#Utah Presses Forward With #LakePowellPipeline Plans Despite #ColoradoRiver Basin Constraints — #Wyoming Public Radio #COriver #aridification

Proposed Lake Powell pipeline. Map via the City of St. George.

From Wyoming Public Radio (Judy Fahys):

Despite the risk that the river resource is overcommitted and it is shrinking, four Upper Basin states – Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico – are pushing forward with dams, reservoir expansions and pipelines like the one at Lake Powell that will allow them to capture what they were promised under the 1922 Colorado River Compact. The Lower Basin states of Arizona, Nevada and California have been using that water downstream for nearly a century.

President Donald Trump signed the basin-wide drought contingency plan in April, just weeks after the state of Utah declared in a news release that the river, which serves 40 million people, is “a reliable source of water.”

“What they need to do – the lower states – is use their right that’s allocated to them, and we will use our right that’s allocated to us,” said Mike Styler, who retired recently after 14 years as director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources.

A former state lawmaker, Styler originally voted on pushing forward with the 140-mile Lake Powell Pipeline. Once completed, the diversion project, which would draw from the lake, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border, about 86,000 acre-feet a year. That’s enough water to support nearly 100,000 households…

The St. George metropolitan area was the third-fastest growing in the nation last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in April. Past data showed the area as the fastest growing in 2017 and the fifth-fastest growing between 2010 and 2018.

Pipeline proponents anticipate the trend will continue, with the current population of around 171,000 residents expected to swell to around 509,000 by 2065. And that growth is why they insist the pipeline is necessary…

The state has already spent more than $30 million on its application to build the pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently reviewing the project’s environmental impacts. The Washington County Water Conservancy District, a project partner, estimates that the license could be finalized in two years, construction would begin a few years later and the pipeline would be operating by around 2030.

But pipeline critics call the project too risky, too pricey and unnecessary. They contend that too much Colorado River water has already been promised to too many people.

“We are way beyond the budget of what the Colorado River can deliver, and when you just look at how much water is in the river and how much everyone else wants to take out, it’s just not there,” said Nick Schou, conservation director for the nonprofit Utah Rivers Council.

Schou said the Lower Basin states are facing cuts of as much as 500,000 acre-feet at the same time the Upper Basin states are planning nine projects that will draw about 400,000 acre-feet.

“Not only are we overusing the water, but there’s going to be a lot less to go around in the future,” Schou said…

The project’s overall cost is another big concern for critics. Proponents estimate the pipeline’s cost between $1.1 billion and $1.8 billion. Critics say the price tag will probably be $3.2 billion or higher. And water users would be saddled with the cost, since the what used to be common federal subsidies for big water projects have evaporated.

Aspinall Unit Spring Peak Operations Update

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The spring peak operation is nearing completion. The peak release period of the spring peak operation has concluded. Flows at the Whitewater gage were over 14,350 cfs for six days and a peak daily flow of 16,500 cfs occurred on June 9th.

The ramp down period has begun and releases will continue to be decreased through Thursday, June 20th. The ramp down schedule is shown below. Daily flows for the Gunnison River below the Gunnison Tunnel should be considered as approximations. Actual flows may vary from the numbers below if side inflows to Crystal Reservoir increase or decrease the spill rate beyond what is currently forecast.

Judge Issues Final Legal Ruling Ending the City of Aspen’s Water Storage Cases

The City of Aspen holds conditional water rights tied to a potential 155-foot-tall dam that would flood a scenic meadow with dramatic views of the Maroon Bells. The city is seeking a diligence ruling on those rights, which it then intends to transfer to other locations. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Here’s the release:

[On June 11, 2019], Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, and American Rivers welcomed news that a water judge has issued a final decree in the Maroon Creek case, marking the end of the court cases considering Aspen’s rights for water storage. In October 2018, the conservation organizations celebrated the completion of agreements to permanently abandon Aspen’s plans to build dams on Maroon and Castle creeks. Under the agreements, Aspen will now pursue more sustainable water supply alternatives, while protecting important wildlife and recreation areas, including portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.

“This final decree marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration to safeguard the Maroon Bells Wilderness and Maroon and Castle creeks,” said Western Resource Advocates President Jon Goldin-Dubois. “The city of Aspen should be commended for its efforts to pursue water supply alternatives that will ensure future demands are met without sacrificing our rivers and cherished natural landscapes. As growing cities across the West seek sustainable and affordable ways to provide water in the face of climate change, we encourage them to follow Aspen’s lead.”

“The judge’s final decree cements over two years of collaborative work to find a win-win solution that both protects Castle and Maroon creeks in two of the regions most beloved Valleys, and ensures a sustainable future water supply for the City of Aspen,” said Will Roush, executive director of the Wilderness Workshop. “Water can be one of the most contentious issues in the west and I’m proud of our community for coming together to find a solution that benefits both people and place. Our wilderness and public lands deserve to be kept largely free of damaging developments like dams and I’m grateful to the City of Aspen for their work and commitment not only to providing water but also to protecting our environment and public lands.”

“The judge’s final decree ensures that the Maroon and Castle dams are dead. This is a big day for Colorado, the city of Aspen, and for all people that appreciate free-flowing rivers,” said Matt Rice, Colorado River Basin director for American Rivers. “This collaborative outcome demonstrates that Coloradans can protect rivers while planning for a water scarce future.”

Wilderness Workshop, Western Resource Advocates, American Rivers, Trout Unlimited, and several other parties, including Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service, opposed the city’s plans to dam Maroon and Castle creeks. After extensive negotiations, the conservation organizations, the city, and other opposers were all able to reach agreements requiring the city to relocate its water rights and permanently abandon plans to build reservoirs with dams on Castle and Maroon creeks, regardless of whether the city is successful in moving these rights to alternative locations. The city of Aspen played a critical role in helping find solutions to protect the two creeks while maintaining an important source of water for the community.

Planet is entering ‘new climate regime’ with ‘extraordinary’ heat waves intensified by global warming, study says — The Washington Post #ActOnClimate

From The Washington Post (Jason Samenow):

Simultaneous heat waves scorched land areas all over the Northern Hemisphere last summer, killing hundreds and hospitalizing thousands while intensifying destructive and deadly wildfires.

A study published this week in the journal Earth’s Future concludes that this heat wave epidemic “would not have occurred without human-induced climate change.”

The alarming part? There are signs record-setting heat waves are beginning anew this summer — signaling, perhaps, that these exceptional and widespread heat spells are now the norm.

In the past few days, blistering, abnormal heat has afflicted several parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including major population centers.

New Delhi, India’s capital, soared to 118.4 degrees (48 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperature ever recorded in June. Some parts of India have seen the mercury eclipse 122 degrees (50 Celsius) in recent days, not far off the country’s all-time high.

On the other side of the hemisphere, the temperature in San Francisco shot up to 100 degrees (37.8 Celsius) Monday, its highest temperatures ever recorded in the months of June, July or August, or this early in the calendar year.

Heat spread unusually far north, even up into the northern reaches of Scandinavia. Mika Rantanen, a meteorologist at the University of Helsinki, tweeted last Friday that there “are no known cases in Finland’s climate history when it has been hotter than now so early in the summer.” Temperatures above 86 degrees (30 Celsius) penetrated inside the Arctic Circle, he noted.

A heat wave in Japan at the end of the May set scores of records, including the country’s highest temperature ever recorded in the month (103.1 degrees, or 39.5 Celsius). The oppressive conditions were blamed for five deaths and nearly 600 hospitalizations.

While some scientists hesitate to attribute individual heat spells to climate change, Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California at Los Angeles, tweeted that his research suggests that we’ve “reached the point where a majority (perhaps a vast majority) of unprecedented extreme heat events globally have a detectable human influence.”

Red hot planet: Last summer’s punishing and historic heat. Graphic credit: Robert Rhode/Berkeley Earth

@ColoradoClimate: Weekly #Climate, Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

#Runoff news

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Seth Boster):

In Lake City this week, a small team finished building a deep channel 1,000 feet long — a diversion in case Henson Creek’s banks are breached, said the team’s Michael Davis. Another berm is being built closer to town to protect the historical buildings and unpaved roads.

Converging streams near Lake City always have posed flooding risks, but this unprecedented threat is seen in aerial photos of new avalanche fields packed with big trees and boulders. The timber is about 300 years old, Davis said.

“That means they’re coming from areas that have not slid in the past 300 years, and that also means we’re changing the topography of the mountains. So where we once had a dense forest of mature trees that held the snow and the rains, we now have a new slide chute.”

It’s a slide chute for that debris to come rushing with water down into the creek, potentially building up, clogging and starting a chain of events that people on this side of the San Juan Mountains haven’t dealt with in generations…

In several basins, about half of the accumulations are waiting to melt…

San Juan County’s rivers are high enough to create “minor flooding,” [Jim] Donovan said. “But we still have a lot of snow in the mountains, so we’re not assuming anything.”

[…]

Heading into June, the Colorado Water Conservation Board warned that the delayed snowmelt might heighten the flooding risk, as June is expected to be a wet month statewide. Predicted long-lasting high water, the board said unforeseen conditions, such as sustained warmth or rain, have led to floods even in years of low snowpack…

Flash flood advisories and warnings have lingered in several parts of Colorado this month. In Huerfano County. fear of washouts and mudslides remain after last year’s major wildfire.

On the other end of the San Luis Valley, residents of Del Norte and South Fork can’t remember when the Rio Grande looked so high…

Stretches of the river have been closed to boating and fishing, and RV parks were on voluntary evacuation last weekend. First responders are preparing equipment and sandbags, as in Lake City.

From CBS4 Denver:

Pueblo officials restricted access to the Arkansas River Tuesday, one day after a Texas man lost his life farther upstream.

The river has now been restricted to whitewater canoes and kayaks from Lake Pueblo’s dam east to the Pueblo-Otero County Line by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the Pueblo Police Department, and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. Swimmers, rafters, and innertubers, no matter how well equipped, will be ticketed if they are discovered in the water.

According to the National Weather Service, the Arkansas River exceeded flood stage early Tuesday afternoon in the town of Avondale just downstream of Pueblo. Minor flooding is occurring…

Above Lake Pueblo, more snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains is already on its way downhill. The NWS predicts the Arkansas will reach flood stage in Canon City shortly after midnight Friday, and stay above it for at least two days.

Even farther upstream, rafting companies are voluntarily avoiding three sections of the Arkansas between Granite and Buena Vista, and in the Royal Gorge, following high water warnings.

From CBS4 Denver (Matt Kroschel):

The Arkansas River near Salida will welcome thousands of spectators and competitors this weekend to FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas River). Many crowd favorite events, however, have already been scrapped due to rising waters.

The cubic feet per second reading on the Arkansas on Monday in Salida was measured over 4,000 sending water close to the top of the historic concrete bridge on F Street in downtown. This isn’t even peak runoff flow yet.

FIBArk announced the list of canceled events which includes the Hooligan Race, the Stand Up Paddle board event on Friday, the SUP Cross on Saturday, and the Crazy River Dog Contest on Sunday — all canceled because of unsafe conditions.

Screen shot of Gary Pitzer’s Twitter feed June 12, 2019.

Save the Colorado is allowed to intervene in @DenverWater lawsuit v. @BoulderCounty

Workers build the Moffat Tunnel in the 1920s.

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Sam Lounsberry) via The Denver Post:

An environmental group’s motion to intervene in a dispute between Denver Water and Boulder County over the proposed expansion of Gross Reservoir was granted by a judge on Tuesday.

Court documents show Boulder District Judge Andrew Ross Macdonald will allow the group, Save the Colorado, to enter the case as a party on behalf of Boulder County, the defendant in the suit.

Denver Water filed the complaint against the county after it decided the utility would have to subject its controversial proposed dam expansion — which would be the largest construction project in the county’s history — through the county development approval process.

The case is still moving through court, with Denver Water trying to avoid subjecting its project to county [1041 regulations].