“Expanding your horizons” #STEM event for middle-school girls, February 23, 2019 #WomenInStem

Kelly Nelson, a member of the Ecosystem Science and Sustainability Club at CSU, drops wood chips to compact the soil near Left Hand Canyon in attempts to restore the land from the floods. The flood restoration event was open to members of the ESS Club, the Watershed Club, the Fly Fishing Club, and the Boulder community on Saturday. (Jenna Van Lone | Collegian)

Click here to go to the Expanding Your Horizons website to register:

About the conference
Expanding Your Horizons (EYH) is a conference for girls in middle school. This day-long event will include hands-on activities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). At the conference, girls will get a chance to meet STEM role models and learn more about careers in those fields. Our ultimate goal is to motivate girls to become innovative and creative thinkers ready to meet 21st Century challenges.

PLEASE NOTE: You will not be able to register for specific workshops at the time you reserve your space at the conference. Please see the FAQs section for more information. Find out more about the National Expanding Your Horizons Organization by going to the National EYH Website.

State of #Colorado, water managers, set to work on water-use reduction plan — @AspenJournalism #cwcac2019 #DCP #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Hay fields in the upper Yampa River valley, northwest Colorado. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Colorado officials and regional water managers are poised to start working together on a plan to reduce water use in Colorado, mainly by paying willing irrigators to fallow hayfields, in order to bolster falling water levels in Lake Powell and guard against a compact call on the Colorado River system.

After a series of meetings held last week by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and by Western Slope and Front Range water interests, state officials are now set to begin investigating the feasibility of a “demand management” program that’s “voluntary, temporary and compensated,” and water users and managers throughout Colorado will be asked to help shape the new program.

“Demand management, reduction in consumptive use, is an incredibly threatening concept to Western water users, and certainly to West Slope water users,” Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River District, told a ballroom full of water professionals Friday during the last day of a three-day Colorado Water Congress meeting here. “Our agricultural community is concerned that what this is really about is taking water from ag and bringing it into urban areas.”

Nonetheless, Mueller said, “this is a time where we have to work collaboratively, with both our urban friends and our rural friends, to figure how we do this together, and how we recognize the values that are important to each of us.”

Mueller also told the Water Congress audience that “the River District is committed to proactively engaging and working with the CWCB and the Front Range to figure out how we can stand up a program that truly protects all of us in this situation. To not do so, to not engage proactively in that conversation, would be irresponsible of every one of us in this room.”

He also laid out the Western Slope’s vision for the program, which centered on sustaining rural communities.

“We want, from a West Slope perspective, our agriculture and our industries and our cities that are going to participate in these programs to have the opportunity to use the water when they need it, and to monetize their assets into a program when they can figure out ways not to use it,” Mueller said.

Demand management is based on the idea that if water that otherwise would be used to grow hay, or turf in suburban settings, can instead be left in the river system to flow into Lake Powell, and into a new regulatory pool of water within the big reservoir, it will help boost water levels in the reservoir, allow for continued hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam and help the upper-basin states meet their obligations to deliver a minimum amount of water to the lower-basin states under the terms of the Colorado River compact.

A recently concluded four-year test program called the System Conservation Pilot Program paid irrigators in the Upper Colorado River Basin an average of about $200 per acre-foot of conserved consumptive use of water.

Fresh turf, in Thornton, near Denver.

Denver engaged

Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water, was sharing the stage with Mueller on Friday during a panel discussion, after they together had met Thursday with other Front Range water providers in a behind-the-scenes meeting.

Lochhead said the Front Range and the Western Slope are united in their desire to avoid violating the terms of the compact.

“No one wants the result of a situation where we haven’t come together collectively to arrive at a solution,” Lochhead said.

And, he stressed, “Colorado needs to do our part to make sure that the demand-management piece is done in a way that protects all water users in Colorado, East Slope and West Slope.”

“From Denver Water’s perspective, we’re prepared to engage productively, as I’ve indicated many times in the past,” Lochhead said. “We’re prepared to contribute our share of water into a solution that would be collectively agreed to within Colorado and the other upper-basin states, if it is necessary, for our own mutual benefit and survival.”

The state’s emerging demand-management program is tied to the ongoing effort to approve “drought-contingency planning,” or DCP, agreements in the seven states in the Colorado River Basin: Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, California, Arizona and Nevada.

Arizona’s governor on Thursday signed a required piece of state legislation in order to meet a federally imposed deadline, but there are still other DCP agreements that need to be finalized by a new working deadline, March 4. Federal legislation also is required to implement the regional agreements designed to keep both Lake Powell and Lake Mead operating as designed.

Sand and silt are piling up on the Colorado River above Lake Powell, as water levels continue to fall due to persistent drought and encroaching aridification. Water managers from San Diego to Wyoming are working to find ways to keep the river’s reservoirs, and water delivery systems, functioning.

State investigating

On Tuesday during a regular public meeting held in Westminster, the directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board indicated they were in support of a staff proposal to form seven different work groups in 2019 to study demand management.

Brent Newman, the CWCB’s interstate, federal and water information section chief, and point person on Colorado River issues, told the agency’s board of directors that the state is not yet starting up a demand-management program; it is only studying the feasibility of doing so.

He also said the state is not studying how a curtailment, or mandatory cutback in water use, would be administered by the state if the Colorado River Compact were to be violated.

Karen Kwon, a first assistant attorney general of Colorado, echoed that stance in her remarks to the CWCB directors Tuesday.

“We are not talking about how we would administer a curtailment,” Kwon said.

Newman and Kwon are proposing that the CWCB set up work groups, staffed by hand-picked experts, to explore a “plethora of issues” raised by demand management, including policy; monitoring and verification; water administration; the environment; economics; funding; and education and outreach.

The staff also proposed to set up a quarterly series of workshops for water users, managers and stakeholders, as well as engaging the state’s basin roundtables, which meet regularly in each of the state’s major river basins, on the issues raised by demand management.

A detailed work plan for the proposed process is to be presented by CWCB staff to the agency’s directors in March.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other newspapers owned by Swift Communications. The Times published this story Feb. 4.

Boulder County commissioners set March 14 public hearing on Gross Reservoir expansion appeal

The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Amy Bounds):

Community members wanting to comment next month at a Boulder County commissioners hearing on whether Denver Water can move forward with an expansion of Gross Reservoir can start signing up next week…

Online sign-ups for the March 14 hearing start Feb. 14, while in-person sign-ups will start an hour before the hearing.

Commissioners plan to continue to take public testimony until all speakers have had an opportunity to comment, according to a news release.

After the public hearing, commissioners will hear Denver Water’s appeal of a decision by the county’s Land Use Department that Denver Water must run the project through what is known as a “1041” review process before construction can begin.

Named for the bill number by which it was enacted in 1974, the 1041 legislation gives local governments the right to control development by agencies beyond their boundaries through a local permitting process.

Denver Water argues the Gross Reservoir expansion is exempt from 1041 requirements. Boulder County claims it is not.

The public hearing will focus on the limited scope of the determination and is not a hearing or decision on the perceived impacts or merits of the reservoir expansion project, according to a news release…

Written comments can be submitted through an online comment form available at bit.ly/GrossDamExpansion. Comments also can be mailed to the Boulder County Commissioners’ Office, P.O. Box 471, Boulder, 80306. Comments need to be received by noon March 12.

Colorado College: 2019 Conservation in the West Poll — The 9th Annual Survey of Voters in the Rocky Mountain West

The upper South Platte River, above the confluence with the North Fork of the South Platte. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Click here to read the poll results. Here’s the release:

Western voters have significant concerns around water issues and the increasingly visible impact of climate change; optimism for benefits of outdoor recreation economy

The ninth annual Colorado College State of the Rockies Project Conservation in the West Poll released [January 31, 2019] shows voters in the Mountain West continue to support efforts to keep public lands protected and accessible, putting them at odds with the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda.

The poll surveyed the views of voters in eight Mountain West states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) on policies impacting the use and protection of public lands. The role of public lands and the outdoor way of life continued to be of deep importance to Western voters. 70 percent view themselves as “outdoor recreation enthusiasts” and 68 percent label themselves as “conservationists.” For 63 percent of respondents, the ability to live near, recreate on, and enjoy public lands like national forests, parks, or trails are a factor in why they live in the West. An overwhelming majority—87 percent—believe the outdoor economy is important to the future of their state.

“Our state’s mountains, rivers, and prairies are the foundation of the Colorado way of life. Protecting our public lands not only strengthens our local economies by promoting outdoor recreation and tourism, it ensures that future generations will continue to have a vibrant place to live, work, start a business, raise a family, and retire,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. “This poll once again shows that Coloradans are adamant about protecting our natural spaces, reversing the harmful effects of climate change, and moving to a future of clean, affordable renewable energy.”

When asked about the Trump administration’s agenda for public lands, majorities viewed key actions over the past two years with strong disapproval.

“Over the history of the Conservation in the West Poll, we have consistently seen bipartisan support for protecting public lands and outdoor spaces,” said Corina McKendry, Director of the State of the Rockies Project and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Colorado College. “That a leadership agenda out of step with those values is met with disapproval in the West is no surprise, although the rejection of the current administration’s priorities is particularly intense here.”

Looking forward, voters in the Mountain West want the newly elected Congress to challenge the Trump administration’s priorities on national public lands. Just 24 percent want Congress to ensure the production of more domestic energy by maximizing the amount of national public lands available for responsible oil and gas drilling and mining. That is compared to 65 percent who prefer Congress ensures the protection of clean water, air quality, and wildlife habitat while providing opportunities to visit and recreate on national public lands.

Impacts of uncontrollable wildfires and water issues topped the list of voter concerns this year. Those concerns are associated with the impacts of climate change, which 46 percent of voters view as a very serious or extremely serious problem in their state—a steady increase over the duration of the history of the poll. 67 percent of voters believe wildfires are more of a problem than ten years ago, with changes in climate and drought being the top reasons given for the shift. Voters also have significant concerns about water levels in the West; 67 percent view water supplies as becoming less predictable every year.

Solar power and wind power ranked highest among energy sources voters said they would like to see encouraged in their state. Voters also gave strong majority support for a variety of potential efforts at the state level to conserve land, water and wildlife, including migration corridors for species including deer and elk. Notably, 68 percent of voters said they would support a small increase in local taxes to fund those projects.

“The poll underscores that people living in the West are overwhelmingly outdoor recreationists. Whether they enjoy the outdoors through hiking, biking, fishing, or camping with family and friends, our outdoor recreation lifestyle translates to healthy communities and healthy economies across the West,” said Amy Roberts, executive director of Outdoor Industry Association. “The poll also shows that most of us want our elected officials to support policies that protect and maintain access to our public lands and waters. We hope they now take an opportunity to build bipartisan support on these issues.”

This is the ninth consecutive year Colorado College has gauged the public’s sentiment on public lands and conservation issues. The 2019 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll is a bipartisan survey conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates.

The poll surveyed at least 400 registered voters in each of eight Western states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) for a total 3,204-person sample. The survey was conducted between January 2-9, 2019 and has a margin of error of ±2.65 percent nationwide and ±4.9 percent statewide. The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the State of the Rockies website.

#SouthPlatte River Master Plan presentations, February 12, 2019

South Platte River Basin via Wikipedia

From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Jeff Rice):

Authorized and funded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the South Platte Master Plan was launched two years ago to find ways to make the river more “flood resilient,” both to handle the flooding as it occurs, with minimal damage to property and structures, and to quickly recover from a flood in the aftermath.

The project area includes 130 miles of the South Platte River from the Weld-Morgan County Line to the Nebraska state line.

Project representatives will present the plan Feb. 12 at the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District’s board of directors meeting at 9 a.m., then meet with the Logan County Water Conservancy District board at 11 a.m. The plan will be presented again at 1 p.m. at the CSU Engagement Center.

Both conservancy districts are interested in seeing how they can work with the Master Plan…

The LCWCD recently decided to change its focus away from the idea of building a flood control dam across Pawnee Creek. Miller has said the “big project” simply isn’t feasible and may not be for some time. Instead, the district will shift its focus to smaller projects that will mitigate flooding in the immediate future.

The Lower South Platte district, meanwhile, is interested in finding water storage potential and funding for storage projects along the lower reaches of the river.

The meetings on Feb. 12 are public meetings but space is limited in all of the venues.

@POTUS names David Bernhardt to lead @Interior

Oil and gas development on the Roan via Airphotona

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Bernhardt — the department’s deputy secretary, who has been acting secretary since Ryan Zinke’s departure from the top job at the end of the year amidst ethics probes — was announced as the President’s choice to replace Zinke…

It’s believed that if Bernhardt is confirmed, he would be the first Western Slope native to hold a Cabinet-level position, at least in recent history.

His nomination was heralded in some quarters Monday and met with staunch criticism in others, reflecting that Bernhardt, like Zinke, has been a somewhat polarizing figure at Interior.

“This is fantastic news for Colorado,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said in a news release. “I’ve known David Bernhardt for many years and have worked closely with him over the last two years to advance Colorado priorities. As a native Coloradan from the Western Slope, David knows how important public lands are to our state and has a keen understanding of the issues Coloradans face every day.”

[…]

But Jennifer Rokala, executive director of the Center for Western Priorities, called Bernhardt’s nomination “an affront to America’s parks and public lands.”

She calls Bernhardt a “walking conflict of interest” because of his prior work as an attorney representing oil and gas, water and other industries and interests.

“As an oil and gas lobbyist, Bernhardt pushed to open vast swaths of public lands for drilling and mining. As deputy secretary, he was behind some of the worst policy decisions of Secretary Zinke’s sad tenure, including stripping protections for imperiled wildlife. Bernhardt even used the government shutdown to approve drilling permits for companies linked to his former clients,” Rokala said in a news release.

“As senators consider Bernhardt’s nomination, it’s crucial they remember that the ongoing investigations into Ryan Zinke’s conduct intersect with policies that David Bernhardt has helped enact. Otherwise, we’ll see another Interior secretary fall into the same ethical abyss that ended Ryan Zinke’s political career.”

Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project, said in a statement, “Bernhardt is an ex-lobbyist and the ultimate DC-swamp creature with so many potential conflicts of interest that he has to carry around a list of his former clients. He is simply too conflicted to be our next Interior Secretary, and the Senate should vote his nomination down.”

Last week, the Center for Western Priorities released a poll by Keating Research that it said showed more than 60 percent of Coloradans were extremely or somewhat concerned that clients Bernhardt once lobbied for have business before the department he now runs.

The poll reportedly found that just 18 percent of Coloradans think increasing oil and gas development should be Interior’s most important issue, while 74 percent said what matters most is striking a better balance between preserving public lands and responsible oil and gas development.

Bernhardt has sought to recuse himself at times from potential conflicts of interest. In September, he bowed out of tentative plans to speak at a water forum in Grand Junction because of a potential conflict.

Mike Samson, a Garfield County commissioner who taught Bernhardt at Rifle High School, said he thinks anyone in government faces the potential for conflicts of interest to some degree.

He said Bernhardt, who was “a great student,” is smart enough to make sure that what he does is right, so as not to create problems down the road.

Bonnie Petersen, executive director of Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, said that based on her limited interactions with Bernhardt, he is strict about avoiding conflicts of interest.

“He seems to be very adamant in that regard,” she said.

Local government representatives such as Samson and Petersen are thrilled at the prospect of a western Coloradan running a department so influential in the West.

“We had thought that he would be a good candidate for the position and apparently the president thinks so as well,” Petersen said…

Bernhardt has worked in roles including serving on the staff of Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis when McInnis served in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as Interior’s solicitor during the George W. Bush administration. More recently he has been instrumental in carrying out the Trump administration’s energy-dominance agenda.

Gardner, Samson and Petersen all credit him for the role he played during the Trump administration in getting oil and gas revenue returned to western Colorado governments that was left over after the cleanup of the Anvil Points oil shale research site near Rifle.

Petersen said he worked closely with governor offices in the West to consider comments from local governments regarding revising greater sage-grouse management plans, after local governments weren’t listened to when the plans were first issued in 2015.

Whit Fosburgh, president and chief executive officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said that his group has worked closely with Bernhardt, “and we have found him to be accessible, fair, and true to his word,” and the group supports his nomination.

He said the nomination “places him in an unenviable position to balance the priorities of the Trump Administration with the mission of the (Interior) Department. We have often disagreed on policies, such as the pace and siting of energy development and the failure of the department to require developers to mitigate the damage they do to the lands that belong to all Americans. At the same time we have worked productively with Mr. Bernhardt to expand recreational access to public lands and protect big-game migration corridors.”