Support the High Line Canal and Rally for the Canal-ly, September 14, 2019 @COHighLineCanal

Here’s the release from the Highline Canal Conservancy:

Join the Rally for the Canal-ly on Saturday, September 14 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. This free event will celebrate community partnerships and launch a new initiative to revitalize all 71 miles of the High Line Canal. Rally for the Canal-ly is free and family-friendly – hosted by the High Line Canal Conservancy and supported by Schomp Subaru and Arapahoe County Open Spaces.

Meet up near the High Line Canal’s mile 51 at Schomp Subaru, 580 S. Havana St. in Aurora (public parking available at Expo Park). Community leaders, neighbors and High Line Heroes will enjoy a picnic-style lunch and Canal cleanup. As a memento, attendees will be among the first to receive a free copy of the new High Line Canal map.

The High Line Canal’s upcoming improvement initiative is being launched with a $56,000 donation from Subaru Share the Love – money dedicated to and donated by community members through Schomp Subaru on Havana in Aurora. The initiative is the next stage in the High Line Canal Conservancy’s work to bring new life and a bright future to the Canal. It will focus on:

• Stormwater and maintenance
• Landscape management and tree care
• Access and signage
• Safety and crossing enhancements
• Education and stewardship
• Local neighborhood improvements

“The High Line Canal is being transformed from a 71-mile irrigation canal, a landmark of our agricultural heritage, into one of the region’s premier green spaces that connects neighborhoods and people with nature. The community had a vision to honor, enhance and repurpose the Canal. We’re excited for these upcoming improvements and protections that will help bring that vision to life,” said High Line Canal Conservancy Executive Director, Harriet LaMair.

“Schomp Subaru is so happy we can help realize the High Line Canal’s important and ambitious purpose,” said Schomp Subaru owner Aaron Wallace. “We are delighted that our customers chose to support the project through the Subaru Share the Love drive. It’s a natural for Schomp and a great example of how Subaru Shares the Love.”

  • Who: Community members and leaders, High Line Canal Conservancy, Schomp Subaru, Arapahoe County Open Spaces, Denver Water and many others.
  • What: Rally for the Canal-ly – Free community clean-up event and picnic-style lunch following a brief news conference featuring community leaders. Enjoy complimentary local fare (while supplies last) and family activities. Help clean up trash along the Canal while learning about how trash impacts the community and environment.
  • When: Saturday, September 14, 2019, 9:30 a.m. until noon.
    9:30 a.m.: Project Launch with Partners and Subaru Share the Love
    10:30 a.m. – noon: Family-Friendly Cleanup and Lunch
  • Where: Near Mile 51 of the High Line Canal at Schomp Subaru, 580 S. Havana, Aurora. Check in behind Schomp Subaru and pick up trash bags and cleanup supplies provided by the City of Aurora, Denver Water and the High Line Canal Conservancy. Public parking available on the southwest side of Expo Park, 10955 E Exposition Ave, Aurora.
  • Why: To celebrate progress to preserve and enhance the 71-mile High Line Canal and to kick off the next chapter in the journey to turn the Canal into the region’s premier green space and environmental jewel. In addition, don’t miss this opportunity to pick up your free copy of the new map of the 71-mile Canal.
  • Claim Your Canal Guide and Map: Rally for the Canal-ly attendees will receive the new High Line Canal Map, recently published by the High Line Canal Conservancy. This new Guide and Map of the High Line Canal is an indispensable tool for discovering the wonders of the historic High Line Canal. It breaks down the 71-mile linear park into 27 walkable, bike- and equestrian-friendly trails and adventures, along with navigational tips and highlights of the Canal’s history and natural wonders, highlighting access points, landmarks and adjacent trails. Additional copies will be available for purchase or as a gift with High Line Hero membership.

    Contact: Connie Brown, 720-530-5446/
    Suzanna Jones, 720-767-2452/

    @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>

    @COWaterCongress Annual Summer Conference recap #cwcsc2019

    The headwaters of the Yampa River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Steamboat Pilot (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

    Water leaders from across the state converged on Steamboat Springs this week as part of the Colorado Water Congress Summer Conference.

    The Colorado Water Congress is a group of people who work and live in water, explained Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger…

    In a legislative update, attendees heard about three proposals that could change water management in the state. Reps. Dylan Roberts, Jeni Arndt and Donald Valdez and Sens. Kerry Donovan, Jerry Sonnenberg and Don Coram sat on the panel.

    “As somebody who represents Routt County and other Western Slope counties, we know what a dry year looks like,” Roberts said. “We just had one last year, and we’re fortunate to have a wet year this year, but we have to continuously plan for those dry years and look at any legislation that helps us to preserve and conserve as much water as possible, prevent forest fires and protect agriculture, because they’re the ones that really lose out when we have dry years.”

    Changes to a program that increases river flow in dry years

    The instream flow program allows the Colorado Water Conservation Board to designate water rights to preserve or improve the natural environment of a stream.

    In the Yampa River, this program has been used to release reservoir water to boost flows through Steamboat in dry summers.

    Under the current law, the program allows people who hold water rights to temporarily loan reservoir water to the state to boost flows in a stream three times over the course of a 10-year period. The Colorado Water Conservation Board has already used loaned water for an instream flow in the Upper Yampa River three times in 2012, 2013 and 2017.

    Though reservoir water has been released in other years, including last summer, it was under a different legal mechanism.

    Roberts, a Democrat who represents Routt and Eagle counties, introduced a bill that would allow for more instream flow releases.

    “Once the 10-year period is done, you’re done forever, and you can never do it again,” Roberts explained. “So while city of Steamboat and the Yampa River has taken advantage of that program, they’ve started their 10-year clock. Once we hit 10 years in 2022, they won’t be able to use it again, so if we have a really low water year on the Yampa in 2023 or 2024, we won’t be able to use the instream flow to keep the Yampa running through town.”

    The bill, as currently proposed, would allow these loans for five of every 10 years and allow it to be renewed twice once those 10-year periods end.

    This would improve stream habitat, Roberts said, as well as limit economic impacts due to river closures placed during low flows that impact tubing outfitters, fishing shops and the businesses that benefit from recreation in the area.

    Monger, who sits on the board of the Upper Yampa Conservancy District, said the program has “been a great thing.” The district operates Stagecoach Reservoir.

    “(The district’s) actually been fortunate enough to have some available wet water that we can send down through to the city of Steamboat Springs, and it helps with water quality as well as water temperature,” he said. “It’s been a great thing, and the upper Yampa sells a little bit of water for its revenue sources to be able to take care of the water, so that’s a good thing.”

    It would also expand the program by allowing more water to be released to create more habitat for aquatic species, whereas currently, these releases are smaller releases designated only to preserve the existing natural environment…

    Ballot measure to legalize sports betting with tax revenue funding water projects

    Earlier this year, the legislature passed a measure that will ask voters to legalize sports betting with tax revenue from the practice funding the implementation of the Colorado Water Plan.

    If approved by voters, Colorado would allow some casinos to offer a sports book, essentially a room with a betting board and “every game known to man” on television screens, as Donovan put it. Casinos could also contract with online sports betting companies, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, to operate web-based sports betting. People could bet on college, professional and Olympic games.

    While sports betting has taken place in the state, it’s currently illegal.

    “This is a chance to legalize an action that we know is happening on the ground and to provide regulation protection under that act if people choose to bet on sports betting,” Donovan said.

    A 10% tax on each wager would be paid by casinos, with the bulk of the revenue funding the Colorado Water Plan. Some revenue would be directed to administrative costs, a hold harmless fund and a gambling crisis hotline.

    The Colorado Water Plan outlines a number of actions such as conserving more water used by cities and industry, storing more water, establishing plans to protect critical watersheds and increasing public awareness of water issues. The Yampa-White-Green River Basin Roundtable would implement the plan locally.

    Earlier this year, Gov. Jared Polis requested $30 million to fund the plan and statewide drought planning. The legislature granted $8.3 million to fund the water plan and $1.7 million for drought planning…

    Using new technology to trade water rights in real-time

    Another law, passed earlier this year, establishes an advisory group to study possible uses of blockchain technology within agriculture.

    Blockchain is a way to track transactions, and it uses the same record-keeping technology as bitcoin. Each transaction within the network, whether the blockchain network is trading water or money, is recorded in a block and includes data about transactions under a unique signature, sort of like a username. Each transaction is verified by the network of computers in the blockchain.

    Evan Thomas, director of the Mortensen Center in Global Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder, presented on possible applications of blockchain in the world of water rights. Blockchain could create a system to trade water by using sensors that track how much water is used or conserved to create “water credits.”

    “(Those water credits are) entered into the blockchain,” Thomas said. “Somebody requests a transaction. They say ‘I need to buy more water this month, so I want to buy somebody else’s water credits.’ You enter in that transactionm, and they buy and sell points. The sensor identifies water use and water consumption, (and) turns that into a blockchain node.”

    Thomas said this is a worthwhile tool to study in its applications for water rights, but that it is one part of a “suite of tools” that should be examined to update how water is traded.

    Water equity a concern for Western Slope water users — @AspenJournalism #cwcsc2019 #DCP #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Pitkin County is using this irrigation system to grow potatoes for vodka on county open space land. The state is exploring how a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan, known as demand management, could incentivize irrigators to leave more water in the river. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Colorado’s agricultural-water users have concerns about how exactly the state would fairly implement a voluntary water-use reduction plan known as demand management.

    That was the takeaway from some of the first meetings organized by the Colorado Water Conservation Board as part of its investigation into how a demand-management program might work in the state. Water managers discussed the issue of equity at the first meeting of the agricultural-impacts workgroup in Delta in early August and again at Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs on Thursday.

    If Western Slope agricultural-water users don’t see cuts being taken by water users in municipalities, on the east slope and in the lower Colorado River basin, they won’t want to participate in a demand-management program, said Ken Curtis, chief of engineering and construction for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

    “If (Western Slope users) don’t see that question of fairness, they don’t even want to open the conversation,” he said at the meeting in Delta.

    A large irrigation canal in the Grand Valley, which relies on water from the Colorado River to irrigate fields. The state is exploring how a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan, known as demand management, might work. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Social and cultural perceptions

    This sentiment is not surprising to Colorado State University doctoral candidate Kelsea Macilroy, who spent last spring interviewing about 40 irrigators and water managers on the Western Slope. At CWC on Thursday, she unveiled her Nature Conservancy-funded research on the social and cultural perceptions of demand management.

    There are three key conclusions of the report: Awareness and understanding of demand management vary greatly, defining what demand management is and how it will work is not straightforward, and conversations about demand management are connected to other tensions that create a general sense of vulnerability and fear.

    “People don’t see this as a discussion about feasibility,” she told Thursday’s audience. “It feels like something that’s going to happen.”

    The CWCB has formed nine workgroups, each tasked with helping to identify and solve one of the following issues: agricultural impacts, law and policy, water-rights administration, environmental considerations, economic considerations and local government, funding; education and outreach, monitoring and verification, and tribal interests. The workgroups began meeting this summer.

    At the heart of a demand-management plan is a reduction in water use by agriculture on a voluntary, temporary and compensated basis, all in an effort to send up to 500,000 acre-feet of water downstream to Lake Powell to meet Colorado River Compact obligations. Under pilot programs, the state could pay ranchers and farmers to leave more water in the river.

    But the description “voluntary, temporary and compensated” also is the crux of the problem for many water users.

    “Compensation is one of the stickiest and hardest to define,” Macilroy said. “It’s not just a number; it’s an idea and a value. Is it even truly possible to compensate for reductions in water use? Water is more than just a commodity.”

    Water and agriculture on the Western Slope are tied to Colorado’s rural identity, culture and landscapes. Demand management provokes an emotional response for some who fear that without irrigated, green fields, a community’s way of life is threatened.

    Some said they feared that demand management is a back door to “buy and dry.” Several people invoked the tough lesson of Crowley County, a formerly agricultural hub on Colorado’s southeastern plains. Many of the county’s agricultural-water users sold off their water rights to Front Range municipalities. As irrigated farmland dried up, so did the county’s economic base.

    “I’ve been worried about this because these communities are smaller and ag-dominated,” Cindy Lair, program manager for the State Conservation Board of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, said at the Delta meeting. “They don’t have the resiliency for decreased water. They don’t have the buffering capacity.”

    Macilroy’s results also revealed a complicated relationship between “voluntary” and “parity.” Water managers want to ensure that a demand-management program would spread the burden across different user groups and basins in the name of fairness. But that conflicts with the requirement that participation in any program be voluntary.

    “A voluntary program appeals to people,” Macilroy said. “It also has some major weaknesses. Because it is voluntary, it serves as a direct challenge to implementing parity. You can’t have voluntary and parity at the same time.”

    Brent Newman, head of CWCB’s section on Colorado River issues, said the research findings were not surprising. Helping people understand demand management is a key part of the program, he said.

    “I think that’s a question all the workgroups have identified as one of the key threshold questions: How do you have a voluntary program but also disincentivize negative proportionate impacts to basins?” he said. “We are just starting to wrap our heads around that.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Aspen Times on coverage of water and rivers.

    The August “#GunnisonRiver Basin News” is hot off the presses

    Click here to read the newsletter from the Gunnison Basin Roundtable. Here’s an excerpt:

    August in the Basin: High and Dry!

    Bountiful snowmelt and increased soil moisture conditions, resulted in “boomer” inflows, boosting basin reservoirs levels and causing an amazing recovery from last year’s low levels – this included Blue Mesa, Colorado’s largest reservoir – with over 160 percent of average inflow volume. Although most of the snow has melted, the Upper Basin rivers are still flowing at higher than average rates, even in the face of drying conditions (July and August precipitation has been generally below average).

    Also, very importantly Lake Powell – the Upper Basin’s largest water storage and management facility received an inflow volume of 145% of average.

    Current conditions and Aspinall Unit operations

    Aspinall Unit dams