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How Colorado’s Canals Came To Be, And How They’re Remaking Themselves Today — Colorado Public Radio

Highline Canal Denver

From Colorado Public Radio (Andrea Dukakis):

Colorado’s landscape is carved up, in part, by meandering canals.

Over the years, the man-made waterways have shifted from pure tools of agriculture to spaces for outdoor recreation.

Denverite Beyhan Maybach asked Colorado Wonders about the history of the canals, and who owns them.

Maybach enjoys wandering the trail on the irrigation canal across the street from her 8-year-old daughter, Leyla’s, school in suburban Lakewood. Houses line each side of the canal and ducks float in the water. Leyla catches roly-poly pill bugs and collects wildflowers while her mom enjoys the serene environment.

“It’s beautiful. It’s very relaxing. It’s very meditative, in a way,” Maybach said.

Her interest in the waterways goes further than relaxing afternoons with her daughter — Maybach is an ecologist who studies how humans interact with the environment.

The origins of Colorado’s canals dates back to the mid-1800s, said Matt Bond, the head of youth education at Denver Water. They were especially important on the Front Range, where a lack of precipitation meant finding other ways to keep garden plots and fields watered.

“They started from the very earliest days, whether they were big formal canals in any way, or just someone trying to move water 25 yards farther away from the edge of the river to wherever their garden plot was,” Bond said.

But despite the fact a canal may run by your property, that doesn’t give you the right to use the water flowing through. Colorado’s water rights system, and most of those throughout the West, only grant rights to contract holders, not by proximity.

Two centuries on, some Colorado canals are remaking themselves.

One is the High Line Canal, which starts in Douglas County at Waterton Canyon and winds northeast all the way to Aurora near Denver International Airport. The 71-mile corridor was built, like others, to carry water to farmers along the route. Water from the South Platte River is funneled into a tunnel and carried in aqueducts before it arrives on the high plains, hydrating an entire region.

Today, the walkers and bicyclists follow the path as it winds through rural and urban areas. One of the High Line Canal’s great champions is Harriet LaMair, who heads up the High Line Canal Conservancy. She finds wonder in the area’s longevity.

“We’re right in the heart of the city of Denver and in the region, and yet this historic trail that was built to bring irrigation water to farmers way back in the 1800s is still here,” LaMair said.

The truth is, the canal has never been ideal for carrying water. There’s a lot of seepage and evaporation along the way.

Wolf sighted in Jackson County confirmed to be from Wyoming’s Snake River pack — Colorado Parks and Wildlife

The gray wolf recently sighted in Jackson County has been confirmed as a dispersing male from Wyoming. Photo credit: Colorado Parks & Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Rebbeca Ferrell):

The wolf recently sighted and photographed in Jackson County, Colorado was confirmed by Wyoming Game and Fish to be a dispersing male gray wolf from Wyoming. The collared wolf is from the Snake River pack and was last recorded by transmission signals on February 12 during routine telemetry flights around South Pass.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife will monitor the area but is no longer actively pursuing the wolf’s location. CPW will remain in close communication with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Wildlife Services, Wyoming Game and Fish and local municipalities. Under the Endangered Species Act, harming, harassing, or killing a gray wolf other than in cases of self-defense is unlawful.

@NOAA: July 2019 El Niño update: I think I’ll go for a walk

From NOAA (Emily Becker):

El Niño is hanging on by its fingernails, but forecasters predict this event will wind down within the next couple of months. It’s likely that the temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean surface will return to near-average soon, qualifying for “ENSO-neutral” conditions. Neutral conditions are favored to remain through the fall and winter.

Not dead yet
The June Niño3.4 index, our primary ENSO measurement, was 0.6°C above the long-term average, just above the El Niño threshold of 0.5°C. There is some evidence that the atmosphere over the central Pacific is still responding to that extra heating, as a bit more clouds and rain than average were present in June.

The Southern Oscillation Index and Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index were both slightly negative in June, also indicating some continuation of the weakened Walker circulation we expect to see with El Niño. But the upper-level and near-surface winds over the equatorial Pacific, another component of the Walker circulation, were close to average during June. All in all, El Niño is still present, but just barely.

That’s no ordinary rabbit
As frequent readers of this blog will know, we closely monitor the temperature of the water under the surface of the tropical Pacific. This can tell us if there is a source of warmer-than-average water to supply the surface, continuing to fuel El Niño, or not. In early June, there was a small downwelling Kelvin wave of warmer waters moving eastward under the surface of the Pacific, but this wave has dissipated recently.

Departure from average of the surface and subsurface tropical Pacific sea temperature averaged over 5-day periods starting in early June 2019. The vertical axis is depth below the surface (meters) and the horizontal axis is longitude, from the western to eastern tropical Pacific. This cross-section is right along the equator. Climate.gov figure from CPC data.

Overall, the heat content in the top 300 meters of the equatorial Pacific is just about average now, in early July. This is one of the major factors in our forecast for a return to near-average surface temperatures and neutral ENSO conditions. Once the surface temperatures return to average, and the source of extra heat to the air above the central Pacific is gone, the atmospheric component of El Niño—that weakened Walker circulation—will also return to average.

Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time
What may be in store for the fall and winter? Overall, most of the computer models we consult predict that the sea surface temperature in the Nino3.4 region will remain near average through the fall and into the winter.

Climate model forecasts for the Niño3.4 Index. Dynamical model data (purple line) from the North American Multi-Model Ensemble (NMME): darker purple envelope shows the range of 68% of all model forecasts; lighter purple shows the range of 95% of all model forecasts. NOAA Climate.gov image from CPC data.

One thing you may notice about the model forecasts is a slight upturn in the predicted anomaly (the departure from the long-term average) into the winter and spring. This upturn is also reflected in the forecast probabilities for El Niño, neutral, and La Niña, where the likelihood of neutral decreases somewhat from fall into winter, and chances for El Niño increase. (Neutral is still the most likely outcome.) The probability of La Niña remains fairly small, about 15%.

Vertical bar histogram showing probabilities for La Niña (blue), neutral (gray), and El Niño (red) conditions for the remainder of 2019 and into early 2020. Dashed lines show climatological (historical average) probabilities for these same three ENSO conditions. Figure from IRI.

One possible source for the increased winter El Niño probability lies, again, under the surface. In the Pacific Ocean to the south of the equator, in the region of 10°S-5°S latitude, there is quite a bit of warmer-than-average water under the surface. Ocean water is warmest at the surface, so one of the ways oceanographers measure the amount of heat is by finding the depth under the surface of the “20°C isotherm”—how deep you have to go under the surface to get to 20°C (68°F). (Isotherm translates as “constant temperature,” so the 20°C isotherm is the layer of water with a temperature of 20°C.) The deeper you have to go, the more heat is present in the ocean water above.

Currently, the 20°C isotherm is deeper than average in the Pacific south of the equator, indicating that strong warmer-than-average subsurface water persists in that area. The significance of the presence of warm water here is that the average subsurface ocean currents will tend to carry this warmth northward toward the equator over several months, potentially providing more warm water to the equatorial regions. In turn, more warm water under the surface at the equator could potentially influence the surface, making El Niño and neutral more likely than La Niña.

The winter is still a long time away, and there are many possible outcomes from the current conditions. Forecasters assign probabilities to these outcomes based on a lot of different factors—if you’d like to know more about probabilities, check out Tony’s and Michelle’s posts on the subject. It’s a sure bet that we’ll be here, closely watching the tropical Pacific and keeping you informed!

Thanks to Dr. Caihong Wen for her help with this post!

A fungus threatens survival of the only toads that live high in the Rocky Mountains — @ColoradoSun

A submerged Boreal toad. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Melissa Butynski

Here’s an in-depth recap of the first trek this summer to collect and treat boreal toads up near Buena Vista via Jennifer Brown writing for The Colorado Sun. Click through and read the whole thing and for the photos. Here’s an excerpt:

Tim Korpita is wearing blue rubber gloves and thigh-high waders, but when someone shouts “Toad!” he lunges like a ninja.

He takes a giant step over the marsh grasses and is on his stomach at the edge of a slow-moving creek, clutching a tiny, speckled boreal toad between his thumb and index finger. He immediately turns the inch-long creature, checking for a green or pink spot on its inner thigh.

Nothing.

Korpita, a University of Colorado doctoral candidate, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists last summer captured 250 boreal toadlets — beyond tadpoles but not quite terrestrial toads — in a high-elevation wetland along Cottonwood Creek. They injected them with a spot of either pink or green dye, visible through amphibian skin when held up to the sunlight.

Biologists collect and record data at a field laboratory as they bathe 35 Boreal toads captured on South Cottonwood Creek, west of Buena Vista, on Sept. 6, 2018. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Pink was the control group, while the green-tagged toads received antifungal bacterial baths that scientists hoped would protect them from a pathogen killing off boreal toads throughout the Rocky Mountains. The disease is killing amphibians across the globe as biologists race to stop it before it’s too late.

Korpita, 29, and a parks and wildlife crew returned to the mountains above Buena Vista on a recent blue-sky day, hoping to find at least some of their study group.

By lunchtime on toad hunt day, after nearly two hours of peering along the edges of mountain ponds and in the mud-bottomed streams flowing through the bog, the team had found just six yearling toads. They spotted five more that afternoon, gently placing each one in a plastic bag with a clump of moss for moisture.

Of the 11, just two were tagged (one pink, one green), meaning there was little to say about whether a bath last summer in the lavender-tinted wash, dubbed “purple rain,” is saving their lives.

But this was biologists’ first trek of the summer. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and CU scientists plan to return every two weeks to the Chaffee County marsh to catch the black-and-gray toads and swab their skin for DNA before releasing them back to the pond. Each one, tagged or not, is showered with sterile water to rinse off the mud and placed in a large test tube for exactly one hour to collect a sample of the bacteria on their skin.

Meanwhile, on Korpita’s recent trip to the ponds, he sits under the shade of a pine tree in the middle of the forest and showered the first batch of captured toads. With a cotton swab, he strokes their clean skin for DNA samples. Back at the lab, Korpita will try to determine whether the toads carry the deadly chytrid fungus. And for the toads that received last summer’s fungus-fighting bacteria treatment, Korpita will try to see if it’s still active in their skin and protecting them from the disease.

The hope is that by summer’s end, Korpita will have captured enough toads that received his bacterial bath to know whether it works in the wild.

BUENA VISTA — Tim Korpita is wearing blue rubber gloves and thigh-high waders, but when someone shouts “Toad!” he lunges like a ninja.

He takes a giant step over the marsh grasses and is on his stomach at the edge of a slow-moving creek, clutching a tiny, speckled boreal toad between his thumb and index finger. He immediately turns the inch-long creature, checking for a green or pink spot on its inner thigh.

Nothing.

Korpita, a University of Colorado doctoral candidate, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists last summer captured 250 boreal toadlets — beyond tadpoles but not quite terrestrial toads — in a high-elevation wetland along Cottonwood Creek. They injected them with a spot of either pink or green dye, visible through amphibian skin when held up to the sunlight.

Pink was the control group, while the green-tagged toads received antifungal bacterial baths that scientists hoped would protect them from a pathogen killing off boreal toads throughout the Rocky Mountains. The disease is killing amphibians across the globe as biologists race to stop it before it’s too late.

Tim Korpita searches for boreal toads in thick marsh grasses in the Cottonwood Creek drainage above Buena Vista in late June. Korpita treated the toads with a bacterial wash last summer in an effort to protect them from a fungus that is killing amphibians worldwide. (Nina Riggio, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Korpita, 29, and a parks and wildlife crew returned to the mountains above Buena Vista on a recent blue-sky day, hoping to find at least some of their study group.

By lunchtime on toad hunt day, after nearly two hours of peering along the edges of mountain ponds and in the mud-bottomed streams flowing through the bog, the team had found just six yearling toads. They spotted five more that afternoon, gently placing each one in a plastic bag with a clump of moss for moisture.

Of the 11, just two were tagged (one pink, one green), meaning there was little to say about whether a bath last summer in the lavender-tinted wash, dubbed “purple rain,” is saving their lives.

But this was biologists’ first trek of the summer. Colorado Parks and Wildlife and CU scientists plan to return every two weeks to the Chaffee County marsh to catch the black-and-gray toads and swab their skin for DNA before releasing them back to the pond. Each one, tagged or not, is showered with sterile water to rinse off the mud and placed in a large test tube for exactly one hour to collect a sample of the bacteria on their skin.

Meanwhile, on Korpita’s recent trip to the ponds, he sits under the shade of a pine tree in the middle of the forest and showered the first batch of captured toads. With a cotton swab, he strokes their clean skin for DNA samples. Back at the lab, Korpita will try to determine whether the toads carry the deadly chytrid fungus. And for the toads that received last summer’s fungus-fighting bacteria treatment, Korpita will try to see if it’s still active in their skin and protecting them from the disease.

The hope is that by summer’s end, Korpita will have captured enough toads that received his bacterial bath to know whether it works in the wild.

The tedious effort is one of many underway to save boreal toads, the only high-elevation toad in the Rockies. The slow-moving toads — listed as an endangered species in Colorado — can hibernate beneath the snow for six to eight months of the year, at elevations from 7,500 to 12,000 feet.

Boreal toads were so abundant, from the late 1800s and until the 1960s, that they would sit under Buena Vista lamp posts at night, gobbling up insects that swarmed to the light, according to historical articles reviewed by Parks and Wildlife. They live in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, Utah, Colorado and, until they died off there, New Mexico.

Northern Integrated Supply Project upcoming discussion, July 24 #NISP

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

Here’s the release from the Larimer County Board of Commissioners:

The Board of Larimer County Commissioners and three members of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board will host a meeting at 1:30 p.m., July 24, 2019, at the Larimer County Courthouse Offices Building First Floor Hearing Room, 200 West Oak St., Fort Collins to discuss the proposed Northern Integrated Supply Project [NISP] Intergovernmental Agreement [IGA].

The IGA will address issues related to recreation, the relocation of U.S. Highway 287 and siting of conveyance pipelines in Larimer County.

The public is invited to observe the discussion. Staff from Larimer County and Northern Water will be available following the meeting to answer questions from the public and written comments will also be accepted.

An element of the proposed IGA is to include public meetings and public hearings with Northern Water, the Larimer County Planning Commissioners and Board of Larimer County Commissioners.

There will be future opportunities for public input and hearings related to Northern Water’s proposal. For more information visit https://www.nisptalk.com/ or https://www.larimer.org/planning/hot-topics/northern-integrated-supply-project-nisp

Say hello to the “Headwaters River Journey” in Grand County #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Fish in the Fraser River have struggled because there was too little water for the riparian area that had been created by natural flows. Segments have now been mechanically manipulated to be more narrow. Photo/Allen Best.

Click here to go to the website:

Every Drop Matters.

Welcome to Headwaters River Journey, the only off-the-power-grid exhibit venue, and Colorado’s most interactive place for people of all ages to dive into water conservation and conversation.

Exhibits Open to the Public July 14th

HEADWATERS RIVER JOURNEY TICKETS

Immersed in a Mission

The intent of the Headwaters River Journey is to raise awareness about the critical role the Colorado River headwaters play in our environment, economy, and Colorado lifestyle, as well the vital actions we must take to conserve and protect our rivers and water supply. The Headwaters River Journey is housed within the Headwaters Center, a nonprofit operation created by the Sprout Foundation. The Headwaters Center aims to provide enriching cultural and educational opportunities, unique meeting and event spaces, and access to higher education through both hands-on and distance learning experiences.

Water We Talking About?

The water we drink. The water we bathe in. The water we use to clean our clothes, wash our dishes, and water our lawns. Where does it come from? Are we using it wisely? Will there always be a reliable supply?

In Colorado, the water we use comes primarily from our rivers, including the Fraser River flowing right outside Headwaters River Journey.

These rivers we rely on are greatly impacted by diversions, climate change, population growth, and the personal choices we make about water usage.

Headwaters River Journey, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), is a self-guided adventure through 31 immersive exhibits inviting visitors to explore the wonder of Colorado’s rivers, learn more about the threats to our water supply, gather to discuss water-related issues, and take action in conserving our greatest resource.

From The Sky-Hi News (McKenna Harford):

Between regularly watering thirsty lawns, enjoying lengthy showers and running the dishwasher too frequently, the average person uses over 18,000 gallons of water in just six months.

Since water is a finite resource and deeply ingrained in the Colorado lifestyle, a new museum at the heart of the Fraser Valley opening Sunday [July 14, 2019] is dedicated to educating visitors about the issues and potential solutions for water conservation.

The Headwaters River Journey, located on the first floor of the Headwaters Center in Winter Park, takes visitors on a journey to discover where their water comes from, the details of the river environment, how water is used and wasted and what is being done to protect the precious resource.

“It’s about getting people to focus on (water) because it’s a huge issue in the west,” said Bob Fanch, owner of the Headwaters Center and Headwaters River Journey. “I think what we’re trying to get across is to be part of the solution. If one individual turns into every individual and the actions are positive, the impacts on the river can be very significant.”

On Saturday, invited guests attended the grand opening of the Headwaters River Journey, which featured remarks from Fanch; Jimmy Lahrman, mayor of Winter Park; Philip Vandernail, mayor of Fraser; Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; and Kirk Klancke, president of the Colorado River Headwaters chapter of Trout Unlimited.

“This is unique to say the least,” Gibbs said. “There’s nothing like this in the state or even the country where (…) there’s something so that a two-year-old can understand water conservation and for anyone in their 90s to understand the importance of water conservation.”

[…]

Situated right along the Fraser River, the museum focuses on the local ecosystem, the real issues it faces, such as diversions to the Front Range and rising temperatures, and features local stories of people taking steps to preserve Grand County’s rivers.

Visitors not only learn through the usual means of reading and watching video, but also interact with the over 30 exhibits. There are games where players virtually experience the life of a trout or the journey of an osprey, there are quizzes to test knowledge and encourage feedback, as well as stations to share ideas and solutions.

“We’re trying to make sure people understand the connection between water and lifestyle in Colorado,” Fanch said. “We also wanted to make it interesting and we didn’t want to dumb it down, but bring it up to a higher contemplative level.”

The whole experience is immersive in the same way a 4D amusement park ride is. Audio tracks of trickling creeks, tweeting birds and bugling elk play, bursts of cool air accompany video clips of a blizzarding Berthoud Pass and feel the difference between a 50 degree river and a 70 degree river.

The museum doesn’t just talk about sustainability either, it embodies it. The Headwaters River Journey is the only off-the-grid exhibit in the country, powered completely by solar, and it utilized local beetle kill wood and old water flumes in the design. The bathrooms also have low-flow toilets and all the lighting is LED.

Ultimately, Fanch hopes the Headwaters Center and its museum can be the “water mecca of the west,” where people can get together to discuss issues and come up with solutions.

“We want to be the Switzerland of the water world, where different interests can come here and talk about issues and figure out solutions together,” he said.