Trump’s false narrative of chaos at the border — @HighCountryNews

From The High Country News (Ruxandra Guidi):

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California is often the first state in the West to test new solutions to social and environmental problems. These days, the state is at the fore of a much more ambitious challenge, as it finds its progressive ideals — and its increasingly diverse citizenry — in frequent opposition to the policies of President Donald Trump. Every month, in the Letter from California, we chronicle efforts in the state to grapple with its role in the changing, modern West.

In 2010, back when I covered the border region for public radio, I visited a shelter for migrants, a modest building located a mile away, just south of the fence separating San Diego and Tijuana. There, recent deportees could find a bed for a few nights after Customs and Border Protection agents released them in Mexico. That’s where I met 34-year-old Verónica Vargas, a mother of two from Los Angeles, who’d been deported after a domestic violence incident. At the local jail, police checked both her and her husband’s immigration status and soon after, processed both for deportation. The couple’s youngest child, 7, remained under the care of their oldest, 18, back in their Los Angeles apartment.

“There’s nothing I can do about it now,” Vargas told me, in a dispirited, barely audible voice. “We are here and our children are there, and they really need us.” Vargas, who told me she’d been living in the U.S. for more than 20 years without a criminal record, added that Tijuana was not even her home. All she could think about now, she said, was finding a way back into the States to be with her daughters. The possibility of arrest, fines or another deportation was no deterrent; she wanted to be with her children. “I’ll try to cross back into the U.S. tomorrow, and as many times as I’ll need to.”

The stretch of land between Tijuana and San Diego was then — and is now — the most surveilled part of the 2,000-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border. Yet smuggling goes on anyway: People and drugs find new ways into the U.S., while guns cross in the opposite direction. Crossing illegally is increasingly dangerous and costly for everyone involved, but no amount of reinforcement can possibly stop this flow. Nor will political theater — including the kind that is paving the way for National Guard troops to be stationed at the border.

Southern border wall. Photo credit: Allen Best/Mountain Town News.

Last month, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis approved deploying up to 4,000 National Guard troops to “seal up our Southern Border,” as President Donald Trump announced on Twitter. Troops from California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas would support U.S. Customs and Border Protection — without being permitted to arrest migrants or interact with them directly — through Sept. 30, 2018, which is when, in theory, Trump will have managed to come up with the funds to finally build his border wall.

But here’s the thing: There is no such thing as a “crisis” at the border. What we are witnessing is a rise in the number of people seeking asylum in the U.S., and doing so without receiving due process. That includes the caravan of more than 1,100 Honduran migrants, most of them families with children, whose well-publicized trek to the U.S. prompted Trump’s call for the National Guard. These migrants did not come to scale any walls; they came to ask for U.S. asylum at the border, as several dozen of them reportedly already have.

Illegal crossings are currently at a 46-year low — down 71 percent in May 2017 from 2014’s peak, when Customs and Border Protection records show that it detained almost 69,000 people. So the extra troops are most likely unnecessary. But, as previous deployments demonstrate, they will be very expensive. In 2006, President George W. Bush stationed the National Guard at the border for two years at a cost of $1.2 billion. After the mission, Army National Guard Commander Maj. David M. Church said the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees CBP, had not communicated effectively with the Guard and gave him little time for preparation. Then, in 2010, President Barack Obama ordered a similar deployment to “help reduce drug and human trafficking.” That cost an estimated $110 million, and, according to the Government Accountability Office, the results did not justify the price tag.

There’s no telling how much Trump’s National Guard deployment will cost, or even what it will be able to accomplish. California Gov. Jerry Brown, D, joined the other border states’ governors in pledging to send 400 troops, but he made sure to curb their role. “This will not be a mission to build a new wall,” he wrote in a public letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Mattis. “It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.” Unlike the other border states, California’s National Guard troops won’t be allowed to use equipment to report suspicious activity to the Border Patrol, operate radios or provide “mission support.”

Back in January 2017, Trump signed an executive order that promised to make good on his campaign promise to build a wall, “monitored and supported by adequate personnel so as to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.” This was followed by more mandates targeting refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, undocumented immigrants without criminal records, and sanctuary policies, especially California’s.

More than a year since that executive order, the $18 billion needed for Trump’s wall has yet to materialize. Meanwhile, we’re left with an increasingly isolated nation, one that is simmering with fear and anger, and ready to expel immigrants — mothers, children, asylum-seekers, Muslims — under the false narrative of chaos at the border.

Contributing editor Ruxandra Guidi writes from Los Angeles, California.

Get to know the #GreenNewDeal, by the numbers The plan would boost the U.S. economy and eliminate fossil fuel use in ten years. — @HighCountryNews #ActOnClimate

Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Not long after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., was elected last November, she began gathering support for a “Green New Deal,” mobilizing young climate activists and pushing Democratic leaders to pursue the concept. The idea, which was first floated by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman in 2007, is modeled on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sweeping Depression-era New Deal and proposes tackling climate change as a massive job creator to boost the American economy. In its current form, it also marries climate action with a host of other progressive aims. On Feb. 7, Ocasio-Cortez introduced a nonbinding resolution articulating what a Green New Deal might include, from eliminating fossil fuels entirely to establishing universal health care and ensuring stronger rights for Indigenous people and nations. Here’s the proposal — and some context — by the numbers:

Number of co-sponsors of the nonbinding resolution as of Feb. 15: 68.

Number of Republicans who have signed on: Zero.

Percentage of co-sponsors who come from Western states, including California, Washington, Colorado and Arizona: 35.

Average hourly wage for a U.S. worker in January 1973: $4.03.

Equivalent hourly wage in today’s dollars, in terms of purchasing power: $23.68.

Average hourly wage of a U.S. worker as of July 2018: $22.65.

Estimated number of jobs in the wind and solar energy industries as of 2017: 457,169.

Estimated percentage of the energy Americans used in 2017 that came from wind, solar, hydropower and biomass: 11.3.

Estimated percentage of the energy Americans used in 2017 that came from fossil fuels: 80.

Percentage of the energy mix in the Green New Deal resolution that would come from fossil fuels: Zero.

Number of years the resolution proposes for achieving that goal: 10.

Number of centuries fossil fuels have dominated U.S. energy consumption: Just over one.

Percent by which natural gas production is expected to rise in 2019, projected to be the highest year on record: 8.

Projected annual cost of climate change to the U.S. economy by 2100, if temperatures increase by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or more: $500 billion.

Projected cost of climate change-related infrastructure and coastal real estate damage in the U.S., if temperatures increase by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or more: $1 trillion.

Climate Science 101

#GilaRiver Indian Community Moves Forward With #Arizona #DCP With Assurances That HB2476 Will Not Be Reintroduced #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification #waterrights

Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

Here’s the release from the Gila River Indian Community (June M. Shorthair):

Today, elected officials of the Gila River Indian Community, including the Governor, Lt. Governor and several Council members, determined that the Community had received sufficient assurances that HB 2476 was “dead” and that the Community could re-engage in the effort to finalize the Arizona Drought Contingency Plan Implementation Plan. Community elected officials came to this determination after meetings with Speaker Pro Tem T.J. Shope, and House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez and Senator Lisa Otondo.

Due to unjustified attacks on the Community through the Arizona legislative process in the form of HB 2476, earlier this week the Community informed the Chairs of the Arizona DCP Steering Committee that if the Arizona legislature continued its consideration of HB 2476, the Community would have no choice but to withdraw from the Arizona Drought Contingency Implementation Plan altogether. Based on the assurances received at today’s meetings, especially those from Speaker Pro Tem Shope, the Community officials determined that HB 2476 is dead and as a result that the Community is able to move forward with the Arizona DCP Implementation Plan despite this unwarranted attack on the Community.

Speaking for the Community, Governor Stephen R. Lewis stated, “On behalf of the Community, I want to thank Rep. Shope and Rep. Fernandez for making the effort to come and speak with us directly about this very troubling attack on our Community. They listened carefully to our concerns, and Rep. Shope assured us he would take them back to the Legislature to help others understand why we perceived this legislation as highly inappropriate and an attack on our Community. He also provided us with very solid assurances that this legislation is truly dead and that there would be no further consideration of it, as did Rep. Fernandez. Their word on this is what we need to confirm this legislation is truly not moving forward and I am pleased that the Community will be able to rejoin the State’s efforts to get DCP over the finish line.”

Rep. Shope said, “As one of the members representing the Community, and a member of House leadership, I believed it was essential to come and meet with Community leaders and hear their concerns. I was pleased to provide them with the assurances that I have received from the Speaker, and my own, which I believe make clear that this bill is truly dead and will not be raised again this legislative session”

Rep. Fernandez stated, “I completely understand why the Community would have viewed this bill as the attack that it was. It is not only bad policy, but an abuse of our legislative process, and I was pleased to commit to the Community’s leaders the support of my caucus in fighting this legislation if it ever is brought back up, which I do not think will happen.”

Senator Otondo confirmed the Senate Democratic Caucus position in opposition to the bill, and sympathized with the Community, stating “I completely understand why the Community and its members would be outraged at this kind of unwarranted attack. From what I know, far from being the bad actor that they were portrayed to be, they are actually the wronged party. While most of the farmers in the Upper Valley are doing all they can to work with Community and the Community is cooperating with them, there is a small group that simply won’t pay attention to the law of the Gila River. I think the Community is fully within its rights to try to get them to comply with the law.”

Stephen Roe Lewis via the Gila River Indian Community.

Governor Lewis concluded, “This meeting was a critical turning point in Arizona’s DCP and Rep. Shope and Rep. Fernandez, and Sen. Otondo, all deserve great credit for taking this important step to reach out to us and hear our concerns and assure us of their continued support. It is this kind of leadership that will help us all move DCP over the finish line. This was an unfortunate chapter in this historic effort, but we will now do all we can to put this in the rear view mirror, and move forward together.”

The purpose of HB 2476 is ostensibly to repeal a cardinal principal of Arizona water law, the so-called “use it or lose it” rule codified in the State’s very first water code as a rule of forfeiture. Under the forfeiture statute any water right holder who does not use his water rights for an uninterrupted period of five years, without a legitimate excuse specified in the statute, can be found to have forfeited that right. This “use it or lose it” principle is an essential element of the water codes across the arid West, and appears in 16 different state water codes in almost the same form. If HB 2476 were enacted, Arizona would become the first and only state in the West to repeal such a forfeiture statute.

On February 19, 2019, a hearing was held on HB 2476. While the hearing was supposed to focus on the forfeiture statute and its effect on certain water users, the testimony and questions instead focused on the Community’s actions in federal district court to legitimately enforce its settlement and to protect its water rights under its settlement. Most of the witnesses who testified actually stated in open testimony that they were concerned for their “hot” land farming practices, a term that refers to a practice of illegally using water from the Gila River, water to which the Community has a clear and superior right. The misstatements made during the testimony and questions posed made it very clear that this hearing was intended to be a form of “show trial” for the Community, whose real purpose could only have been to somehow intimidate the Community into not enforcing its rights. At the end of the hearing, the proponent of HB 2476 asked that his bill be “held” so that he could review its legality and perhaps refine it so it could perhaps be raised again at a future time, leaving the Community with no clear indication as to whether the bill would move forward or not.

This decision to hold HB 2476 put the Community in an untenable position, as it could not proceed with its participation with DCP until this issue was clearly put to rest. Today’s meetings provided the Community with an opportunity to discuss directly with key members of the Arizona Legislature whether this legislation is for all intents and purposes “dead” for this session. In the meeting with the Rep. Shope, as a member of House leadership he was able to convey to Community tribal leadership that Speaker Bowers had assured Rep. Shope that the Speaker did not intend to take any further action to move HB 2476 forward this session. In addition Rep. Shope also assured Community leaders that even if Speaker Bowers might decide to move the legislation forward, Rep. Shope would himself vote against it on the floor. During the meeting, Community leaders made clear why they felt HB 2476 was a purposeful attack on the Community and how the hearing had completely misrepresented the Community’s legitimate actions and efforts to enforce its water settlement rights,. Rep. Shope offered to take these concerns back to the legislature to help educate other members on this issue.

In a separate meeting with the Democratic House Minority Leader, Rep. Charlotte Fernandez, and with Sen. Lisa Otondo, they both reiterated their caucuses’ support for the Community in its opposition to this unjustified attack in the form of legislation.

In a separate decision, Community leaders authorized its water team to continue its efforts to protect the Community’s water settlement and to enforce the Community’s rights as and when necessary.

#Drought/#Snowpack news: Conditions improving across S. #Colorado

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

Extreme drought – the second most severe category – dropped to the severe category for all or most of Chaffee, Pitkin, Gunnison and Saguache counties, as well as large portions of Montezuma, La Plata, Dolores, San Juan and Hinsdale counties. Northeast Conejos County and northwest Archuleta County also saw severe drought overtake extreme conditions. A sliver of southwest Archuleta also retains the state’s only remaining trace of exceptional drought.

Colorado Drought Monitor February 19, 2019.

Overall, areas of drought-free, abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions were unchanged in the most recent report, holding at eight, 25, and 27 percent of Colorado, respectively. Severe drought increased from 18 to 29 percent of the state, while extreme conditions dropped from 22 to 10 percent. Exceptional drought was unchanged at less than one percent of Colorado. The total does not equal 100 percent due to rounding…

Colorado Drought Monitor February 12, 2019.

Colorado’s river basins continue a strong showing in the wake of recent snowfall that continues into this weekend. Statewide, snow water equivalent – the measure of water in the snowpack – stands at 115 percent of the median for this time of year, up from 108 percent one week ago. All basins are reporting 108 percent of median or greater. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basin leads the state at 124 percent. At the start of the year, the basin was one of the weakest at around 80 percent of median. Similarly, the Upper Rio Grande basin has improved to 118 percent.

Statewide basin-filled map February 23, 2019 via the NRCS.

From Colorado Public Radio (Grace Hood):

What a difference a year makes. In 2018, hot and dry conditions fueled the 416 Wildfire that destroyed homes and slowed down tourism. Farmers and ranchers sold cattle and lost crops to the drought. This week the U.S. Drought Monitor map upgraded conditions for Montezuma, La Plata and other southwestern counties.

West Drought Monitor February 19, 2019.

Assistant state climatologist Becky Bolinger calls conditions, “a stark difference from what we saw last year.”

The San Juan Mountains saw one inch more of precipitation compared to average for February 2019. Snow pack is well above average in the region. But there’s still cause for concern. Soils beneath the snow are still bone dry from drought. That means spring runoff will first seep into the soil. There could be less runoff water available to fill up the reservoirs.

And after a severe 2018 drought, thirsty reservoirs need water. The largest in the region, McPhee, is just 7 percent full.

Despite the lag in water storage, the picture feels more hopeful for agricultural producers like Brian Wilson, who grows hay in Montezuma County. In 2018 he grew about 3 tons, down from about 4 tons in an average year.

“Production was down, but the price [of hay] was better so the bottom line was about the same,” Wilson said…

Still, the extra moisture in the soil will mean better grazing for rancher Matt Isgar’s cattle. He has a different problem as he looks to recover from last year’s disappointing season. A more productive 2019 will mean he’ll need more workers.

“It’s kind of hard after drought year. You typically don’t have all the same help you had because they didn’t work as much on a drought year,” Isgar said. “So now you have to get it geared backed up and try to get help back on track.”

Around town in Durango, Blake has her eyes on another logistics problem. She said the city’s nearly run through the $47,000 budgeted for snow removal this year. [Amber] Blake says the city will a have to ask the Durango Council to approve more money for additional snow removal.

Arizona Rep. Grijalva plans to introduce the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, when the park celebrates its 100th anniversary

From the Associated Press via Tucson.com:

Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva is pushing to make a temporary ban on the filing of new mining claims in the Grand Canyon region permanent.

He’ll be joined Saturday by tribal leaders at the Grand Canyon to talk about legislation he plans to introduce next week.

The Obama administration put about 1,562 square miles (4,045 square kilometers) outside the boundaries of the national park off-limits to new hard rock mining claims until 2032.

Grijalva wants to make it permanent…

Grijalva says he’ll introduce the Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act on Tuesday when the park celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The Vail Town Council awards Glenn Porzak their 2019 Trailblazer Award

Rainbow trout release at Black Lakes via CPW.

From City of Vail via The Vail Daily:

Glenn Porzak, the water rights attorney who has worked tirelessly through the decades to advance and protect water rights for Vail and the Western Slope, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Vail Trailblazer Award.

Presented by the Vail Town Council, the award has been established as an annual civic recognition to honor those who contribute their time and talent to make Vail a great resort community.

Porzak will be formally recognized at the March 5 evening Vail Town Council meeting. A mayor’s proclamation honoring his vast contributions will be read into the public record. Recognition will also take place during the Vail Annual Community Meeting, to be held March 12 at Donovan Pavilion.

Porzak has been a fixture in the Vail community since the 1970s when he served as the water law counsel for Vail Associates (now Vail Resorts) and later for the current and predecessor entities of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Vail Water sub-district, which provides water and wastewater treatment services to the greater Vail community. His nomination for the Trailblazer Award carries the endorsement of five former mayors as well as past and present members of the board of directors of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

PIONEERING CONTRIBUTIONS

Nominators cited numerous examples of Porzak’s pioneering contributions in creating the water infrastructure essential for Vail’s successful growth as a resort community. For example, in the 1990s he led the effort to negotiate and secure approvals for construction of the Eagle Park Reservoir, located at the headwaters of the Eagle River. This in-basin water storage has been instrumental in supporting snowmaking capabilities on Vail Mountain as well as accommodating Vail’s growth through the decades while ensuring adequate 12-month streamflows in Gore Creek and the Eagle River. The complicated water and storage rights for Vail Mountain’s snowmaking water help to ensure quality skiing and snowboarding, even in the driest of years — such as last year.

Porzak helped continue the development of Black Lakes, which are located at the headwaters of Black Gore Creek near the Interstate 70 Vail Pass exit and are part of the district’s water supply system. The two cold-water reservoirs serve as in-basin water storage and reservoir releases enhance streamflows in Gore Creek. They also support fishing, wildlife habitat and recreation through a partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Porzak was largely responsible for expanding Vail’s recreational amenities by making it possible to build Vail’s whitewater park, which serves as a major venue for the annual Mountain Games. Located at the Gore Creek promenade in Vail Village, the park opened in 2000 after Porzak authored a new recreational in-channel diversion category as a test case under Colorado water law.

The park withstood a series of legal challenges and the game-changing decree was eventually upheld in a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court. The 2003 judgment has since been used to create other whitewater parks throughout the state.

PROTECTING SUPPLIES

As the founding partner of Porzak Browning & Bushong LLP, a Boulder-based firm representing water and land use interests, Porzak is well-known for his expertise in the protection of existing water supplies. In an unprecedented move to protect the water interests of Vail and the upper Eagle Valley, Porzak led negotiations in 1998 that limited the amount of water the Front Range cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs could divert from the Eagle River basin, forever protecting local stream flows and fisheries from out-of-basin development interests.

He spearheaded the litigation and subsequent negotiations that resulted in the 2007 abandonment of the Eagle-Piney Water Project for which Denver Water owned extensive water rights. The agreement and abandonment forever protect local stream flows and fisheries from trans-basin development. That water project would have taken hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water each year from Gore Creek and the Upper Eagle River and transported that water through a planned tunnel below Vail Pass to Dillon Reservoir.

In announcing Porzak as the 2018 Trailblazer Award recipient, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said Porzak’s underlying contributions are both vast and visible in almost everything we do.

“From the water that comes out of our tap, to the amazing recreational amenities we have in this valley, to the protection of our streams from massive transmountain diversions, we owe our gratitude to Glenn for having the courage and the wherewithal to challenge the status quo,” Chapin said.

Porzak said he was “speechless” when notified of the award. “It has truly been an honor to represent the greatest recreational-based community, Vail, for over four decades,” said Porzak.

Throughout his career, Porzak has participated in over 120 water court trials and over 30 Colorado Supreme Court appeals. He has been named a Colorado Super Lawyer by 5280 magazine every year from 2006 to 2019.

In his spare time, Porzak has been a world-class climber, having summited Mount Everest and three of the world’s other 8,000-meter peaks. He was one of the first people to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each of the world’s seven continents. He is a past president of the American Alpine Club and the Colorado Mountain Club.

Porzak has also been the president of the Manor Vail Homeowners Association and led the effort to remodel the hotel and condominium complex at the base of Golden Peak.

The Vail Trailblazer Award was established during the town’s 50th birthday celebration in 2016. Porzak is the fourth recipient to be honored and was selected by a town council committee from among other deserving nominations.

For more information about the Vail Trailblazer Award and the nomination process, go to http://www.vailgov.com/trailblazeraward.