@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.

@COHighLineCanal: Stormwater Transformation and Enhancement Program (STEP) update

From The Highline Canal Conservancy:

The Stormwater Transformation and Enhancement Program (STEP) will bring a new life and a renewed utility to the High Line Canal as a green infrastructure system that provides for stormwater quality management.

The High Line Canal Conservancy is working with Denver Water, Mile High Flood District and local jurisdictions through STEP to advance stormwater solutions in the Canal for both existing and new conditions.

Two Main Goals of STEP

Plan for and implement stormwater management projects in the Canal that transform it into a stormwater management system.
Develop a collaborative management, maintenance, financial and operational model to advance stormwater projects in the Canal.
Any drop of water that falls into adjacent watersheds naturally drains toward the Canal. In some areas, stormwater already enters the Canal, while in other areas, stormwater is diverted away from the Canal. Diverting that stormwater toward the Canal and holding it there briefly (less the 72 hours) can provide many benefits.

Benefits to the Canal and region include:

WATER

  • Reduces the amount of pollution going into the waterways, improves water quality, boosts water cycle support, upholds flood management and allows for cleaner stormwater
  • NATURAL ENVIRONMENT

  • Improves air quality, promotes carbon sequestration, increases wildlife diversity and abundance and reduces the urban heat island effect
  • COMMUNITY HEALTH & LIVABILITY

  • Encourages healthy lifestyles, increases access, builds climate resilience, enhances human health and user experience and fosters stewardship
  • Fountain Creek lawsuit update: Court grants more time for settlement talks

    The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Robert Boczkiewicz):

    Officials of Pueblo County and of the Lower Arkansas Valley are making significant progress to resolve a lawsuit against Colorado Springs for years of defiling Fountain Creek.

    “The parties have made significant progress toward settlement,” states a July 23 report obtained by The Pueblo Chieftain.

    The report was submitted to a judge in Denver of the U.S. District Court for Colorado, where the lawsuit is pending.

    The Chieftain reported in December that both sides of the dispute had begun meeting to discuss a potential resolution without further litigation.

    The new report and the one in December were signed by attorneys for the litigants: the county commissioners, the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Public Health and Environment on one side, and the city of Colorado Springs on the other side…

    After a trial last year, the judge overseeing the case decided in November that the Colorado Springs violated its permit that regulates discharges into the creek from the city’s storm water sewer system.

    The next step would have been for another trial to determine what the city must do to remedy the violations.

    The commissioners, the water conservancy district, plus the federal and state environmental agencies stated in December they would ask a judge to order Colorado Springs to improve its storm water system, impose monetary penalties “and other appropriate remedies” if both sides could not agree on how to resolve the dispute.

    In last week’s report, all sides stated they “have been meeting regularly and intensively to reach settlement.”

    They asked the judge to put the case on hold in order to give them at least until Nov. 22 “to focus on settlement.”

    Senior Judge John L. Kane granted the request.

    #Runoff news: #YampaRiver streamflow close to average

    From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

    On Monday afternoon, the river was flowing at about 200 cubic feet per second at the U.S. Geological Survey stream gauge at Fifth Street, falling over the course of the past week from just under 300 cfs on Monday, July 22. Saturday’s rainfall boosted flows back up to 300 cfs on Sunday, though the river fell back to 200 cfs by Monday.

    The river typically levels out after its peak, but city water resources manager Kelly Romero-Heaney said that level varies year to year.

    “We see the hydrograph tail off after the peak snowmelt, and then it hovers above 100 cfs typically for the majority of the summer, but it can depend on what’s happening with releases out of Stagecoach Reservoir and irrigation diversions upstream from town and the weather,” Romero-Heaney said…

    So far this July, the area received 1.06 inches of precipitation at a National Weather Service Cooperative Observer Network weather station, below the long-term average of 1.52 inches at the same location.

    #PFAS: Widefield aquifer cleanup update

    Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

    From Colorado Public Radio (Dan Boyce):

    The Environmental Protection Agency issued a health advisory in 2016 that warned of the connection between PFAS and certain types of cancer.

    After the advisory and the discovery of widespread groundwater and soil contamination near Peterson Airforce Base, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation shut down organic vegetable production at the Venetucci farm. They opted to instead raise lower-priced feedstock for horses.

    It’s one example of the financial burden this region still bears from the pollution, despite the $50 million the Air Force has spent on cleanup around Peterson.

    “There are 60,000 stories just like this and they’re happening at the kitchen sink in every Fountain, Widefield and Security home,” Clark said of the communities whose water was tainted by the foam.

    The foundation, as well as the nearby Security Water District, have sued the Air Force over the chemicals. District general manager Roy Heald said they had to find a new source of water for their customers, a complicated process which involved the construction of a mile-long pipeline to buy water from Colorado Springs. The cost of the pipeline and the first two years of water set the district back $6 million…

    In 2018, the Air Force stepped in to cover the district’s water costs until the construction of a new treatment facility was completed. The Air Force will also pay for the facility. Still, Heald said it’s unclear what the ongoing long-term costs will be for the district when it comes to the new facility. It will be needed as long as the contamination remains in the groundwater, which could essentially be forever…

    As of this June, $357 million has been spent on PFAS cleanup around 22 Air Force installations nationwide. It’s a lot of money that many who live near the sites say barely touches on the full problem…

    There’s disagreement even between government agencies about what concentration of PFAS is safe for humans. A division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that levels should be set seven to 10 times lower than the EPA’s health advisory.

    Genna Reed, the lead PFAS researcher for the Union of Concerned Scientists, has said the Department of Defense “misrepresented the scope of this issue in order to avoid having to pay.”

    The Air Force would not grant an interview for this story, but states on the PFAS website it established that “protecting human health is our priority.”

    Reed said the Department of Defense has limited which PFAS chemicals it tests for in groundwater and only releases data when the results are above the higher EPA threshold.

    “Community members who have been exposed to this chemical and were not told of its release are being the ones left with the burden of paying for this contamination and paying to find out how much is in their water and also to find out how much is in their blood,” Reed said.

    Rosenbaum said the full blood panel to test for PFAS chemicals costs about $700 — out of reach for many living near Peterson AFB.

    Rosenbaum has organized a local clean water coalition to go after grants to test residents’ blood and water. She’s frustrated they have to do that work themselves.

    “There’s absolutely no reason for our communities to go into debt over another water contamination that we didn’t cause,” she said.

    #Runoff news: 51 days on #DoloresRiver a boon to boaters, biologists — The Durango Herald

    From The Durango Herald (Mary Shinn):

    Coming out of extreme drought, water releases a pleasant surprise

    Colorado Drought Monitor August 28, 2018.

    For 51 days this spring and summer, water managers opened the spigots on McPhee Reservoir, sending millions of gallons of water down the Dolores River – a boon to fish, farmers and boaters.

    During the last 20 years, only 10 years have been boatable. But this year was remarkable for the number of boating days after extreme drought conditions in 2018.

    McPhee Reservoir started 2019 with one of the poorest water levels in its history, but extraordinary snowfall allowed the Dolores Water Conservancy District to fill the reservoir and release 135,000 acre-feet of water.

    The high-flow days will benefit the ecology of the entire corridor, said Mike Preston, general manager of the district. The big releases occurred between Memorial Day weekend and the first week of July, with a short intermission after Memorial Day.

    The district met with stakeholders, such as boaters and biologists, weekly to determine water management strategy, Preston said.

    “So far, everybody is pretty happy,” he said.

    The Dolores River Boating Advocates were pleased with the number of boating days. While it was not the longest season ever, it was a good run, said Sam Carter, program and outreach coordinator for the group…

    The high levels in the reservoir will allow the district to provide irrigators all the water they have rights to and hold over water in the reservoir for next season, Preston said. The releases from the reservoir will also have lasting benefits for native fish and trees along the river, experts said.

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    The high flows help maintain and improve habitat for three species of native fish: roundtail chub, bluehead sucker and flannelmouth sucker, said Jim White, aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    The bluehead and flannelmouth sucker populations are both depressed in the Dolores. Their populations have been hurt by non-native fish and changes in habitat because of the dam, he said…

    This summer, White said he may have observed benefits of the last big water year on the Dolores, which was in 2017. He was surveying fish in Slick Rock Canyon and found an abundance of young flannelmouth suckers possibly from 2017 or 2018, he said. Higher water helps support spawning…

    The large amount of spring runoff released from McPhee also kept the water district from needing to tap into water set aside specifically for fish, Preston said. So now the same amount of water can be released over a shorter period of time, which will be beneficial for fish.

    The high-water year will also have lasting benefits for trees, such as cottonwoods and willows, because it will recharge the groundwater in the floodplain, said Cynthia Dott, a biology professor at Fort Lewis College. Dott specializes in studying the floodplain forest habitat and has worked on the Dolores River with her students.

    Rainwater does not provide enough water to recharge the water table, and when the table drops too low, it can hurt large cottonwoods, she said. But there should be plenty of groundwater for the trees to tap into next year, she said.

    “They will have plenty of water to keep their feet wet,” she said.

    The high flows were also traditionally needed to scour the banks of rivers and leave open, muddy areas for young cottonwood seedlings to get established, she said.

    However, because there have been so many years of low flows on the Dolores, willows have established themselves along the banks and high flows now are not enough to rip them free, she said.

    @Audubon: 2019 Audubon Photography Awards

    Screen shot from the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards website, July 30, 2019.

    Click here to view the stunning photographs. (No Sandhill Cranes!)