#Snowpack news: Widespread beautiful snowfall across #Colorado boosts early March totals

Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.

And, here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map for March 4, 2019.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 4, 2019 via the NRCS,

White River Algae Technical Advisory Group meeting recap

Picture taken 6/25/18 from the Miller Creek bridge. Unfortunately, the algae is coming on early this year. We are looking forward to finding the cause(s) of this algae in the near future. Photo credit: White River Algae
​Technical Advisory Group

From the White River Algae Technical Advisory Group via The Rio Blanco Herald Times:

Members of the White River Algae Technical Advisory Group (TAG), met Feb. 13 to discuss the 2019 plans to ascertain what is driving the algae growth in the White River to improve the overall health of the watershed. Callie Hendrickson, executive director of the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts facilitated the meeting.

USGS provided a review of 2018 studies and planned 2019 activities. Ken Leib, Western Colorado Office Chief, stated their goal is to document and understand benthic algal occurrence, characteristics and controls at multiple locations within the White River (WR) study area and described the study design and approach. Cory Williams, Western Colorado Studies Chief, reviewed the historical analysis, water quality trends, algae sampling and isotope sampling. Key takeaways are as follows. Historical streamflow analysis showed a decreasing trend in flow patterns since 1900 while available high-resolution water temperature data indicates increasing daily mean temperatures during May-September between two more recent time periods (1979-84 and 2007-17). Little to no change has been shown in the mean, annual concentration of kjeldahl nitrogen while total phosphorous showed a substantial increase in concentration and flux between 1999 and 2017. Concentrations in phosphorous increased during snowmelt-runoff (high flow) and decrease during fall and winter months. Several types of algae were present at each study site and Cladophora was found at all 19 USGS study sites. Water samples were collected and analyzed for nitrate concentrations at six locations but, concentrations were too low for isotope analysis. Isotopic analysis is an aspect of the study intended to aid in identification of sources of nitrate in the watershed. Sampling and nitrate analysis are ongoing and USGS is exploring alternative sampling approaches to meet target concentration ranges. Historical analysis and literature review, physical and chemical characterization/data collection, algae sampling and isotope sampling will all be continued in 2019.

Tyler Adams, project manager, and Susan Nall, section supervisor, with the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) reviewed permitted activity in the recent past. They described their regulatory authorities and explained how to know when a project is regulated and when it may qualify for exemptions. Available permits vary from Nation Wide Permits (NWP) to Regional General Permits (RGP) to Individual Permits (IP). Permitting history in the Upper White River total 53 permits (NWPs=38, RGPs=14, IP=1), about 866,939 acres, from 2008-2018.

Matt Weaver, 5 Rivers Inc. gave a presentation on a local project proposal that is currently in the application process with the ACE. The proposal is to enhance fish habitat in the White River. The plan is to create 18 pools in which Weaver will remove material from the pool area and add it to the bank to leave everything functioning as a pool-bar sequence. Weaver and the landowners are communicating with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife to avoid disrupting crucial times such as spawning season, etc. One USGS study site is encompassed in the project area. The landowners/managers are willing to work with the TAG and USGS to do their best not to affect the ongoing study.

Several discussion items were identified at the last TAG meeting as potential changes to the USGS 2019 Scope of Work (SOW). Items such as monitoring growth of the algae using pictures, isotopic analysis, water temperature monitoring, taxonomy, capturing the impacts of stream structure changes, water clarity (turbidity) and quantitative mapping were reviewed to make decisions on how the TAG would like to move forward.

After this discussion, the TAG reached a consensus that the White River Conservation District should move forward with the original agreement with USGS to continue the 2019 SOW for the White River Algae project. That SOW includes the workplan elements: Scouring flows and analysis and Pre, peak-, post-algae and water quality sampling events.

See http://www.whiterivercd.com/white-river-algae-working-group.html for Power Point Presentations and meeting notes.

#ColoradoRiver: A look at the @USBR deadlines for the #Drought Contingency Plans #DCP #COriver #aridification

All American Canal Construction circa. 1938 via the Imperial Irrigation District

From KJZZ (Brett Jaspers) via KUNC:

As Arizona and other Colorado River states move ever closer to finishing the Drought Contingency Plan to boost Lake Mead, the federal government is moving forward on a parallel track. That path would create a federal plan in case the states don’t finish by the deadline.

But what is the deadline?

On Feb. 1, Burman gave everyone another month to wrap up. But that second deadline – March 4th – has passed too. Reclamation is now accepting input from governors in the Colorado River basin on what kind of alternate plan the Department of Interior should install if needed. That input is due March 19th. Another deadline.

All the while, Arizona is continuing to work on its various agreements.

Last month, Ted Cooke, General Manager of the Central Arizona Project, told reporters Arizona wouldn’t be done by March 4th.

“That’s an artificial deadline and these are very complex agreements and very complex negotiations,” he said. “We will take the time we need to do them properly. That being said, I don’t expect it to drag on for months and months and months.”

At the time, Cooke was confident all of Arizona’s internal deals would be done before the end of April. He also said it wasn’t clear to him what the federal government considered “done.

“We do not have a clear list of things that need to be completed by that day.” he said, referring to March 4.

Reclamation would not specify to KJZZ which of Arizona’s separate agreements absolutely must be signed, sealed and delivered for the state to join Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada in the “done” column. On the February 1st press call, Commissioner Burman did say “all” agreements need to be complete.

Estevan López, who was Reclamation Commissioner from late 2014 until the end of the Obama Administration, said he would want all of the sub-agreements to be signed. “So that nobody can get cold feet and say, ‘oh wait a minute. I want to change this aspect of it.’ Because then, one little thread starts unraveling the whole thing.”

López said a contingency plan – regardless of who writes it – absolutely needs to be in place by the time an important document gets released in early August. It’s called the August 24-month Study. This tells water users in the basin the projected level of Lake Mead and what amount of cutbacks the states must take. So that makes August the ultimate deadline.

Commissioner Burman has made it clear she wants the Drought Contingency Plan to come from the states. And they very well may get there. But just in case, the parallel federal process is moving forward.

“She’s doing it. She’s doing it incrementally,” López said, referring to Burman. “But if things don’t come together by July or August, I think Reclamation will do something.”

If it came to that, the states could very well contest the broad authority the feds say they have over the Colorado River. We know no one wants it to come to that – especially not for a river system that supplies water to about 40 million people.

But until we get there, we’re likely to keep hearing about deadlines.

The March 2019 @CWCB_DNR “Floodstage” newsletter is hot off the presses

Cherry Creek Flood August 3, 1933 — photo via the Denver Public Library

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

As of mid-February, Colorado’s statewide snowpack sat at 108% of normal. Snowpack is higher in the northern and eastern basins and lower in the southwestern basins. The climate forecasts through the runoff season suggest that these numbers could climb higher as fore- casts indicate a wet spring statewide.

Higher snowpack percentages can increase the possibility of snow- melt flooding. Generally, watersheds are monitored for this once they reach 130% snowpack. Currently, no watersheds exceed this threshold, but state officials continue to monitor conditions due to the wet climate forecast moving forward. To view snowpack conditions and better understand the potential flood threat in your location, visit the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) and Snow Course Data and Products page.

It is worth mentioning that, as indicated by looking back through Colorado’s history, the majority of flooding events occurring through- out the state are rain-based and not snowmelt-based. In fact, the last year of widespread snowmelt flooding was in 1984, although isolated instances have occurred since then. One area of ongoing concern relates to rain-on-snow events, in which high elevation, late spring rainstorms fall on still surviving snowfields. This can quickly exacerbate runoff and create problems that wouldn’t exist in the absence of either the rain or the snow.