#GoldKingMine: @EPA motion hopes to kill the lawsuit from the #NavajoNation, #Utah, and #NewMexico #AnimasRiver

This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants a federal court to toss a lawsuit filed by Utah, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation seeking the repayment of cleanup costs for a mine spill in Colorado that polluted rivers in three states.

The EPA said in a motion Wednesday that the court doesn’t need to intervene because crews are already working on the cleanup of water contaminated with heavy metals that was accidentally released from an EPA-monitored mine.

“Granting any relief in New Mexico, within the Navajo Nation, or in Utah would conflict and interfere with EPA’s exclusive jurisdiction over its on-going response action activities and cleanup remedies,” the federal government said in court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

Utah is seeking for $1.9 billion in damages from the EPA. The Navajo Nation filed a claim for $162 million, and the state of New Mexico is seeking $130 million.

This Summer’s Heat Waves Could Be the Strongest Climate Signal Yet — Inside Climate News #ActOnClimate

Graphic credit: Inside Climate News (Paul Horn)

From Inside Climate News (Bob Berwyn):

There shouldn’t be any doubt that some of the deadliest of this summer’s disasters—including flooding in Japan and wildfires in Greece—are fueled by weather extremes linked to global warming, said Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia.

“We know very well that global warming is making heat waves longer, hotter and more frequent,” she said.

“The evidence from having extreme events around the world is really compelling. It’s very indicative that the global warming background is causing or at least contributing to these events,” she said.

The challenges created by global warming are becoming evident even in basic infrastructure, much of which was built on the assumption of a cooler climate. In these latest heat waves, railroad tracks have bent in the rising temperatures, airport runways have cracked, and power plants from France to Finland have had to power down because their cooling sources became too warm.

“We’re seeing that many things are not built to withstand the heat levels we are seeing now,” Le Quéré said.

Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann said this summer’s extreme weather fits into a pattern he identified with other researchers in a study published last year. The jet stream’s north-south meanders have been unusually stationary, leading to persistent heat waves and droughts in some areas and days of rain and flooding in others, he said. “Our work last year shows that this sort of pattern … has become more common because of human-caused climate change, and in particular, amplified Arctic warming.”

[…]

Temperatures in Algeria reached 124 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a record for the African continent. A few weeks earlier, a city in Oman is believed to have broken a global record when it went more than 24 hours with temperatures never falling below 108 degrees. Japan set a national record of 106 amid a heat wave that has been blamed for more than 80 deaths.

Regional western heat events are becoming so pronounced that some climate scientists see the current extremes in the U.S. as a climate inflection point, where the global warming signal stands out above the natural background of climate variability.

@COParksWildlife announces additional voluntary fishing closures in Northwest Colorado

Rainbow Trout

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Low water flow, high temperatures and dry conditions continue to affect fisheries across Northwest Colorado this summer.

In the past two months, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has initiated several voluntary fishing closures across the northwest region to ease pressure on fish stressed by the heat and dry conditions. Today, the agency is adding sections of the Fraser and Colorado Rivers in Grand County to the list. In addition, a voluntary fishing closure is now in effect on the north and south forks through the main stem of the White River in Rio Blanco County.

“It’s been tough for coldwater fish so far this year, and we are very concerned,” said Northwest Region Senior Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin. “Voluntary fishing closures and compliance from our anglers are very helpful but unless Mother Nature cooperates very soon, some of the region’s most popular fisheries could be in substantial trouble.”

Effective immediately, these sections of river are under voluntary closure between 2 p.m. and midnight each day:

  • Fraser River from Grand County Road 8 in Fraser, downstream through the towns of Tabernash and Granby to the confluence with the Colorado River near Windy Gap Reservoir
  • Colorado River from the confluence with the Fraser River near Windy Gap Reservoir downstream to its confluence with the Williams Fork River near Parshall
  • The north fork of White River at the National Forest boundary​, thorough the main stem of the river to the County Road 5 ​bridge, downstream of the Rio Blanco Lake State Wildlife Area
  • The south fork of the White River from the National Forest boundary thorough the main stem of the river to the County Road 5 ​bridge, downstream of the Rio Blanco Lake State Wildlife Area
  • For a complete list of additional closures currently in effect, visit the CPW website

    CPW says while anglers will not receive citations if they choose to fish in areas under voluntary closure, the agency is asking for the public’s cooperation to help protect fish.

    When water flows are minimal, agency biologists say fish will gather in residual pools. Combined with high temperatures, fish become stressed due to low oxygen levels and increased competition for food. Under these conditions – primarily affecting coldwater species – fish become much easier targets for anglers, an added stressor that can result in increased mortality due to being hooked.

    “Trout have adapted to thrive in water temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees,” said Area Aquatic Biologist Jon Ewert. “Once the temps exceed 70 degrees, they become extremely stressed. In some areas, we have recently recorded temps at or above 75 degrees. That’s not a good situation at all.”

    For much of this summer, Ewert says water in the Fraser River at Tabernash has run below the 25 percentile of historic flow and exceeded 70 degrees multiple times in July. In the town of Granby, the Fraser River has exceeded 70 degrees almost daily during the second half of July. On July 14, temperatures reached 75 degrees, considered extremely high for this stretch. The Colorado River downstream of Windy Gap has climbed to 70 degrees numerous times this month and moved approximately at the 25 percentile of historic flow.

    Ewert says recent reservoir releases from Williams Fork, Wolford, and Green Mountain reservoir’s have helped cool the water downstream of Parshall.

    On the main stem of the White River, area officials have observed several stretches exceeding 70 degrees most days in July and river flow is moving below the 25 percentile of historic average.

    “We’ve discussed the issue with the local public, and thankfully, we have seen great cooperation from everyone,” said Area Aquatic Biologist Tory Eyre. “People understand how important the White River’s fish resource is, not only for its great outdoor recreation but also for the benefits it provides to the local economy.”

    Colorado’s world-class fishing attracts thousands of anglers each year, providing a source of income to businesses that depend on outdoor recreation. Wildlife officials warn when a fish population is significantly affected by unfavorable environmental conditions, it could take several years for it to fully recover. If that happens, local businesses that depend on the state’s fisheries for their livelihoods may experience long-term negative economic effects.

    “We hope to have continued cooperation from the angling public,” said Martin. “Most people that benefit from this natural resource want to do what they can to conserve it.”

    Martin recommends fishing at higher altitude or fishing early when it’s cooler. Anglers should consider using barbless hooks, land fish quickly and release them quickly. Wet your hands before handling and let them go immediately, preferably without removing them from the water.

    Anglers are asked to watch for signs and posters advising of current closures, or call their local CPW office for more information.

    For more information about fishing Colorado, and information about CPW’s fishing app for smartphones, visit CPW website.

    #ClimateChange: “The old records belong to a world that no longer exists” — Martin Hoerling #ActOnClimate

    From The Washington Post (Joel Achenbach and Angela Fritz):

    In the United States, 35 weather stations in the past month have set new marks for warm overnight temperatures. Southern California has had record heat and widespread power outages. In Yosemite Valley, which is imperiled by wildfires, park rangers have told everyone to flee.

    The brutal weather has been supercharged by human-induced climate change, scientists say. Climate models for three decades have predicted exactly what the world is seeing this summer.

    And they predict that it will get hotter — and that what is a record today could someday be the norm.

    “The old records belong to a world that no longer exists,” said Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    It’s not just heat. A warming world is prone to multiple types of extreme weather — heavier downpours, stronger hurricanes, longer droughts.

    “You see roads melting, airplanes not being able to take off, there’s not enough water,” said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. “Climate change hits us at our Achilles’ heel. In the Southwest, it’s water availability. On the Gulf Coast, it’s hurricanes. In the East, it’s flooding. It’s exacerbating the risks we already face today.”

    […]

    The proximate cause of the Northern Hemisphere bake-off is the unusual behavior of the jet stream, a wavy track of west-to-east-prevailing wind at high altitude. The jet stream controls broad weather patterns, such as high-pressure and low-pressure systems. The extent of climate change’s influence on the jet stream is an intense subject of research.

    This summer, the jet stream has undulated in extreme waves that have tended to block weather systems from migrating. The result has been stagnant high-pressure and low-pressure systems with dire results, such as heat waves in some places and flooding elsewhere.

    “When those waves are very big — as they have been for the past few weeks — they tend to get stuck in place,” said Jennifer Francis, a professor of atmospheric science at Rutgers University. Last year, scientists published evidence that the conditions leading up to “stuck jet streams” are becoming more common, with warming in the Arctic seen as a likely culprit.

    Gone are the days when scientists drew a bright line dividing weather and climate. Now researchers can examine a weather event and estimate how much climate change had to do with causing or exacerbating it…

    Said Hayhoe: “The biggest myth that the largest number of people have bought into is that ‘climate change doesn’t matter to me personally.’ ”

    The heat waves have hit hard where people don’t expect them — the Netherlands, Sweden, Britain, Ireland and Canada.

    “Our office doesn’t have air conditioning. I do have a fan,” said Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, a climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. He spoke by phone from the city of Gouda, where the temperature hit 96 degrees Thursday…

    Human activity, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, has added greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, trapping heat and making extreme weather events even more extreme. The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 410 parts per million in May, the highest the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii had measured since Charles David Keeling started keeping records in 1958. NASA estimates Earth has warmed almost one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s. Of that, half a degree (around one degree F) has accrued since 1990 alone…

    Overall precipitation has decreased in the South and West and increased in the North and East. That trend will continue. The heaviest precipitation events will become more frequent and more extreme. Snowpack will continue to decline. Large wildfires will become even more frequent.

    Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said even modest heat from global warming can build up over time.

    “The accumulated energy over one month is equivalent to a small microwave oven at full power for six minutes over every square foot of the planet,” Trenberth said. “No wonder things catch on fire.”

    @ColoradoStateU Water Sustainability Fellows team up with Denver students to raise water awareness in communities of color

    From Colorado State University (Cyrus Martin):

    The National Western Center Youth Water Project, now in its second year, is an eight-week internship program created by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute to foster collaboration between high school and University students around water conservation, education, and policy. The program is designed to inspire underrepresented youth to engage and inform their peers about water-related issues and resources.

    Eight students are participating in this year’s program — four high school students from the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods in north Denver, and four CSU students participating in CSU’s Water Sustainability Fellows program. The 2018 cohort identifies as the 5280 Youth Water Project.

    The student interns have been able to attend a number of conferences and events, including CSU’s inaugural Water in the West Symposium. The internship’s primary objective, however, is to plan and deliver Colorado’s first Youth Water Expo, which will be held in Argo Park on Saturday, August 4, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

    Organizations supporting the event include the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center, Denver Water, Metro Wastewater, the Gateway II fund of The Denver Foundation, Hunter Industries, CH2M Jacobs, the Walton Family Foundation, and Groundwork Denver. The Expo will be included as part of the lineup for the fifth annual Denver Days, a week-long event created by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

    Aliyah Fard, 18, graduated from Colorado Academy in June and supports the group’s outreach and event planning efforts. Recently, she received an acceptance letter from Whitman College in Washington, where she plans to major in environmental science.

    “I’ve really been enjoying the actual event planning and pulling everything together — reaching out in the community,” said Fard. “I think [people] should attend because we’re going to have a lot of valuable information. And it’s also going to be fun!”

    Fard is particularly interested in water rights, and is debating whether to pursue a career in water law or politics after college.

    Hugo Lezama, 22, is a senior at CSU, majoring in civil engineering. His second year participating in CSU’s Water Sustainability Fellows program, Lezama went outside his “comfort zone” by taking the lead on the project’s marketing efforts — teaching himself Adobe Photoshop and developing the group’s social media presence.

    “All of the activities we’re going to put on are made specifically for the people in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea communities,” said Lezama, noting that his neighbors “don’t think about simple things like watering their lawns at certain times, or how to use their water effectively.”

    The Expo will deliver various water-related resources and activities to north Denver residents and provide context around the National Western Center redevelopment project taking place in their neighborhoods over the coming years. The expansion will include a building focused on water education and community engagement.

    “I’ve been focused on getting my work done and haven’t really taken a step back to see how important this really is. It’s kind of a big deal!” Lezama said.

    Post-college, Lezama intends to pursue a Masters degree to equip himself for an engineering career, with a focus on water.

    “At some point, if I have enough money — which is why I want to get my Masters — I want to start my own foundation and start funding those kids [in the Latino community],” said Lezama. The foundation he envisions would provide internships, scholarships, networking opportunities, mentoring, and “everything you need to be successful.”

    Following the Expo, the 5280 Youth Water Project team hopes to create a Youth Water Advisory Board to encourage more youth to get involved in water conversations. The group aims to have participation from at least 10 youth from communities of color, with a 50-50 mix of male and female members. The Advisory Board would host monthly meetings to explore opportunities to bring water education and advocacy to other underrepresented youth in Colorado and beyond.

    Land and Water Conservation Fund reauthorization update

    Red Canyon from Roaring Fork River. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith.

    From Wyoming Public Media (Amanda Peacher):

    The program is set to sunset this fall, so without action from Congress the LWCF could go away. A bipartisan group had proposed reauthorizing it through a rider attached to a spending bill for the Department of Interior. But senators ultimately decided not to go that route.

    Craig Gehrke is with the Wilderness Society in Idaho. He says that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

    “It should be its own special bill,” Gehrke says. “You know, we think that funding the reauthorization should be a formal piece of legislation that’s debated on its own special merits.”

    Gehrke wants the funding for the Land Water and Conservation Fund to be permanent, instead of requiring reauthorization every few years as it does now.

    Western Slope to keep studying water without state funds, Front Range support — @AspenJournalism

    Lake Powell April 12, 2017. Photo credit Patti Weeks via Earth Science picture of the day.

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith) via The Aspen Times:

    Two Western Slope water conservation districts are moving forward with the third phase of a “risk study” exploring at how much water might be available to bolster water levels in Lake Powell, and they are doing so without state funding to avoid Front Range opposition to the study.

    Lake Powell today is half-full and dropping and water managers say several more years like 2018 could drain the reservoir, which today contains 12.3 million acre-feet of water. And the looming water shortage is revealing lingering east-west tensions among Colorado’s water interests.

    Officials at the Colorado River Water Conservation District and the Southwestern Water Conservation District, whose boundaries include the Yampa, Colorado, Gunnison, and San Juan river basins on the Western Slope, are eager to answer some forward-looking questions.

    How much water in a hotter and drier world might still be available from Western Slope rivers to divert and put to beneficial use, for example.

    And how much water might be made available from current water users to send downriver from each of the major Western Slope river basins to help fill Lake Powell?

    Those are sensitive questions in Colorado, on both sides of the Continental Divide.

    And powerful Front Range water interests think the state should be answering them, not the two Western Slope conservation districts.

    A state agency, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, approved a $32,000 grant in March 2015 to help pay for the first phase for the Western Slope’s “risk study.”

    Then the CWCB kicked in $40,000 in March 2017 for the second phase of the Western Slope’s risk study.

    But that second grant-review process brought opposition from the Front Range Water Council, which unsuccessfully sought to block the requested funding from the Western Slope.

    “The opposition to Phase II of the risk study was focused on concerns related to the direction and management of the study coming solely from the West Slope without East Slope involvement, and being funded by the state,” said Jim Lochhead, the president of the Front Range Water Council and the CEO of Denver Water, in a statement released July 20. “Risks on the Colorado River are of statewide concern and any such studies are better conducted by the state, through its Colorado Water Conservation Board.”

    The Front Range Water Council is an ad-hoc group that includes Denver Water, Northern Water, Aurora Water, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, and the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company.

    The first two phases of the Western Slope’s risk study showed that 1 million to 2 million acre-feet of water from current water users may be needed to bolster levels in Lake Powell, especially if more water is also diverted to the Front Range.

    Today, irrigators on the Western Slope use about 1.3 million acre-feet of water a year, while the Front Range uses about 541,000 acre-feet from the Western Slope to meet municipal and agricultural demand.

    As such, officials at the Western Slope conservation districts are now asking if, say, 10 percent of that water use was cut back over time, in a voluntary and compensated demand management program, and the saved water was banked somewhere — ideally Lake Powell itself — would that be enough to keep the big reservoir full enough to still produce power at Glen Canyon Dam and deliver enough water downstream to the meet the terms of the Colorado River Compact?

    And if it was enough, how much should come from each Western Slope basin?

    On Monday in Glenwood Springs, Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, acknowledged that the 2017 funding request from the Western Slope “ran into a lot of political opposition from the Front Range, basically saying, ‘You guys are asking questions that may harm our state.’ And the questions that were posed in Phase II were essentially dumbed down in order to comply with that request so that we could get the [state funding]. So our board and the Southwestern board voted unanimously to proceed to fund [Phase III of the study] on their own.”

    Mueller was addressing the members of the Colorado Basin Roundtable when he described the 2017 process. The roundtable, which reviews grants for the CWCB, had twice voted to fund the risk study, along with three other Western Slope roundtables.

    And even without state funding, it’s still important to the two Western Slope conservation districts that the four Western Slope basin roundtables now conceptually support the third phase of the risk study.

    On Monday, the members of the Colorado roundtable unanimously passed a resolution to that effect.

    Mueller assured the roundtable members that the two districts will work to make the mechanics, and the results, of the evolving water-modeling tool available.

    “We really want to make sure that what we’re doing is an open and transparent modeling process,” Mueller said. “Because we think that data that everybody can agree on is data that can then elevate the conversation with respect to the risk in the Colorado River.”

    Mueller also told the roundtable that interest from the Front Range is welcomed during the third phase of the study, up to a point.

    “We have reached out to the Front Range,” he said. “I went over to their joint roundtable in May and explained to them what we were doing and welcomed their participation, input, their views. Didn’t welcome their censorship, but welcomed their thoughts.”

    Heather Sackett of Aspen Journalism contributed to this story. Aspen Journalism is reporting on water and rivers in the Roaring Fork and Colorado river basins in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other news organizations.