“These calculations are not just opinions or wild guesses. These projections by the IPCC are backed up by Scientific fact…We need to start living within the planetary boundaries. This will be a drastic change for many, but not for most, because most of the world’s population is already living within the planetary boundaries.” — Greta Thunberg
Here’s the release from the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (Tanya Ishikawa):
Sweetwater revival: High water and Sugar & the Mint return to 2019 Ridgway RiverFest
Festival goers and river racers are in for a sweet time this Saturday at the 12th annual Ridgway RiverFest due to high river flows and the return of 2018 crowd-pleasing band, Sugar & the Mint. Plus, Ute cultural presenter Regina Lopez-White Skunk, the River Rat Marketplace (silent auction) with great deals, snow cones by Voyager Youth Program, beer from Colorado Boy Brewery, margaritas from The Liquor Store, and all the food and fun of past festivals will be back at Rollans Park in Ridgway.
One of the RiverFest’s highlights is the Junk of the Unc homemade watercraft race, at about 1:30 p.m. when competitors build and ride their crafts down a short stretch of Class I river with style, ingenuity and speed. Competitors will be eligible to win as long as they start and end the race on their crafts, and awards are given to fastest, most original design, best use of recycled materials, and best in youth.
The River Races from the park to the Ridgway Reservoir will be particularly exciting this year with the increased runoff from the record-breaking snowpack this year. River runners are encouraged to come compete in the hard shell, inflatable and stand-up paddleboard categories. The top team that finishes the fastest in each category will be awarded one of the coveted RiverFest trophies, with a new design this year created by Ridgway artist Joann Taplin.
“The high river flows mean less rocks to navigate around but more large rapids over the top of rocks. We won’t be allowing inner tube entries this year due to the high, swift water and the still very cold temperatures,” said RiverFest Coordinator Tanya Ishikawa. “We welcome kayaks and rafts. Canoes and SUPs are also allowed this year, but we recommend only advanced riders on those due to conditions. Wet or dry suits are also a good idea this year. You can see race rules at ridgwayriverfest.org.”
Another planned river activity is the Safety Rope Bag toss contest where a “willing victim” hangs out in the middle of the Uncompahgre as contestants attempt to toss a safety rope bag to them, practicing an important river rescue skill. This event as well as the Rubber Ducky Race may be cancelled if conditions are deemed too difficult to keep the “victim” safely in the water or to capture all ducks at the end of the race.
“The Ouray Mountain Rescue Team will be on boats in the water and on the banks, ready to assist as necessary, but we want everyone to practice safe river etiquette, so we continue our accident-free festival record,” Ishikawa added. “Parents need to watch their children at the river’s edges. Anyone getting in the river must have a PFD (personal flotation device aka life jacket) and helmets are recommended (as well as being required of racers).”
Besides the river activities, the live band performance from 3 to 6 p.m. is always a highlight of the RiverFest. The 2019 headlining band, Sugar & the Mint from Prescott, Arizona, is being brought back by popular demand. The five-piece band’s music is informed by everything from bluegrass to baroque to current pop and country. It was the first-place winner of the Band Contest at the 2017 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and were invited back to perform at the 2018 Bluegrass Festival. Since then, they have been traveling nationally and recorded a second album.
Ute Mountain Ute Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk and her father Normal Lopez will provide a cultural presentation from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Lopez-Whiteskunk advocated for land, air, water and animals from an early age, and has traveled extensively throughout the nation presenting and sharing the Ute culture through song, dance and presentations. Lopez, her father who will play flute, has been a student of life and carries great respect for the land, environment and Ute way of life. He learned to make flutes by his grandfather and uncles from the hearts of the cedar trees, has played the traditional style, from his heart. The birds and wind inspire his unique sounds.
Festival sponsors include Double RL Ranch at Class V and five Class IV sponsors: Alpine Bank, BEP EarthWise Foundation, Ridgway Mountain Market, Town of Ridgway, RIGS Adventure Co., and San Miguel Power Association. The radio sponsor is MBC Grand Broadcasting: 92.3 The Moose, Magic 93.1, KNZZ, 96.1 K-star, The Vault 100.7, 95.7 The Monkey, The Team Sports Radio 101FM-1340AM, and 103.9 The Planet
Festival information: https://ridgwayriverfest.org
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):
The drought resiliency grants will help communities in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas
Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman announced that 18 projects will receive a total of $9 million to prepare for drought. These projects will provide more flexibility and reliability for communities while reducing the need for emergency actions during a drought. The funding provided is part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program.
“While the water supply in the western United States improved this year, it’s important for communities to remain proactive in building long-term resiliency to drought,” Commissioner Burman said. “These projects help communities protect themselves from the next drought by increasing water supply reliability and improving operational flexibility.” There were 18 drought resiliency projects selected in California, Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon and Texas to receive funding. They will be leveraged with local cost-share to fund $166.2 million in projects.
The A&B Irrigation District in Idaho will receive $250,000 to implement, in coordination with the Twin Falls Canal Company, the Mid-Snake Recharge Injection Wells Project near the cities of Paul and Murtaugh, Idaho. They will construct six deep injection wells to recharge the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. The project will protect against drought for groundwater and surface water users and enhance the storage availability in Reclamation’s Minidoka and Palisades projects.
The Pueblo of Zia located in Sandoval County, New Mexico, will receive $750,000 to modernize the Zia Flume over the Jemez River and install associated buried PVC pipe. The Zia Flume brings irrigation water from Zia Lake to the Pueblo’s agricultural lands. It is critical infrastructure for the Pueblo and has experienced damage in the past that was exacerbated by an extreme flood event in 2016. This project is also supported by the Pueblo’s Drought Contingency Plan.
The Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County, California, will receive $749,999 to install pipe in residential streets and easements, upgrade an existing pump station, repurpose an existing force main, and upgrade 35 existing water meters. This project will allow recycled water to be used instead of potable water for irrigation. It is supported in the district’s 2015 Urban Water Management Plan and an adaptation strategy identified in Reclamation’s Santa Ana Watershed Basin Study.
The other projects selected are:
Cachuma Operation and Maintenance Board, Santa Barbara ($750,000) City of Fullerton, Orange County ($300,000) Long Beach Water Department, Los Angeles County ($750,000) Pala Band of Mission Indians, San Diego County ($298,380) Rancho California Water District, Riverside County ($750,000) San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, San Bernardino ($750,000) Stanislaus Regional Water Authority, Ceres and Turlock ($750,000)
Tri-County Water Conservancy District, Ouray County ($106,000)
[ed. emphasis mine]
Snake River Valley Irrigation District, Basalt ($299,910)
Lower Loup Natural Resources District, Eastern Nebraska ($750,000)
City of Las Cruces ($262,453) Santa Fe County ($291,520)
North Unit Irrigation District, Jefferson County ($122,485)
City of Celina ($750,000) Texas Water Development Board, Austin ($360,631)
To learn more about the projects selected, please visit Reclamation’s drought website at https://www.usbr.gov/drought.
Reclamation’s drought resiliency projects are a component of the WaterSMART Program.
Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with States, Tribes, and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts. Visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart for additional information about WaterSMART.
From the USGS:
A Vision of the West from the 19th and 20th Century River Expeditions
This year marks the 150th anniversary — or sesquicentennial — of the historic expedition that John Wesley Powell and his nine-man crew undertook to explore the Green and Colorado rivers in an epic story of Western discovery. Powell returned to the river for future measurements and later applied his extensive knowledge of mapping, geology, and water resources during his term as the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Let’s consider Powell’s plans for his original expedition and how they compare to this year’s modern-day expedition, which launches from Green River, Wyoming, on May 24.
In the 19th Century
John Wesley Powell — teacher, Civil War major, statesman, and above all, scientist — was a geology professor when he planned the first scientific expedition of the Green and Colorado rivers. His plan was to enter the Great unknown, take scientific measurements, chart the region, and complete our nation’s maps.1
Powell received support for his endeavor from such sources as the Illinois State Natural History Society, Illinois Industrial University, and the Chicago Academy of Sciences; the U.S. Congress (after some debate) passed a joint resolution authorizing the secretary of war to issue rations for the explorers’ use during the expedition.2 The expedition also had the approval of the Smithsonian Institution.3
Powell’s crew for his initial expedition in 1869 included four guides, the brother of one of these guides, the major’s youngest brother, a former U.S. Army lieutenant, an 18-year-old mule driver and Indian scout, and an Englishman interested in the adventure. Of the ten men, only Powell and five others made it all the way from the Green River in Wyoming to present-day Lake Mead; the Englishman left after the first 26 days, at Echo Park, having had enough of an adventure, and three more departed the crew at Separation Point in the Grand Canyon (their ultimate fate never to be known for certain).
Newspaper readers in 1869 were treated to letters and accounts occasionally sent by various crew members recounting colorful stories from the river, such as when one of the boats was dashed by rapids. A rash of articles in July described, falsely, how the entire party was lost on the Green River; it took letters written by Powell to his wife after the supposed date that the party was lost to disprove the story. Powell understood the importance of art in capturing the hearts of the public and engaged photographers, engravers, and painters, including Thomas Moran, in future surveys. Wood engravings and paintings from the time complement the reports and maps that Powell published after his 1869 expedition and follow-up surveys; these works of art invite us to imagine Powell reading the story of geologic time in the exposed canyons.
“It is not creditable to us as a people that a geographical and geological problem of such absorbing interest should remain unsolved for a whole generation. We hope Major Powell will secure the rewards of its solution, and he will, if intelligence and unflagging energy can accomplish it. His many friends will be glad to know that he is in the best of health and spirits, and almost confident of ultimate and complete success.” -Chicago Tribune, May 9, 1869
In the 21st Century
Powell’s “unknown” has become a highly visited, studied, and managed environment across five states and a complex patchwork of federal lands and jurisdictions, including 28 Native American reservations. Like the original, this year’s expedition is being led by a professor, Thomas Minckley of the University of Wyoming’s Geography Department. Under his direction, the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE) has spent several years planning a journey that mirrors Powell’s, and its vision statement is as ambitious as Powell’s in its scope: “this expedition is not a reenactment of the past, but rather a re-envisioning of our future that engages traditional, historic, and contemporary river ecosystem perspectives to derive proactive management strategies, integrating community values, science, and humanities through an analysis of culture, informed management, and traditional ecological knowledge.”4
Like Powell’s expedition, the SCREE endeavor is made possible through a variety of sources. The river outfitter community and private donors, in particular, have made the SCREE expedition possible, and SCREE has also received modest federal assistance.
The SCREE crew includes academics, Native Americans, artists, and USGS scientists and support staff. Almost 10 times as many people will participate in this year’s 70-day, nearly 1,000-river-mile journey as did in the original expedition. SCREE is supported by a logistics contractor and permitted by various federal agencies with jurisdiction over the rivers.
The modern expedition has the benefit of satellite communications. SCREE is continuing the legacy of connecting the public to the west via art and has developed a distributed art exhibit called “Contemporary Views of the Arid West: People, Places and Spaces,” to engage people in the issues facing the water resources and western landscapes. Rather than waiting months to hear about their adventures, the crew will broadcast daily updates, and the public may follow them on Facebook, the SCREE website, and other social media. Visit www.usgs.gov/powell150 to learn more.
1 Quote from Powell’s letter to the Chicago Tribune on May 1869; this summary of Powell’s first expedition was adapted from Mary C. Rabbitt’s article, “John Wesley Powell: Pioneer Statesman of Federal Science;” to read her full story, click here.
2 Congressional Globe record, May 25, 1868. Pages 2563-2566.
3 Letter from Joseph Henry of the Smithsonian Institution, dated April 21, 1868; included as “communications” considered during Senate debate on authorizing the use of rations (see #2).
From Wyoming Public Radio (Melodie Edwards):
For the last four years, Green River and Little Snake River basin ranchers have been getting paid not to irrigate in late summer to conserve Colorado River water. But the pilot phase of the program is now over. The next step is developing the technology to measure how much water is actually saved.
Big Piney Rancher and water engineer Chad Espenscheid said the key to making sure the program succeeds is proving the water was really making it down to the Colorado River…
As part of a new drought contingency agreement, Upper Basin states like Wyoming will now be able to store as much as 500,000 acre feet of conserved water to fill lower basin demands. But that’s only if they figure out how to quantify the saved water.
Espenscheid said the program is definitely worth keeping. He said it made it worth his while to participate, paying him enough to expand his cattle herd.
But as for quantifying how much water he really conserved?
“How much? Who knows,” he said. “But for sure there was water going down the creek that we probably would have used.”
Espenscheid said he plans to work on possible methods to answer that question, like developing computer models or creating measuring devices to install in streams.
Wyoming’s Trout Unlimited Director Cory Toye says the test run was popular with ranchers and translated to real benefits for native trout.