Three year Prewitt Reservoir project improves spring habitat conditions and hunting opportunities

Hunter in fog at Prewitt Reservoir via Colorado Open Lands

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate via The Fort Morgan Times:

Ducks Unlimited completed a three-year project on the Prewitt Reservoir State Wildlife Area in December, and officials are waiting to see whether the new concept works in the coming year.

Jason Roudebush, a water resource specialist with DU, briefed members of the South Platte Basin Roundtable on the project during the roundtable’s April meeting in Longmont on Tuesday.

Roudebush said DU installed a water-control structure on a marsh below the reservoir’s dam in 2016.

Last summer DU installed a series of terraces near the inlet to the reservoir. The terraces will allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers to control water levels and create more open water in the marsh, improving spring habitat conditions and hunting opportunities.

Jim Yahn, manager of the Prewitt, said after the presentation that the project doesn’t necessarily enhance the irrigation benefit of the reservoir, but it definitely improves the value as a recreation area. He said the Prewitt is now in a 25-year lease to the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife as a state recreation area.

“Any enhancement that we can make to make it a better recreation area, that makes it more valuable to Prewitt water users in the future,” he said. “And if we can get those improvements at no cost (to the reservoir company) then it makes it just that much more valuable for recreation and hunting.”

Yahn said the building of terraces in the reservoir is a new concept and it will take a season of irrigating to make sure the concept works.

“They’re underwater now, so we’ll see how they hold together after we start irrigating,” he said. “It seems like it will work, but it’s still new. If it works, it could be done in other places. It might not work everywhere, but it could be incorporated into any new reservoir that’s built.”

The project is in an area of the reservoir open to public hunting. According to Roudebush, the goal of the Prewitt project is to enhance more than 450 acres of habitat, including cattail-choked marshes below the reservoir’s dam and wetlands near its shore.

On the Ducks Unlimited web site, DU regional biologist Matt Reddy said the terracing helps put water where it’s most useful to wildlife.

“If you think of the reservoir as a big bath tub, you have to fill the bottom of the tub before the water can get up to the top where the best duck habitat is,” Reddy said. “We are putting the terraces in at the top of the reservoir so we don’t have to add as much water to flood habitat where wildlife can use it.”

The project is part of DU’s Prewitt Reservoir Partnership with a goal to restore all of the waterfowl habitats in reach of the reservoir. To date, the partnership has spent more than $1 million conserving nearly 5,000 acres of habitat associated with Prewitt. Partners include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the North American Wetlands Council, the Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Great Outdoors Colorado, Colorado Open Lands and the Prewitt Reservoir Company.

Colorado’s North Clear Creek & Tuthill

For 150 years, the North Clear Creek in Black Hawk, Colorado has been contaminated from historic mining. A new water treatment plant that came online in 2017 is removing 350lbs of heavy metals every day from the stream with the hopes of reestablishing a brown trout population. The facility uses Tuthill’s Blower Packages to aerate the water to remove the heavy metals more easily. Learn more about Tuthill’s products here: https://www.tuthillvacuumblower.com/i…

The facility was built and run by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Colorado Department of Transportation was integral to this project.

Underwater drone takes the pressure off dive teams — News on TAP

Summit County Sheriff’s Office is the first public agency in Colorado to have an underwater drone of its own in the toolkit. The post Underwater drone takes the pressure off dive teams… 6 more words

via Underwater drone takes the pressure off dive teams — News on TAP

Watershed protection a focus of wildfire fighting efforts

Screen shot of the Inciweb Website (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov) July 6, 2018.

From The Denver Post (Monte Whaley):

Damage to water supplies in reservoirs can be disruptive and cost millions in repairs down the line. To reduce that risk, Denver and its partners are spending $66 million for tree thinning and reforestation above critical watersheds.

Their work comes as a new report, by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, warns that wildfires spreading over the western United States already taint nearby streams with unhealthy sediments and organic materials, and may someday overwhelm municipal water supplies. It also comes as dry weather and high temperatures have sparked a spate of wildfires in the mountains, and as authorities brace for fires sparked by July 4 celebrations.

“A great number of drinking water utilities draw water from forested watersheds,” said Fernando Rosario-Ortiz, an associate professor at CU’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering. He is also the study’s lead author.

The study, funded by The Water Research Foundation and presented at CU last month, lists challenges posed by wildfires, including short- and long-term effects of the availability and quality of drinking-water sources used by major metropolitan areas such as Denver.

The report also points to possible solutions for utilities serving fire-prone regions and planning for worst-case scenarios. They include expanding water-shortage capacity, using pre-sedimentation basins and diversifying water sources.

“When these watersheds are impacted by wildfire, the impacts on source water quality can be severe, forcing utilities to respond in order to continue to provide safe drinking water to their customers,” Rosario-Ortiz said.

Colorado’s two largest cities say they are aware of the dangers and are pooling dollars and resources to ensure much of the Front Range’s drinking water is protected from the contamination spread by wildfires.

“Denver Water has seen not only a commitment financially but also a commitment in time and energy by us and our partners to keep our water safe,” said Christina Burri, Denver Water’s watershed scientist.

A 2010 agreement — among Denver Water, the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado State Forest Service and aimed at reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires — will continue at least through 2021 at a cost of $66 million. The work includes thinning trees and restoring forest on more than 40,000 acres of watershed deemed critical to downstream water supplies, Burri said.

Those areas provide clean drinking water to more than 1.4 million residents in the Denver area, Burri said.

Protecting watersheds has become a top priority on the Front Range, according to Mike Myers, chief of the Colorado Springs Wildland Fire Team, as major wildfires have become almost year-round events.

“We’re doing a better job at mitigating these fires than before, but we’ve had to,” Myers said. “The fires now are just so much bigger and stronger than before.”

The CU researchers said recent wildfires have increased in size and duration, which creates concerns that existing treatment resources could eventually be crippled.

The 2012 High Park fire burned sections of the Cache la Poudre watershed, which serves northern Colorado communities, including Fort Collins.

That same year, the Waldo Canyon fire burned through Pike National Forest, temporarily jeopardizing water supplies for Colorado Springs. The blaze contaminated reservoirs and caused about $10 million in damage to a pipeline in the Northfield reservoir system.

Colorado Springs, however, was able to draw on two smaller reservoirs to provide safe drinking water for residents, Myers said. “We’ve worked hard to have a diverse group of reservoirs we can call on in emergencies, and in this case, it worked well,” he said.

While ecologists and land managers have studied wildfires extensively, the scope of post-wildfire effects on drinking water remains uncertain, researchers said. Data show that fires degrade surface water quality through erosion, ash deposits and increased sediment loads. Nutrient runoff — including nitrogen and phosphorus — can spur algal blooms, which can lead to environmental and health problems and force cities to cut water to residents.

The CU researchers simulated the effects of a medium-temperature wildfire, and the resulting materials were leached into tap water and treated using conventional processes.

The results showed the heated materials increased the turbidity of the water, a key measure of water quality, and responded poorly to chemical coagulants, leading to downstream filtration problems, the CU researchers said.

“Our work has shown that source waters impacted by wildfires can be difficult to treat, resulting in additional costs in the form of more chemical coagulants and the potential need for capital improvements,” Rosario-Ortiz said.

Forest management work helps to prevent soil from eroding and releasing sediment into streams, reservoirs and rivers, Denver Water’s Burri said.

Tree-thinning and other mitigation work around Denver Water’s Cheesman Reservoir paid off in 2002 during the Hayman fire, which scorched 138,114 acres. A key water source for the Denver area, Burri said, Cheesman’s water stayed relatively untainted by the fire.

“It shows that the work we do now,” she said, “can help much later.”

From The Taos News (Cody Hooks):

Human-caused Sardinas Canyon Fire growing slowly, disastrous Colorado fire near Ft. Garland blows up

Rather than being an unbroken block of flames, the Sardinas Canyon Fire is a patchwork, or “mosaic,” of different burn intensities; areas of the interior of the fire are largely unburned with only isolated heat spots.

Though the fire sent up a dramatic smoke plume over Taos last week and at times filled the valley with a hard-to-breathe haze, it has been a relatively easygoing fire. Unlike the Ute Park Fire, which had the potential to burn homes, businesses and infrastructure in Cimarron, Ute Park and Eagle Nest — all three communities evacuated for at least a couple days — the Sardinas Canyon Fire has threatened no structures.

Firefighters did install a sprinkler system to protect the La Junta Summer Homes at the intersection of Forest Roads 75 and 76, but those homes are about 2 miles from the perimeter of the fire, according to public information officers. Two archeological sites are being monitored and protected.

Furthermore, the Ute Park Fire was easy for firefighters to get to, meaning they attacked it more head-on with ground crews. That’s not the case for the fire in Taos County.

Firefighters are clearing debris from forest roads and old logging roads to create a fire line to contain the blaze. They’re also using bulldozers in areas where there are no roads.

The wildfire is currently within containment lines and will be allowed to burn up to them. Until then, it is not contained.

About 170 people are involved with the fire. Most of the upper management charged with keeping the fire in check are from national forests in Northern New Mexico, though some of the firefighters, helicopter pilots and hand crews are from as far away as Arizona, Montana and Oregon. The fire department with the village of Angel Fire has also helped out on the fire.

The law enforcement branch of the U.S. Forest Service is investigating the cause of the fire, but have said it was human caused.

The Carson National Forest is closed to the public. Only the Jicarilla Ranger District remains open, but under fire restrictions…

A far more worrisome wildfire [Spring Fire] is burning north of the New Mexico-Colorado state line.

The blaze started Wednesday (June 27) and has blown up, tearing through tens of thousands of acres of private, state and federal land in Costilla and Huefano counties. At least 104 homes have burned in Costilla County and potentially more in other counties, according to county and fire officials. The fire was more than 50,000 acres as of Monday (July 2) and had grown by nearly 30,000 acres as of Tuesday (July 3).

The fire is burning between Fort Garland and La Veta, primarily on private land, and evacuation centers are set up in Walsenburg and Fort Garland. A Type 2 incident management team (a level above the sort of team that’s handling the Sardinas fire) is in command of the blaze. La Veta Pass between Fort Garland and La Veta is closed to traffic.

Critical fire weather — hot temperatures, low relative humidity and erratic winds — have pushed the fire into new territory…

The Morris Creek Fire was reported Friday (June 29) on private land around the Philmont Scout Ranch in Colfax County. The fire has now spread onto the scout ranch, where crews have constructed fireline around the western edge of Carson Meadows. The fire was estimated to be about 400 acres as of Sunday (July 1) and over 1,000 as of Monday (July 2). No structures are threatened, according to Wendy Mason, a public affairs officer with State Forestry. The Philmont fire crews initially responded, and a Type 2 incident management team is taking over control of suppression efforts today (July 3). “Resources from multiple agencies are fighting this fire on the ground with additional support from aircraft,” according to a recent update…

This wildfire [Emily Fire] began Thursday (June 28) and as of Tuesday (July 3), the Gila Las Cruces Type 3 team had taken management of the fire. They are developing a plan to protect the Turkey Mountains Repeater Site, which houses five emergency communications towers as well as commercial facilities and major power transmission lines in the area. A total of 149 people are tackling the blaze, including five firefighting crews, one engine and two helicopters…

The Heron Fire started Thursday (June 28) afternoon in the Fort Heron Subdivision, where it was threatening about 30 structures. It was located off of State Road 95 and was estimated to be 10 acres. State Forestry and local firefighting crews continuing to mop up the fire and mitigate multiple hazard trees within the fire perimeter over the weekend. Approximately. It was completely contained as of Monday (July 2). The cause is under investigation.

San Antonio Fire (Valles Caldera National Preserve)

The lightning-caused fire grew to about 416 acres and was 75 percent contained as of Monday (July 1). There was no significant growth over the weekend. A local unit for the preserve is handling it. “It’s all burning internally, so there’s lots of trees and stumps smoldering,” said the preserve’s Kimberly DeVall.

Organ Fire (White Sands Missile Range, Doña Ana County)

The fire is estimated at 4,727 acres, including 194 acres of state land, and is 25 percent contained as of Saturday (June 30). The fire is burning on the White Sands Missile Range in Doña Ana County. It started June 24 off of State Road 70 near San Augustine Pass, 10 miles northeast of Las Cruces. It’s within reach of two archeological sites and the missile range.r

Blanco Fire (Kiowa National Grassland, Cibola National Forest)

The Blanco Fire has grown to 2,100 acres as of Monday (July 2). It is located approximately 5.5 miles west of Roy. It is roughly 75 percent contained. A Type 3 team, similar to the team handling the Sardinas Canyon Fire, is stationed on the Blanco Fire.

Westminster is creating a digital tour of their waterways

Westminster

From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):

The data [Duke] Douglas collects between June 25 and the end of July will be collected into public database online — not just 360 degree panoramic photographs but stream temperatures, salinity, pH balance and other factors.

“Its terabytes of data,” said Andrew Hawthorn, senior engineer for the City’s utility department. “It’s going to be 30 full days of data collection with a half-dozen or so different data points as sources that will all be sorted through and assembled into a package in post-production. That will give us a data product that will look like Google’s Street view but in the stream.”

The city has contracted with Littleton-based Enginuity Engineering Solutions to perform the survey. Project Manager Colin Barry said it’s the first time a Colorado municipality has performed this kind of stream-side survey.

Setting future projects

The survey tell city officials which waterways are in need of maintenance, like stabilizing a shore, removing trash or vegetation or seeking out pollution sources, according to Sharon Williams, Westminster’s stormwater utility manager.

“Some of this is about water quality but most of it is about observing the banks themselves and looking for what areas need maintenance,” she said. “But it can also tell us if there are sources of pollution we need to be look for, like someone dumping motor oil in a storm sewer or leaking containers somewhere.”

It’s been 11 years since the city last surveyed its stormwater drainages. That includes 63 miles miles of ditches, concrete conduits and canals feeding into broader creeks and streams, like the Big Dry Creek.

But rather than flowing from mountain snow stockpiles, many of these drainages start from within the city itself — running off when people water their lawns or wash their cars in their driveways or from rain funneling through roadside drains. Whatever is on the lawns, the driveways or the roads gets swept down the drains.

“That can mean soap or phosphates from fertilizers getting washed into the steams and into lakes, eventually,” Williams said.

That can encourage algae to grow in blooms, which can ruin a waterway and lead to dead fish.

Digital survey

It’s the kind of thing the survey is meant sniff out, and it involved staffers walking the area and inspecting it in 2007.

Today’s effort is much more high-tech — and heavy. Douglas, a Colorado School of Mines environmental engineering graduate student, shoulders the bulk of the equipment, carrying a 30-pound rig bristling with antennas, sensors and gadgetry.

“Our goal is to give them new imagry and views of the creek they have not had before,” Barry said. “The more we can get in the creek and in the middle, the better.”

A key part is a GoPro Omni quad camera that captures panoramic photos every few feet Douglas walks, linked to GPS system. Not only does it record as many as 4,000 high-resolution photographs per day, it links them to a map.

Eventually, Williams said, city officials will be able to inspect the drainages from the comfort of their own desk, looking at the photos Douglas’ rig captures they way they might Google Street View.

“It’s really helpful because we get an instantaneous snapshot of what’s happening at that place and at that point in time,” Williams said. “It’s different from what we would typically see and have to evaluate the condition.”

Douglas also carries water quality sensors, designed to test for temperature, pH balance, salinity and electrical conduction as well as an optional depth finder.

“It’s basically a lab,” Williams said. “He’s carrying a little water quality lab on his back.”

The rig can also be hooked to a fish camera that can be mounted to the bottom of the walking stick Douglas carries. It’s not necessary for shallow puddles but can show water quality in deeper waterways, like the Dry Creek.

“We did the river by the course and that’s deeper we got some great pictures and the fish,” Barry said.

Golf balls

It certainly draws attention, they said. It’s not everyday you see two men walking down the middle of creek.

“We were up in a by the Hyland Hills golf course and the golfers all wanted to know if we had scuba gear with us, and could we go diving golf balls,” Barry said.

They saw plenty of golf balls, but didn’t collect them.

“But only the bright white ones are really easy to see,” Barry said. “But we saw plenty of fish.”

Barry follows along with a handheld GPS unit, making notes and observations about the condition of the drainage. He notes when it drops down, when other drains join in and when it widens or narrows.

All that information is logged into a computer at the end of each day and will eventually become a comprehensive digital model of the city, showing where they might be problems with pollution, erosion or places that might be in need of maintenance.

“We expect a pretty constant temperature and pH balance throughout the stream, so if we see a significant drop or increase at one point it’s a clue that we need to do a little more investigation in the area,” Williams said.

City staff will use that information to plan maintenance work around the city’s watershed for the next decade. In all the project is costing $238,000 and is being paid from the city’s stormwater utility funds.

The survey won’t only aid city planners, but it’ll be available for the public to look at, too. Westminster is the first Colorado municipality to create this kind of study, but Enginuity has created similar digital tours for waterways in Texas and Washington State and around Key West in Florida.

“They can go to fishviews.com and see those sites and get a better idea of what we are hoping get,” Hawthorn said.

Douglas and Barry found examples of high phosphates almost the moment they got started, in the form of thick green algae covering the sides of the concrete Ketner tributary, the narrow concrete ditch that runs alongside the walking path that started at Oak and 102nd.

Williams said that algae is common along suburban drainages, encouraged to grow by fertilizers common to suburban lawns.

“It causes problems down streams, so if we can do something to treat our urban runoffs, we can improve the quality of natural streams down the line,” Williams said.