Noah’s Nebraska Flood Story — @USDA_NRCS

From the NRCS (Joanna Pope):

While there was no time to build an ark to prepare for the “bomb cyclone” that hit Nebraska and other areas of the Midwest this spring, farmer Noah Seim said one of his fields successfully braved the storm because he had established a healthy stand of rye as a cover crop.

Noah has been planting cover crops on his cropland for over 10 years. He recently enrolled in the Nebraska Soil Health Initiative, a partnership effort between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, to gain a better understanding of the science behind planting cover crops and the impact on soil health.

Photo credit: NRCS

Cover Crops

It turns out that the cover crop he planted served as sort of an “ark” for Noah’s bean field following the severe weather Nebraska had this past March.

“The storm went through here and it just rained and rained and rained,” Noah said. “Our ground was frozen, it could not take barely anything in at all. The creek came out of its banks and out of 75 farmable acres, 70 of them were underwater. The rye survived, and the field came out of it. I cannot imagine what that field would have looked like if the rye had not been there.”

Aaron Hird, soil health specialist with NRCS, said cover crops can provide many benefits to cropland. While not typically planted to prevent damage from flooding, he’s noted several Nebraska crop fields that would have fared far worse after March’s severe weather if not for having a cover crop established.

“Cover crops protect the soil with living plant vegetation above and below ground,” Aaron explained. “That protects the soil from heat, wind, rain – and in the case of Noah’s field – flooding.”

“Crop residue, such as corn stalks, left after harvest can provide the soil some protection from erosion. But during the recent flooding, farmers noticed that crop residue would wash or float away. Since cover crops are growing in the soil, they don’t wash away, and their roots hold the soil,” Aaron said.

Nebraska Flooding

That was the scenario that played out on Noah’s cropland. Noah added, “The rye held everything in place. The soil stayed put and only the soybean residue had been washed around.”

Aaron works with farmers across Nebraska and knows that not all flooded acres were able to be planted this year. Instead of leaving those acres exposed and vulnerable to further damaged from wind, heat and water, Aaron encouraged producers to plant a cover crop.

Aaron added, “For Nebraska’s cropland that suffered significant damage, planting a cover crop can be a great way to help protect fields and help restore productivity.”

“That flooded field will go into commercial corn this year,” concluded Noah. “We will interseed a mix of six pounds of cereal rye and four pounds of red clover and will plant it at the V-4 stage. We are looking forward to seeing how things go this year and are so thankful for that rye crop.”

New judge for Fountain Creek degradation case — The Pueblo Chieftain

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):

A different judge is presiding over the 2½-year-old environmental lawsuit against Colorado Springs for degrading Fountain Creek.

Senior Judge John L. Kane Jr. of the U.S. District Court for Colorado has replaced Senior Judge Richard P. Matsch, who died in May.

“This is a very, very important case,” Kane said last week when he held his first proceeding, a status conference, on the case. He has been on the bench for 41 years.

“Taking over a case (from another judge) is not very pleasant” because a lot of catching up is required, he told the attorneys. Thousands of pages of documents have been filed for the litigation.

The federal and state environmental protection agencies filed the lawsuit in 2016, and were joined by the Pueblo County commissioners and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District…

After a trial last year, Matsch decided Colorado Springs had violated its permit which regulates discharges of the city’s storm water sewer system into the creek.

The next step would be another trial for Kane to determine what Colorado Springs must do to remedy the violations.

However, The Pueblo Chieftain reported July 30 that all sides notified the judge that they have been meeting “regularly and intensively” all year to try to agree on terms to settle the dispute, instead of going to trial again.

At their request, Kane put the case on hold until Nov. 22 to give them more time for that purpose.

At last week’s court conference, a federal attorney told the judge that the violations “are ongoing.”

The Science of Soil Health: Cycle, Re-cycle, Repeat — @USDA_NRCS #CarbonCycle #ActOnClimate

Movement of carbon between land, atmosphere, and ocean in billions of tons per year. Yellow numbers are natural fluxes, red are human contributions, white are stored carbon. The effects of volcanic and tectonic activity are not included. By Diagram adapted from U.S. DOE, Biological and Environmental Research Information System. –, Public Domain,

Carbon’s journey through the soil powers life as we know it

As global temperatures rise, there’s growing interest in getting carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) out of the atmosphere and getting carbon into the soil.

But what form does that carbon take and how, exactly, does the cycling process work? In the first episode of season three’s The Science of Soil Health, Dr. Will Brinton provides a brief, yet holistic explanation about this living and life-giving process. After you watch this four-minute video, you’ll never think of the soil carbon cycle the same way again.

Rich history of gold mining left problems for #ColoradoSprings — The Colorado Springs Gazette

Golden Cycle Mill, Old Colorado City, 1947, Pikes Peak Library District digital collection. By Source, Fair use,

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

Undeniably, prosperity flowed from the gold mines of Cripple Creek into the streets of Colorado Springs.

But so, too, flowed the chemical-laden byproducts of the mining process, which still remain on the city’s west side, eliciting concerns and questions from residents and experts alike.

The lucrative connection among Cripple Creek, Colorado City and Colorado Springs was drawn, in part, by the latter two cities’ access to water and coal, said Matt Mayberry, a local historian and director of the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum. Both resources were needed to refine the gold ore mined in the mountains.

“You either had to haul those things that Cripple Creek didn’t have up the hill, or put ore on trains and take (it) down the hill,” Mayberry said. “So they used gravity.”

Colorado City — an industrial hamlet that Colorado Springs would later annex into its west side — grew as the epicenter of local gold refineries, Mayberry said. And money flowed between the communities.

“Cripple Creek got the glory, but Colorado Springs got the gold,” he said.

Much of that gold passed through the Golden Cycle Mill, the largest such facility in the country, able to process 800 tons of ore each day, according to Gazette archives.

Certainly the mill loomed large over the others on the city’s west side from the early 1900s to its closure in 1949, Mayberry said. Crews there roasted and crushed the ore day and night…

Those crews used cyanide, among other chemicals, in a wet process that separated the precious metals from the roasted and crushed rock, Mayberry said. The gold was kept and the wealth spread across the state. Gold from the ore even covered the state Capitol dome.

The slurry left over — called tailings or slimes — collected onsite, however. And as they built up, mill workers built a dam to hold the slimes, creating what some call a decant pond.

In the end, that dam rose 12 stories high and held about 14 million tons of tailings from which more than 483,441 pounds of gold had been refined, according to Gazette archives.

The old pond reaches 130 feet deep in places, estimates engineering geologist Jonathan Lovekin of the Colorado Geological Survey.

And it’s atop the old pond that developers built hundreds of homes, with hundreds more planned…

For decades, many wondered whether the tailings could be reprocessed and additional gold extracted, Mayberry said…

Some questioned if the land could serve as the last major residential infill project on Colorado Springs’ coveted west side. And in the late 1990s, Gold Hill Mesa Partners bought the 210-acre plot.

Over the years, even as development came under consideration, poisonous compounds — including arsenic and lead — were repeatedly found at the site…

Instability is a chief concern for geological experts and engineers when it comes to mine tailings like those beneath the development, Lovekin said.

“There’s liquid in it,” he said. “In other parts of the waste pile you’re not going to have any fluid. So what you have is basically a deposit with different characteristics.”

When homes or businesses are built on top of tailings with uneven characteristics, the ground can consolidate or settle at different rates, said Karen Berry, a state geologist with the CGS…

But additional testing and research were never commissioned, newer documents from the Geological Survey indicate. Instead, city officials relied on existing, more optimistic projections from engineering firms hired by developers.

“From a geotechnical viewpoint, there is nothing remarkable about construction of a residential project on this site that cannot be adequately addressed during the normal course of construction,” William Hoffmann, senior principal engineer and vice president of CTL Thompson, wrote in 2004.

Construction began around 2007, guided by a state-approved plan to mitigate contaminants in the soil. That plan requires developers and home builders to top the tailings with at least two feet of mixed soil and 2 feet of clean soil. They must also install a plastic barrier to prevent residents and others from digging into the tailings.

But that plan does not address any structural concerns previously raised, nor does it give the state regulatory power. Instead, it leaves developers to check their own compliance.

“The voluntary cleanup statute is exactly that, voluntary,” said Doug Jamison, who leads the Superfund and Brownfield division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “We have no authority … we have no enforcement authority to come in and say, ‘No, sorry, you have to do this.’”

The plan also prevents federal agencies from examining the property further, Jamison acknowledged.

The old mine tailings site was once considered for Superfund designation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the highest hazard designation in the country. The agency determined in 1994 that no further action was needed at the site, spokesman Rich Mylott said.

#DavidKoch and the winters of #Aspen: The man who warmed the planet wanted to celebrate winter in Aspen — The Mountain Town News @MountainTownNew #ActOnClimate #GoodRiddance

Graphic credit: The Washington Post (Note: NOAA does not provide data for Alaska or Hawaii for this time period.)

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Of the dozens of billionaires who have homes in Aspen and its suburbs, perhaps none have had such a large national presence as David Koch.

The death last week of Koch at the age of 79 and with a wealth estimated by Forbes of $50.5 billion was given front-page attention by the New York Times: “Mogul Whose Fortune Steered American Politics to the Right.” In a two-page interior spread, the newspaper also pointed to Koch’s steady philanthropy, especially for the arts.

The Wall Street Journal had the news on page 2, but the editorial page, a reliable supporter of all things capitalistic, heralded his life. “Certainly he used his money to support causes he deemed worthy, and this included promoting liberty-loving think tanks and political groups,” the Journal said.

“But the bulk of the $1.295 billon he gave away went to medicine and the arts.” The defining aspect of Koch’s life,” the editorial went on to say, “is that he was a businessman…He helped his company make money, and he left the country richer and freer because he did.”

“Good riddance,” was the theme of progressives in the echo chamber of Facebook when I posed the question about Koch’s interplay with Aspen. None were from Aspen, although I do count two ex-Aspen mayors among my Facebook acquaintances. But at least one Trump supporter from the Vail area had equally wilting words: “One down, one to go.”

David Koch and his brother Charles were painted with acidy strokes by Jane Mayer in her 2016 book: “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” In this view, the Kochs embraced libertarian views to further their chemical and fossil fuel businesses. “Lowering taxes and rolling back regulations, slashing the welfare state and obliterating the limits on campaign spending might or might not have helped others, but they most certainly strengthened the hand of extreme donors with extreme wealth,” she wrote.

The Times noted that the influence of the Koch brothers peaked in 2015 when multiple Republicans presidential candidates flew to Los Angeles to seek support from the two men at a luxury hotel. They did not include Donald Trump, who jumped on the dark view of government but whose efforts to sharply reduce immigration and diminish free trade were antithetical to those of Koch Industries. They did not support Trump’s candidacy.

David Koch lived primarily in New York City but had a house in Aspen that, according to The Aspen Times, he purchased in 1989 for $1.9 million. The property is now worth $16.1 million, according to county tax records, and has 8,100 square feet. He also owned an adjoining house worth $7.4 million.

Both homes overlook Aspen Meadows, home of the Aspen Institute, which holds a conference each June called the Ideas Festival. It’s a direct descendant of a conference held in 1949 in honor of the 200th birthday of the humanist Goethe. Albert Schweitzer journeyed from his humanitarian work in Africa to speak at the conference. Many sessions of this conference occur in the David H. Koch Building.

Even a skimpy Google search reveals that Koch and his wife, Julia, donated more than $1 million to the institute in just a few years in the late 1990s. The Aspen Institute lists the couple as being in the Paepcke Society, which “honors philanthropic leaders who have made exceptional, long-term contributions in support of the Aspen Institute’s mission.”

Koch sat during an assembly several years ago at the Ideas Festival, the 6-foot-5 frame that made him a basketball star at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (with a scoring record that stood for 46 years) taking up a couple seats, as Valerie Jarrett, the advisor to President Barack Obama, and Paul Ryan, then the speaker of the House, spoke. Earlier, he had been in the front row when another billionaire, Tom Steyer (this year a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination), spoke about the risks of climate change.

The Aspen Times also detailed Koch’s community engagement in Aspen. John Bennett, the mayor for much of the 1990s, said that Koch “clearly cared about this community and wanted to support local nonprofits he believed in.”

Among his projects was an ice rink that he wanted to install seasonally in Aspen’s largest park. The city council nixed the idea for logistical reasons, but Bennett said he was fascinated by it.

Many accused Koch of wanting to kill winter, because of his efforts to block government efforts to address the root cause of global warming, the combustion of fossil fuels.

“Koch Industries realized early on that it would be a financial disaster for the firm if the American government regulated carbon emission or made companies pay a price for releasing carbon into the air,” wrote Christopher Leonard, author of “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America,” in an essay published by the New York Times on Sunday. With billions and potentially trillions of dollars at stake, the Koch brothers “built a political influence machine that is arguably unrivaled by any in corporate America,” Leonard wrote under a headline: “The Ultimate Climate Change Denier.”

While warming the planet, David Koch wanted to celebrate winter in Aspen.

About Allen Best
Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist. He publishes a subscription-based e-zine called Mountain Town News, portions of which are published on the website of the same name, and also writes for a variety of newspapers and magazines.