop diverting.
On July 1, another, larger call is expected to happen downstream on the Colorado — the Cameo call. The Cameo call is made up of the water rights of agriculture diverters near Palisade, including the Grand Valley Water Users Association and the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District.
The Cameo call, which is the second-most senior water right on the Colorado River, calls about 2,200 cfs down through the river system, but the diversion structures tied to the call also have the potential to nearly dry up the Colorado River in a 15-mile reach between the Palisade area and the confluence of the Gunnison River in Grand Junction. This 15-mile reach is critical habitat for endangered fish, including the Humpback Chub.
To help offset the effects of the Cameo call and other diversions on the river system, officials with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have set a low-flow target of 810 cfs this year.
And, after meeting with other regional water managers on Wednesday, officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plan to release on Friday 50 cfs of water that has been earmarked specifically for endangered fish from Ruedi Reservoir. Another 100 cfs will be added to the bolstered flows on Monday, bringing releases to about 260 cfs in the river below Ruedi Reservoir.
While a Cameo call is not unusual and often happens in late summer, this is the earliest it has ever taken effect, according to Don Meyer, Senior Water Resources Engineer with the Colorado River District. The previous record was July 14.
“It’s a brutal year,” Meyer said. “I think it’s going to be a dire situation for everybody, but especially the fish down there.”
This year is also the second earliest that “fish water” has been released from Ruedi Reservoir since the endangered fish program was established in 1988. During the most recent drought years, 2002 and 2012, fish water was released on June 24 and July 3, respectively.
Federal officials this year expect to be able to release 16,412.5 acre-feet of fish water from Ruedi Reservoir this year, including from a 5,000 acre-foot pool, a 5,412 acre-foot-pool and 6,000 acre-feet of water owned by Ute Water Conservancy District in the reservoir, which is to be leased for the endangered fish program.
In all, the fish program has a total of 28,000 acre-feet of water it can use from various reservoirs in the upper Colorado River system, including Ruedi, Granby and Wolford reservoirs.
The Cameo call will also put more water into the Roaring Fork River by “calling out” the transmountain diversion through the Twin Lakes tunnel under Independence Pass. The Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company can move 625 cfs of water out of the Roaring Fork Basin to the Arkansas Basin, where it is used for East Slope municipal and irrigation purposes.
The tunnel is currently diverting around 50 cfs, but that will come to a halt when the Cameo call goes into effect.
“In one respect it’s a windfall for the Roaring Fork,” said Kevin Lusk, president of Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company. “It’s not good for our customers, but that’s the law. It’s just part of owning a water right on a river in Colorado. This is one of those dry years so we are not surprised to see the Cameo call come on.”
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.
Here’s an analysis of the legislation from Elaine Nolen writing for the University of Denver Water Law Review. Here’s an excerpt:
House Bill 17-1233 (“HB 1233”), titled Protect Water Historical Consumptive Use Analysis, accomplishes three objectives: (1) to expand application of a preexisting law to water Divisions 1, 2, and 3; (2) to clarify that participation in a government-sponsored program includes water conservation pilot programs; and (3) to limit state agencies that can approve a water conservation program to only those with explicit statutory jurisdiction over water conservation or water rights. Democratic House Representative Jeni Arndt of District 53, located in water Division 1, and Republican Senator Larry Crowder of District 35, located in water Division 2, introduced HB 1233 in the House on March 7, 2017. The House approved the bill on March 24, the Senate approved an amended version on April 17, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed HB 1233 on May 3.
A historical consumptive use analysis is part of a proceeding to change a water right. A water right owner may only change that right up to the amount of water historically consumed for a beneficial use. Prior to HB 1233, Colorado law provided that in Water Divisions 4, 5, and 6, historical consumptive use analyses were not to consider reduction in water usage resulting from participation in a government-sponsored water conservation program. In the initial draft of HB 1233, the sponsors sought to apply this rule to all seven of Colorado’s water divisions. However, at the Senate second reading, the Senate passed Senator Crowder’s proposed amendment to remove water Division 7 of southwestern Colorado from the bill. Senator Crowder explained that feedback from the representative from that water division led him to propose the amendment.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Colorado Basin Roundtable Integrated Water Management Planning Framework Project
The Colorado Basin Roundtable’s Integrated Water Management Planning Framework Project created guidance and on-line data tools to build a foundation for conducting comprehensive integrated water management plans in the mainstem Colorado River Basin in Colorado. The purpose of these plans is to identify ways to provide water for environmental needs in conjunction with the needs of agricultural, domestic and industrial water users. The Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University coordinated the project, and most of the technical work was conducted by Lotic Hydrological.
The Final Report for this project is available for review here.
The website that houses the on-line tools referred to in the report is here.