Native trout hitch a ride — Colorado Trout Unlimited

From Colorado Trout Unlimited (Randy Scholfield):

Last week, the endangered Greenback cutthroat trout got a major boost from Trout Unlimited volunteers and agency partners in Colorado.

Once thought to be extinct, this rare fish is making a big comeback thanks to the efforts of the Greenback Cutthroat Recovery Team – a partnership that includes the US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Fish and Wildlife, the National Park Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Western Native Trout Initiative, and Trout Unlimited.

Over the course of two days in mid-July, 1,700 Year 1 Cutthroats (~4-6 inches) made their way into two headwater drainages in the Clear Creek watershed, an hour west of Denver. The Dry Gulch and Herman Gulch creeks represent the first major river populations for this threatened species since it was rediscovered in 2012.

To help agency partners stock these important little fish, over 80 Trout Unlimited volunteers carried the cutthroats in large packs up steep switchbacks and bushwacked through dense brush to get to the remote rivers. Some people hiked over six miles into the top of the drainage (over 11,500 feet)! These volunteers came from 10 different TU chapters and represented all walks of life – anglers and conservationists coming together to recover this native trout.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” says Paul Winkle, Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist for the Clear Creek drainage. It was a major undertaking that took a lot of support from agency staff, non-profit partners, and local businesses.

At Colorado TU, we are very proud of the hard work and dedication that our chapters and volunteers provide to these projects. It shows what can happen when people focus on collaboration and overcoming differences. It didn’t matter whether someone was young or old, Democrat or Republican, a dry fly purist or never fished before – we were all side by side, climbing those steep trails together. All to save the Greenback.

The event even drew local media attention and even made it on the nightly cable news:

Good chance for the North American #Monsoon to show up in coming weeks #ColoradoRiver #COriver #drought

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Southwest Colorado and some of the higher elevations in the region have seen increased moisture recently that has allowed for lifting of fire restrictions, including by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, the Bureau of Land Management’s Montrose-based Uncompahgre Field Office, and Montrose County, all on Friday.

But the picture has been different, as in drier, in the Grand Valley. Through Friday, Grand Junction was experiencing its driest July in a decade, with just 0.08 inches for the month, according to National Weather Service data. It hasn’t been drier since just 0.02 inches fell during all of July 2008.

Charnick said that by this time in an average July Grand Junction has received about a half-inch of rain for the month.

The summer monsoon season typically brings moisture up from the south into much of western Colorado. But Charnick said high pressure to the south “is sort of directing the monsoonal moisture more to our west.”

A clockwise circulation forms around that high pressure, so what’s needed is for the high pressure to move a bit east so moisture from the south is brought up into the area, he said.

Still, Charnick said the area isn’t necessarily running behind in getting monsoonal rains.

“Usually August is a better month for that monsoonal moisture” in Grand Junction, Charnick said. “So while we are a little bit below average right now we’re still very early on in this whole monsoon pattern, so things can shift in the month of August.”

He noted that average precipitation in August in Grand Junction is 0.95 inches, compared to 0.61 inches in July. The monsoon can extend into September.

“Actually September is usually our wettest month of the year,” Charnick said, averaging 1.19 inches.

Peter Goble, climatologist and drought specialist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center, said Grand Junction is heading into its wettest time of year. He said that’s all relative, given that a month with 1.19 inches of precipitation would be considered a dry month in a lot of places. Still, any time an area is heading into its wettest season climatologically, it brings hope of getting precipitation to reduce moisture deficits, Goble said.

On the down side, Goble said if an area misses out on getting much moisture during what is supposed to be its wettest time of year, it can be stuck with a deficit for quite a while.

Goble noted that the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center is saying there’s an above-average chance of getting above-average precipitation over the next three months in western Colorado…

He said the Grand Junction area’s monsoon season typically peaks later than for a lot of the state, in late August or early September, but it’s still a bit disconcerting that it hasn’t started yet.

Essentially all of Mesa County is now in the extreme drought category — the second-worst category. Charnick said that reclassification occurred in early July.

A tiny sliver of the far southern part of the county is in the exceptional category, which is the driest. Much of the Four Corners area also is in exceptional drought.

Goble said the last time the entire county was in extreme drought was the summer of 2012. He said the county got out of the extreme drought category by the middle of the snow season in 2013.

The county reached the exceptional drought category in the summer of 2002.

Joe Burtard, spokesman for the Ute Water Conservancy District, one of the Grand Valley’s major water providers, said the current drought is one of the worst on record for his agency, one of four major episodes that also include the 2002 and 2012 droughts and one in 1977.

“This year has been a really abnormal year for us in all aspects,” he said.

He said it’s when the area moves into the extreme and exceptional drought categories that area water providers start seriously considering mandatory water restrictions, rather than the voluntary ones now in place.

“We’re really waiting to see what these monsoon rains do for the valley,” he said.

Ironically, though, those rains are expected to pose a challenge to local water providers rather than just simply benefits. The Lake Christine Fire near Basalt has charred more than 12,000 acres, and the rains are expected to bring flooding that will result in ash reaching local rivers, and ultimately the Colorado River.

Burtard said that will affect the Clifton Water District, which gets water out of the river. As a result it will impact Ute Water, which would serve as a backup water source for Clifton Water as part of an agreement among local providers to help each other in emergency situations.

That will further tax Ute Water, which already has been pulling from limited resources this summer, Burtard said.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, because when we get that monsoon rain that ash is coming our way,” he said.

Ute Water also recently purchased water rights from the Ruedi Reservoir in the Fryingpan River Valley above Basalt to help in drought years and in planning for population growth in its service area. That water also could help in a situation such as a fire on Grand Mesa that could impact watersheds serving Ute Water.

But for Ute Water to tap the Ruedi supply for any reason, the water would have to run through Basalt and down the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

Loveland tries to unravel the knot of future water supply

Green Ridge Glade Reservoir

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Julia Rentsch):

Forecasting a future in flux

By 2042, the city of Loveland is projected to demand 30,000 acre-feet of water a year, according to projections calculated by Loveland Water and Power staff. Comparatively, the city currently needs about 18,000 acre-feet annually, and the city’s diverse portfolio of water sources yields a firm 22,400 acre-feet each year.

One acre-foot is enough water to cover one acre of land, one foot deep. It’s about enough water to supply two homes for a year, said Larry Howard, a senior civil engineer in the city of Loveland’s water resources division.

Meanwhile, both the city’s population and acreage is growing.

Loveland’s 2017 data and assumptions report states the city now has a population of 74,385 within a 35 square mile area, and at ultimate buildout will cover 66 square miles. By 2042, Loveland’s population is estimated to hit 110,000 people, according to the same report.

But, simultaneously, per-capita water consumption has been steadily falling nationwide over the past 20 years due to efficient fixtures and conservation initiatives, Bernosky said. Additionally, the introduction of metered water rates has played a role in reducing use compared to the previous flat monthly fee, Greene said.

Luckily for the city, one variable is already locked in: The city of Loveland’s water district is surrounded on all sides by other districts, so the area it will serve is finite.

Nevertheless, Bernosky said it is very difficult to take these trends and accurately predict the city’s water needs. There are a lot of pitfalls in forecasting the future as development patterns shift or decline, technology advances, natural events like droughts take place, economic factors play in and unexpected events occur, he said.

“It’s very, very confusing right now,” he said. “A lot of it is very much in flux.”