Dams Could Protect Ranchers From Climate Change’s Drought…But Could They Also Contribute To It? — #Wyoming Public Media

Avalanche debris Middle Piney Dam. Photo credit: USFS

From Wyoming Public Media (Melodie Edwards):

There are lots of things to be stressed about in ranching, and one of the big ones is water. [Chad] Espenscheid says that’s why he’s glad the state is fixing up the Middle Piney Dam. It’s fallen into disrepair at the top where the creek flows into the Green River.

“It would give Middle Piney Creek a little more of a steady flow instead of it all coming out in one shot and everybody really having to hustle around and capture it all at one time,” Espenscheid says…

Not only is Espenscheid a rancher, but he’s also a water engineer and participates in an experimental water conservation program that pays ranchers to only irrigate when they have to. So in late summer after he’s hayed his fields he turns off the spigot. But Espenscheid says, fixing that dam will store a modest 4,200 acre-feet of Colorado River water.

He’s not sure what to think about how siphoning that small amount out of the river will affect lower basin states that also rely on the Colorado River. “I don’t know, I’m just Wyoming through and true, so I’m kind of worried about Wyoming, I guess to be honest. So, I think we’ve got to take care of our own sustainability and make sure we have opportunities for growth.”

It’s not just the Middle Piney Reservoir that’s going to start dipping from the Colorado, though. Jason Mead at Wyoming’s Water Development Office adds up all the acre-feet of water storage the state wants to build on the Green River drainage: “4,000 for Middle Piney, 10,000 for West Fork, that’s 14,000. Another eight at New Fork, so that’s 22,000, another nine between Meek’s Cabin, that’s 31,000….”


All told, he figures Wyoming could tack on about 50,000 acre-feet on five new or expanded reservoirs, including Big Sandy, West Fork, Meek’s Cabin and Stateline. And then there are the 80,000 acre-feet that the Fontanelle Reservoir could eventually add. (The plan there is to complete that project when extreme drought draws it down low enough to finish its foundation.)

At 130,000 acre-feet total that would be enough water to supply a city of a million people, but the population of the entire state of Wyoming is half that.

“Every one of these projects we’re talking about really are for irrigation shortages and trying to handle the drought situations that everybody has faced over the years and trying to take water when we have good years and carry it over into years that are drier,” says Mead…

Mead says more dams could help ranchers survive the coming droughts, but some scientists say, building more dams might actually worsen climate change. University of Wyoming soil scientist Jay Norton says, dams that manage for flood control, for example, could have a damaging effect.

“They want the water drained out so in the event of a flood they have storage capacity,” he explains. “That can cause very low flows downstream that dry up those flood plain wetlands.”

Norton says those wetlands store huge amounts of organic carbon.

“There’s estimates that if we could raise soil organic carbon by about 0.4 percent per year that we would completely offset human-derived emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Think of all the plants growing like a green snake along streams in the otherwise arid Mountain West. Wetlands on undammed waterways can take up as little as two percent of the landscape but hold 15 to 30 percent of the carbon. But if reservoirs hold back all the water those green snakes will dry up and stop holding carbon.

But, Norton says, managed correctly, more dams in the upper basin states could actually create more wetlands and store more carbon.

“Conceivably, it could have a positive effect on downstream wetlands, if water tables are maintained relatively high,” says Norton. “Irrigation itself expands wetlands.”

Unfortunately, that’s not the only effect of dams on climate. One study shows that decomposing organic matter behind dams as the water level drops can produce large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that’s even more potent than carbon dioxide.

But Rancher and Water Engineer Chad Espenscheid says the positives of building dams outweigh the negatives.

The latest @CWCB_DNR “Confluence” newsletter is hot off the presses

Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

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

H2infO – Water Provider Information Tool

Peak Spatial deployed the initial seven county pilot H2infO water provider/home buyer tool on May 10th. The tool provides realtors and home buyers address specific water provider identification and information in the seven county area of Pueblo, El Paso, Teller, Douglas, Arapahoe, Denver and Adams counties. Peak built the tool with CWP and WSRF grant support from the CWCB and the Metro RT.

The information tool can be accessed at https://h2info-co.com and includes over 320 water providers in the seven counties with links to conservation plans, rates and fees, and consumer confidence/water quality information for home buyers. The Peak team will operate the tool and work with realtor organizations and water providers to continue to refine and support data updates.

For more information or input on the site contact Royal Koepsell at royal.koepsell@peakspatial.com or call (719) 649-3477.

Town enjoys Montrose Water Sports Park — The Montrose Press

Montrose Water Sports Park. Photo credit: Google

From The Montrose Press (Monica Garcia):

Since it’s opening there has been an increase in usage, Malloy said, who has been a kayaker for over 20 years. There has also been an increase in the popularity of stand up paddle boarding and river surfing.

“Our park, in the way the waves are, is very conducive to stand up paddle boarding and surfing with a standup paddleboard,” City Parks and Special Projects Superintendent John Malloy said. “You almost see more stand up paddleboarders down there than kayakers utilizing the wave features.”

The parks department has facilitated minor tweaks to the park which mainly includes maintenance to remove sediment out of pools, remove logs, etc. Each year the city tweaks to improve the wave features and for safety, Malloy said.

Riverbottom and Cerise parks, on a sunny day, will get hundreds of visitors, Malloy said.

The process to get the park running took at least five years, and there were several groups that collaborated to make this a reality. The City of Montrose, Montrose City Council, Montrose Recreation District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Friends of the River Uncompahgre were all involved, Malloy said.

To bring about the Montrose Water Sports Park, the City of Montrose partnered with the Montrose Recreation District, and was awarded a $259,000 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO). The city and MRD also pitched in other funds to cover the cost. The entire cost of the project was $1.1 million, Malloy said.

The Montrose Water Sports Park is 1,100 feet long, 4,500 tons of rock were used in the construction, and 6,000 cubic yards of material were removed from the river. Under each of the six drops created there is a concrete structure underneath, each one weighing 200,000 pounds.

Rocks were strategically placed to divert the water over the drops. There was also rock brought in for the construction of the terraced spectating area. The water sports park is accessible by ADA standards, and there are two put in and pull out spots at the park…

The diversion from the Gunnison Tunnel in the Uncompahgre lasts from March through November. When other rivers don’t have good flows or are dried up, there is still a consistent flow at the park, Malloy said.

⁦‪@azwater‬⁩ Director Buschatzke’s presentation on DCP & the upcoming renegotiations of the ‘07 guidelines at the GWC Summer Conference

If you haven’t already, watch ⁦‪@azwater‬⁩ Director Buschatzke’s presentation on DCP & the upcoming renegotiations of the ‘07 guidelines at the GWC Summer Conference:

@Interior Secretary David Bernhardt granted an interview to The Colorado Independent thinking it was his hometown paper — @COIndependent

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt during an interview at the Western Governors Association Conference in Vail on Monday, June 10, 2019. (Photo by Alex Burness)

From The Colorado Independent (Alex Burness):

Interior Secretary and native Coloradan David Bernhardt said Monday in a brief, if unintentional, interview with The Colorado Independent that he’s not worried about climate change posing an imminent threat to national parks, nor to the outdoor recreation industry.

Climate scientists agree that rising temperatures and decreasing precipitation present a particularly high risk for many of the country’s most beloved natural spaces.

But Bernhardt, who recently told Congress that he hasn’t “lost any sleep” over record-high carbon dioxide levels, told The Colorado Independent: “My view is that Rocky Mountain National Park, my view is that Estes Park, should be confident that whatever change occurs in the future, and we don’t know what that will be — I would think that folks would be attracted to Rocky Mountain National Park in the foreseeable future, and I don’t think you’d find any debate about that.”

Bernhardt was in Vail to deliver what was billed as a keynote address for the three-day Western Governors Association meeting. Rather than give a speech, Bernhardt fielded mostly friendly questions from the roughly dozen governors, Democrat and Republican, in attendance.

Bernhardt held no general press availability, but agreed to a one-on-one conversation with The Colorado Independent following his Q&A with the governors. It quickly became clear he had mistaken The Independent for the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, his hometown paper, because Bernhardt’s first question to the Indy reporter was how long he had lived in Glenwood Springs. Bernhardt, upon realizing he was talking to the wrong news organization, agreed to an abbreviated interview.

The Rifle native, who was confirmed as Interior secretary just last month, took the Indy’s questions on deferred maintenance at national parks, drilling and mining on public lands, and the future of the outdoor recreation industry given the threat of climate change.

The National Parks system has a $12.6 billion maintenance backlog, according to Interior, with roads accounting for about half of that. Bernhardt said it was “out of control” well before he got this job, and that the problem has only gotten worse since.

“A lot of our stuff at parks was built in the 60s or earlier,” said Bernhardt, who talked about buildings he recently saw in Acadia National Park that are “literally crumbling” and “not up to code.”

“You may go look at a campground and charcoal grills are falling down, the amenities don’t work, the water doesn’t turn on when you turn it on,” he said, explaining that he’s trying to address this problem by raising entry fees and costs for visitors inside parks.

Beyond climate change and infrastructure, environmentalists see at least one other immediate threat to public lands: the Trump administration, for which Bernhardt works. About a half-mile down the road from the luxury hotel that hosted the governors’ summit, a group of environmentalists, some of whom donned “swamp monster” masks, protested Bernhardt.

Under Trump and Bernhardt’s predecessor, the scandal-ridden Ryan Zinke, the U.S. removed more than 2 million acres of previously protected lands in Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments — a record amount for removal of such protected space.

Bernhardt has carried the torch since taking office, helping to facilitate the first leases to oil companies in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was previously off-limits to drillers. The lease sale will happen this year, Interior officials have promised.

Asked whether he’d like to see further expansion of mining and drilling operations on public lands, Bernhardt told The Independent, “I don’t have a metric that says there’s this many acres mined today and my goal is to have X many acres mined tomorrow.”

But he did say he’s proud to be “expeditiously” processing applications for such activity.

At that point — after three questions — Bernhardt’s spokeswoman cut off the interview.

In Bernhardt’s public Q&A, only Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat and a University of Colorado-Boulder graduate, pressed him, in polite tones, on public land management and the future of the outdoor recreation industry.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, whose record on climate issues suggests nearly diametric opposition to Bernhardt’s past lobbying efforts and current agenda, thanked Bernhardt for collaborating on a management plan for the Colorado River and asked him about deferred maintenance in national parks.

The room was filled with a mix of political staffers, policy-makers and corporate sponsors, including Shell Oil, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, TransCanada, Xcel Energy, Vail Resorts and Walmart.

“We could not do our job (without their sponsorship)” Joe Rassenfoss, a former Rocky Mountain News journalist who now runs communications for the Western Governors Association, told The Independent. “They support bipartisan policy development. That’s how it works.”

The governors’ summit will continue through Wednesday, and will feature additional keynotes from Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.

#Runoff news: #ArkansasRiver running very high, commercial rafters are avoiding some reaches

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

High water advisories are in place in Pine Creek and The Numbers, both located between Granite and Buena Vista, as well as the Royal Gorge section of the river just west of Canon City. The advisories mean commercial rafters are voluntarily avoiding those sections of the river because water levels are considered dangerous.

For example, in the gorge, that cutoff level is 3,200 cubic feet per second. The river initially exceeded that level Saturday at the Parkdale gauge when it hit 3,220, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. By Sunday, the level was 3,720; and on Monday, the level was pushing 4,000 cubic feet per second.

“I talked to the Board of Reclamation Sunday and the cool weather Sunday helped, but there is still an awful lot of snow up top. They said they are going to have to release additional water from Twin and Turquoise Reservoirs this week and then they should be able to hold steady,” said Rob White, who manages the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area on behalf of Colorado State Parks.

The Arkansas Headwaters offers access to water ranging from Class II (moderate) rapids to Class V (extremely difficult) rapids so when the water levels exceed the safety cutoffs in some sections, outfitters move their guests into different sections. That means boaters are taking on Browns Canyon north of Salida and the Big Horn Sheep Canyon west of Canon City where high water is ensuring there are still plenty of thrills.

Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

From KOAA.com (Zach Thaxton):

The water keep rising in the Arkansas River, bringing with it the promise of the best whitewater river rafting season in years, but also the threats that come along with deep, cold, fast-flowing water.

Discharge through Centennial Park now exceeds 4,000 cubic feet per second, or the equivalent force of 4,000 basketball passing a single point per second. “It’s awesome for our tourism, it’s great for the boaters, rafters, and fishermen as well,” said Fremont County Emergency Manager Mykel Kroll. “With the historic snowpack we had in the high country, we’re seeing all of the runoff from that as our temperatures have warmed up.”

The fast, rough waters are the ideal conditions for swift-water rescue training as well. Members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department heavy rescue team practiced rescues from the foot bridge spanning the river on Monday. “For us rescuers, it’s pretty treacherous water, so we’re just getting some experience in swimming in this water,” said Brian Kurtz, head of the program. “This is a good training day that we can see lots of hydrology, different things that the river is doing, different things that we go through as rescuers, and different ways to put systems across the river so we can safely affect a rescue.”

The water is also extremely dangerous. “If you don’t have to be in the water right now, don’t be,” Kroll said, “but if you do, make sure you’re prepared, be safe, know how to swim, wear your life jacket, your helmet, have a plan.” Three sections of the Arkansas River — Pine Creek Rapid, Numbers, and Royal Gorge — are under a High Water Advisory, meaning commercial rafting companies are recommended not to run those sections due to dangerous conditions.

American Alpine Club library’s archive of images by early mountaineers holds clues for researchers documenting the retreat of glaciers worldwide — the #Colorado Sun

Here’s a report from Joe Purtell that’s running in the Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

American Alpine Club Library Director Katie Sauter spends a lot of time in the climate-controlled special collections room, flipping through hundred-year-old photographs, black and white images of climbers posing in front of the world’s mountains and glaciers in the early 1900s. While the library is primarily maintained for climbers and historians, there is another interested cohort: glacier scientists.

The Arapaho Glacier is the largest in Colorado and a key component of Boulder’s water supply. Over the last 100 years, it has receded dramatically, and climate researcher P. Thompson Davis worries it could disappear completely. Photo credit: American Alpine Club via the Colorado Sun

Scientists periodically email the library, or even show up in Golden, looking for rare old photographs. Sauter says that while she has received requests for photos of the remote Ladakh region of India — and, closer to home, the Arapaho Glacier northwest of Nederland — they are largely focused on the same thing.

“Glaciers, mostly,” she says, “to see how much it’s melted.”


Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, a University of Colorado and NOAA partnership, estimates the Arapaho Glacier has lost 75 percent of its ice in the last 100 years. To get an idea of the glacier’s range at the turn of the century, he turned to old photographs.

“We probably used some of those photographs estimating the size of how the area of Arapaho Glacier has changed since the beginning of the 1900s, then moved on to satellite data more recently,” Scambos says.

When doing his own imagery, Scambos uses high-resolution images taken from different angles to construct a three dimensional model of the glacier’s surface. His team has used ground-penetrating radar to map the glacier’s internal workings. Still, when scientists want to establish a glacier’s historic range, they are left to search through old photos…

Beginning only a few years after the invention of the modern film camera, the Mountainview Collection offers some of the earliest available images of North American glaciers. At the time, the photographers would not have suspected their images would one day be used to recall ice flows that traversed entire ranges — ice that today appears as lakes in photos taken from the same vantage points.