Summitville Mine Superfund Site update: #Colorado to take over project for $2 million a year

Summitville Mine superfund site

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

After 27 years of EPA control, Colorado is preparing to take over the full financial burden — a forever bill for $2 million a year — of a high-mountain cyanide gold mine that became one of the West’s worst environmental disasters.

The re-shaping of ravaged alpine tundra at the Summitville Mine through a $250 million federal Superfund cleanup stands out because scores of other toxic mines in Colorado still are contaminating headwaters of western rivers each day.

But this fix requires constant work. Colorado must pay the $2 million, a bill that the EPA has been handling, starting in 2021 for cleaning a fluctuating flow of up to 2,100 gallons a minute of toxic water that drains down a once-pristine mountainside.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will use the money to run a silver-domed $18 million industrial water treatment plant built at 11,500 feet elevation in a wild and spectacular valley, surrounded by snow-splotched jagged peaks.

The plant houses huge stainless-steel vats of burbling brown sludge. Toxic metals are chemically coaxed and filtered out. Plant operators haul 4.1 million pounds a year of concentrated waste back up South Mountain (elevation 12,550 feet) in trucks for burial. This muck contains more than 690,000 pounds of cadmium, lead, copper, aluminum, iron, manganese and zinc. It is toxic metal that otherwise would flow down and degrade the Wightman Fork of the Alamosa River.

Colorado also must oversee the artificial covering and drainage ditches across 1,100 acres of tundra scarred by open-pit mining. Mountainsides ripped and slashed to remove gold and silver have been re-contoured by contractors using bulldozers, and re-planted with native vegetation — the engineering equivalent of plastic surgery to make the place look as good as possible…

The hand-off of responsibility for Summitville from the EPA to CDPHE in 2021 will mark a turning point in dealing with a severely damaged landscape using the nation’s Superfund system for handling disasters.

This project was set in motion before Congress in 1995 killed automatic funding for Superfund cleanups.

Complete restoration to a pre-existent state is considered impossible and the government aimed at best-possible repairs.

“That was what the EPA and the state worked to do: bring it back to a sustainable protected state. Once there is mining in an area, it has long-term impact,” said Fran Costanzi, an EPA official who managed the Summitville cleanup for four years. “We worked to bring water quality back and also the vegetation into a long-term stable state.”

An EPA spokesman issued a statement placing Summitville “among the more illustrious, or perhaps infamous, examples of the environmental damage a large mining operation can cause when resources for safely managing contamination sources disappear. The EPA’s initial response was an emergency situation in which the site was literally abandoned by the operator — in winter-time conditions — with a cyanide heap leach pad eroding into a headwaters stream.

“After years of work and investment, we’ve essentially reclaimed a watershed in one of the most beautiful parts of the state. Protecting those gains will continue to require our attention.”

Alamosa River. Photo credit: Wenck

The cleanup improved water quality to where fish can live in Terrace Reservoir, about five miles below the mine, and in the Alamosa River.

CDPHE officials now are required to monitor conditions.

The financial burden falls to Colorado because the Superfund process shifts responsibility to states after initial federal remediation. Colorado lawmakers have arranged to pay about $2 million a year by tapping revenue derived from fees paid at municipal and other landfills around the state…

At Summitville, Rio Grande County eventually will own the 1,100-acre site. State and county officials have been setting up placards conveying the history of mining in the area with an emphasis on environmental damage and evolving efforts to repair harm.

Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District hopes to act as agent for Water Supply Reserve Fund Proposal

Illustration shows water availability, in blue circles, compared with demand at various places along the South Platte River. The yellow area is the study area. (Illustration by Stantec).

From. The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

The Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District will submit a proposal to act as fiscal agent for the Water Supply Reserve Fund Proposal being drawn up by the South Platte Regional Opportunities Working Group. That decision came during Tuesday’s meeting of the district’s Executive Committee.

The $390,000 project, described in the nearly impenetrable technical language of water experts, is essentially the next step after the South Platte Storage Study, which was completed late last year.

The study, authorized by the Colorado General Assembly in House Bill 16-1256, looked at the stretch of the South Platte River between Kersey and the Nebraska state line in an attempt to find water storage to fill a crippling water gap that is just 12 years away. According to the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, by 2030 the need for water in Colorado will exceed supplies by 560,000 acre feet, or 182 billion gallons per year, and most of that is here in the South Platte River Basin.

Joe Frank, general manager of the LSPWCD, said the study is good at indicating what can or should be done to meet the growing water gap, but it says nothing about how to do it or by whom. And it’s the “by whom” part that needs to be addressed next, Frank said, because without an entity to fund an promote projects, nothing gets done.

Drawing pipelines and pumps is the easy part, for me, because I’m an engineer,” Frank said. “But we have to figure out who we are, and that’s the hard part. The institutional structure is what we still have to figure out, and that’s a big part of this (new project.)”

The new project first establishes a fiscal agent and project sponsors, initially SPROWG members, to prepare a funding proposal and a work plan. It’s that fiscal agent part that Frank asked his executive committee to consider. LSPWCD was the fiscal agent on the South Plate Storage Study; the job entails making sure funds are paid to the right people at the right time and are properly accounted for.

According to an Outline of Proposed Tasks, the next task – and the one Frank thinks will be most crucial – is to identify or create an organization to support “the development, operation, financing, ownership and governance of the South Platte Basin regional water development concept …”

#Drought news: The Town of Beulah’s water supply is in rough shape

This natural-color image was captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite with the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, MODIS, instrument on October 17, 2016 at 19:50 UTC (1:50 pm MT). Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red. NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC. Caption by Lynn Jenner with information from the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Image credit: NASA

From KOAA.com (Caiti Blase):

Extreme drought conditions, fire danger, and contaminated water in creeks: that’s the critical situation going on in the small town of Beulah.

On Tuesday, News 5 spoke with residents on how these conditions are impacting them. Gary Kyte, chair of Pine Drive Water District wants people in Beulah to know that the water flowing into their homes is safe. It’s coming from water tanks that have already been treated. However, people are under a critical usage policy because of just how dry it is. The town did get some rain last week, but all it did was make things worse.

Kyte said, “Evidently, that particular rain rained over the burn scar, the Junkins burn scar.”

It’s been almost two years, but Beulah is still feeling the effects of the 2016 Junkins Fire. Last week’s rain caused debris and ash from the burn scar to flow into creeks.

“We feel that it impacted our raw water intake.”

What the town needs now is another good rain, but not on the burn scar.

“It would flush or kind of scour out the creek bed and hopefully if it rains some more we could go back to treating water.”

Kyte says between the contamination and the low water levels in the creeks doing treatment right now wouldn’t be worth it.

“We’re entering into a critical drought state. We’re going to have to make water or we’re going to have to purchase water.”

The town is trying to hold on as long as possible by restricting water to residents. Households supplied by the Pine Drive Water District are allowed to use 60 gallons of water a day. Those using the Beulah Water Works District are allowed 80 gallons a day…

Kyte says he and the chair of the Beulah Water Works District have been speaking with Pueblo County’s emergency management staff. They are looking at various short and long-term options for assistance (such as hauling water) if conditions don’t improve.

@NOAA: Assessing the U.S. Climate in June 2018

Here’s the release from NOAA:

The contiguous United States had its third warmest June on record

The June contiguous U.S. temperature was 71.5°F, 3.0°F above the 20th century average. Only June 1933 and 2016 were warmer for the nation. Above-average temperatures spanned much of the Lower 48, with near- to below-average temperatures in the Northwest and Northeast. The first half of 2018 was marked by large month-to-month swings in temperature, but when averaged, the contiguous U.S. temperature was 49.4°F, 1.9°F above the 20th century average, and the 14th warmest January-June on record.

The June precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 3.08 inches, 0.15 inch above average, and ranked near the middle of the 124-year period of record. Much-above-average precipitation fell in parts of the Midwest, Northern to Central Plains and Mid-Atlantic with below-average precipitation across parts of the West and South. Several significant flash-flooding events impacted the U.S. during June. For the year-to-date, the precipitation total was 15.78 inches, 0.47 inch above average, and ranked near the middle of the 124-year period of record.

This monthly summary from NOAA’ s National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

June Temperature

  • Above-average June temperatures were observed for much of the nation. Seventeen states across parts of the Southwest, Great Plains, Midwest and Southeast had a much-above-average temperature. Minimum temperatures, or overnight lows, were particularly warm across the central and southeastern U.S. Iowa, New Mexico and Texas each had a record warm June minimum temperature.
  • Near- to below-average June temperatures were observed across the Northwest and Northeast. In the Northeast, a heatwave that began in late June and persisted into early July was not enough to compensate for below-average temperatures in early- and mid-June.
  • June Precipitation

    Above-average precipitation was observed in a string of states from the Northern Rockies and Plains, through the Midwest, and into the mid-Atlantic. Indiana, Iowa and Kentucky each had a June precipitation total that was much above average. During June, there were several noteworthy heavy precipitation events that caused significant regional flooding.

  • On June 15-17, heavy rainfall caused fatal flash flooding in the Upper Midwest, washing out highways, with record crests along some rivers. One of the hardest hit communities was Houghton County, Michigan, where nearly 7.0 inches of precipitation fell in a short period.
  • A slow moving low pressure system, with tropical origins, dropped record-setting rainfall along the southern Texas coast on June 18-21. A report of 11.00 inches or more of precipitation near Premont, Texas, was received by the National Weather Service. The rain gauge reached its capacity of 11.00 inches before overflowing. Widespread flooding was reported during the event.
  • On June 22, 7.61 inches of precipitation was observed in Richmond, Virginia, causing flash flooding, power outages and the closure of the Richmond International Airport. This was the second highest daily rainfall total for the city, with a period of record that dates to 1887. Of the total precipitation, 4.09 inches of rain fell in just one hour, a new hourly record for the airport.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of the West, South, Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast during June. Utah tied its sixth driest June on record, receiving just 0.07 inch of precipitation during the month, 0.66 inch below average. Some locations in the Southwest received zero precipitation during June, a frequent occurrence during this time of year.
  • According to the July 3 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 29.7 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 26.4 percent at the end of May. Drought conditions worsened in parts of the West, Southern Plains, the Mississippi River Valley and the Northeast. Numerous large wildfires impacted parts of the Rockies and Southwest during June, where months of warm and dry conditions contributed to an abundance of wildfire fuels. Drought conditions improved for parts of the Great Plains, Midwest and the Texas Gulf Coast. Abnormally dry conditions expanded in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.
  • Year-to-Date (January-June) Temperature

  • Above-average January-June temperatures were observed across the West, Southern Plains, East Coast and much of the Midwest. Eight states in the West and South had much-above-average year-to-date temperatures, including Arizona and New Mexico that were record warm. The Arizona statewide average temperature was 59.5°F, 4.3°F above average, and the New Mexico temperature was 53.4°F, 4.1°F above average. Near- to below-average temperatures were observed in the north-central contiguous U.S.
  • The Alaska statewide average temperature for the year-to-date was 25.6°F, 4.3°F above average, and tied 2005 as the 10th warmest on record. Above-average temperatures were observed across western and northern areas of the state, with near-average temperatures in southern Alaska.
  • Year-to-Date (January-June) Precipitation

  • Above-average precipitation was observed in the Northern Plains, Midwest and along parts of the East Coast. Seven states had a January-June precipitation total that was much above average, with record precipitation observed for some localized areas.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed for locations across the Southwest, Southern Plains, Upper Midwest and Mid-Mississippi Valley. Colorado had its 11th driest year-to-date on record.
  • Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters

  • Through the end of June, there have been six weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the U.S. during 2018. This was double the long-term average of three events for the January-June period since 1980, but slightly less than the 7.4 event average for the January-June period of the last five years. These events included four severe storm events and two winter storm events. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 36 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.
  • Since these records began in 1980, the U.S. has sustained 233 weather and climate disasters where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (including CPI adjustment to 2018). The total cost of these 233 events exceeds $1.5 trillion.
  • #Drought news: The North American Monsoon won’t save Water Year 2018

    North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

    From The New Mexico Political Report (Laura Paskus):

    The arrival of the Southwest’s summer monsoons is good news—good news everyone has been waiting for, especially since a dry, warm winter hit the state hard this year.

    But drought conditions still persist in New Mexico, and despite temporary bumps in flows, the state’s rivers are still experiencing lower-than-normal flows. At the Otowi Gage on the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico—a critical point for determining how much water New Mexico must send to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact—flows dipped over the weekend to just above 700 cubic feet per second. (One cubic foot per second is equal to about 448 gallons flowing past in a minute or 7 gallons per second.) In Albuquerque, Thursday’s rainstorm pushed the river up to about normal flows. But by Saturday, the Rio Grande through the city dropped back down to about 350 cfs, about half what its flows have historically been in early July.

    And it’s not just the Rio Grande.

    On Saturday, the Animas River in Farmington was running at about 20 cfs—compared with flows that should be about 1,000 cfs this time of year. The San Juan River in Farmington saw an uptick earlier in the week, but by Saturday it had dropped down to 1,000 cfs, when it should be closer to 1,800 cfs. The Pecos River above Santa Rosa Dam is running at about seven cfs, less than a quarter of the historic norm. And in southwestern New Mexico, the Gila River near the town of Cliff—near where the state plans to build a diversion on the river—is jumping between 15 and 30 cfs. Downstream, near Red Rock, the Gila’s been running at a consistent three cfs. And while it was exciting to see the Santa Fe River roaring after Thursday’s storm, by the next day, the river was down to about six cfs.

    To see stream flow measurements statewide, visit the USGS website here

    As of late last week, the state’s largest river, the Rio Grande, was dry for about 22 miles in the San Acacia reach south of Socorro and for about four miles in the Isleta reach above Peralta…

    Meteorologists with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center anticipate that drought will remain in the state, but that conditions will improve between now and September, thanks to monsoon rains. Even that won’t return things to normal. According to the Center for Western Weather and Water Extremes, the southwestern United States has such a precipitation deficit right now that even a historically-good monsoon won’t help the region recover enough to reach 100 percent of its normal water year precipitation.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):

    The state’s low snowpack and lack of significant spring rains have caused several water suppliers statewide to put in place some mandatory restrictions, some of which go as far as to ban all outdoor landscape watering.

    While that hasn’t happened in the Grand Valley, water suppliers have placed the area on voluntary restrictions, meaning they are asking, but not requiring, area residents to be more judicious in how they use water.

    “(The year) 2018 has quickly become even more significant than the 2002 drought,” said Joe Burtard, external affairs manager for the Ute Water Conservancy District. “The domestic water providers along with the irrigation water providers moved Mesa County into a voluntary water restriction the earliest we’ve ever moved in, in early May of this year.”

    […]

    Burtard said the four main water suppliers in the valley — Ute Water, Clifton Water District, the city of Grand Junction and the town of Palisade — have created a Grand Valley Regional Water Conservation Plan.

    Part of that plan includes the Drought Response Information Project, a collaborative effort created by the four water suppliers after the 2002-03 drought to help instruct Grand Valley residents about water conservation.

    While that plan asks water users to voluntarily place themselves on restrictions — or at least be a little smarter about how they use water — it also comes with an agreement that if one of the water suppliers decides to make those restrictions mandatory, they all will.

    From The Albuquerque Journal (Maddy Hayden):

    A map released Thursday by the [New Mexico’s] Drought Monitoring Workgroup indicated that 87 percent of the state remains in severe or worse drought.

    That’s down from 89 percent last month, but conditions are still looking extremely dry in this part of the world.

    At the end of June 2017, that percentage was 0.

    Now, 18 percent of New Mexico – stretching from the Four Corners across much of the northern part of the state – is in exceptional drought…

    Only a small strip of land along the state’s southern border from Las Cruces eastward, making up around 1.3 percent of the state, is currently drought-free.

    Rivers around the state, including the Rio Grande, are dry or hardly flowing at some points.

    John Fleck, director of the University of New Mexico’s Water Resources Program, said the Rio Grande near Embudo north of Española was the lowest in history for Thursday’s date in more than 120 years of record keeping.

    A 22-mile stretch of the river in Socorro County is dry.

    There, the carcasses of fish litter the white sand of what should be a wet ribbon winding through the desert.

    Fleck said the the Rio Grande is still wet in Albuquerque only because of releases from the Heron, El Vado and Abiquiú reservoirs.

    “It’s not clear how much longer those supplies of stored water will last,” Fleck said.

    Depending on monsoon rains, Fleck said, the river could go dry in Albuquerque in August, which would be the first time that has happened since 1977.

    The Pecos River, too, is essentially dry above the Santa Rosa Reservoir.

    The winter’s abysmal snowpack has taken a toll on the state’s reservoirs.

    Conchas Lake was down more than 15,500 acre-feet, and Abiquiu Reservoir was down 13,000 acre-feet since the beginning of the month…

    In Albuquerque, water use has been kept under control, said Katherine Yuhas, water resources manager for the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

    Water Utility Authority customers have used around 160 million more gallons than they had at this time last year.

    “That sounds like a lot, but that’s equal to about three-fourths of a gallon more a day,” Yuhas said.

    From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

    On Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor released drought details that show worsening conditions in Utah as areas already experiencing extreme or exceptional drought are continuing to grow.

    Those extremely dry conditions make the state ripe for more wildfires, the governor said, and it will likely get worse with the fireworks season looming…

    “The most severe places for drought are centered in the southeastern corner, but it is starting to spread northward,” said Shane Green, rangeland management specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    West Drought Monitor July 3, 2018.

    Feds eye changes to a bedrock environmental law — @HighCountryNews

    Nixon Rock, in the Gunnison Gorge. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The High Country News (Carl Segerstrom):

    A clash over the National Environmental Policy Act follows familiar fault lines.

    A linchpin environmental law is now being scrutinized by the Trump administration and could be targeted for reforms. The National Environmental Policy Act, commonly referred to as NEPA, dictates the environmental planning process for federal agencies. Any changes to the NEPA process could have far-reaching impacts on the vast public lands and infrastructure of the West.

    The NEPA reform push broadly traces political dividing lines, as pro-business and anti-regulation Republicans, who want to see NEPA reworked, square off with environmental groups and conservation-minded Democrats hoping to preserve the law and implementation process. Caught between the vocal factions of each party are state governments and federal land managers arguing for a middle ground of limited reform.

    An August 2017 executive order, aimed at cutting environmental regulations and speeding up infrastructure projects, key goals of the Trump administration, prompted the ongoing review. The review looks at changing the implementing procedures for environmental reviews and offers some examples of what could be altered, including: limiting the time frame for environmental reviews, changing how agencies consider state and tribal input, and reducing the need to explore project alternatives.

    When federal agencies consider timber sales, build bridges, renew licenses on dams, pave highways, permit nuclear facilities or make any decision that will impact the local environment, they trigger the NEPA process. Contractors working on federal projects often commission and pay for NEPA reviews. The NEPA review process has three tiers that determine how rigorous an environmental review must be. The Categorical Exclusion designation exempts actions from environmental review if they are deemed to have no “significant effect on the human environment.” The next tier is Environmental Assessment, which compels agencies to prepare a formal review of potential impacts and decide whether the action has no significant impact or requires an Environmental Impact Statement. The Environmental Impact Statement is the most thorough review process and requires multiple drafts, a public comment period and that agencies explore alternatives to proposed projects.

    Heading the push for NEPA reform is Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, who has had the law in his sights for the last decade. During a committee meeting on NEPA, Bishop, the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, complained the law has been warped by lawsuits and court interpretations and become “a weapon for litigants to force delays and denials on all sorts of activities.” Bishop, who has been a vocal proponent of loosening federal regulations on oil and gas companies and the transfer of federal lands to state control, said, “Environmental reviews should inform government of the actions they need to take, not paralyze it.”

    Conservation groups are digging in order to preserve NEPA and asking for an extended public commenting period on the current review. The “Protect NEPA Campaign,” which is a coalition of environmental, labor and civil rights group, such as the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council has called the Trump administration’s review an unprecedented attack on the law. More than 350 environmental organizations signed a letter to the Council on Environmental Quality, asking for an extension of the public comment period from 30 to 90 days. Raul Garcia, the senior legislative counsel for the environmental law group Earthjustice, said the month-long commenting process “is the latest in a long line of this administration’s efforts to silence public opinion and hinder democracy.”

    The Western Governors’ Association recently called for changes to the NEPA process that would give more influence to state governments. In a policy resolution, the association, which represents Western state executives, asked that federal agencies adopt more consistent NEPA planning processes and better engage with state and local governments. The group of Western lawmakers also asked that state environmental impact studies carry more weight in federal decision-making.

    Land management professionals say parts of the NEPA process could be reformed, but caution against sweeping changes to the law. Mike Ferguson, a retired Bureau Land Management land planner, first worked on NEPA implementation with the BLM in the 1970’s and has seen the implementation of the law become more convoluted over time. He says tightening the time frame for NEPA actions, clarifying the role of public comments, and investing in training and agency personnel could improve the process.

    Getting back to the basic language and intent of the law should be the goal of any NEPA reforms, says Ferguson. “A tug-of-war obliterates what NEPA was designed for in the first place, and I don’t care whether that’s from the left or the right,” he says. “Opening it up on either side will lead to a downward spiral that will dilute its effectiveness in the long-run.”

    The commenting period for NEPA reform is slated to be open through July 20, and a comment form can be accessed via the Council on Environmental Quality’s website. To date, the majority of the comments so far have either urged the council to keep NEPA intact or asked for an extended commenting period.

    Carl Segerstrom is an editorial fellow at High Country News. This article was published online on July 6, 2018.

    Fort Collins folks lower per capita water consumption

    US Drought Monitor June 25, 2002.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Nick Coltrain):

    As anyone who has watched as more and more cars stack up during the morning commute can attest, the population here keeps booming.

    But if that’s the case, why is the city’s water use continuously going down?

    Seriously. In 2000, the city of Fort Collins treated 31,594 acre-feet of water.

    In 2017, the city treated three-fourths of that, or 23,512 acre-feet — despite an additional 15,400 people tapping into the city’s water. (Fort Collins Water serves the majority of businesses and residences in the city limits, but not all.)

    […]

    People are paying attention and they’re asking about (water),” Fort Collins Water Conservation manager Liesel Hans said. “Are we going to be on restrictions this year? Is there enough water to go around? So I think people are more aware of it, for sure.”

    Hans traces the awareness back to the multi-year drought that gripped Colorado and the West starting in 2001. People, presumably in an effort to save their lawns and otherwise stave of the heat, were using on average 200-plus gallons of water per day. It was also when water conservation messages starting sprouting up in Fort Collins and statewide.

    Then, average gallon-per-capita use in Fort Collins started falling. In 2017, that measurement hit 141 gallons per capita per day, a 33 percent drop. Residential use dropped at an even greater clip: It went from 126 gallons of water per person per day to 73 — a 43 percent decline.

    That put overall water use within the city’s goal of 2020 water use. That is a moving target, however. The city has since shifted to a 2030 goal of 130 gallons per capita per day and plans to make another goal change come 2022.

    #AnimasRiver: Truck hauling sludge from the Cement Creek water treatment plant crashes and spills into Cement Creek

    From The Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

    The driver wasn’t severely injured, but about 9 cubic yards of waste sludge spilled into the creek.

    The sludge is a byproduct of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency treatment plant that is cleaning up water draining from the inactive Gold King mine. The EPA has said the sludge is not hazardous.

    Authorities say it doesn’t appear the truck spilled any fuel.

    Planning for July 10 Drought Contingency Plan public briefing underway

    Arizona Water News

    Lake Mead bathtub ring Mark Henle Arizona Republic

    Lake Mead and the infamous “bathtub ring” photo courtesy Mark Henle/Arizona Republic

    The next step toward bringing a Drought Contingency Plan in Arizona to closure is scheduled for Tuesday, July 10, at the Heard Museum in central Phoenix.

    Co-hosted once again by the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Water Conservation District, the public meeting is set for 1-4 pm at the museum auditorium, located at 2301 N. Central Ave.

    The first step in this process – which is expected to open the door for legislative authorization for the ADWR Director to sign the system-wide DCP – began with a three-hour briefing on June 28.

    The briefing, as well as the renewed commitment to drought-contingency planning in Arizona, is spurred by the serious conditions facing the Colorado River system, especially the Lower Basin region and Lake Mead.

    The risks of Lake Mead falling below critically low reservoir…

    View original post 340 more words

    Arizona Water Protection Fund Accepting Applications for Fiscal Year 2019 Grant Cycle

    Arizona Water News

    PRESS RELEASE

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    

    CONTACT: Sally Stewart Lee (602) 771-8530  sslee@azwater.gov 

    water protection fund logo

    PHOENIX- The Arizona Water Protection Fund (AWPF) supports projects that develop or implement on the ground measures that directly maintain, enhance and restore Arizona’s river and riparian resources.

    The AWPF Commission is now accepting applications for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 AWPF grant cycle. The deadline to submit applications is September 7, 2018 at 3:00pm.  The AWPF Commission awards grants under three categories: capital projects, research and water conservation.  The grant cycle schedule, grant application manual, and electronic forms are available on the AWPF website at: www.azwpf.gov .

    AWPF staff will be hosting one grant application workshop*:

    LocationDateTimeAddress
    Phoenix, AZ

    August 10, 2018

    1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.Arizona Dept. of Water Resources

    1110 W. Washington St. Suite 310

    Phoenix, AZ  85007

    Middle Verde Conference Room. 4th Floor

    *Staff will also be hosting…

    View original post 209 more words

    #Wildfire update

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

    From The Canon City Daily Record:

    The Quarry Fire that erupted Saturday night near Fremont Peak is 90 percent contained, according to fire officials.

    In an update late Sunday afternoon, officials said 67 fire personnel are working the fire with one KMAX helicopter assigned to the incident.

    The fire, which officials said was started by a lightning strike, is estimated to be at 8.5 acres.

    Firefighters battled two fires in Fremont County on Saturday evening. The Twin Fire off of CR 3A near the former Buckskin Joes and the Royal Gorge Park was less than one acre and was fully contained Saturday night.

    From The Summit Daily (Lance Maggart):

    Grand County’s Sugarloaf Fire, located in a remote segment of US Forest Service land southwest of the town of Winter Park, continued its slow growth over the weekend.

    As of Sunday afternoon the fire was listed at 1,270 acres on the interagency information management website InciWeb. Sunday’s burn area represents only a slight increase from early last week when federal officials were listing the fire at slightly less than 1,200 acres. Fire officials calculate the Sugarloaf Fire’s containment at 20 percent and are still listing Aug. 31 as the estimated containment date.

    “With the existing weather conditions, the fire has slowed its spread, but it continues to creep and smolder, back down slopes with some single tree torching,” stated fire officials. “With fire behavior today, we expect the fire to continue to spread in the upper reaches of the Darling Creek drainage.”

    Officials stated they expect increased fire behavior and fire growth if the Sugarloaf blaze crosses Darling Creek. Weather in the Fraser Valley was overcast with scattered rain showers Saturday afternoon but according to officials no moisture had fallen in the area of the fire as of Sunday.

    All necessary work for structure protection, including homes in the area as well as Henderson Mill and Mine infrastructure, has been completed, according to federal reports.

    From The Aspen Daily News (Madeleine Osberger):

    The Lake Christine Fire, which has burned 5,916 acres outside Basalt, was 30 percent contained as of Sunday night, according to Keith Brink, chief of fire operations, during a public meeting at Basalt High School.

    That will allow for the release of about 200 people over the next few days, who can then be routed to some of the other wildfires that are raging across the west.

    “We’re making some good headway on this fire,” Brink shared with a crowd of more than 70 attendees on Sunday evening. However, he cautioned that heavy smoke on the hillside will still be visible for weeks and asked that people not call 911 to report the fire.

    Mike Almas, incident commander of the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, told the audience at the high school: “The fuels have burned out around those larger fuels that you see as candles out there.”

    Brink confirmed that the fire had spread about 200 acres between Saturday and Sunday morning, but said the kind of containment progress made over the weekend was expected to continue.

    From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):

    SPRING CREEK FIRE

    The human-caused Spring Creek fire, which has burned more than 60,700 acres in Costilla County, has destroyed at least 104 homes, fire officials said Monday night. A 52-year-old man from Denmark, Jesper Joergensen, has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on June 27 about 9 miles northeast of Fort Garland. Joergensen is in the United States on an expired visa, according to an arrest warrant.

    The fire has formed two distinct columns, fire officials said. The Rocky Mountain Incident Management team blue will manage the north column and the RMIM team black with manage the south column. U.S. Highway 160 remains closed in the area because of fire activity and Colorado 12 is also closed in the Cuchara Valley area.

    On Monday, single-digit humidity, hot weather and winds prompted the National Weather Service to post a Red Flag Warning for “extreme fire behavior” in the area. Winds gusted to 30 mph and relative humidity dropped to 8 percent in some areas…

    416 FIRE

    “There are no remaining evacuation orders or pre-evacuation notices in place due to the 416 fire” as of late Monday afternoon, according to La Plata County officials.

    The fire, which started on June 1 about 10 miles north of Durango, has burned about 51,000 acres and was 37 percent contained on Monday afternoon, fire officials said.

    At 4 p.m. Monday, pre-evacuation notices were lifted for the Falls Creek and High Meadows subdivisions. The lifting of the notices affected 447 residences and five commercial structures…

    HIGH CHATEAU FIRE

    About 200 firefighters are battling the High Chateau fire, which has burned more than 1,300 acres about 7 miles northwest of Cripple Creek. The fire is burning through tall grass, ponderosa pine and mixed conifer, according to fire officials.

    On Monday afternoon, the “fire behavior on the northeast portion of the fire increased and the fire spotted across High Meadows Drive,” according to firefighters. Single engine air tankers dropped multiple loads of fire retardant and helicopter drops were also carried out on Monday afternoon.

    The fire has been moving north and east. There’s been no recent rain in the area and the fire’s size may continue to increase because of dry weather and fuel conditions. The active fire has been doing “short crown runs” and “group torching.” The blaze’s “resistance to control is high,” fire officials said. The fire started on June 29 and the cause is under investigation.

    WESTON PASS FIRE

    The fire grew to more than 6,400 acres Monday afternoon, fire officials said. The blaze, caused by a lightning strike, broke out on June 28 about 9 miles southwest of Fairplay. Firefighters expect the fire to grow as winds continue in the area. A containment date has been set for July 29. About 300 firefighters are battling the blaze.

    CHEDSEY FIRE

    A 5-acre fire was reported Monday in Jackson County, burning in Routt National Forest about 15 miles southwest of Walden. The Teal Lake campground was evacuated because of the fire, 80 firefighters are battling the blaze.

    ADOBE FIRE

    The 6-acre fire was reported Monday burning through timber about 6 miles west of Wetmore. Air support efforts on the fire included a lead plane, one heavy air tanker and two helicopters.

    From The Farmington Daily Times:

    Weekend storms that are expected to help douse some of the stubborn 416 Fire near Durango, Colorado, bring with them the possibility of flash floods in the fire zone.

    The 416 fire area was put under a flash flood watch today by the National Weather Service in effect from this afternoon through this evening.

    “Meteorologists are forecasting heavy rainfall over the burn area, which may lead to flash flooding and debris flows,” the fire team said. “Residents near this wildfire and along the Highway 550 corridor near Hermosa should prepare for potential flooding impacts. … The probability of rain increases through the weekend, with amounts ranging from .10 to .25 inches expected daily.”

    […]

    Clearing the air

    The fire has burned 54,129 acres and remains 45 percent contained as it keeps 383 personnel busy. The cost so far is $29.5 million.

    The rains will be good news to local communities suffering from smoke pollution.

    “As the amount of rain increases, it will penetrate the canopy, wetting fuels and making them less available to burn,” the team’s morning report said today. “Smoke impacts to surrounding communities should diminish rapidly as fuels become saturated.”

    Crews are redeploying or removing equipment as needed, and some areas are still off-limits to the public.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Kate Langford):

    A lightning-sparked wildfire burning seven miles northeast of Nucla has grown to 500 acres and is at 10 percent containment, according to officials with the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.

    The Tabeguache Fire was first reported Friday night and grew to 155 acres on Saturday.

    While firefighters were aided by rainfall over the weekend, the steep terrain and dry pinon-juniper and brush are a challenge for crews, said Spokesman John Abernathy.

    Crews are currently focused on securing the south and west flanks of the fire, Abernathy said, because they border Bureau of Land Management and private lands.

    From The Canon City Daily Record:

    Fremont County officials are reporting that the Twin Fire near the Royal Gorge Park is now out and those firefighters are attending to the Quarry Fire.

    The Quarry Fire is burning about 10 acres near Fremont Peak. According to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, the Eastridge Campground was evacuated as a precaution.

    Busy summer on the High Line Canal corridor – News on TAP

    Tree trimmers protect High Line’s greenway as botanists and volunteers study the canal’s wildlife and plants.

    Source: Busy summer on the High Line Canal corridor – News on TAP

    #ArkansasRiver: Voluntary Flow Management Program helps rafting industry and Gold Medal fishing

    Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    “The whitewater boating has been spectacular to date,” said Rob White, manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. “With the hot weather, (visitors can) cool off by enjoying a whitewater boating trip on the Arkansas River.”

    White credits the cooperation between federal, state and local officials working with public and private water users to manage flows in the river.

    “In such a dry year as this, it takes a lot of cooperation from a variety of water interests to ensure a great whitewater boating season,” White said. “We appreciate the fact that Pueblo Water moved some of its water from Clear Creek to Lake Pueblo in late June.

    “In addition, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District has assured us that we will have 10,000-plus acre feet of water available for the Voluntary Flow Management Program this summer.”

    The flow management program is used to buoy water flows of 700 cubic feet per second through Aug. 15, so rafters and kayakers can take advantage of summer boating opportunities.

    “The additional flow management program water helps ensure great flows for rafting and kayaking through the hottest of the summer months,” White explained…

    During the rest of the year, the flow management program is used to protect and enhance the fishery by boosting minimum flows to protect trout. As a result, the Arkansas River has been named a gold medal fishery because of its world-class brown and rainbow trout fishing opportunities.

    #Drought news: Temperatures in the White River nearing danger level for cold water fish

    Lake Avery. Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    From Colorado Parks and Wildlife via The Rio Blanco Herald Times:

    Due to low flows, dry conditions and extreme heat, water temperatures in the White River are nearing dangerous levels for cold-water fish. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are encouraging anglers to fish in the early morning, when water temperatures are cooler and less stressful to fish.
    To help mitigate current conditions, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is considering releasing water from Lake Avery to increase flow in the White River, and potentially lower river water temperature.

    To answer questions and address concerns about the possible release, CPW invites the public to a roundtable session, 7 p.m., July 9 at Kilowatt Korner (White River Electric Association—WREA), 233 Sixth St., in Meeker, Colo.

    “We’ve been here before, and we know what we need to do, “ said Bill de Vergie, Area Wildlife Manager from Meeker. “It’s important that ranchers, landowners, ditch users, fishing guides, anglers, and other members of the public attend our meeting so that we can work together to protect this important fishery.”
    Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials and the Colorado Water Conservation Board entered into a water lease agreement in 2012. The agreement allows the release of CPW’s water stored in Lake Avery to help meet the minimum instream flow on the White River of 200 cubic feet per second.

    Anglers at Lake Avery will see declining water levels in the lake beginning when the release is initiated.

    “When the flow from Lake Avery begins, we will ask users to avoid taking the additional water and instead leave it in the river to give fish a chance of surviving,” said de Vergie. “Everyone around here knows how important this river is to our economy, and we expect that people will comply to ensure the river continues to be a destination fishery.”

    It turns out that streamflow in the #AnimasRiver near Farmington was a monster 5 CFS rather than the 0 CFS reported

    West Drought Monitor July 3, 2018.

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo) via The Cortez Journal:

    A U.S. Geological Survey river gauge in Farmington that recorded the Animas River flowing at nearly non-existent levels was the result of human error, the scientific agency said Friday.

    Fletcher Brinkerhoff, a supervisory hydrologic technician for the USGS in Albuquerque, said the reading of 0 cubic feet per second at the gauge was the result of incorrect information entered into the USGS’s database.

    The Durango Herald reported about record-low reading in a Page 1A story Friday.

    Still, water levels the past few weeks have been incredibly low, Brinkerhoff said, hovering around 5 cfs.

    @NOAA webinar Climate Science: What’s New? — @KHayhoe #ActOnClimate

    Here’s the release from NOAA:

    Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) Seminar Series

    Thursday, July 12, 2018 – 12:00 ET

    Click here to register.

    Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) Seminar Series, by the U.S. Global Change Research Program & in partnership with NOAA.

    Speaker: Katharine Hayhoe, Atmospheric Scientist, Texas Tech University. Presenting remotely.

    Sponsors: The U.S. Global Change Research Program and NOAA’s National Ocean Service Science Seminar; co-hosts are Katie Reeves (kreeves@usgcrp.gov) and Tracy.Gill@noaa.gov

    Webinar Access: Mymeeting webinar uses phone and internet. Audio is only available over the phone: dial toll-free from US or CAN: 1-877-708-1667. Enter code 7028688# For the webcast, goto http://www.mymeetings.com Under “Participant Join”, click “Join an Event”, then add conf no: 744925156. No code is needed for the web. Be sure to install the WebEx application when logging in – the temporary application works fine.

    Abstract: Human emissions of greenhouse gases now overwhelm the influence of natural drivers on Earth’s climate. How will our energy choices and resulting emissions affect temperature and precipitation, extreme events, sea level rise and more, over this century and beyond? What are the implications for meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement and avoiding dangerous change? And what about the potential for surprise, as we push the climate system harder and faster than any time in human history? Join Katharine as she highlights key results and new science from the first volume of the Fourth U.S. National Climate Assessment, and lays out what to expect from the second volume on how climate change is affecting regions and sectors across the U.S.

    About the Speaker: Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist whose research focuses on understanding what climate change means for people and the places where we live. She served as a lead author on the Second, Third, and Fourth National Climate Assessments and is also known for her communication and outreach efforts, such as the PBS Digital Series Global Weirding. This year, she was the recipient of the Stephen H. Schneider Award for Outstanding Climate Science Communication. Katharine has a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Toronto and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently a Professor of Public Administration and directs the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.

    Subscribe to the OneNOAA Science Seminar weekly email: Send an email to OneNOAAscienceseminars-request@list.woc.noaa.gov with the word `subscribe’ in the subject or body. See http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/seminars/

    #Wildfire update

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

    From The Aspen Times (Alex Zorn):

    On Friday, 214 fire personnel were working the fire with six hand crews (roughly 20 people per crew), 18 engines (varies with three to five fire personnel), two Type 2 helicopters, two Type 1 helicopters and a light helicopter that is used mainly for reconnaissance work, according to Friday’s on-duty public information officer Pat Thrasher.

    One of the heavy Chinook helicopters used to fight the fire also has been stationed out of the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport, according to Amy Helm, manager of the small airport south of town.

    Friday was the first day that Single Engine Air Tankers, or SEATs, were not used to drop slurry, or retardant, on the fire line, though four were stationed at Rifle Airport on Friday just in case.

    “We are supporting ground personnel, they are doing the hard work,” SEAT pilot Bob DeRosier said. “Anytime we can clear them to save structures, that’s what we are there for.”

    While the SEATs were not necessary Friday, the tankers were used to drop slurry on the fire’s boundary to help solidify the fire line and allow ground crews access to the area.

    From The Fairplay Flume:

    As of Monday, July 2, the Weston Pass Fire (left) had grown to 6,417 acres. Park County issued mandatory evacuations for eight homes south of County Road 22 and for the Campground of the Rockies Association. Those living in the Black Mountain subdivision are under voluntary evacuation orders, and should be ready to leave at any time. For the High Chateau Fire (right) there were mandatory evacuations in place for Park Ridge, Doe Valley, Pike Meadow, Four Mile Ranch, Olson Slater Creek, and Ponderosa subdivisions between 8826 County Road 100 and County Road 102 and between County Road 71 and the Teller County line. The fire had grown to 1,422 acres.

    From The Denver Post:

    Containment estimates on the Spring Creek and 416 fires increased Friday as firefighters took advantage of improved weather conditions to close out the week.

    SPRING CREEK FIRE

    When rain came to the Spring Creek fire area, people stopped what they were doing and literally danced in the streets.

    The fire in Costilla and Huerfano counties in southern Colorado has burned more than 105,000 acres and was 35 percent contained as of Friday, according to fire officials.

    U.S. 160 over La Veta Pass is scheduled to reopen at 2 p.m. Saturday, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. The pass has been closed since June 27…

    416 FIRE

    North of Durango the 416 fire has burned more than 54,000 acres, and containment was at 50 percent on Friday, fire officials said.

    Increasing subtropical moisture is expected to move into southwest Colorado through the weekend, including afternoon and evening thunderstorms. Rain accumulation of about a quarter inch is forecast Saturday, with up to the same on Sunday, fire officials said.

    “A quasi-monsoon pattern is setting up,” said Russell Danielson, a meteorologist and NWS spokesman. The current weather pattern is bringing much-needed moisture to the intermountain West in the form of isolated showers and storms.

    A high-pressure change in the near future could allow more moisture to stream into the fire area as the summer progresses, Danielson said. Slow thunderstorms are expected in the area Monday and Tuesday.

    WESTON PASS FIRE

    The fire, started by lightning on June 28 southwest of Fairplay, has moved into the Buffalo Peaks Wilderness area, which is now closed to the public.

    The fire has burned about 12,900 acres and was 32 percent contained as of Friday, fire officials said…

    LAKE CHRISTINE FIRE

    Mandatory evacuation orders were lifted at 7 p.m. Friday for the area north of Colorado 82 and west of El Jebel Road/Upper Cattle Creek road to the Garfield County line. The lifting of the order allows 150 families to return to their homes. All other evacuations orders remain in place.

    The 5,263 fire, about one mile northwest of Basalt, is 0 percent contained. The fire roared on the night of July 4, destroying three homes. It was first reported on July 3 racing through extremely dry fuels.

    At least 925 residences had been evacuated and potentially remain threatened in the Basalt, El Jebel and Missouri Heights areas.

    From The Durango Herald (Ryan Simonovich):

    About 250 homes were placed on pre-evacuation notice Friday afternoon for possible flooding around the 416 Fire burn area, but as of 8 p.m., no floods had been reported.

    The notice was issued for homes near the Tripp Creek and Dyke Gulch drainages north of Durango. It included High Meadows Ranch, Falls Creek Ranch and Sanctuary subdivisions, as well as Durango Regency mobile home park, Hermosa Circle and Tripp Creek, said Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County.

    Storm clouds developed Friday afternoon over the mountains north of Durango, but no significant rainfall resulted. Isolated thunderstorms producing heavy amounts of rainfall did occur west of the burn area in parts of Montezuma County.

    The evacuation notice was issued because soil conditions in the burn area of the 416 Fire cannot hold moisture, which can trigger floods and debris flows. The pre-evacuation notices, issued about 3:45 p.m., were meant to prepare residents in the event they have to evacuate in a moment’s notice, Graham said.

    Areas on alert were in zones that have historically experienced debris flows.

    A flash-flood watch was issued by the National Weather Service until 9 p.m. Friday.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Jennifer Costich, spokeswoman for the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt, reported late Friday afternoon that firefighting efforts were progressing well over the course of the day in terms of building a fireline in some areas. The fire had burned 5,263 acres as of the latest estimate, destroying three homes earlier in the week. About 350 firefighters were working on it Friday afternoon, with the help of five helicopters.

    Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated as a result of the fire. The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office on Friday lifted a voluntary evacuation order applying to residents living in the Missouri Heights area of Garfield County, but other mandatory evacuation orders remain in place.

    Hickenlooper was joined by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., at a stop at the Basalt fire that was to be followed by ground visits and flyovers of other blazes including the massive Spring Creek Fire in southern Colorado.

    “Where you get this many fires at one time you obviously stretch your resources,” Hickenlooper said during the Basalt stop, according to a video the Aspen Times posted to its website.

    He said the most firefighting assets ever deployed in Colorado may be currently active in the state, but he voiced confidence in the ability to access more if warranted…

    The Divide Fire about 32 miles northwest of Craig had burned about 13,500 acres as of Friday afternoon.

    That fire began June 29. Its cause remains under investigation.

    After several days of minimal activity it flared up Wednesday, growing by nearly 7,000 acres, and several aircraft responded to help ground crews. The fire made an additional push Thursday evening, and hot, windy weather contributed to further growth Friday, authorities say.

    BLM spokesman David Boyd said the fire burned a home June 29 and a seasonally occupied trailer on Wednesday. He said some structures are still threatened by the blaze, which is burning in sagebrush.

    About 75 firefighters were fighting the blaze Friday, along with four single-engine air tankers and a helicopter.

    Hickenlooper on Friday noted that it was the 24th anniversary of the day that 14 firefighters were killed while fighting a blaze on Storm King Mountain near Glenwood Springs.

    “Everybody is very aware of that and sensitive to that. We’ve got to make sure the highest priority obviously is the safety of the citizens but also the people fighting the fires,” he said.

    Hickenlooper also addressed the issue of the Lake Christine Fire’s reported cause — two people allegedly shooting tracer bullets at a Colorado Parks and Wildlife shooting range. While CPW has noted that the use of such bullets is never allowed at its shooting ranges, it has faced questions about allowing the shooting range to stay open even after Eagle County had gone into heightened, Stage 2 fire restrictions. The agency since has closed until further notice all its shooting ranges in northwest Colorado, including two in Mesa County.

    Here’s a photo essay from Tucson.com. From the article:

    More than 60 large blazes burn across the United States, mostly in the West, where whipping winds and increasing heat have made it easy for flames to spread.

    Fires exploded in Northern California, Utah and other areas, where a prolonged and severe drought has desiccated forests.

    Hotter, drier weather was forecast in Northern California, where thousands of firefighters were battling a wildfire that was already about three times the size of San Francisco.

    Smoke from the fire temporarily halted flights into the resort town of Aspen, Colo. A tornado was reported Thursday south of Fairplay, a central Colorado town about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level. Tornadoes are rare at that elevation and are seldom seen at any wildfire.

    In Utah, scorching summer temperatures and winds quickly pushed flames through bone-dry vegetation. The 66-square-mile (171-square-kilometer) fire near Strawberry Reservoir has burned about 90 structures.

    From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

    Since the [Spring Fire] was ignited by a man cooking in a fire pit on June 27, wind currents out of the southwest have been mostly pushing the north end of the 100,000-acre-plus wildfire in a northeasterly direction. But a cold front swept in overnight turning the fire 180 degrees. It was a good thing for homes on the eastern flank, but an absolutely devastating turn of events for neighborhoods and pine forests on the western flank, Brack said.

    With wind gusts of 35 mph, the fast-moving blaze defied measurement, Brack said. Officials say the total number of damaged homes stands at 119 and the number of demolished homes is 132, although authorities know those figures are a small percentage of the affected homes. Dangerous conditions have made it too difficult for county officials to go into neighborhoods and count how many homes have been damaged or destroyed. Tallies are expected to rise significantly.

    Officially, the fire swept over an additional 15,000 to 20,000 acres at night, when wildfires normally lay down as temperatures drop.

    “We’re seeing unprecedented fire behavior that pushed this fire through the night. Because the fire has been moving so fast we don’t know exactly know how big it has become,” Brack said.

    The thermodynamics of this historic wildfire demand unusual tactics by firefighters. Crews have bulldozed trenches around subdivisions and homes, installed sprinkling systems and back-burned brush to create extremely wide fire breaks. But the blaze remains only 5 percent contained.

    From The Denver Post (Kirk Mitchell):

    Fire experts battling several wildfires across Colorado including the 416 fire north of Durango; Spring Creek fire in south central Colorado and the Lake Christine fire near Basalt are using terms like “unprecedented” and “unnatural” to describe fire dynamics this season. Wildfires typically burn uphill, not downhill. They lay down at night, not race faster than any man can run. A 300-foot-high tsunami of wildfire scorched 20,000 acres of heavy tall pine forests and grassland into stumps and ash, said Ben Brack, spokesman for the 103,000 Spring Creek fire…

    “I have never seen this kind of fire behavior in my 40 years of fighting fires,” said Chief Scott Thompson, of the Basalt and Rural Fire Protection District, about the Christine Lake fire in Eagle County…

    The unusual fire behavior triggered an emergency evacuation of the Missouri Heights trailer park at around 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning. Three homes were destroyed and the wildfire blew up from more than 300 acres to around 2,700 acres. The intense wildfire triggered power line explosions, he said.

    “We’re kind of bummed. We feel like we failed…” Thompson said.

    In the interest of safety, wildfire task forces have had to change up tactics, which has somewhat damaged morale, Brack said.

    “We’re not used to being pushed back by fire. We like being right on the fire fighting it. But this fire is moving too fast. Grass fires are moving up to 35 miles an hour. No human can outrun that,” he said.

    From The Cortez Journal (Stephanie Alderton):

    The Burro Fire continued to lie down Friday after two days of rain in the San Juan Mountains.

    Public information officer Kathy Russell said the fire remains at 4,593 acres with minimal activity after afternoon rains gave the area “a good soaking” on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday she said firefighters will continue to clear containment lines of any possible fuel sources, while the crews that have reached their 21-day limit prepare to demobilize. Despite its reduced movement, the fire will likely continue to smolder for a long time.

    The weather has been favorable for firefighting efforts ever since temperatures started cooling down earlier this week, Russell said.

    “The fire was calmed down already because of the increased humidity, and when that rain came, it calmed down even more,” she said. “We expect it to continue at very low levels.”

    The National Weather Service predicted more afternoon showers and thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday, with temperatures in the low 70s. Although both Thursday and Friday’s showers came with lightning, Russell said it doesn’t seem to have caused any more fire activity. Firefighters always leave exposed places “at the first sign of lighting,” according to a Saturday morning press release.

    Crews have finished constructing a contingency line down to Colorado Highway 145, and the San Juan Hotshots who spearheaded that effort have left the scene, Russell said. Out of the remaining personnel, several planned to spend Saturday removing firefighting equipment from the area and bringing it to the U.S. Forest Service district office in Dolores.

    According to the release, all equipment must be inventoried, cleaned and shipped to the Rocky Mountain Interagency Support Cache, which supplies wildland firefighting efforts across the West.

    On Saturday there were about 45 firefighters working on the Burro Fire, but Russell said several personnel have completed their 21-day assignment and will be gone by Sunday. Members of the interagency incident management team are required to take some time off after three weeks at a fire.

    Other personnel, including the two new crews that arrived this week, planned to continue clearing and widening containment lines. Although Russell said firefighters don’t expect the fire to grow as long as the rain continues, it remains officially at 40 percent containment.

    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.

    Cranmer Award to Ken and Ruth Wright Colorado Open Lands

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Ken and Ruth
    A remarkable team,
    you’ve embraced Colorado
    thoroughly enough

    to gauge its most basic
    dimensions, its mountains,
    mesas, canyons, plains;

    that we the creatures of this
    great land in trapezoidal fashion
    depend upon our abilities

    to abide with each other;

    in this, you teach that every
    potential answer requires

    re-phrasing the question
    based on experience gained
    in following the evidence to

    its next incremental intuition;
    your chosen professions,
    engineering and the law

    you use as problem-solving
    parabolas arching over
    canyon rims to ribbons

    of streams, diminishing or
    roaring through public discourse;
    clean and healthy enough

    to cultivate a whole new
    generation of eager and true
    Ruth and Kens!

    Greg and Bobbie Hobbs
    6/7/2018

    This woman fundamentally changed climate science — and you’ve probably never heard of her

    From Think Progress (Kyla Mandel):

    Eunice Foote is finally honored for her contributions 162 years later.

    It was “blind luck” said Ray Sorenson, a retired petroleum geologist, regarding how he first came across Eunice Foote’s name. Sorenson, whose basement in Oklahoma is full of more than 300 pre-Civil War era technical books, discovered Foote’s name sometime in 2010.

    Sorenson had found copies of the Annual Scientific Discovery by David A. Wells, and “I really liked them, and started collecting them,” he told ThinkProgress. It was while reading the 1857 volume that he stumbled upon Foote.

    As he quickly realized, Foote was the first scientist to make the connection between carbon dioxide and climate change. She discovered CO2’s warming properties in 1856, more than 160 years ago and three years before John Tyndall, a British scientist who has widely been credited with first establishing the connection between increased global temperatures and carbon dioxide.

    But for a number of reasons — chief among them the fact that she was a woman — Foote’s name was until recently lost to history, a minor footnote within climate science.

    “I knew just enough about the history of climate science,” Sorenson said of his ability to grasp the significance of the name and date. “I recognized that it was something that had been missed by historians,” he explained, “and I felt she deserved recognition.”

    In January 2011, Sorenson published his findings in the journal AAPG Search and Discovery as an independent researcher. “I’ve had more response to that than anything else I’ve ever written,” he said.

    Fast-forward seven years — and more than a century — to a symposium titled, “Science Knows No Gender,” held Thursday at UC Santa Barbara with the sole purpose of acknowledging Foote’s contribution to climate science, and erasure from the history books.

    “She basically laid the basis for modern climate change science,” said John Perlin, a research scholar in UCSB’s physics department who discovered Foote’s name through Sorenson’s paper. “What could be more significant?”

    […]

    Eunice Foote’s story
    Foote’s story is still unfolding the more researchers dig into it. It begins in upstate New York, where she lived. Foote, a short, oval-faced woman with dark brown hair and grey-blue eyes, was a student at Troy Female Seminary. While there, she was invited to attend a nearby science college where she learned the basics of chemistry and experimental techniques.

    She wasn’t just a scientist, though. She was a central figure in the early women’s rights movement and lived next door to the famous suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. In 1848, Foote was one of the signatories to the Seneca Falls Declaration of Sentiments — in which the final resolution adopted calls for “the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce.”

    In addition to being a hub of feminism, the area where Foote lived also happened to be the final stop along the underground railroad before entering Canada. And as it happened, abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who ran a printing press nearby, published the Seneca Falls Declaration.

    But back to the science. Eventually, Foote designed an experiment to better understand the role of atmospheric gases in temperature changes — an emerging topic of interest to a handful of scientists at the time. Her experiment was simple: Foote filled separate glass jars with water vapor, carbon dioxide, and air. She then compared how much they heated up in the sun.

    As she wrote of her findings, “The highest effect of the sun’s rays I have found to be in the carbonic acid glass” (the term used at the time for carbon dioxide).

    “The receiver containing the gas became itself much heated — very sensibly more so than the other — and on being removed, it was many times as long in cooling,” she continued.

    In other words, the jar containing CO2 warmed up more from the sun’s rays than the other jars. And it held that heat for much longer.

    Foote goes on to speculate about what this might mean for our atmosphere. “An atmosphere of that gas would give to our earth a high temperature,” she wrote, “and if as some suppose, at one period of its history the air had mixed with it a larger proportion than at present, an increased temperature from its own action as well as from increased weight must have necessarily resulted.”

    Foote presented these findings — detailed in a paper titled, “Circumstances affecting the heat of the sun’s rays” — on August 23, 1856 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). According to AAAS archivist Norma Rosado-Blake, Foote was able to have her paper presented because her husband, Elisha Foote, was a member of the organization. She did not present her own work, however. Instead, Professor Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institute, spoke on her behalf.

    In acknowledging that it was Foote’s work, Henry introduced the findings by stating, “Science was of no country and of no sex. The sphere of woman embraces not only the beautiful and the useful, but the true.”

    Ever since Foote’s name has come to the public’s attention, there has been a debate within the scientific community about whether her work was suppressed because she was a woman, and whether Tyndall deliberately used Foote’s work without due credit, or if it was just coincidental timing.

    It’s unknown why Henry presented Foote’s paper on her behalf. However, according to climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University, who contacted AAAS with this very question, Foote did end up presenting a second paper published in 1857 at AAAS herself.

    In addition, said Hayhoe, it seems there were several other instances of people’s papers being presented by proxy at AAAS regardless of gender. So, while “there were absolutely gender stereotypes [at play],” supporting the idea that Foote may have been discouraged to present, Hayhoe contends there isn’t enough evidence to prove Foote was actively forbidden from presenting her climate findings.

    Who gets the credit?
    With regard to Foote’s findings, it’s important to note that the concept of the greenhouse gas effect was discovered in the 1820s, by Joseph Fourier. What Foote and Tyndall’s work did was to connect that observed effect to a specific gas in the atmosphere. And Foote’s results, while not definitive (there were many uncontrolled factors in her experiment), were prescient.

    “When Eunice did her experiment, average carbon dioxide levels were about 290 parts per million in the atmosphere,” Hayhoe wrote in a 2016 Facebook post. “She probably never dreamed that by 2016, they’d be over 400 parts per million.”

    Due to the rudimentary set-up of the experiment, Foote “wasn’t measuring what she thought she was measuring, but she actually serendipitously ended up with an understanding that is correct today,” Hayhoe told ThinkProgress.

    “She very presciently speculated that the temperature of the planet would be higher if CO2 were higher and as far as I know she was the first person to speculate that,” said Hayhoe, who noted that she didn’t have enough information to be able to say whether Tyndall was aware of Foote’s work or not.

    Tyndall’s work, meanwhile, used more sophisticated experimental techniques and could therefore correct for some of the issues Foote encountered in order to more precisely measure infrared light-waves absorbed by CO2.

    Tyndall was ultimately able to more clearly prove that the greenhouse gas effect is tied to carbon dioxide and human activities — this work has been widely accepted as a critical piece of the foundation for modern-day climate science. The Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, for instance, a prominent research institute in the U.K., now bears his name.

    Perlin, however, strongly believes Tyndall used Foote’s work.

    “I was curious, I spent a long time on this, whether or not there was some relationship between Eunice’s work and Tyndall’s work,” he said. Then one night at 4 a.m. he says, “I came up with what I say is the real damning evidence.”

    As Perlin said, his late-night inspiration eventually led him to look back at the 1856 American Journal of Science, where Foote’s article is published. Also in that same issue is an article by Tyndall about color blindness.

    Perlin believes it would have been impossible for Tyndall to have missed Foote’s work. Having both authors published in the same journal issue “enhances the possibility that he would have this volume in his hand,” said Perlin, “because he’d like to see his article.”

    “I have taken so much, pardon the word, shit, for suggesting that Tyndall may have looked at Eunice’s work,” Perlin added, arguing that her story “is a great rallying point” for today’s climate and women’s movements.

    Regardless of where one stands on whether Tyndall was aware of Foote’s work, what everyone does appear to agree on is that she deserves much more recognition for her work than she has received until now.

    “She really has been lost to history and I’m absolutely sure there’s a strong gender component to that,” said Hayhoe, adding that Foote also had to contend with being an amateur scientist, whereas Tyndall did not. “And the fact that she was not a professional scientist, well gender is there too.”

    Looking forward
    Rather than it being a story about suppression, Hayhoe believes it should be one of celebration. Foote achieved a remarkable amount during her time, and is “an incredible role model for women today.”

    Tiffany Lohwater, chief communications director at AAAS, agreed. “The past is the past and the future is the future,” Lohwater said, adding that by understanding the past, we can look back “to say what can we learn from that that can help us do a better job in understanding and recognizing women today and in the future?”

    Using Foote’s story as a reference point, added AAAS archivist Rosado-Blake, “to stimulate a new dialogue and engage new audiences is an important component in engaging a new generation.”

    Say hello to Farmers.gov Soil Health website

    Photo credit: Bob Berwyn

    Click here to access the page. Here’s an excerpt:

    Healthy soil is the foundation of productive, sustainable agriculture.

    Managing for soil health allows producers to work with the land – not against – to reduce erosion, improve nutrient cycling, save money on inputs, and ultimately improve the resiliency of their working land.

    Whether you raise corn in Alabama, beef cattle in Wyoming, or something in between, we’re here to help you build the health of your soils and strengthen your operation. Learn here about the principles of soil health and usable best practices. Then visit your local USDA service center where we can help you develop a management plan that supports your goals.

    #Drought news: Most areas remain unchanged in #Colorado, late start to the North American #Monsoon

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    South

    Heavy rain – 3.5 to locally over 8.0 inches – dowsed much of the dry area in Tennessee, eliminating most of the abnormally dry area, though a few patches remain in central and northern parts of the state. In contrast, most areas in the lower Mississippi Valley and southern Great Plains recorded little or no rainfall, with moderate to isolated heavy amounts limited to parts of central Oklahoma, western Texas, and the Louisiana Bayou. The rains brought regions of improvement (but not broad-scale relief) to western Texas, including the Big Bend. Farther north, a re-assessment of conditions led to some improvement being introduced in the Texas Panhandle (especially northern sections) and eastern parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle and adjacent western Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the dry and hot week prompted substantial deterioration across central and eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and (to a lesser extent) eastern Oklahoma. As a result, moderate to severe drought became more widespread, especially in a swath from southern to northeastern Texas. San Antonio, TX reported just over 2 inches of rain for April-June 2018, compared to a normal of over 10.6 inches (third driest such period in 134 years of record). Also, grass fires have become unusually common across the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area. In southwestern Texas, to the north and northwest of Laredo, a broad area of extreme drought (D3) was introduced, with an area of exceptional drought (D4) introduced in part of this region along the Rio Grande River. Most of the new D3 area recorded only 2 to 4 inches of rain in the last 90 days, and 3-month totals of only 0.5 to 1.5 inches (with widely isolated higher amounts) were recorded in the new D4 region…

    High Plains

    In Colorado and Wyoming, most areas remained unchanged; most of Wyoming remained out of dryness, and conditions worsen progressively moving south, with extreme to exceptional drought covering southern Colorado. Deficient precipitation and enhanced evaporative loss over the past few months led to limited expansion of D0 and D1 in areas near the central part of the border. Farther east, dryness led to some deterioration in Kansas. D3 pushed into part of south-central Kansas while extreme drought expanded into a larger part of northeastern Kansas. In the Dakotas, very heavy rains and flooding late in the period covered a swath across east-central South Dakota, leading to a band of 1- to 2-category improvement, with southern reaches of the old D2 area climbing to D0. This area will have to be assessed next week to get a better sense of how this intense rainfall episode changed the drought situation there. Moderate to heavy rains (but only isolated minor flooding) pelted western North Dakota as well, prompting the removal of abnormal dryness over much of the western part of the state. Small-scale improvements were made in a few other dry areas where rain was heaviest…

    West

    Outside the withdrawal of D0 from a small area in northeast Montana, where most locations recorded between one and two inches of rain, the Drought Monitor depiction is unchanged from the previous week. Significant rains from the Southwest Monsoon have yet to reach most of Arizona, and only scattered locations across southern and eastern New Mexico recorded over an inch of rain this past week. But a late start to the monsoon is hardly unusual, and conditions do not warrant drought degradation yet…

    Looking Ahead

    For the remainder of this week (through July 8, 2018), moderate precipitation (0.5 to 1.2 inches) is forecast across a broad area in the southeastern Great Plains, the Ohio and lower half of the Mississippi River Valleys, and the Eastern Seaboard. Heavy rain (2 to locally 5 inches) is forecast in southeastern Texas and the southern tier of Louisiana, and amounts could reach 2 inches in eastern Pennsylvania and southwestern Florida. Farther west, moderate to heavy rain (0.5 to locally 2.5 inches) is forecast for parts of the central and northeastern Great Plains, and far northern Mississippi Valley. Rainfall should be light with isolated moderate totals in the rest of the country east of the Rockies while little or no rain is expected from the Rockies to the Pacific Ocean. Average daily minimum temperatures should be above-normal throughout the contiguous states, with the largest departures (6 to 10 degrees F) expected in the southern Rockies, parts of the Great Basin and northern Great Plains, and throughout the Ohio Valley and Northeast. Daily high temperatures will not differ as far from normal, with 5-day anomalies exceeding 3 degrees F more than normal limited to the Northwest, the Intermountain West, most of the Rockies, the Great Lakes, and New England. The subsequent 5-day period (July 9-13, 2018), Odds favor above-normal rainfall in central and southern sections of California, the Intermountain West (including the Great Basin), and the Rockies, with surplus precipitation most likely in northern Arizona. Farther east, wet weather is also favored in the lower Mississippi Valley, most of the Southeast, the southern and eastern Ohio Valley, and the middle Atlantic States. Southern Alaska also has enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation. In contrast, subnormal rainfall is favored from central and southern Texas northward through the Plains, the western Great Lakes, the northern Intermountain West, and the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures are expected to average above normal across most of the contiguous states, with the exceptions of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and part of southern Alaska, where cooler than normal conditions seem more likely.

    From The Fence Post (Amy G. Hadachek):

    While the hardest hit areas are southwest Colorado, northern New Mexico, as well as the Texas Panhandle (especially around Amarillo,) and the western one-third of Oklahoma including the Oklahoma Panhandle, there is at least some encouraging news in the longer range forecasts for rain.

    First, the southwest states, and reasons why drought conditions began.

    “The San Juan River in extreme northwest New Mexico is at the bottom 10th percentile for this time of year. However, if you look at the upper portions of the Pecos River (north of Lake Santa Rosa), and the upper portions of the Rio Grande, near Taos, they are both at record low flows for this time of year. This is directly attributable to the lack of snowfall/lack of snowpack this year, and the lack of subsequent run off,” said Victor Murphy, climate services program manager, National Weather Service Southern Region.

    Western Colorado is (also) really hurting right now with regard to streamflows and hydrologic conditions. “Nearly all streamflows are in the bottom 10 percentile for this time of year, with some at record lows for this time of year,” Murphy said.

    Streamflows are low because of the poor spring runoff season after the low snowpack started melting.

    “Water supplies, normally at their highest in June due to re-charge from snowmelt and runoff, were not adequately replenished, and they could experience more stress through the high demand summer season,” said Becky Bolinger, Ph.D., assistant state climatologist at the Colorado Climate Center-Colorado State University in Fort Collins, during the June 25 webinar.

    OTHER CONTRIBUTORS

    Western states count on a strong monsoon season (which is a seasonal reversal of the wind pattern that typically brings moisture up and into the four corners’ states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. “However, the poor monsoon season late last summer triggered the launch into drought conditions. This was also followed by the dry, warm beginning of (what is typically) the ‘snow accumulating’ season. By January, the higher elevations were experiencing what some may refer to as a snow drought. Many mountain locations in central Utah, western Colorado and northern New Mexico reported their lowest seasonal peak snowpack on record,” Bolinger said.

    Since the beginning of what’s known as “the water year,” (October 2017 through May of this year,) most of the four corners have seen much below-average precipitation and much above-average temperatures, with some locations experiencing their record driest and/or record warmest water year, to date.

    “In the southwest U.S., (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California,) over 68 percent of the area is experiencing drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Almost 32 percent of the region is experiencing extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought conditions. Exceptional drought is focused over the four corners area and extends into central Arizona and across northern New Mexico,” Bolinger said.

    These levels of drought conditions are ranked in the bottom fifth percentile or lower. “That means that typically in 100 years, only five years or less would be considered worse.”

    FIRE RESTRICTIONS

    “All of the four corners states have widespread fire restrictions. A greater than average number of wildfires is anticipated, due to longer term drought conditions and short-term dry and windy weather,” Bolinger said. She said this wildfire season has affected the recreation industry with the widespread National Forest closures in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. “Future impacts are expected to include the increased risk of flash flooding, as burned areas change the land cover. The vegetation can no longer take in the water, and so the ground develops a sort of ‘repellent’ barrier that increases runoff and causes flooding,” Bolinger said.

    SOME HOPE

    There is however, some encouraging news that the summer monsoon should begin in earnest in the next one to two weeks. “This should greatly alleviate this,” Murphy said during the second webinar on June 27, which was also hosted by the team of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Weather Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Drought Mitigation Center, and the American Association of State Climatologists. But Murphy said, if the monsoon under-performs, then going forward into the cold season, all eyes will then turn to the developing El Niño climate pattern to provide relief. El Niño, (formally called the El Niño Southern Oscillation,) is the opposite of La Niña.

    One note of caution, this forthcoming monsoon could be good for alleviating drought conditions, Bolinger said. “In areas where spotty thunderstorms occur though, the risk of lightning starting a wildfire will be high. And in localized burn areas, there will be an increased risk of flooding.”

    SOUTHERN PLAINS

    Drought impacts include reduced forage and pasture, livestock herd reduction and the high fire danger. The combination of heat and lack of precipitation is stressing crops and threatening yields this year. “While recent pockets of heavy rain in south and west Texas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, and southwest Kansas provided some local relief, however dry conditions and record-high heat have expanded severe drought conditions in southeast Oklahoma and northeast Texas. These recent rains resulted in significant drought improvement in parts of western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle,” Murphy said. “However, areas on the periphery (around Amarillo, and in far southwest Oklahoma along the Red River) are still in extreme drought (D3) and still in need of improvement. Short-term drought and above average temperatures could tip them back to D4 if rainfall doesn’t materialize in July.”

    EL NINO

    The Climate Prediction Center has issued an El Niño Watch as of June 14. “By the fall, there is a greater than 50 percent chance that an El Niño will develop, and is expected to be of moderate strength in the fall and winter,” Bolinger said.

    While the southwest drought conditions developed because of the La Niña occurring last fall and winter, an El Niño may help shift the pattern. “Check out http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/enso/climaterisks to see what is statistically likely during an El Niño fall and winter,” Bolinger said. “In both seasons, most of the region (in the four corners and extending toward the eastern plains, but especially to the south) there’s a better likelihood for wet extremes to occur and it’s less likely that they’d see dry extremes during this time. More wet extremes and fewer dry extremes could help chip away at the drought around the four corners. Unfortunately, that pattern weakens as you move north, when you reach Wyoming and northern Utah, that pattern is opposite and we would expect to see an increased chance of dry extremes occurring.”

    LONG TERM

    “Drought is never really over, especially in the western states,” said Elizabeth Weight, regional drought information coordinator for NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System. “Drought stresses ecological systems, so it can take years to recover from a prolonged drought that inflicts damage on grasslands, forests, streams and aquifers. So, we need to shift from reactive crisis mode to longer-term drought planning through, for example, investing in good soil management practices, managing groundwater resources for the long-term, state-level drought planning that supports farmers and ranchers, and in better drought predictions and forecasting.”

    The webinars, which are seminars presented live on the internet, were also recorded, and are available on http://www.drought.gov.

    Meanwhile, down in the Arkansas River Basin at Beulah:

    Wanted: Innovative solutions to future water problems – News on TAP

    Denver Water has been building bridges to the business and entrepreneurial communities.

    Source: Wanted: Innovative solutions to future water problems – News on TAP

    Half splits

    Katie Klingsporn

    We didn’t break up, me and Telluride. We’re just on an extended hiatus.

    It’s not something I ever expected would happen. It was love at first sight, after all. When I drove into the box canyon for the first time in March of 2006, it had just snowed a foot. The town was covered in white stuff, the mountains all a-sparkle under a new coat of white, the houses like ginger-bread Victorians, the ski lifts right over there. I had moved here sight unseen, and I couldn’t believe my great good fortune. I actually had a job reporting at the local paper in this place; this breathtaking mountain town was my new home.

    And for the next several years, it was a full-on, adventure-stuffed, giddy-with-glee love affair. I hiked and biked the trails, marveling at the beauty of the mountains, the secret treasures contained in their folds, the glory of…

    View original post 640 more words

    Our Brains on Nature; River Edition

    Katie Klingsporn

    I recently wrote a story for OARS about the benefits of water, wilderness and river trips on human health:

    Why Our Brains Need Multi-Day River Trips

    By day five of my first rafting trip down the Grand Canyon, time started to slow and protract in a funny way. My senses seemed to sharpen, becoming almost granular. I shed the anxiety I had experienced going into the trip, and instead pondered the immeasurable journey that the sand had taken to reach the beach at my feet, noticed every bend of light as it spilled over the rim each morning and watched with great interest as the smear of stars grew brighter against the night sky.

    Each splash of cold river water, ray of hot sun on my skin, scuttle of lizard, conversation with a trip-mate and song of canyon wren seemed so defined. Everything too important to overlook.

    Read the full story…

    View original post 1 more word

    @WaterLawReview: Staying Afloat: States Look to Integrate Water Planning to Combat Predicted Water Shortages

    Projected supply gap for 2030 via the Colorado Water Conservation Board

    From the University of Denver Water Law Review (Liz Trower):

    The Need for Integrated Planning

    The number of people living in the water-scarce West has skyrocketed in recent decades. Colorado, for example, was home to 2.2 million people in 1970. By 2015, the state had grown to 5.5 million people (a 145% increase). Current estimates suggest Colorado will reach 8.5 million people by 2050. Cities throughout the region continue to rank among the fastest-growing in the country. Traditionally, states in the region have addressed the increasing demand for water through a combination of conservation efforts, water diversions, and even market-based re-allocations of water from agriculture to cities. However, these strategies are no longer sufficient to meet projected demands.

    As a result, states and experts are increasingly scrutinizing the local government approval process for new developments. New developments ratchet up water demand, but can also present important opportunities for increased conservation—it is much easier to integrate water saving systems and technology into a new development than it is to retrofit a preexisting community. Yet, new developments have largely been left out of the water planning process because of the historical disconnect between water and land-use planning processes.

    Water planning and land-use planning for new developments typically occur in isolation. This means that even in water-scarce areas, developers may not be required to ensure sufficient water supplies are available before building new communities. Instead, developers and the local land-use authorities regulating new projects can simply take it on faith that water will be available to satisfy the continued growth. In turn, water managers have responded to the increased demand by procuring additional water supplies or otherwise implementing systems to ensure supplies for new communities. While seemingly illogical, this divide or “governance gap” exists because the two areas have been historically governed within entirely separate legal frameworks.

    The governance gap is two-fold: strategic water availability planning is traditionally a state function, while land-use planning for new development falls within the purview of local governments. Additionally, within local governments, water and land-use planning are often siloed. Within this existing system, state water managers and local municipalities are often driven by different goals. For example, local officials have had little reason to consider the availability of resources for the state as whole, but are often under pressure to increase new development as a means of creating job growth or an increased tax base. Additionally, even if they wanted to consider water availability, local government land-use planners are often not equipped with the expertise to make water planning decisions. The decision makers at the state and local level may be located far apart and, traditionally, had little reason or opportunity to consult each other.

    #ArkansasRiver calls go senior

    Arkansas River near Salida.

    From The Mountain Mail (Paul Goetz):

    Local calls on the South Arkansas River, Browns, Bear and Cottonwood creeks are normal during a dry year, but what is unusual this year, District 11 water commissioner Brian Sutton said, is just how senior they are right now.

    That means, because of the dry weather, water calls are reaching to and affecting more senior rights.

    “We are more senior than normal. This year on the South Ark we are on a April 30, 1880, and the Cottonwood is on a Dec. 31, 1872,” he said. “Those are unusual call dates during the summer.”

    What that means for water rights owners is that someone isn’t getting water downstream…

    Cottonwood may stay in 1872 a little longer, but the South Ark may go more senior depending on the rain, he said…

    The city of Salida has fairly senior rights from the 1870s or 1860s on the Harrington and Tenassee ditches, Sutton said.

    While those rights aren’t in any imminent danger of going out of priority, being able to physically take water from the South Ark becomes more difficult as the creek drops…

    Over the past nine months, precipitation received in Salida is 38.4 percent of average.

    According to The Mountain Mail rain gauge at 125 E. Second St., Salida has received 2.86 inches of precipitation in the nine months since Oct. 1, 2017.

    According to information compiled by climatologists at Colorado State University, the city’s average for the period is 7.44 inches.

    From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, Salida received 0.88 inch of moisture. The average for the three months is 2.77 inches.

    From Jan. 1 through June 30, the city received 1.98 inches compared to the average for the six months of 4.67 inches.

    June was the driest month. Salida received just 0.03 inch of rain in June, 3.6 percent of the average for the month of 0.83 inch.

    Aspen signs deals with @AmericanRivers, Trout Unlimited to move Castle/Maroon dam rights — @AspenJournalism

    Berries in the meadow near the Maroon Bells that would be flooded by a Maroon Creek Reservoir. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    American Rivers and Colorado Trout Unlimited are the latest of 10 opposing parties to sign agreements with the city of Aspen stating that the city will move its conditional water storage rights out of the upper Castle and Maroon creek valleys to five other locations.

    “This is a significant victory for rivers in Colorado,” said Matt Rice, the Colorado River basin director for American Rivers, in a statement issued jointly with Colorado Trout Unlimited on Tuesday.

    The alternative potential locations to store water from Castle and Maroon creeks include the city’s golf course, on open space near the Burlingame neighborhood, on open space at Cozy Point at the bottom of Brush Creek Road, on undeveloped land in Woody Creek next to the gravel pit and in the gravel pit itself.

    David Nickum, the executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said in the statement, “We appreciate the city of Aspen making this commitment to meet its water-supply needs while protecting these much-loved valleys and creeks, and the wild trout that call them home.”

    City officials also expect to soon receive a signed agreement from Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co., the owner of an estate in the lower Maroon Creek valley, according to Margeret Medellin, a utilities portfolio manager for the city of Aspen.

    As of May 29, the city had reached earlier settlements with Pitkin County, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, Double R Cross Ltd and Asp Properties LLC in the two cases.

    Medellin said Tuesday she understands the U.S. Forest Service also is prepared to sign an agreement and is working toward that end.

    And at a June 26 status conference, Craig Corona, the attorney for Larsen Family LP, the last of the 10 opposing parties, told the court he and his client were making progress toward settlement with the city.

    City officials have previously said none of the agreements are valid unless all 10 parties sign them.

    Reached on Tuesday, Corona said he could not discuss the case.

    A water court official has given the opposing parties who have not reached agreement with the city until July 10 to respond to the city’s latest proposal.

    The city then has until Aug. 7 to get back to the opposers and the next status conference in the two water court cases is set for Aug. 21.

    A map showing the location of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir.

    1965 filing

    The city’s conditional water storage rights date back to 1965, when the city first filed maps with the state declaring its intent to build the two dams.

    One water right is tied to a 155-foot-tall dam that would be located just below the confluence of East and West Maroon creeks, within view of the Maroon Bells, to hold back 4,567 acre-feet of water in the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir.

    The other is tied to a 170-foot-tall dam on Castle Creek 2 miles below Ashcroft that could store 9,062 acre-feet in the potential Castle Creek Reservoir.

    The city’s water rights carry a 1971 priority date and since then the city has periodically told the state it still intends to build the dams and reservoirs someday, when necessary.

    In its latest periodic diligence filings with the state, in October 2016, the city again declared its intent and drew opposition from the 10 opposing parties.

    The dam site of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir, in the Roaring Fork River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Key issues raised during the process include whether the city has been diligently making progress toward building the dams and if the city needs the water.

    However, sufficient diligence and need are in the eyes of a water court judge and remain unresolved questions.

    In their statement issued Tuesday, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited pointed out that “Aspen’s own 2016 water availability report clearly stated that the city did not need the two dams for municipal water supply or climate resiliency.”

    Since that 2016 report the city has conducted a “risk analysis” study that found it could perhaps need about 8,000 acre-feet of storage in a hotter and drier world.

    And a recent engineering study that identified five alternative locations where the city could potentially store the water.

    “We explored alternatives for water storage and we believe we’ve come up with the best solution for prudent water management that serves the needs of our water customers and speaks to our environmental values,” Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron said in March, when the city spent $2.68 million on 63 acres of vacant land as a potential water storage site.

    Under the terms of the settlements being signed with the city, the opposing parties are conceding that the city has been diligent, or perhaps diligent enough, and are taking a neutral stance, at least with the court, on the question of whether the city needs that much water.

    “American Rivers agreed to diligence for the City of Aspen because we thought this was the best opportunity to reach a settlement with the city that would permanently remove the water rights for the two dams from the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys, not because we believe the city needs more water storage or has been diligent in developing the projects,” Rice, of American Rivers, told Aspen Journalism. “Our priority has always been the health and protection of Castle and Maroon Creeks. “

    The signed agreements to date say that the parties will not oppose a forthcoming application from the city to relocate up to 8,500 acre-feet of its 13,629 acre-feet of conditional water storage rights to potential storage facilities at the five locations outside of the high valleys.

    Other parties, not in the Castle and Maroon creek cases, can still oppose the city’s efforts in water court to move the water rights, and their 1971 decree date.

    If it is unsuccessful in its efforts to move the rights, the city has said, in the agreements it has signed to date, that it will not seek to maintain the Castle and Maroon rights in their original locations.

    The signed agreements to date say that the parties will not oppose a forthcoming application from the city to relocate up to 8,500 acre-feet of it’s 13,629 acre-feet of conditional water storage rights to potential storage facilities at the five locations outside of the high valleys.

    Other parties, not in the Castle and Maroon creek cases, can still oppose the city’s efforts in water court to move the water rights, and their 1971 decree date.

    If it is unsuccessful in its efforts to move the rights, the city has said, in the agreements it has signed to date, that it will not seek to maintain the Castle and Maroon rights in their original locations.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and water. The Times published this story on July 4, 2018.

    #ColoradoSprings stormwater fees start

    Heavy rains inundate Sand Creek. Photo via the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Independent.

    From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    City stormwater fees, approved by voters in November 2017, will finally be billed this month. For most, the fees aren’t based on impact — or square footage of impermeable surface, such as rooftops or driveways, that lead to runoff. Instead, residential properties will pay a flat $5 a month, whether for a palatial estate or a tiny studio apartment, bringing in an estimated $7.9 million a year.

    Nonresidential property owners, who are expected to pay around $8.2 million a year, will be billed $30 per developed acre per month. But properties that are 5 acres or less will pay the fee without any adjustment for impermeable surface, while those larger than 5 acres will be charged fees determined by the city’s stormwater manager based on impermeable surface.

    City of Aspen moves closer to settlements on Castle and Maroon creeks water rights cases — @AspenJournalism

    The dam site of the potential Maroon Creek Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    The city of Aspen continues to make progress on reaching settlement agreements with 10 different parties over its water rights on Maroon and Castle creeks, and a water referee set deadlines that could lead to a resolution before the end of summer.

    At a status conference [July 26, 2018], both the city and its opponents said progress is being made toward resolving the cases.

    “I feel optimistic we are moving toward a settlement,” said Cindy Covell, a water attorney for the city who is with Alperstein and Covell in Denver.

    So far, five of the 10 parties who oppose the city’s efforts in water court to maintain conditional storage rights tied to potential dams on Maroon and Castle creeks have signed settlement agreements. Still left to sign are American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, the U.S. Forest Service, Larsen Family Limited Partnership and Roaring Fork Land & Cattle Co.

    Attorney Paul Noto, who represents American Rivers, Trout Unlimited and Roaring Fork Land and Cattle Co., said his clients will likely settle soon.

    “I think we are all enthused about how it all ended up,” Noto said. “We are excited about the protections afforded to Castle and Maroon creeks.”

    That leaves two other parties that are further away from settling, Larsen Family LP and the U.S. Forest Service.

    Attorney Craig Corona of Aspen, who represents the Larsen family, told water court referee Susan Michelle Ryan on Tuesday that he and the city are “definitely” making progress toward finalizing a settlement. The U.S. Forest Service has been difficult to reach lately, according to Covell.

    Upper Castle Creek, about two miles below Ashcroft, where the city holds conditional water storage rights tied to the potential Castle Creek Reservoir, which would be formed by a 170-foot-tall dam. The city is moving closer to reaching settlement agreements with the ten parties opposing the city’s effort to hang on to the water rights, and the settlement includes moving the city’s rights out of the Castle and Maroon creek valleys.

    Response deadlines

    Ryan set a deadline of July 10 for the remaining opposing parties to respond to the city’s settlement proposal. The city must respond to those responses (if a response is necessary) by Aug. 7. The next status conference is scheduled for Aug. 21.

    The cases are being heard in Division 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs. The new deadlines mean the cases will extend past the 18-month deadline of disposition, but Ryan decided to keep them on her docket since progress toward a resolution is being made.

    Potential reservoirs

    Since 1965, the city has owned conditional water rights for reservoirs on Maroon and Castle creeks. In October 2016, the city filed a diligence application to maintain the water rights, which are tied to potential dams.

    The potential Maroon Creek Reservoir would hold 4,567 acre-feet of water and include a 155-foot-tall dam, which would flood part of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The potential Castle Creek Reservoir would hold 9,062 acre-feet behind a 170-foot-tall dam 2 miles below Ashcroft.

    The possibility of two new reservoirs and dams didn’t sit well with 10 parties, who filed statements of opposition to the two water rights cases in December 2016.

    Under the agreements, the city will seek to transfer its conditional water storage rights to other potential reservoir sites, including a gravel pit near Woody Creek, with a maximum storage capacity of 8,500 acre-feet. As part of the deal, the opposing parties have agreed not to fight the city’s efforts to move the water rights to new locations for 20 years.

    The five parties that have already signed the agreements include Pitkin County, Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates and two private property owners in Castle Creek Valley.

    Officials release Upper Roaring Fork Management Plan — @AspenJournalism

    Outflow of the Twin Lakes-Independence Tunnel. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    After months of delays and challenges to the planning process, the city of Aspen quietly unveiled the Upper Roaring Fork River Management Plan earlier this month.

    The plan names the stretch of the Roaring Fork River through Aspen as the most at-risk and cites transmountain diversions as the main cause.

    The plan, which was a joint project between the city of Aspen and Pitkin County, identified impacts to streamflow and developed goals and strategies to protect river health in the Upper Roaring Fork watershed.

    The east end of the Independence Pass tunnel, bringing water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River to the East Slope

    Scope shifted

    Because of sensitivity around two instances of ongoing litigation — the Busk-Ivanhoe settlement involving transmountain diversions and Pitkin County and the city of Aspen’s conditional water storage rights for the potential Castle and Maroon reservoirs — the focus of the plan shifted after work on it had already begun.

    “In the midst of our planning effort, we changed course a little bit and moved away from a scope that was intended to identify ways of re-managing water or administering water differently,” said Seth Mason, an engineer with Lotic Hydrological, the Carbondale-based firm that was hired to produce the plan. “We stepped back from that scope and moved into DSS tools.”

    DSS, or decision support systems, are computer models that let water managers simulate how different factors might affect stream flows.

    The plan compiles years of studies and data, provides an assessment of existing conditions and provides a framework for making decisions to improve the ecological health of the Upper Roaring Fork River and its tributaries.

    The plan mentions several water management opportunities that warrant further investigation such as dry-year water leasing with the Salvation Ditch Co. and municipal raw water supply reductions.

    April Long, City of Aspen clean river program manager, presented the plan to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board at its June 7 meeting. The board recommended sending it to the Pitkin County Commissioners for approval.

    “The important thing from the board’s point of view is that we want scientific, responsible information before we do some of our projects on something as sensitive as the river,” said Graeme Means, chair of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board.

    A map prepared for the Upper Roaring Fork River Management Plan that shows the stretch of river near Aspen that is heavily impacted by diversions above it. The community ranked this reach as the one they would most like to see management to improve ecological conditions.

    Eight reaches

    The plan evaluated eight reaches in the Upper Roaring Fork. On the the main stem of the Roaring Fork, consultants looked at from Lost Man Creek to Difficult Creek, Difficult Creek to Salvation Ditch and Salvation Ditch to Castle Creek. They looked at the tributaries of Lincoln Creek from Grizzly Reservoir to its confluence with the Roaring Fork, Hunter Creek from the Fry-Ark Project diversions to its confluence with the Roaring Fork, Castle Creek from Conundrum Creek to its confluence with the Roaring Fork and Maroon Creek from West Maroon to its confluence with the Roaring Fork.

    The Roaring Fork River through the City of Aspen emerged as the reach most at risk, with riparian health, flow modification, water pollution, development and land use, habitat fragmentation and aquatic flora and fauna all ranking as poor or at high risk for impact. The minimum flow set by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to maintain ecological health — 32 cfs — is often not met on this stretch in late summer.

    The plan also clarifies community values surrounding rivers and water and found that the stretch of the Roaring Fork that flows through downtown Aspen also is the most concerning to the public. This stretch of river, and most of the river upstream of Aspen, could soon see roughly 10 to 30 more cubic feet per second of additional water as a result of a pending settlement between Pitkin County and the Colorado River District and City of Aurora.

    The water court case settlement concerning the Busk-Ivanhoe transmountain diversion is expected to let as much as 1,000 more acre-feet of water run into the Upper Roaring Fork River each year instead of being diverted under Independence Pass to the Front Range.

    It was this pending case that contributed to the delay and change in scope to the plan. It was originally scheduled to be released in July 2017.

    The Roaring Fork River bounding down the Grottos on Thursday, June 16, 2016, after the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed. Photo Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism).

    Flows impacted

    The risk for impact to the river from flow modification was ranked as high or moderate on all eight evaluated reaches of the Upper Roaring Fork watershed.

    “Flow is a huge issue on all of our segments. Nobody got an ‘A’ there,” Long said. “Flow can be considered the master variable for a healthy river. It will impact a lot of the other characteristics.”

    Most of those modifications to flows in the Upper Roaring Fork watershed come in the form of transmountain diversions, which reduce the yield in the Roaring Fork River above Mill Street by 40 percent.

    The plan names the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System as the primary cause of human-caused shortages in flows. The IPTDS completely dewaters portions of the Upper Roaring Fork River for significant periods each year, according to the plan.

    Operated by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., the system takes an average of 43,000 acre-feet per year from the Roaring Fork headwaters through Twin Lakes Tunnel No. 1 to the Arkansas basin where it is used for East Slope municipal and irrigation purposes. The tunnel under the divide can move 625 cfs of water out of the Roaring Fork basin.

    “I really want people to understand how much water is diverted from this river,” Long said. “It does require a lot of coordination and communication and collaboration.”

    But despite the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co.’s outsized role in the health of the Upper Roaring Fork and that representatives from the company served on the plan’s technical advisory group, the company’s president Kevin Lusk said he has not been involved in anything related to the plan in over nine months. Although he participated in early meetings, Lusk said he had not seen the plan until Aspen Journalism sent it to him and therefore has not read it and cannot comment.

    The plan, which cost $200,000, was funded 50-50 by the city and county. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Director Gary Tennenbaum said the county has a lot of concerns about the water in the Upper Roaring Fork River, especially near the North Star Nature Preserve a few miles upstream from the city limits. The county also owns parcels adjacent to the Roaring Fork River between Aspen and Woody Creek in an area known as the Gorge.

    “We have been waiting to do Northstar projects until the plan was finished,” Tennenbaum said. “It kind of validates the planning we have been doing and it really gives us more impetus to get started on some of these county projects.”

    Roaring Fork: Anglers urged to take afternoons off to give the trout a break during times of low water, high temperatures

    The Cascades, on the Roaring Fork River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife and multiple partners are urging anglers to carry thermometers with them and quit fishing when the water in rivers and streams hits 67 degrees.

    “We’re definitely concerned right now. Temperatures are reaching the high 60s and even 70 on the Colorado (River),” Kendall Bakich, an aquatic biologist with CPW for area 8, said Tuesday.

    The agency last sought a voluntary fishing closure on the Roaring Fork for high water temperatures and low flows in 2012. Bakich said anglers are urged to go out earlier in the day, when air and water temperatures tend to be lower.

    “Two o’clock is a good rule of thumb” of when temperatures climb, she said.

    Rick Lofaro, executive director of Basalt-based Roaring Fork Conservancy, said the nonprofit organization is working with CPW, Trout Unlimited and the Roaring Fork Fishing Guide Alliance to spread the word about the voluntary closures of waters in the valley.

    Do your part to #conserve water — City of Monte Vista

    Monte Vista historic district via Wikipedia

    From the City of Monte Vista via The Monte Vista Journal:

    This year’s dry conditions may bring to mind the multi-year drought experienced throughout the San Luis Valley starting in 2002. The sustained lack of precipitation and over-appropriated water usage caused nearby streams and water tables to shrink. Some wells even dried up.

    The situation seemed dire but a Valley-wide effort— which includes farmers and ranchers paying for water and fallowing portions of their fields—has helped water usage get to a more sustainable level. The Valley’s shared aquifer has since recovered nearly 250,000 acre-feet of water.

    While it’s great that the aquifer is rebounding, there’s more that can be done to help it recharge to sustainable usage levels, says Monte Vista City Manager Forrest Neuerburg.

    Engineering consultant SGM was hired to help draft a water efficiency plan for the city, which includes implementing water saving strategies such as water meter testing and maintenance, time-of-day outdoor watering restrictions, efficiency incentives, a system-wide water audit and even the xeriscaping of municipal properties. The city also plans on upgrading old appliances and fixtures in municipal buildings over time (toilets, showerheads, sprinkler heads, etc.).

    The city, Neuerburg said, additionally plans on seeking grant monies to fund rebates for Monte Vista residents wanting to swap out old appliances and fixtures with newer water-efficient ones. Other cities with similar rebate plans include the city of Longmont, which offers residents a $100 rebate on their utility bills for upgrading to dual flush toilets and $50 for low flow toilets. Brighton offers $125 rebates on WaterSense washing machines and $100 on toilets.

    While agriculture uses about 99 percent of water that’s pumped from the aquifer, towns like Monte Vista use their fair share. It’s worth noting that the city’s annual water demand has declined by about half since the installation of water meters in the early 2000s—but from 2012 to 2016, Monte Vistans averaged 135 to 145 gallons of water used per person per day. Add to that local businesses and municipalities and Monte Vista’s daily water usage tops 169 to 182 gallons per day, translating to some six million gallons of water being pumped from the aquifer each month in Monte Vista alone.

    According to the EPA statistics, the average American used between 80 to 100 gallons of water a day at home. That means Monte Vista residents use more than the national average.

    Conserving water isn’t as much trouble as people might think. “Something as simple as turning off the water while brushing your teeth or shaving will save a significant amount of water,” Neuerburg said. Running the dishwasher just once a week saves nearly 320 gallons of water annually. And repairing leaky faucets, running toilets and dysfunctional hose connections can save some 180 gallons a day.

    “Xeriscaping is also one easy thing people can do,” Neuerberg said, “and the cool thing about it is that you can make your yard really pretty without bluegrass.” He also suggests natural organic products like Revive, which can help your lawn absorb water more efficiently, “You just spray your lawn down with it and it helps your lawn retain water.”

    Resources to help with water-saving ideas include Colorado Native Plant Society, Colorado Water Wise, Environmental Protection Agency and Energy Smart Colorado, which offers some rebates for water-saving products on home-improvement projects.

    The Monte Vista Water Efficiency plan can be viewed at http://cityofmontevista.com for public comment.

    @CWCB_DNR and Southwest Basin Roundtable award $220,000 for wetlands near Navajo Lake

    One of the existing wetlands at Sambrito that is in need of repair. Photo credit: Southwest Wetland Focus Area Committee

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    Although wetlands account for only a small portion of the landscape, it is estimated that 75 percent of all wildlife in the state depend on the thriving ecosystems, according to the Colorado Wetland Information Center.

    However, because of development and other human impacts, researchers say that number has been effectively cut in half.

    In recent years, wetland scientists and conservationists have undertaken the task of restoring and creating wetlands where possible, in the hopes of bringing back the instrumental ecosystems.

    Earlier this month, the Southwest Basin Roundtable and the Colorado Water Conservation Board awarded $50,000 and $170,000, respectively, to fund efforts to restore an estimated 100 acres of wetlands near Navajo Lake.

    “The project will greatly enhance waterfowl and hundreds of other wetland species,” said Tom Brossia, former state chairman for Ducks Unlimited. “It will provide both watchable wildlife and hunting opportunity.”

    When Navajo Dam was built in the 1960s to provide water and flood control for the growing town of Farmington and surrounding communities, more than 15,600 acres across the Colorado-New Mexico state line were inundated.

    On the Colorado side, in the southwestern corner of Archuleta County, several agencies, including the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, restored about 80 acres of wetland.

    The area is called the Sambrito Wetlands Complex, which has public access, a few hiking trails and a parking lot at the end of County Road 988, a dirt road off Highway 151, just outside of the unincorporated community of Allison.

    Around 2012, those interested in expanding the complex, through the Southwest Wetland Focus Area Committee, started planning a project that would add another 100 acres of wetlands.

    But that effort was abruptly derailed when the New Mexico jumping mouse was listed as an endangered species in 2014. Because Sambrito is considered critical habitat for the mouse, plans to alter the landscape must not adversely affect the species.

    In the interim, the infrastructure around the wetlands, as well as ditches and embankments, fell into disrepair, said Catherine Ortega, a wildlife biologist and ornithologist who used to teach at Fort Lewis College.

    But in recent months, the project regained steam, and with the formal announcement of the grants totaling $220,000, plans to restore the wetland are set to begin either in fall 2018 or early next year.

    Now, not only will the project be a benefit to the jumping mouse, it will also provide more habitat for the diverse range of wildlife that depend on the ecosystem, as well as other imperiled species, such as the southwestern willow flycatcher and the yellow-billed cuckoo.

    Brossia said there’s an estimated 980 species that can be found in Sambrito.

    The latest briefing from the Western Water Assessment is hot off the presses

    Click here to read the briefing (scroll down). Here’s an excerpt:

    The latest monthly briefing was posted today on the Intermountain West Climate Dashboard. The highlights, also provided below, cover current drought, runoff and reservoir conditions, June precipitation and temperature, and precipitation outlooks.

  • Utah and Colorado are seeing increasing hydrological, agricultural, and ecological impacts associated with the severe (D2) to exceptional (D4) drought conditions now covering over half of both states. Recent and current streamflows in the drought-affected basins are generally 5-30% of normal, including mainstem gages on the Duchesne, Yampa, Lower Green, Colorado, Gunnison, Dolores, San Juan, and Rio Grande.
  • Streamflows in Utah and southern and western Colorado are rapidly and prematurely receding to baseflow levels, with the observed monthly flows for June at or below the 10th percentile for the vast majority of gages. In northeastern Colorado and southern and eastern Wyoming, June flows were below normal at most gages despite near-normal peak snowpack. Due to the very low April-June inflows, storage in Lake Powell was 12.73 MAF as of July 1st, compared to 15.41 MAF one year ago.
  • While Tropical Storm Bud brought decent rains to some portions of southwestern Colorado, the month of June was drier than normal for most of Colorado, and bone-dry across Utah. Most of Wyoming had near-normal or wetter-than-normal conditions. June was another unusually warm month for the region, with many parts of Colorado and Utah seeing temperatures 4-6 degrees F above normal.
  • Since early June, drought conditions have worsened in central and southern Utah and southern Colorado. D4 conditions have expanded in the Four Corners region and have emerged in central Utah. The total area in the region affected by drought is similar to three weeks ago. As of June 26, 61% of Utah is in D2 or worse, and the remainder in D0 or D1; in Colorado, 52% is in D2 or worse, and 27% in D0-D1; and in Wyoming, only 14% is in D0-D1, with no D2-D4.
  • The CPC seasonal precipitation outlooks for the month of July and the July-September period show enhanced chances for above-normal precipitation for Utah and western Colorado, reflecting that the forecast models used for guidance are nearly unanimous in showing an active southwestern monsoon.
  • Fuels mitigation helped save structures in #GolfCourseFire

    Grand Lake. Photo credit: Colorado.com

    From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Bryce Martin):

    The 20-acre fire, which flared up Thursday afternoon, stopped short of residences after hundreds of homes had already been evacuated. The blaze reached 100 percent containment Saturday.

    “The forestry work and fuels mitigation the Colorado State Forest Service has administered in the Grand Lake community without a doubt saved the Columbine subdivision,” said Grand Lake Fire Chief Mike Long.

    The Colorado State Forest Service has completed 217 acres of targeted fuels treatments since 2015 adjacent to subdivisions that were impacted by the fire, including Columbine, Winding River Ranch and Winding River Villas. Treatments have involved such measures as removing beetle-killed trees and the creation of fuelbreaks to reduce wildfire risk, according to the forest service.

    Three contracts have been administrated to implement fuels treatments within the Grand Lake community. Key partners include local forest products industries, the Grand County Wildfire Council, Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District and adjacent landowners, with funding support from Northern Colorado Water.

    Meet the New Entity in Charge of #California’s Water Tunnels Project

    From Water Deeply (Matt Weiser):

    The local water agencies that stand to benefit from California’s WaterFix tunnels project have formed a new joint powers authority to oversee construction. Here’s a look at how that will work.

    The local water agencies that stand to benefit from the tunnels have formed a joint powers authority (JPA) to oversee construction, rather than let the Department of Water Resources handle that, as it has historically.

    Local governments have formed hundreds of JPAs for various municipal purposes. But this is a new undertaking for a massive state-owned water project.

    WaterFix includes two giant tunnels, each 35 miles long, which will divert water from the Sacramento River, the state’s largest river. Three massive new intakes along the river, near the town of Courtland, would siphon water into the tunnels, then to existing state and federal canals near the city of Tracy.

    The goal is to reduce harm to endangered fish species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, caused in part by existing water diversion plumbing. The project remains hugely controversial among environmental groups and local residents in and around the Delta, who are concerned it will disrupt the sensitive estuary and not live up to its promise of helping native fish.

    Adding to their anxiety is the new joint powers authority. Officially called the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority.

    #Wildfires burn across #Colorado

    From The Associated Press via The Aspen Times:

    More than 2,500 homes are under evacuation orders in Colorado as firefighters battle over a half dozen wildfires around the state.

    Most of the evacuations in effect Monday were due to a 78 square mile wildfire in southern Colorado that authorities believe was human caused.

    The Costilla County Sheriff’s Office announced Saturday that 52-year-old Jesper Joergensen of Denmark was arrested on arson charges. Investigators haven’t released other details except to say they don’t think he intentionally started the fire…

    About 570 homes are evacuated near a 2.4 square mile fire that started Friday near Florissant. About 360 children at a camp also had to be evacuated by the Chateau Fire.

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo) via The Cortez Journal:

    The 416 Fire is on track this week to become one of Colorado’s largest wildfires in state history.

    According to a Monday morning update from the National Incident Management Organization, the 416 Fire grew by 1,767 acres Sunday, bringing the total area burned to 51,068 acres.

    With no signs of slowing down, the 416 Fire is set to break the top five largest wildfires in Colorado state history. Currently, the Last Chance Fire that burned 52,000 acres in 2012 in eastern Colorado holds that spot.

    The fourth spot is held by the Missionary Ridge Fire, which ripped through 71,739 acres, also north of Durango.

    As of Monday afternoon, the Spring Fire in Costillo County jumped ahead of the 416 Fire in terms of total area burned, scorching more than 56,000 acres.

    The Colorado State Forest Service, which keeps track of these numbers, does not add fires to its list until the burns are fully contained.

    Julie Malingowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said weather conditions this week will continue to be hot and dry, creating continued risk of fire danger and fire spread…

    Over the weekend, however, weather conditions allowed for significant progress on the 416 Fire, according to the Monday report, with firefighters finishing burnout operations on the fire’s southwestern edge.

    Crews will remain holding the fire line west of Forest Road 171 to Sheep Head Basin, southeast of the Hermosa Creek wilderness area, with the assistance of helicopter water drops.

    With burnout operations concluded, firefighters have moved to the north edge of the fire in an effort to strengthen existing fire lines and prepare for future burnout operations to protect Purgatory Resort…

    To date, the 416 Fire, which started June 1, has cost $27 million to fight. As of Monday morning, the fire was 37 percent contained. The cause of the fire is listed as “under investigation.”

    Meanwhile officials worry about the aftermath of wildfire and the effects on watersheds. Here’s a report from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

    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…

    Ash and silt pollute the Cache la Poudre River after the High Park Fire September 2012

    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…

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

    Hayman burn area via The Denver Post

    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.

    From The Climate Law Blog (Jessica Wentz):

    On October 9, 2017, the Tubbs Fire ripped through Sonoma County, California, destroying nearly 5,000 homes and killing 22 people. It was the most destructive wildfire in California’s history and the largest urban conflagration in the United States since the 1906 San Francisco earthquake fires. And it was only one of approximately 250 wildfires that sparked that same night in Northern California, causing a total of 44 fatalities and more than $9.4 billion in economic damages.

    Now, nine months later, the process of reconstruction has begun. Some of the first homes have gone up on burned lots. Many of these lots are located in the “wildland-urban interface” – rural, forested areas on the outskirts of cities that are much more prone to wildfires. Commenters have questioned the prudency of rebuilding in these areas in light of existing fire hazard and predictions of how the warming climate will fuel more frequent and severe wildfires in the western United States. But there are social and economic factors which are driving reconstruction despite the risk – specifically, the emotional attachment of many property owners to the place they call “home” and the fact that property values in the areas remain extremely high (with some lots listed at over $1,000,000).

    The availability of insurance is a critical factor for rebuilding. But many areas prone to wildfire are becoming too risky to insure. As noted in a 2017 report from the California Department of Insurance, premiums and wildfire surcharges have increased significantly in the wildland-urban interface, and several major insurers have stopped writing new policies and renewing plans in areas with high wildfire risk. As insurers begin to account for climate change in their wildfire risk models, they will likely become even less willing to issue and renew policies in these areas.

    At this time, insurance is still available to property owners who are rebuilding their homes in the aftermath of the fires. This may be due, in large part, to a California law which prohibits insurance companies from cancelling a policy while a primary residence is being reconstructed after a covered disaster, and requires them to renew the policy at least once following a total loss caused by a disaster (Cal. INS § 675.1). The law provides short-term protection for property owners affected by the fires, but it does not guarantee that insurance will be available in the long run. Most homeowners’ insurance policies are written for a term of only 12 months, and there are no laws in California which prohibit an insurer from refusing to renew a homeowner’s policy (apart from the one exception noted above). The bottom line is that thousands of homes may be reconstructed due to the short-term availability of insurance, only to become uninsurable in the near future.

    Greeley: Bellvue Water Treatment Plant undergoes first major upgrade since 1947

    The water treatment process

    From The Greeley Tribune (Sara Knuth):

    These days, the historic plant is in the process of changing. Greeley is building a new water treatment plant on the same property to replace water filtration systems, marking the first major change to the facility since 1947. The $25 million project will centralize water filtration processes that currently are spread out between two buildings, and with further expansion one day could give the plant the capability to treat 40 million gallons of water per day. The initial phase of the project is expected to be completed by mid-2019.

    During the city’s annual summer water and sewer tour, a group of Greeley residents saw the past and into the future, learning about the extensive filtration, miles of pipeline that bring water from Bellvue to Greeley and the construction that will upgrade the system.

    “We’re kind of turning the page on what the treatment plant will look like between yesterday and into the future,” said Burt Knight, Greeley’s water and sewer director.

    CENTURY-OLD SYSTEM

    For Mohr, the Bellvue plant is fascinating. Between breaking down the technical process associated with treating water at the plant and showing residents decades-old filters during the tour, he stopped a few times to express his awe for the plant, first envisioned by Greeley leaders at the turn of the century, back when the city had a population of 5,000.

    In 1905, 97 percent of Greeley’s voters approved a ballot measure to build the plant at the mountain location — just west of Fort Collins — to bring the city water produced by Rocky Mountain snowmelt.

    “The one thing I’m overly impressed with is we’ve got over 30 miles of pipeline from this facility to Greeley, and we don’t use pumps to move water from there to there,” Mohr said.

    The 36-mile pipeline envisioned by Greeley water pioneer W.D. Farr brings water to the city’s storage facilities by gravity as it flows down from the mountains. Mohr said choosing Bellvue for the plant was a strategic part of the process.

    “W.D. Farr over 100 years ago worked together with a number of other very smart people and said, ‘If we’re going to serve water to the residents of Greeley, this is a great place to do it,’ ” he said. “And it is, for a number of reasons.”

    For one, Mohr said, Bellvue is still responsible for filtering most of Greeley’s water more than a century later. Though the Boyd Lake Water Treatment Plant in Loveland helps supplement the city’s production in the summer when residents use more water for lawns and plants, it runs only seasonally, leaving most of the work to Bellvue.

    And in 2017, water produced at the plant won the American Water Works Association’s award for best tasting water in the nation, beating 33 other regional winners. It also won the competition’s People’s Choice Award, making Greeley the first city to win both awards in the contest’s 13-year history.

    But even with the recognition and the plant’s long life, Mohr said Bellvue needs to be upgraded.

    Greeley City Manager Roy Otto said for the city, the job is fairly commonplace. It’s important for the water and sewer department to constantly expand and upgrade its facilities, he said, and the Bellvue project is just one of several projects the city is working on to accomplish that goal.

    At Bellvue, upgrades will replace equipment that has been in place for decades.

    With water filters that have been in operation since the late 1940s and early ’50s, Mohr said, Bellvue’s current buildings are going to be obsolete soon.

    “It’s been working very, very hard for a very long time,” he said, “and it’s kind of time for us to think about the future.”

    NEXT PHASE

    After the city won the American Water Works Association awards, Knight, the water and sewer director, said he called Bellvue’s Water Treatment Manager Andrew Kabot, jokingly, to suggest the city cancel the project because Greeley’s water was right where it needed to be.

    “He assured me that was a bad idea,” Knight said during the tour.

    The project, which broke ground in October, started after the water and sewer department found it would cost more to rehabilitate Bellvue’s vintage filters, placed there in 1948 and 1953, than it would to start from scratch to build a modern system. Mohr said the new technology will automate the filtration processes. City officials also plan to improve piping at the plant so water can enter the system more quickly.

    At the current plant, the city brings water in through the system between two different buildings to complete the water treatment process.

    Knight said when the new plant is completed those processes will be under the same roof. The city will maintain the plant’s old buildings, he said, and use them as gathering places for tour groups or meetings.

    Before construction started, Knight said, the city decided to award the project to Fort Collins-based Hydro Construction as part of a construction manager risk contract, a form of a design-build contract. That means city officials will make decisions with the company as construction progresses.

    “Our choice, predominantly, is investment in water treatment,” Knight said. “So we’ll have an attractive building, but it’s really about the equipment inside the building.”

    Planning for the future: Everything IS awesome! – News on TAP

    Lego competition teaches youth to make decisions about infrastructure and development, with a splash of water.

    Source: Planning for the future: Everything IS awesome! – News on TAP

    Paper: Large wildfires bring increases in annual river flow — Oregon State University

    Sprague Fire September 2017. Photo credit the Associated Press via The Flathead Beacon.

    From Science Daily:

    Large wildfires cause increases in stream flow that can last for years or even decades, according to a new analysis of 30 years of data from across the continental United States.

    Enhanced river flows are a good news, bad news proposition. The good news is more water can be a boon, such as serving as a hedge during times of scarce water. The bad news is more water can also be a detriment, especially when it comes with an increase in contaminants, such as sediment or nutrients, caused by the greater runoff that follows vegetation losses to fire.

    Prescribed burns on the other hand were not found to significantly alter river flows.

    “That suggests smaller, prescribed burns can be a management tool for potentially decreasing the threat of bigger fires and creating more resilient forests without having a major effect on water yields,” said co-corresponding author Kevin Bladon of Oregon State University.

    The findings are important because they bring new insights into how water resource managers should look at fire, especially with the frequency of severe blazes on the rise in the face of global climate change.

    Bladon, a hydrologist in OSU’s College of Forestry, and collaborators looked at three decades of data regarding fires, climate and river flow from 168 river basins in the lower 48 states.

    In watersheds where more than 19 percent of the forest burned, annual river flow increased significantly.

    “The impacts of big fires on surface freshwater resources hadn’t been previously studied at this scale, nor have they been factored into regional water management strategies,” Bladon said. “But large fires are increasing and that heightens concern about their impacts on water in our forest streams and for downstream potable water.”

    More than two-thirds of U.S. municipalities get their drinking water from a source that originates in a forest, he said.

    “Trace the water back from that tap in your kitchen and you begin to see why it’s important to care about what can happen when there’s a large fire in the forest where your water comes from,” he said. “And because of the sheer number of sites we looked at, we can say with a fair degree of confidence that as area burned and wildfire severity increases, so too do the impacts on annual water yields.”

    Bladon notes that for nearly a half-century through the late 1990s, wildfire trends were either holding steady or declining.

    “All of a sudden there’s an inflection point and it goes up in terms of area burned,” he said. “We had been spending as a nation $500 million a year fighting wildfires, and since 2000 that’s grown to the order of $2 billion a year. Suppressing and putting out wildfires now chews up more than half of the U.S. Forest Service budget. We need to find a way off that treadmill.”

    There are two factors behind the rise of wildfires, Bladon said: a generally warmer, drier climate, and the fuel left behind by earlier suppression efforts.

    “Now when forests burn, they can burn with much greater severity,” he said. “One percent of the fires, the high-severity ones, eat up 90 to 95 percent of the money being spent on suppression — money that’s being taken away from management activities that could serve to reduce the likelihood of severe fires and produce healthier forests.”

    The effects of fires’ relationship to water flow are most pronounced in the West, where climates tend toward warm temperate or humid continental. Despite regular droughts, the semi-arid lower Colorado region showed the greatest fire-induced river flow increases.

    “People see and smell the smoke from fires and when it’s gone, they think it’s over,” Bladon said. “But actually the impacts on other values, such as water, are just beginning at that point.”

    Findings were published this week in Nature Communications. Researchers from the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Energy collaborated on the study, and those two agencies also provided financial support for the research.

    Youth #Climate Case Vs. U.S. Government Will Head to Trial in October — Climate Liability News

    The youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States attended the Ninth Circuit hearing in December. Photo credit: Robin Loznak

    From Climate Liability News:

    On October 29, 21 young people suing the federal government for violating their constitutional right to a safe climate will finally have their day in court.

    The date was decided Thursday at a conference in Eugene, Ore., between attorneys for both sides and Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Coffin. The case will be heard by United States District Court Judge Ann Aiken.

    The case, Juliana v. United States, was originally filed in August 2015 by young plaintiffs from across the country and became the first in which a U.S. court has recognized the constitutional right to a safe climate. Aiken became the judge to do that when she initially sent the case to trial in November 2016. She recognized “the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life.”

    The young people are asking the court to order the federal government to make and stick to a science-based plan to stabilize and protect the climate for future generations.

    “In the coming months there will be depositions of the parties, defendants’ disclosure of their experts, and expert depositions in late summer,” said Julia Olson, lead attorney for Our Children’s Trust and co-counsel for the youth plaintiffs. “We will build a full factual record for trial so that the Court can make the best informed decision in this crucial constitutional case.”

    The case was initially filed against the Obama administration and was later altered to make President Donald Trump a defendant. In the days before Obama left office, the Justice Department response to the case confirmed many of the young plaintiff’s claims, including that monthly global average concentrations of CO2 have reached the dangerous threshold of 400 parts per million. In allegations regarding sea level rise, they admitted levels are slightly greater than what the plaintiffs claimed.

    The federal government has tried repeatedly to have the case dismissed, including the most recent, a writ of mandamus request that was denied by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

    When the Justice Department attorneys argued that the October trial date was too soon, that they needed more time to find expert witnesses, Coffin replied: “Where am I missing something? Given your admissions in this case, what is it about the science that you intend to contest with your rebuttal witnesses?”

    Supported by Our Children’s Trust and Earth Guardians, the case is one of several climate-related legal actions brought by young people in several states and countries.

    ADWR’s Drought Contingency Planning website now live

    Arizona Water News

    A web page dedicated to providing up-to-date information on the effort to complete a Drought Contingency Plan in Arizona is now live.

    The web page includes the complete agenda from the June 28 briefing co-sponsored by the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the Central Arizona Project, which included presentations by Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman and Terry Fulp, BOR’s Lower Colorado Regional Director.

    In addition, the web page includes the PowerPoint presentations by ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke, CAP General Manager Ted Cooke and BOR’s Fulp.

    Also, the web pages include links to statements on the joint commitment to completing an Arizona DCP co-authored by Director Buschatzke and General Manager Cooke. As they are completed, the page will provide a calendar of upcoming DCP planning meetings, including the scheduled July 10 meeting.

    Video of the June 28 briefing at the Arizona Historical Society Museum in Tempe will be…

    View original post 20 more words

    Apply to be a Water Literate Leader of Northern Colorado, applications due July 20, 2018 — @ColoStateNews

    Center pivot sprinklers in the Arikaree River basin to irrigate corn. Each sprinkler is supplied by deep wells drilled into the High Plains aquifer.

    Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):

    Water is emerging as one of the most important and controversial subjects to be addressed in the 21st century. Water issues are particularly complex and understanding the nuances is critical for good decision-making. Many who have helped communities make sound water decisions are nearing retirement age. Northern Colorado needs a new crop of water literate leaders.

    The Colorado Water Institute, in cooperation with Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, has launched a non-partisan Water Literate Leaders of Northern Colorado program. Modeled after highly successful programs such as Leadership Northern Colorado, this program is for those who hold or aspire to political office, or other roles, including boards and commissions, which can impact regional water policy.

    The Water Literate Leaders of Nothern Colorado will be a colloquium of emerging leaders from Northern Colorado’s communities who actively learn about Northern Colorado water from all angles including agriculture, urban, environmental, recreation, and business via presentations, dialogue and field trips. Members will have interaction and dialogue with regional water leaders to get an inside view of issues affecting Northern Colorado’s water future and will participate in visioning activities.

    Meetings, including lunch, will be held from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Community Foundation offices, 4745 Wheaton Drive in Fort Collins, on Sept. 13, Oct. 11, Nov. 8, Dec. 13 of 2018 and Jan. 10, Feb. 14, March 14, April 11, May 9 of 2019. The class fee of $150 has been kept low thanks to generous support from City of Greeley, City of Fort Collins, Town of Windsor and City of Loveland. A maximum of 20 participants will be chosen

    Appy now for the 2018-2019 class

    Criteria for acceptance include:

  • Has exemplified leadership in one of the Northern Colorado communities
  • Anticipates continued community leadership for the next several years
  • Concerned about the water future of Northern Colorado
  • Must make a strong commitment to attend all sessions
  • Applications due July 20
  • Applications due by July 20 and participants will be chosen Aug. 15.

    For more information and to apply visit the website or contact Mary Lou Smith at MaryLou.Smith@colostate.edu.