These cutthroat trout survived in only one Colorado creek, until it was choked out by wildfire ash — @ColoradoSun

From The Colorado Sun (Jennifer Brown):

Now their offspring are getting a fresh start after hitching a ride in saddlebags up a mountain stream

CPW staff spawn unique cutthroat trout rescued from Hayden Pass fire. Photo credit Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The fish are the descendants of a unique species of cutthroat trout rescued from Hayden Creek in 2016 as a wildfire ripped through the Sangre de Cristo mountains, scorching nearly 17,000 acres near Coaldale.

In 2016, as the fire burned only a quarter-mile away, parks and wildlife fish biologists led by a fire crew hiked behind the fire line to remove about 200 of the fish from Hayden Creek. Wearing electrofishing backpacks, they shocked the water and waited for the stunned fish to float, netting as many as they could.

The biologists knew that particular type of cutthroat trout lived nowhere else but Hayden Creek and that the ash-filled runoff after the fire likely would kill them.

They were right. Monsoons that followed the fire sent ash and sediment into Hayden Creek, which turned the water acidic and depleted its oxygen. The remaining cutthroat suffocated. When biologists returned after the rains, they could not find one fish.

Trout rescued from Hayden Creek were taken to a hatchery near Gunnison, where they were isolated from other subspecies. Some were released in Newlin Creek, near Florence, and this week, 4,500 of their offspring were loaded into a hatchery truck headed for Westcliffe…

The fish, with orange-red splotches on its throat and across its belly, is hardly distinguishable from other cutthroat trout. Yet, the Hayden Creek cutthroat trout are the only fish known to share the genetics of a pair of fish now at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The fish were caught in Twin Lakes, near Leadville, in 1889 by an ichthyologist — the type of zoologist that studies just fish — named David Starr Jordan.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout

Colorado has three remaining subspecies of cutthroat trout that are native to the state: the greenback, the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. A fourth native cutthroat, the yellowfin, is presumed extinct.

The Hayden Creek cutthroat are part of the Colorado River subspecies, but have genetics unique even from Colorado River cutthroat.

Nehring released his fish one at a time Monday and watched afterward as they darted around in the clear water. Even at 4-inches long, they held their own against the current…

A parks and wildlife team will return in the fall to check on the trout, using electrofishing to catch and measure them. The hope is that they not only will survive, but will begin reproducing in about two years.

They will fill an important niche in the ecosystem, Nehring said. The fish eat mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies and worms, and are food for bears, raccoons and other animals.

Little Colorado River adjudication drags into 41st year — The White Mountain Independent

From The White Mountain Independent (Laura Singleton):

The Little Colorado River water adjudication, also known as the LCR Adjudication, is a judicial proceeding that was first filed in 1978 in Apache County Superior Court to determine the priority of all water rights within the Little Colorado River Watershed.

It is one of two water adjudications in the state of Arizona. The other is the Gila River Adjudication.

The Little Colorado River (LCR) and the Gila River Adjudications are significant because the “exterior boundaries of these two adjudications include more than half the state, where most of the Indian reservations and federal land are located,” according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources.

In the case of the LCR Adjudication, the 41-year battle for water rights has the potential to affect most White Mountain communities.

The case involves thousands of claimants and water users throughout Arizona and is still going on today.

“The adjudication and battles over water will not end in our lifetime,” assured David M. Newlin, executive director of the Little Colorado River Plateau Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc.

Newlin provided some history of the LCR Adjudication during a special meeting of the Rainbow Lake Coalition on June 11.

Since the western United States began to be settled, Newlin explained, people recognized the value of water. The demand for water exceed the supply, especially in the drier climates throughout the southwest.

The legal proceedings for the LCR Adjudication are ultimately supposed to determine how to divide up the 160,000 acre-feet of surface water per year that comes from the Little Colorado River watershed. The Little Colorado River watershed is also the second largest watershed in Arizona, measuring 27,000 square miles.

Arizona adjudications via State of Arizona.

Who claims the water?

There are several Native American tribes involved in the LCR Adjudication. They include the Hopi Tribe, the Navajo Nation, the White Mountain Apache Tribe who has already settled, and the Zuni Tribe, according to the AZDW.

The non-Indian claimants are divided into the Silver Creek watershed, the Upper Little Colorado River watershed, and the Lower Little Colorado River watershed.

“There are many competing demands for water, including the Hopi Tribe, who has lived in the area the longest; the Navajo Nation; the United States government; non-Indian communities (such as Flagstaff, Winslow, Show Low, Snowflake, Springerville, St. Johns, and Holbrook); commercial and industrial interests (such as Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service); and numerous other individual and commercial interests,” according to a 2018 press release on the Hopi Times website.

What is adjudication?

Litigation through the Arizona Supreme Court has been the vehicle used to settle or “adjudicate” the Little Colorado River water rights but the process hasn’t offered a quick solution by any means.

Adjudicate means to settle a dispute. It’s a formal way of saying “to decide” or “to resolve” something, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

“There are over 39,000 parties in the Gila Adjudication and over 6,000 parties in the LCR Adjudication,” according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the agency who is charged with maintaining all of the related data and documents.

Tribes at an impasse

The White Mountain Apache Tribe and the Zuni tribes have settled in the LCR Adjudication but the Navajo Nation Reservation and the Hopi Tribe have not.

The complexity of the case and the inability to find a settlement weighs heavy on both tribes.

“Every water district, every city, every corporation, every town is one side or the other of the argument,” says Newlin.

“In 2012, Senators John Kyle and John McCain had a settlement in the LCR adjudication,” explained Newlin. “They were just waiting for the Hopi and the Navajo to decide how to divide the water ‘proceeds’”

“The two tribes agreed to disagree and the settlement effort fell through,” explained Newlin. “So, the Hopi went back to the table and have since laid out a 10-year plan for what they wanted to adjudicate.”

The Hopi Tribe went to trial last September and the first phase of the water rights trial ended in December 2018, according to a November 2018 press release published in The Hopi Tribe website.

The Navajo and Hopi each claim priority water rights to the LCR, but have been unable to agree on the amounts to which they’re entitled.

“While our lawyers, on our behalf, have asserted for many years that the Navajo Nation is entitled to every drop of water in the Little Colorado River basin, the Little Colorado River continues to flow past the Navajo Nation and almost half of our households continue to haul water,” wrote District 2 State Representative, Albert Hale in an April edition of the Navajo Times.

“We know that clean water is essential for life,” Hale adds. “Without the LCR Settlement, the underlying litigation, which is already almost 40 years old, will go on forever. Our people will continue an existence limited from reaching their full potential by inadequate and unhealthy water supplies.”

Last August, fomer Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye met with Interior Department representatives “to discuss the framework for a settlement of Navajo water rights on the main-stem Colorado River and the Little Colorado River (LCR),” according to an August 20, 2018 story published by Native News Online.

“When it comes to LCR, we go full circle. We’ve come to this impasse before,” Begaye was quoted as saying.

Now, almost a year later, the impasse still lingers for the Hopi and the Navajo.

Who adjudicates the case?

The special master appointed by the court to oversee the case will consider all of the evidence and argument from the past and present water use trial and the future water needs trial. The judge will then produce a comprehensive report on the amount of water needed to by all claimants, including the Hopi Tribe and the Navajo Nation.

Eventually, a decision will be sent for review to the Superior Court of the state of Arizona.

“This is just like any trial,” adds Newlin. “The plaintiffs tell the Court what they plan to do, how the witnesses are organized, the topics, the evidence and how long they believe the trial will take.”

Going to trial

Every claimant in the LCR adjudication case has to pay for legal representation. Some claimants have private legal representation. Native tribes may be represented by the U.S. government.

Either way, it’s expensive and the cost increases as the cases enter the trial stage. Numerous White Mountain communities and water districts are represented by Brown and Brown PLLC in Eagar, and other attorneys.

Eventually, the Maricopa and Apache County Superior Courts are expected to adjudicate, issuing a “comprehensive final decree” of water rights for the Little Colorado River Watershed.

For more information on the LCR and other adjudications in the state of Arizona, visit the Arizona Department of Water Resources at https://new.azwater.gov/adjudications.

#Runoff news: Dillon Reservoir close to full, Roberts Tunnel off

Denver Water employees Rick Geise and Nate Hurlbut assisted in setting the plug, which helps prevent chunks of ice and snow from falling into the spillway. Photo credit: Denver Water
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From The Summit Daily News (Deepan Dutta):

Nathan Elder, water supply manager for reservoir owner Denver Water, reported Friday that the reservoir was just under a foot from being full, with 2,600 acre-feet of storage space remaining. Elder predicted the reservoir would fill in about two days.

The latest inflow data showed 2,219 cubic feet per second flowing into the reservoir, while 1,840 cfs is flowing out. Elder said that, while the dam wasn’t meant for flood control, the flows in the Lower Blue would be much stronger if the dam wasn’t there at all.

“We constantly try to balance inflows with outflows,” Elder said. “If the dam wasn’t there, flows below the reservoir would be close or at 3,000 cfs.”

Elder said the Roberts Tunnel, which channels water from the reservoir to the Front Range, was currently off and not bringing water to the Eastern Slope. Denver Water will continue adjusting flows for the reservoir to keep it at full capacity until Nov. 1, when the reservoir is lowered 3 feet to leave room for snow precipitation.

Elder said Denver Water has been conducting twice-daily briefings with county emergency officials, updating the forecast on flows into the Lower Blue. Summit County emergency director Brian Bovaird said that all tributaries in the county were at or just below “action stage,” or when county flooding preparations take effect.

Bovaird said there is a possibility Denver Water will increase flows below the dam to up to 1,900 CFS by this weekend, close to the highest flow recorded below the dam. However, he said there was good news from the National Weather Service, which predicted no heavy rain this weekend to push the rivers over the edge.

Bovaird said that emergency officials will start to get concerned if the outflows rise to 2,100 CFS. But for now, Bovaird said he didn’t expect any major flooding to occur when the peak flows finally peter out next week. Bovaird reported some “nuisance” flooding in Silverthorne’s South Forty neighborhood, but it did not cause any structural damage or threaten homes.

Bovaird added things were looking good at the Goose Pasture Tarn dam, which was built in Breckenridge in the ’60’s and has been a source of concern due to the potential for flooding or even collapse. Tenmile Creek, which approached flood stage a few weeks ago, peaked last week without any significant flooding or damage.

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