Here’s an in-depth look at sedimentation and U.S. reservoirs from H2O Radio. Click through and listen to the whole show. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:
Sedimentation occurs when all the sand, silt, rocks, and soils that would naturally travel down rivers to the sea get trapped behind dams. Sediment itself is a good thing. It creates habitat, fertile farm fields, and forms deltas at the river’s mouth that are natural buffers against storms in places like Louisiana. But when dams were built along the Missouri River, that natural process came to an end and the troubles began.
Perhaps nowhere is sedimentation more evident than at the confluence of the Niobrara and Missouri Rivers, where the water snakes its way through lumps of grass-covered islands. The sand has piled up there ever since the completion of the Gavins Point Dam just downstream. When the sediment-laden river hits the deep standing water of its reservoir, called Lewis and Clark Lake, the water loses its energy and the load it’s carrying drops out.
Over time, the sediment mounds up to form a delta and the river is forced to go over, around, or even under it. That happens rain or shine, but during a major flood disaster, like the recent bomb cyclone, levels are pushed up proportionately, if not higher—a point the catastrophic flooding from the Spencer Dam failure made all too clear, says Nicholas Pinter, professor of earth and planetary sciences at the University of California, Davis. He says that sedimentation caused by Gavins Point Dam made the destruction of the Janak’s property more likely—“absolutely, unquestionably—and no honest person in the Corps or otherwise would say not.”
The “Corps” he’s referring to is the Army Corps of Engineers. They built Gavins Point Dam in 1955, but in the 1970s they had to move the town of Niobrara because sedimentation resulting from the dam’s reservoir was raising the water table, causing flooded basements and ruined crops.
Actually, the town of Niobrara had to be physically moved—twice. The first time was in 1881 when an ice jam on the Missouri flooded the village with nearly six feet of water. The townsfolk pulled its buildings by oxen and mule a mile-and-a-half to higher ground where they thought they would be safe. But that was before Gavins Point Dam was built.
No one disputes that the reservoir was responsible for the high groundwater in Niobrara in the 1970s. In fact, the engineers who built the dams in the 1940s and ’50s along the Missouri River knew sedimentation would be a consequence. But, says Pinter, Gavins Point Dam was “designed as almost every large dam on Earth, which is not to say that it was well designed or poorly designed, but it was well known at the time that it would not pass the sediment that it would need to, to avoid this problem.”
The fact that the dams would not pass sediment—and that eventually sedimentation would make them inoperable—was not only fully acknowledged by the engineers who designed them, but they even had a name for it—the “Sediment Design Life.” As Tim Randle, Manager of the Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group at the Bureau of Reclamation explains, “Virtually all reservoirs in the U.S. and much the world were designed with a sediment design life, meaning after so much time the reservoir’s not going to function very well, the outlet will be plugged.” For Reclamation and Army Corps dams, he says, that lifespan was somewhere around 100 years.
Bonjour Montréal! Je suis très heureuse d’être ici au Canada au Québec! Ca me rappelle la maison. Merci!
It’s great to be in Canada. It’s a bit like coming home. I mean, you are so similar to Sweden, where I’m from.
You have moose and we have moose. You have cold winters and lots of snow and pine trees. And we have cold winters and lots of snow and pine trees.
You have the caribou and we have reindeer. You play ice hockey and we play ice hockey.
You have maple syrup and we have… well… forget about that one.
You are a nation that eligibly is a climate leader. And Sweden is also a nation that is eligibly a climate leader. And in both cases it sadly means absolutely nothing. Because in both cases it’s just empty words. And the politics needed is still nowhere in sight. So we are basically the same!
Last week well over 4 million people in over 170 countries striked for the climate.
We marched for a living planet and a safe future for everyone. We spoke the science and demanded that the people in power would listen to, and act on the science.
But our political leaders didn’t listen.
This week world leaders gathered in New York for the UN Climate Action Summit. They disappointed us once again with empty words and insufficient action. We told them to unite behind the science. But they didn’t listen.
So today we are millions around the world striking and marching again. And we will keep on doing it until they listen. If the people in power won’t take their responsibility, then we will. It shouldn’t be up to us, but somebody needs to do it.
They say we shouldn’t worry, that we should look forward to a bright future. But they forget that if they would have done their job, we wouldn’t need to worry. If they had started in time then this crisis would not be the crisis it is today. And we promise – once they start to do their job and take their responsibility, we will stop worrying and go back to school, go back to work.
And once again, we are not communicating our opinions or any political views. The climate and ecological crisis is beyond party politics. We are communicating the current best available science.
To some people – particularly those who in many ways have created this crisis – that science is far too uncomfortable to address. But we who will have to live with the consequences – and indeed those who are living with the climate and ecological crisis already – don’t have a choice. To stay below 1,5 degrees – and give us a chance to avoid of the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control – we must speak the truth and tell it like it is.
In the IPCCs SR1,5 report that came out last year it says on page 108 in chapter 2 that to have a 67% chance of staying below a 1,5 degrees of global temperature rise – the best odds given by the IPCC – the world had 420Gt of CO2 left to emit back on January 1st 2018.
Today that figure is already down to less than 350 Gt.
With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 and a half years.
And please note that these calculations do not include already locked in warming hidden by toxic air pollution, non linear tipping points, most feed back loops, or the aspect of equity, climate justice.
They are also relying on my generation sucking 100s of billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.
And not once, not one single time, have I heard any politician, journalist or business leader even mention these numbers.
They say let children be children. We agree, let us be children. Do your part, communicate these kinds of numbers instead of leaving that responsibility to us. Then we can go back to ”being children”.
We are not in school today. We are not at work today. Because this is an emergency. And we will not be bystanders.
Some would say we are wasting lesson time, we say we are changing the world. So that when we are older we will be able to say we did everything we could. And we will never stop doing that. We will never stop fighting for the living planet and for our future.
We will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse. Even if that means skipping school or work. Because this is more important.
We have been told so many times that there’s no point in doing this, that we won’t have an impact anyway, that we can’t make a difference. I think we have proven that to be wrong by now.
Through history, the most important changes in society have come from the bottom up, from grassroots. The numbers are still coming in – but it looks like well over 6,6 million people have joined the weekforfuture, the strikes on this and last Friday. That is one of the biggest demonstrations in history. The people have spoken and we will continue to speak until our leaders listen. We are the change and change is coming.
Here’s a guest column by Robert Redford that’s running in The Washington Post:
Robert Redford is an actor, director and trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The real star of my 1992 movie, “A River Runs Through It,” was not supposed to be Brad Pitt. It was supposed to be Montana’s iconic Big Blackfoot River, which starts as a watery thread up near the Continental Divide and runs down to its confluence with the Clark Fork near Missoula, about 75 miles west. The Blackfoot was so badly degraded by decades of gold mining and logging waste, though, we shot the film instead mostly on the Gallatin River 200 miles away.
Today, the Blackfoot is on the mend, thanks to state and local action grounded in common-sense federal protections for clean water in our rivers, lakes, estuaries and bays.
If there’s one thing, in fact, we should all be able to agree on as Americans, it’s that clean water is life itself. Any threat to that imperils us all.
That’s why we need to stand up to President Trump’s attempt to replace the clean water rule with a flimsy substitute that would leave half the nation’s wetlands and millions of miles of streams without the protection they need. That’s what Trump plans to do by December, unless enough of us speak out before then.
That’s worth protecting. Trump, though, is putting it all at risk by repealing the rule. The substitute rule he expects to finalize in December would lack the protections we need to prevent oil and gas companies, shopping-center developers, factories, coal companies and others from contaminating our waters, sending the pollution downstream and leaving our families and communities to pay the price.
In fact, when Andrew Wheeler, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, announced the formal repeal of the clean water rule this month, he did so, not at EPA headquarters or near a treasured body of water as we might expect, but at the National Association of Manufacturers, which fought the clean water rule tooth, nail and hair. Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist, decried the clean water rule as “an egregious power grab” by Washington, claiming it creates uncertainty for farmers and other property owners.
Americans of both parties began working on clean water nearly 50 years ago. We have come a long way. You don’t see worrisome debris and disgusting suds in our rivers the way we did when I was younger. It’s been slow and steady work to clean these watersheds, and we still have a long way to go. Even today 8 in 10 Americans worry about pollution to our rivers, lakes and reservoirs.
Trump wants to leave it largely up to states to protect fresh water. Nothing in the clean water rule, though, stops states from doing so; it simply provides a minimum standard of protection nationwide. That’s important for many reasons, including keeping one state’s pollution from flowing downstream to another.
When he announced the new proposed rule, Wheeler said the rule was an example of regulatory “overreach. ”
Consider that statement for a minute. Wheeler is supposed to be the nation’s chief environmental steward, our last line of defense against toxic pollution and industrial ruin. Now he says it’s a stretch to expect him to protect clean water?
It shows you how far down the rabbit hole we’ve gone with an administration that’s waging the single worst administrative assault in history against our environment and health. Trump has tried to weaken, delay or repeal more than 80 different safeguards that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and our lands, wildlife and habitat.
These are needed rules, each one grounded in sound science, the public interest and the rule of law.
A Rio Grande cutthroat trout. Photo courtesy Andrew Todd.
Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Charles Ashby):
In a federal lawsuit filed by the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, U.S. District Senior Judge Marcia Krieger ruled that the service used one method of counting the fish when it first considered adding it to the endangered list in 2008, but changed that method when it reconsidered its decision in 2014 without explaining why.
“Because the service had offered no explanation for the different methodologies it used in 2008 and 2014 to calculate the number of healthy trout populations, the court must conclude that the change in methodology was, on the instant record, arbitrary and capricious,” Krieger wrote.
“It may very well be that new studies, new sampling methods, or other analytical tools developed since 2008 call into question the service’s 2008 determination that 2,500 trout are required before a population can be declared stable,” she added. “But the service has not pointed the court to evidence in the record that establishes the basis for such a change in methodology.”
As a result, Krieger reversed the service’s 2014 denial of adding the fish to the list, and ordered the federal agency to provide more analysis and explanation for the criteria it used to calculate what constitutes a healthy trout population.
Officials with the center said this doesn’t mean the trout will be added to the list just yet, but the ruling gets it closer to that goal.
“We’ve been fighting to save Rio Grande cutthroat trout for more than 20 years,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate for the center. “It’s a relief to have it one step closer to getting the help it so badly needs. The trout is barely hanging on in a small number of tiny, isolated headwater streams.”
Robinson said the service had found that the trout deserved protection in 2008, but never actually added it to the list. In 2014, it changed its mind about that determination, saying the fish didn’t need protection, but did so after arbitrarily lowering that 2,500-fish population threshold to just 500, he said.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service moved the goal posts in order to get to a politically driven decision that the trout doesn’t warrant protection,” Robinson said. “The livestock industry and states like Colorado and New Mexico oppose trout protections.”
The Rio Grande cutthroat normally is found in high-elevation streams and lakes of the Rio Grande, Canadian and Pecos rivers in Colorado and New Mexico, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which says the fish now only occupies about 12% of its historic habitat on about 800 miles of streams…
Last week, Colorado joined 16 other states in challenging the Interior Department’s changes in how endangered species are put on and taken off the list, including a new rule that allows the financial cost of listing a species to be a determining factor.
This summer, the Yurok Tribe declared rights of personhood for the Klamath River — likely the first to do so for a river in North America. A concept previously restricted to humans (and corporations), “rights of personhood” means, most simply, that an individual or entity has rights, and they’re now being extended to nonhumans. The Yurok’s resolution, passed by the tribal council in May, comes during another difficult season for the Klamath; over the past few years, low water flows have caused high rates of disease in salmon, and cancelled fishing seasons.
With the declaration, the Yurok Tribe joins other Indigenous communities in a growing Rights of Nature movement aimed at protecting the environment. Last year, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe adopted the Rights of Manoomin to protect wild rice — manoomin — and the freshwater sources it needs to survive in Minnesota. And in 2017, the New Zealand government adopted the Rights of the Whanganui River, stemming from a treaty process with Māori iwis, or tribes, that gives the river its own legal standing in court. “By granting the rights of personhood to the Klamath River, not only does it create laws and legal advocacy routes, but it’s also an expression of Yurok values,” says Geneva Thompson, associate general counsel for the tribe and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, who worked on the resolution. “The idea is that the laws of a nation are an expression of the nation’s values.”
The Yurok resolution draws inspiration from the Rights of Manoomin, as well as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, which enshrines the right of Indigenous people to conserve and protect their lands and resources. Legal personhood provides a different framework for dealing with problems like pollution, drought and climate change, though no case has yet been brought to put the Whanganui, Manoomin or Klamath rights to the test in court. The crucial aspect to establishing these legal frameworks, Indigenous lawyers say, involves shifting relationships and codifying Indigenous knowledge — in other words, recognizing non-human entities not as resources, but as rights-holders.
“From New Zealand to Colombia, the powerful idea that nature has rights is taking root in legal systems,” says David Boyd, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, of the Yurok Tribe’s resolution. “We must no longer view the natural world as a mere warehouse of commodities for humans to exploit, but rather a remarkable community to which we belong and to whom we owe responsibilities.”
In essence, the Yurok resolution means that if the river is harmed, a case can be made in Yurok tribal court to remedy the problem. Currently, says Yurok Tribe General Counsel Amy Cordalis, laws like the Clean Water or Endangered Species acts can be used to protect rivers by addressing symptoms of problems like diseased fish or pollution. But the Yurok resolution seeks to address the river’s problems directly and holistically, including the impacts of climate change. “You’re working towards making the river whole again,” Cordalis says.
In December 2018, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the 1855 Treaty Authority, an organization that upholds treaty rights for Chippewa bands, established legal personhood for wild rice. The resolution draws from the Rights of Nature — an international concept that argues that nature should have the same rights as humans — and is the first law to recognize legal rights of plant species. The rights spell out that within White Earth and other Chippewa ceded territories, wild rice has “inherent rights to restoration, recovery and preservation,” including “the right to pure water and freshwater habitat,” the right to a healthy climate and “a natural environment free from human cause global warming.” Frank Bibeau, executive director of the 1855 Treaty Authority and a White Earth tribal member, says the rights are an extension of Ojibwe treaty rights both on and off the reservation. And they may soon be put to the test — the proposed crude oil Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, which requires state approval, would cross into off-reservation areas where manoomin and freshwater sources are.
The resolutions give tribal nations new legal strategies for use in court, especially in regards to climate change: “The idea of having legal avenues to address the harms of climate change is an important next step as legal systems adapt to the climate crisis,” says Thompson at the Yurok Tribe. And they also encourage a change in mindset, says Maia Wikaira, an environmental law attorney who worked with the Yurok Tribe’s legal team, and a member of the Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi tribes of New Zealand. As tribal nations establish rights for nonhumans, it creates an opportunity for states to follow suit, and incorporate the concept into their own court systems. “It’s another example of where long-held Indigenous perspectives and association with the natural world are not only being embedded within our legal system — they’re being seen in popular environmental movements as an innovative way forward and a necessary step,” Wikaira says. “So, old is new again.”
Rights of nature have already been established in Colombia, Ecuador and India, with varying success, and have also appeared in non-Native communities in the U.S. In Ohio this February, voters passed a law — which is already being challenged — granting Lake Erie personhood rights. An attempt in 2017 by Coloradoans to force the state to grant the Colorado River rights of personhood collapsed after the state threatened possible sanctions against the lawyer behind the case.
Now, Thompson says, the relationship between the Yurok Tribe and the Klamath River is reflected in the tribe’s law. “It shifts the conversation, and it shifts the value system, because you see the environment has a right to be clean and protected for the environments sake.”
Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at email@example.com.
The all-American ideal of an expansive, emerald green lawn accounts for almost two-thirds of the average Fort Collins resident’s water bill.
But the two main water providers serving Fort Collins taps — Fort Collins Utilities and Fort Collins-Loveland Water District — want to change that. The two districts are focusing increasingly on outdoor irrigation to meet conservation goals and deal with the water demands of a growing population…
Fort Collins Utilities provides water to most of Fort Collins north of Harmony. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District provides water to most of Fort Collins south of Harmony as well as parts of Loveland, Timnath, Windsor and Larimer County.
Fort Collins Utilities, whose water use has consistently declined since the ’80s, has a goal of reducing water use another 10% by 2030. Fort Collins-Loveland Water District is headed toward a goal of reducing water use 10% between 2015 and 2024.
“We know population will double by 2050, and we know the rivers won’t,” said Chris Matkins, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District general manager. “So we understand that we’ve got to make some changes.”
Fort Collins Utilities has lowered its overall water use since the ’80s, and the community’s per-capita use reached 143 gallons a day in 2018 (down from 248 in 1989). Fort Collins-Loveland Water District’s per-capita use reached about 177 gallons a day in 2014 and has significantly declined since then, Matkins said.
Two water-conservation districts are working to find solutions to a long-simmering problem on the Crystal River: In dry years, there may not be enough water for both irrigators and some residential subdivisions.
The Colorado River Water Conservation District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District plan to submit a state grant request for a feasibility study on a basinwide augmentation plan, or backup water supply plan, for the Crystal. The study would look at water demands and augmentation strategies, including the potential for a reservoir in or near the town of Marble.
he historic drought late in the summer of 2018 illustrated some long-acknowledged problems with water rights on the Crystal. In August and again in September, the Ella Ditch, which irrigates agricultural land south of Carbondale, placed a call on the river for the first time ever. This means, in theory, that junior-rights holders upstream have to stop taking water so that the Ella Ditch can receive its full decreed amount.
No back-up water supply
Most junior-rights holders have what’s known as an augmentation plan, which lets them continue using water during a call by replacing the called-for water with water from another source, such as a pond, a reservoir or an exchange.
The problem on the Crystal is that several subdivisions don’t have augmentation plans.
“This hasn’t been a surprise for at least 30 years,” said John Currier, chief engineer for the river district. “This is a well-known problem. The issue has been out there all the time, but the call is potentially becoming more frequent in those kind of dry years.”
The entities that were out of priority in 2018 — and therefore could potentially have water to homes shut off to satisfy a downstream call — include the town of Carbondale, the Marble Water Company, Chair Mountain Ranch, Crystal River Resort, Crystal View Heights and Seven Oaks Commons.
The Colorado Division of Water Resources, which administers the calls, sent these entities letters encouraging them to create an augmentation plan. Otherwise, their water could be shut off or they could be fined for every day they are using water out of priority when there is a future call by a downstream senior-rights holder.
Division 5 Water Engineer Alan Martellaro hopes it won’t come to that. Issuing fines won’t do anyone any good, he said.
“We basically told everybody: As long as we are moving forward and not dragging our feet, we are not going to issue any orders, especially since we are searching for regional answers,” Martellaro said.
West Divide, which is based in Rifle, with its boundary extending up the Crystal River Valley nearly to McClure Pass, sees the situation as an opportunity for basinwide cooperation to find what will probably be a multi-faceted solution. But that will require groups that were once at odds to work together.
“At this point, we are just getting back into this to see what’s feasible, and at this point we want to, and are open to, working with any interested parties up there,” said Bruce Wampler, a West Divide board member.
In 2011, the West Divide district and the Colorado River district abandoned their conditional water rights for nearly 200,000 acre-feet of water storage in the Crystal River drainage after local groups — Crystal River Caucus, Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association — opposed the reservoirs included in the conditional rights.
At the Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting in Montrose on Sept. 16, Wendy Ryan, project manager for Colorado River Engineering, an engineering firm that works with West Divide, asked roundtable members for a letter of support for the grant application. (The town of Marble, which could be the site of storage, is in Gunnison County, but not in the Gunnison River basin.) Some roundtable members said they want to see the involvement of environmental groups before they would offer a letter of support.
“It’s going to be a hard nut to crack,” said Gunnison County Commissioner Jonathan Houck, a roundtable member.
As of Thursday, no members of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers board said they had been informed of the grant application or the augmentation-plan study. The group officially opposes the construction of new storage facilities in the Crystal River watershed.
To get the state money from the Water Supply Reserve Fund, the feasibility study request must be approved first by the Colorado River Basin Roundtable and then the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The request, though not yet finalized, will probably be for roughly $100,000, Currier said.
West Divide introduced the proposal to the CBRT on Monday, and plans on putting forth a formal grant request in November.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story appeared in the Sept. 24 edition of the Times.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):
“You might ask, why is this important to the city and our community, why is the river park important? Well it’s a much improved and a safe option for users, be they kayak users, tubers or kids just learning how to fish,” Grand Junction Mayor Rick Taggart said. “It’s a very user-friendly place for them to come.”
The $1.3 million river park project will mean the creation of a new inlet channel as well as an extension of the channel that already exists. The city is touting enhanced stream hydrology and improved aquatic habitat along the stretch of the river, but it’s the recreational features in the new secondary channel that are envisioned as a future draw for floaters and boaters.
“It’s all about activation of the waterfront, as an interactive amenity for the city’s parks system, as well as increasing some of the habitat there,” said city Public Works Director Trent Prall, when the project was approved by Grand Junction City Council members in July.
The slough extension means that whenever the main stem of the Colorado measures more than 800 cubic feet per second, the city can expect a share of that water to flow through the new section, which includes a few slight drops as well as rock jetties that will form a number of pools for people on the river to enjoy. Native riparian plantings, bioengineered bank stabilization and interpretive elements will only add to the river park’s recreational capabilities.
The city secured more than $600,000 in grant dollars for the project from entities including Great Outdoors Colorado, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Colorado Basin Roundtable and One Riverfront.
Prall in July described the river park as “the last element to Las Colonias Park,” which has sprung to life this spring and summer with new roads and parking areas, initial construction of retail and restroom facilities, and the final touches on the park’s signature butterfly-inspired lake.
The park, the city notes, fits into a larger revitalization of the Riverfront area, which includes the Amphitheater at Las Colonias and the Las Colonias Business park nearby.
Longtime district engineer Ken Curtis has been appointed the new general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Curtis replaces Mike Preston, who is retiring after leading the organization that manages McPhee Reservoir for the past 12 years. Preston will stay on during a transitional period serving in external relations.
The two have worked closely together as a management team, said DWCD board president Bruce Smart.
Curtis served as chief of engineering and construction during the 12 years that Preston was general manager…
Preston informed the board in February his intention to retire, and recommended Curtis as his successor. The board agreed to the transition plan in order to facilitate a smooth change over…
Curtis has been involved in all aspects of water management, including delivering water to customers, oversight of project maintenance and upgrades, and invasive mussel prevention program. He also monitors reservoir levels and Dolores River inflows, conducts water policy research and community outreach, and helps coordinate the downstream fishery release and whitewater boating spill.
Here’s an in-depth look PFAS in El Paso County from Faith Miller that’s running in the Colorado Springs Independent. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:
Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health will study the health effects of toxic PFAS chemicals — found in firefighting foam used by the military — in residents of El Paso County, thanks to a $1 million federal grant.
Colorado is just one of seven states named in a multisite study into the health effects of the chemicals. Nationally, the study will recruit “at least 2,000 children aged 4–17 years and 6,000 adults aged 18 years and older who were exposed to PFAS-contaminated drinking water,” according to a statement from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which is funding the project along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Colorado School of Public Health, at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver, plans to recruit 1,000 adults and 300 children for the study. Previous research has found that people who lived in the Fountain and Security-Widefield areas, near Peterson Air Force Base, prior to 2015 have higher-than-normal levels of PFAS chemicals in their blood.
The research team will include experts from the Colorado School of Mines, Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and the University of Southern California, according to a statement from CU Anschutz.
John Adgate, chair of the school’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the co-principal investigator on the study, says it’s not yet clear which members of the PFAS chemical group will be looked at, but the list will likely include “PFHxS, PFOS and PFOA, as well as a bunch of others.”
Most extensive research into PFAS chemicals has so far been focused on PFOS and PFOA, while health effects of other PFAS aren’t as well established.
“The El Paso County site is interesting because [the contamination is] mostly from firefighting foams, which results in people having elevated blood levels of what’s known as PFHxS and PFOS,” Adgate explains.
Adgate and his research team found last year that study participants who’d been exposed to the contamination had blood levels of PFHxS about 10 times as high as U.S. population reference levels. Levels of this chemical were also higher than those for residents in other communities exposed to PFAS.
The river district, which represents 15 western Colorado counties, including Montrose, recently announced its board backs Proposition DD. The ballot proposition would both legalize sports betting in the state and direct most of the revenue from it to implementing the water plan, including a possible water-demand management program to address the multi-state Colorado River Compact.
Prop DD also places a 10-percent tax on net proceeds of casinos that offer sports betting…
As described by the river district, revenues from sports betting could then be used for Water Plan Implementation Grants that fund water projects in: agriculture; conservation and land use; water supply and infrastructure; engagement and innovation and environmental and recreation. The revenues could also be used to ensure compliance with interstate water compacts.
Prop DD is estimated to bring in between $10 and $15 million per year — falling well short of the estimated $100 billion annual funding gap for water plan implementation.
Despite the focus on water in these DD spots, money for the campaign is barely trickling in from water-industry stakeholders. Instead, 97.5 percent of the $403,000 donated to the Yes on Proposition DD campaign in the first eleven days of September has come from the gaming industry, though betting is largely an afterthought in these commercials…
The Proposition DD ballot question reads: “Shall state taxes be increased by twenty-nine million dollars annually to fund state water projects and commitments and to pay for the regulation of sports betting through licensed casinos by authorizing a tax on sports betting of ten percent of net sports betting proceeds, and to impose the tax on persons licensed to conduct sports betting?”
Asked why the ads focus on the water plan, Hubbard says that the commercials are designed to help make up for what he considers confusing wording on the ballot proposal. “One of the challenges we’ve seen is that it’s unclear if you just read the ballot language that this is a tax that casinos pay and that the vast majority of the money raised goes to fund Colorado’s water plan. That’s what we’re trying to highlight for people,” Hubbard notes.
Although the ballot language may be a bit convoluted, it’s clear where the Yes on Proposition DD campaign money is coming from.
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Mike Porras):
Beginning Oct. 1, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Denver Water will begin collaborating on a month-long project to improve fish habitat within a popular stretch of the Williams Fork River near the town of Parshall. Located in CPW’s Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area, the section of river to be improved will not close during construction; however, the agencies advise anglers to consider fishing in alternative waters while the work is ongoing.
CPW and Denver Water officials say although they understand October is a prime fishing period along this stretch of the Williams Fork, work would not be possible until streamflow below the Williams Fork Dam slowed to approximately 75 cubic feet per second or less, expected to occur the first week of October.
“Unfortunately, this will affect some fishing trips to this area but anglers should know that the long-term improvements will be worth the temporary inconvenience,” said Jon Ewert, area aquatic biologist with CPW. “This project will turn a very good trout fishery into a great one, so we ask anglers for a little patience.”
“Habitat improvement is one of the most beneficial things we can do to help conserve our natural resources,” said Ben Gallowich, the Kemp-Breeze SWA technician for CPW. “The fish will benefit, the anglers will benefit and this state wildlife area will become an even more attractive place to spend the day outdoors catching trout.”
Ewert says the most significant, short-term impact caused by construction will be visible sediment in the water.
“Due to the type of habitat work that will occur, there will be periods of significant turbidity in this stretch and downstream beyond the confluence with Colorado River,” he said. “And of course there will be heavy equipment throughout the area so it won’t be aesthetically ideal. If anglers choose to fish here they are welcome to do so, but they should avoid machines and construction areas.”
The improvements will include reshaping the channel to enhance habitat diversity for all life-stages of trout. Currently, the river has an overabundance of long riffles. In addition, pools that provided excellent trout holding areas have filled-in with sediment. The habitat project will address these shortcomings.
Completed in 1959, Williams Fork Dam and its power plant sends water and electricity to the West Slope when Denver diverts water. The dam backs up a reservoir of nearly 97,000 acre-feet of water, creating the second-largest water body in Grand County.
For more information and details about the project, contact Denver Water at 303-628-6700.
In recent years, a popular debate has been occurring within the climate community. No, it’s not whether climate change is occurring and caused by humans. (It is.) Instead, it’s regarding how much of an effect, if any, the rapid warming of Earth’s frozen cake-topper we call the Arctic, and the corresponding reduction in Arctic sea ice, has been having on winter across the mid-latitudes where most of us live.
The debate arose because, while winters have in general warmed during the last century, some regions have shown a weak cooling trend for certain periods. A cooling trend, from around 1990 through 2013 in landmasses across the mid-latitudes, has been noted in previous research (Cohen et al 2014). It seems these cooling trends have generally weakened or disappeared when data has been updated to the present, but recent winters with bouts of record cold keep the debate alive.
The answer to the debate could have large ramifications for our ability to forecast the winter year in and year out. And I know that is something that concerns all of you, based upon the plethora of winter-related comments you leave on our posts.
In new research from across the pond in England, a team of scientists found that even though a lack of sea ice occurs at the same time as cold mid-latitude winters, it doesn’t cause those cold mid-latitude winters. In scientific jargon-ese, “correlation does NOT mean causation.” The real driver, they say, is an atmospheric circulation pattern across higher latitudes, which drives both low amounts of sea ice and the spilling of cold air into the mid-latitudes. But in order to come to that conclusion, the scientists first had to untangle those multiple, messy climate influencers.
Untangling the options
The difficulty in most investigations of our planet is that a lot of things are influencing the climate all at the same time. It’s like getting your Christmas lights out of the attic and finding two strands of lights hopelessly intertwined. This research, led by Dr. Russell Blackport, first had to untangle those Arctic “lights” in order to see which one is the strand that is “working”, or influencing our mid-latitude winters.
Let’s briefly describe the two influencers at play here and how they could impact mid-latitude winters. First up, a below-average amount of Arctic sea ice. Sea ice is both a reflector and an insulator. When bright, white ice is replaced with the dark ocean in the summer and fall, the surface absorbs more sunlight, and the warmer ocean then warms and moisten the atmosphere above it. This boost of heat and moisture, the thinking goes, can then change the larger atmospheric patterns above the Arctic in winter, which can be the first in a cascade of atmospheric dominos that could potentially lead to impacts across the mid-latitudes.
The second potential influencer is changes in the atmospheric circulation. Circulation changes near the Arctic, even caused by changes as far away as the Tropics, can drive warm moist air into the Arctic and melt/slow the growth of sea ice (Baxter et al. 2019, Clark and Lee, 2019). These same circulation changes could also be simultaneously associated with colder weather in the mid-latitudes.
The critical difference between these two options is the direction heat flows at the surface.
Anomalous “bottom up” heat flows (from ocean to atmosphere) would indicate that a lack of sea ice was driving the weather patterns; anomalous “top-down” heat flows would mean the atmosphere was running the show. These opposite heat flow patterns gave the scientists a way of testing whether, during winter, the amount of sea ice is driving the atmosphere or the atmosphere is driving the amount of sea ice.
Onto the pretty picture phase.
With a mechanism for sorting out the key players from the chaotic atmosphere determined, it was time for the authors to turn their attention to the full picture. The scientists ran two climate models many times to get a large sample of hypothetical winters, and also examined a dataset of historical observations. These representations of the atmosphere, specifically the sea level pressure and surface air temperature, were then linked to sea ice area in the Chukchi-Bering Sea to create a picture of the atmosphere during high and low amounts of sea ice.
From the figures, it was very clear that a warm Arctic is strongly linked with cold North American winters via an anomalous cyclonic (counter-clockwise winds) pattern to the west of the Chukchi-Bering Sea and an anti-cyclonic (clockwise winds) pattern to the east. These opposing pressure anomaly patterns result in warmer, moist air being drawn over the Chukchi-Bering Sea and, at the same time, colder Arctic air being funneled south over North America.
But the really interesting thing is what happened when they broke down these winters into just those that corresponded to either sea ice driving the atmosphere (i.e. those with “bottom-up” heat flows) or the atmosphere driving the sea ice (“top-down” heat flows), as determined by the sorting mechanism mentioned earlier.
During winters when sea ice is pushing the atmosphere around, there simply is no cooling over North America, despite there being warming over the Chukchi-Bering Sea. But during winters when the atmosphere is in the driver’s seat, the pattern very closely resembles all of the winters, with both North American cooling and Arctic warming. The lack of a connection in the former sorting suggests that reduced sea ice has only a weak influence on the cold North American winters. More likely, changes in the atmospheric circulation are causing reduced sea ice AND the colder mid-latitude winters.
Forget seasons, what about monthly influences?
But what if sea ice’s influence is stronger on a monthly timescale than a seasonal one? Could a lack of sea ice on a monthly basis kickstart the atmosphere into a pattern that lasts for an entire season? To test this, the authors looked at what happened atmospherically if a month of reduced sea ice was preceded by atmospheric circulation changes or if the month of reduced sea ice came first (5). They came to the same conclusions. One month after reduced sea ice, there was little cooling in North America. Meanwhile, one month before reduced sea ice, there were changes in the atmospheric circulation consistent with cooling in North America, and warming in the Arctic.
The authors suggest that no matter how you cut it, reduced sea ice does not appear to be the main cause of recent cold North American winters. But what about…… THE FUTURE?!
Testing reduced sea ice in climate change scenarios
In one last test, the scientists took a climate model and reduced sea ice to the amounts expected in a world with 2°C of global warming (above the pre-industrial era). This gave the authors the advantage of directly assessing the cause of the impacts in the models (hint, did sea ice do it?), rather than trying to infer it. And once again, with even lower amounts of sea ice in the Chukchi-Bering Sea, a sea-ice driven atmosphere (that is, years in which there were anomalous “bottom-up” heat flows) did not result in colder winter temperatures in the mid-latitudes.
Does this research mean that the disappearance of all of that sea ice is having no influence on the climate whatsoever?
From Dr. Russell Blackport: “Our work suggests that sea ice has minimal influence on the weather in the mid-latitudes, however we still expect sea ice loss to have large impacts locally near where the sea ice is lost. The reduced sea ice and the large warming it causes are already having large impacts on local ecosystems and populations living in the far North. It is also likely that warming caused by sea ice loss near Greenland will contribute to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, contributing to global sea level rise.”
Rising temperatures mean less ground water, changing plants
On Colorado’s Western Slope, the average temperature has increased at least 2.7 degrees since 1895, based on 123 years of weather records, NOAA scientists estimate.
Darrin Parmenter, director for the Colorado State University Extension Office in La Plata County, said the region’s average low temperature during the winter – a measure the United States Department of Agriculture calls “hardiness” – has increased significantly.
The hardiness statistic is measured on a scale of 1 to 13; the higher the number, the warmer the average low temperature. In the 1990s, Parmenter said Durango was classified in Zone 4. The city is now in Zone 6…
A Washington Post investigation and analysis of nationwide climate found Southwest Colorado is just south of one of the fastest-warming regions in the country. Grand Junction; Moab, Utah; and Montrose form the corners of a triangle of average annual temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, since 1895.
Global climate data may be difficult for people outside the science community to appreciate, said Heidi Steltzer, professor of biology and environmental science at Fort Lewis College. Humans don’t experience time on the scales climate is measured…
Colorado has historically had shorter growing seasons because of extended snowpack, and high-snow winters in the 1930s through the 1960s typically led to a lot of rain in the summer, Steltzer said. The 2018-19 winter snowpack filled the San Juan Mountains and nourished the San Juan Basin much like it did in the mid-1900s.
Steltzer said she was excited for the opportunity to study the effects of late snow in the Alpine environment – she hadn’t seen snow like there was this spring in more than 20 years living in Colorado and studying the Rocky Mountains’ climate.
But what she saw took her by surprise. The snow melted in the high country sooner than expected, she said. Her field work in the San Juan Mountains this summer showed that plants at high elevations are “experiencing drought conditions” despite snow burying the region late into the spring.
Steltzer suspects that below-average rainfall and higher average temperatures this summer may have robbed the high country of valuable water storage and replenishment. Both can be attributed to a changing climate, she said…
Durango City Council committed earlier this year to reduce greenhouse gas emissions citywide by 80% and encourage the use of 100% renewable electricity in Durango by 2050. That includes transforming public energy usage for government buildings and activities while also crafting policies to encourage renewable electricity for residents and businesses.
FLC cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 58% from 2011 to 2018 and aims to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050.
Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.
US Drought Monitor September 24, 2019.
West Drought Monitor September 24, 2019.
Colorado Drought Monitor September 24, 2019.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
Rapidly intensifying “flash drought” — attributed in part to extreme late-summer heat — continued to afflict many areas from the lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States to the Gulf Coast. Conversely, heavy to excessive rainfall associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda eradicated drought but caused locally catastrophic flooding in southeastern Texas and western Louisiana. Farther west, late-season showers on the heels of an abysmal Southwestern monsoon (to-date) helped stem drought increases in the Four Corners region, while rain and mountain snow further reduced lingering drought in the northwestern quarter of the nation. Meanwhile, additional moderate to heavy rain eased or alleviated dryness and drought from the Northwest into the Great Lakes. Outside of the lower 48, additional heavy rainfall eased lingering drought and dryness in south-central Alaska. Elsewhere, short-term drought persisted across the Hawaiian Islands, while Puerto Rico was mostly dry; rain arrived in Puerto Rico after the monitoring period ended (Tuesday morning)…
Most of the region remained free of drought, as above-normal temperatures in the east contrasted with cool albeit dry conditions in the west. However, Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1) were increased in parts of southwestern Kansas as well as south-central and western Colorado due to increasingly dry conditions over the past 90 days (30-50 percent of normal)…
Moderate to heavy showers arrived in the Southwest, while unsettled, cool conditions continued across the Northwest.
Showers and thunderstorms (1-4 inches, locally more) associated in part with moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Lorena arrived in central Arizona, helping to stem further drought increases (at least temporarily) from the abysmal Southwestern monsoon season-to-date. Despite this week’s showers, 6-month rainfall has totaled a meager 10 to 50 percent of normal, with higher totals (70-100 percent of normal) noted in the mountains of central Arizona. The Southwestern monsoon typically runs from June 15-September 30 and accounts for up to half the total annual precipitation in some parts of the Southwest.
Farther north, near- to below-normal temperatures as well as another round of moderate to heavy rain (1-3 inches) from the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies spurred additional reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) and Moderate Drought (D1). At week’s end, D0 and D1 were limited to locales still reporting longer-term precipitation deficits (12-month precipitation averaging near 75 percent of normal or less)…
Highly variable conditions were observed across the South, with intense late-summer heat and acute short-term dryness in southwestern and northeastern portions of the region contrasting with heavy to excessive rainfall across the west-central Gulf Coast and from western Texas northeastward into central and southern Oklahoma. Tropical Storm Imelda moved slowly ashore near Freeport, Texas, drifting northward while producing prodigious rainfall totals (20-30 inches, locally more) south and east of Houston. Heavy rain (2-8 inches) was also noted further inland across eastern Texas, western Louisiana, and southeastern Oklahoma, easing or alleviating Abnormal Dryness (D0) as well as Moderate to Severe Drought (D1 and D2). Farther west, widespread heavy showers (1-5 inches, locally more) from Texas’ Big Bend northeastward into central and southeastern Oklahoma (a peak value of 7.66 inches was noted in Antlers, OK) likewise supported aggressive reductions to drought intensity and coverage.
Conversely, excessive heat (daytime highs approaching or topping 100°F) and pronounced short-term dryness (60-day rainfall totaling locally less than 20 percent of normal) heightened evapotranspiration rates and soil moisture losses, resulting in quickly escalating drought impacts (often referred to as a “flash drought”.) It should be noted that “flash drought” impacts often arise more quickly than the rainfall data would suggest due to the accompanying heat. For this week’s analysis, the expansion of D0 (Abnormal Dryness) as well as Moderate (D1) to Extreme Drought (D3) was driven by guidance from local experts, impact reports from observers, as well as temperature- and rainfall-driven data products which focused on the past 60 to 90 days. Increases in drought were most pronounced from the Rio Grande toward Dallas, Texas, and from the central Delta into Tennessee. State-wide average topsoil moisture was rated more than 70 percent short to very short (according to USDA-NASS) as of September 22 in Arkansas (78 percent poor to very poor), Mississippi (83 percent), and Tennessee (89 percent, a 14-point jump over last week)…
The overall theme of a persistent and stagnant weather pattern will continue into next week. High pressure will maintain dryness and drought from New England to the Gulf Coast Region, though a series of weak cold fronts may provide chances for much-needed shower activity from eastern portions of Kentucky and Tennessee to the central Atlantic Coast. Likewise, mostly dry weather is expected from the Southwest into the central Rockies and Great Plains. In contrast, wet weather will continue from the Northwest into the northern Plains and upper Midwest, with another ribbon of moderate to heavy rain (locally more than 2 inches) possible from the southern High Plains into the Great lakes Region. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for October 1–4 calls for above-normal temperatures across the eastern half of the nation in addition to the southern Plains and western Gulf Coast region, while cooler-than-normal weather prevails from the Pacific Coast into the upper Midwest. Near- to above-normal precipitation across much of the nation will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions across the southeastern quarter of the nation.
A local legislator is questioning the need for a new drought contingency plan on the Colorado River that would help boost supplies in Lake Powell and protect the state against a future demand for its water from California, Arizona and Nevada.
State Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, has questioned a possible water conservation plan that could become part of the drought plan that all seven states that share the river – Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California – signed earlier this year.
As part of that agreement, the Upper Basin states —Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — were for the first time ever given the legal right to store extra water in Lake Powell that is not subject to mandatory releases to the Lower Basin’s Lake Mead. The storage pool is authorized to hold up to 500,000 acre-feet of water — enough for roughly 1 million homes — and could help the Upper Basin meet future obligations to the Lower Basin during an especially dry period on the river.
But now the Upper Basin states are exploring whether it makes sense to create a so-called demand management program that would pay farmers and cities to voluntarily and temporarily slash their water use —and be compensated for it — and to take that saved water and put it in Lake Powell.
Sonnenberg has questioned the need for the program, saying that as long as Colorado complies with the rules of the 1922 Colorado River Compact, its water users should be protected by the courts from any legal demands from the Lower Basin states.
“Are we worried that the Supreme Court would not hold our compact to the letter of the law?” Sonnenberg asked. His questions came during a meeting earlier this month of the state legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee.
In fact, the main concern isn’t the terms of the 1922 compact, but the ability of the Colorado River to continue supplying the 40 million people who rely on its flows. If flows drop too low, due to ongoing drought and climate change, then the Upper Basin might have difficulty meeting its compact obligations to the Lower Basin, putting its water users at risk. Agriculture producers and communities across the state rely on the Colorado River, and major metropolitan areas, including Denver, import Colorado River water to serve their residents and industries.
But Sonnenberg isn’t alone. The likely focus on ag cutbacks troubles Rep. Marc Catlin (R-Montrose), former manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
“We’re still looking at agriculture as a living reservoir that we don’t have to build,” he said, “because we can just keep chipping away at the acreage.”
And Catlin questioned the temporary nature of the program, citing testimony from earlier in the meeting by Colorado State University climate scientist Brad Udall suggesting stream flows throughout the Colorado River Basin will continue to drop due to higher temperatures, earlier runoff and reduced snowpack, creating a permanent, rather than temporary, need for the water.
Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), said the water-saving effort could give everyone breathing room, so that if and when Colorado River supplies drop, the seven states can manage the issue themselves, rather than relying on the courts.
Since irrigated agriculture consumes 85 percent of water in the West, cutting back farm water use to fill the Lake Powell pool is one method that would most likely be used if Colorado ultimately decides to create this conservation program. Mitchell and her agency have committed that no matter the shape the program takes it would be voluntary, temporary, and compensated.
Andy Mueller, general manager of the Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District, said he isn’t sold on the need for the conservation program, but that Colorado water users need to be looking ahead in order to be prepared. “The concern has to be where we are headed right now,” he said.
Surplus deliveries to the Lower Basin from high water years in 2011 and 2012 have dropped off, he noted, and “we can see a rising risk of the Upper Basin being in a position where we may violate the compact.”
Committee chair, Sen. Kerry Donovan (D-Wolcott), committee chair, said the uncertainty that lies ahead should be dealt with now, “We don’t know [the potential for a compact call] but not knowing that, and the significance of the issue we’re dealing with, is motivation enough to not go through the experience of learning the answer after (we spend) years in the court system.”
The CWCB, which has convened a series of public work groups to study the feasibility of the new drought pool, has not set a deadline for a decision on the program.
Click here to read the report. Here’s the abstract:
The National Park Service (NPS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are concerned about cumulative effects of groundwater development on groundwater-dependent resources managed by, and other groundwater resources of interest to, these agencies in Snake Valley and adjacent areas, Utah and Nevada. Of particular concern to the NPS and BLM are withdrawals from all existing approved, perfected, certified, permitted, and vested groundwater rights in Snake Valley totaling about 55,272 acre-feet per year (acre-ft/yr), and from several senior water-right applications filed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) totaling 50,680 acre-ft/yr.
An existing groundwater-flow model of the eastern Great Basin was used to investigate where potential drawdown and capture of natural discharge is likely to result from potential groundwater withdrawals from existing groundwater rights in Snake Valley, and from groundwater withdrawals proposed in several applications filed by the SNWA. To evaluate the potential effects of the existing and proposed SNWA groundwater withdrawals, 11 withdrawal scenarios were simulated. All scenarios were run as steady state to estimate the ultimate long-term effects of the simulated withdrawals. This assessment provides a general understanding of the relative susceptibility of the groundwater resources of interest to the NPS and BLM, and the groundwater system in general, to existing and future groundwater development in the study area.
At the NPS and BLM groundwater resource sites of interest, simulated drawdown resulting from withdrawals based on existing approved, perfected, certified, permitted, and vested groundwater rights within Snake Valley ranged between 0 and 159 feet (ft) without accounting for irrigation return flow, and between 0 and 123 ft with accounting for irrigation return flow. With the addition of proposed SNWA withdrawals of 35,000 acre-ft/yr (equal to the Unallocated Groundwater portion allotted to Nevada in a draft interstate agreement), simulated drawdowns at the NPS and BLM sites of interest increased to range between 0 and 2,074 ft without irrigation return flow, and between 0 and 2,002 ft with irrigation return flow. With the addition of the proposed SNWA withdrawals of an amount equal to the full application amounts (50,680 acre-ft/yr), simulated drawdowns at the NPS and BLM sites of interest increased to range between 1 and 3,119 ft without irrigation return flow, and between 1 and 3,044 ft with irrigation return flow.
At the NPS and BLM groundwater resource sites of interest, simulated capture of natural discharge resulting from withdrawals based on existing groundwater rights in Snake Valley, both with and without irrigation return flow, ranged between 0 and 100 percent; simulated capture of 100 percent occurred at four sites. With the addition of proposed SNWA withdrawals of an amount equal to the Unallocated Groundwater portion allotted to Nevada in the draft interstate agreement, simulated capture of 100 percent occurred at nine additional sites without irrigation return flow, and at eight additional sites with irrigation return flow. With the addition of the proposed SNWA withdrawals of an amount equal to the full application amounts, simulated capture of 100 percent occurred at 11 additional sites without irrigation return flow, and at 9 additional sites with irrigation return flow.
The large simulated drawdowns produced in the scenarios that include large portions or all of the proposed SNWA withdrawals indicate that the groundwater system may not be able to support the amount of withdrawals from the proposed points of diversion (PODs) in the current SNWA water right applications. Therefore, four additional scenarios were simulated where the withdrawal rates at the SNWA PODs were constrained by not allowing drawdowns to be deeper than the assumed depth of the PODs (about 2,000 ft).
In the constrained scenarios, total withdrawals at the SNWA PODs were reduced to about 48 percent of the Unallocated Groundwater portion allotted to Nevada (35,000 acre-ft/yr reduced to 16,817 acre-ft/yr or 16,914 acre-ft/yr, without or with irrigation return flow, respectively), and about 44 percent of the full application amounts (50,680 acre-ft/yr reduced to 22,048 acre-ft/yr or 22,165 acre-ft/yr, without or with irrigation return flow, respectively). This indicates that the SNWA may need to add more PODs, or PODs in different locations, in order to withdraw large portions or all of the groundwater that has been applied for.
At the NPS and BLM groundwater resource sites of interest, simulated drawdown resulting from the addition of the constrained SNWA withdrawals applied to the Unallocated Groundwater amount ranged between 0 and 290 ft without irrigation return flow, and between 0 and 252 ft with irrigation return flow. With the addition of the constrained SNWA withdrawals applied to the full application amounts, simulated drawdowns at the NPS and BLM sites of interest ranged between 0 and 358 ft without irrigation return flow, and between 0 and 313 ft with irrigation return flow.
At the NPS and BLM groundwater resource sites of interest, with the addition of the constrained SNWA withdrawals applied to the Unallocated Groundwater amount, simulated capture of 100 percent of the natural discharge occurred at five additional sites without irrigation return
flow, and at two additional sites with irrigation return flow (in addition to the four captured from existing water rights both with and without irrigation return flow). With the addition of the constrained SNWA withdrawals applied to the full application amounts, simulated capture of 100 percent occurred at six additional sites both with and without irrigation return flow.
You’ve been hearing a lot from us lately about a project on the notoriously troubled part of the Colorado River near Grand Junction called the 15-Mile Reach.
You’ve been hearing about it because we’re so excited about the potential impact, and proud of the diverse collaborations involved.
If you’ve missed it, here are the cliff notes:
The 15-Mile Reach is a stretch of the Colorado River known for flows that fall so low they can fail to support native federally endangered fish species. Flows often fall low twice yearly—in early spring and in late summer through early fall (spring because the snow that feeds rivers has not yet begun to melt, and Fall because it is the driest part of the year).
Just upstream of the 15-Mile Reach is the Grand Valley Power Plant (GVPP) – which is operated by our partners, Grand Valley Water Users Association (GVWUA) and Orchard Mesa Irrigation District (OMID). It’s a hydropower plant that was built in the 1930s.
GVWUA and OMID have senior irrigation water rights, and they also divert water for use in the power plant that returns to the Colorado River just upstream of the 15-Mile Reach. Which is very good for the river, as well as the local electrical grid.
Colorado Water Trust, GVWUA, and OMID recently completed an innovative agreement to allow us to buy water upstream to be delivered to the GVPP. That means our water can be delivered to the plant, used to generate hydropower, and then returned to the Colorado River during times when the 15-Mile Reach is in need. The aim is to keep the river at healthy flows to support native fish passage and spawning habitat.
Well here’s what’s new! We just did it! Last week!
You may be thinking, well, wasn’t this a particular wet year? Why was the river in need?
We didn’t think it was going to be, either. But as you’re probably aware, Colorado can really throw curveballs with its weather, and those curves are breaking more and more lately.
Despite a promising water year, with snowpack levels not seen since at least 2011, and a wet early Summer on top of it, the Colorado and many other rivers in the state (including the Yampa, another of our top priorities) suffered severely decreased flow starting around Labor Day, due to a very hot, dry August. Even the GVPP wasn’t getting enough water to operate to its current capacity. We had the legal agreement in place, and we had money from our annual RiverBank celebration and from the generous folks at Coca Cola to buy water in the Colorado, so why not use it now?
By purchasing water (that is owned by the Colorado River District, so a big shout-out to those folks as well for the very fast turnaround) from a nearby reservoir, we helped to boost flows in the 15-Mile Reach and generated clean electricity for six days. Our releases complemented the water dedicated to the river by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Program and the Historic Users Pool, a group of western Colorado water users that release water from Green Mountain Reservoir. We’re now working on long-term funding for these purchases, from Coca Cola and others, and in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Colorado River District, and of course our two water user partners, we hope to help keep the river healthy for many years to come. Thanks as well to our crucial project partner the Walton Family Foundation, which originally suggested the idea and supported its development.
Projects like 15-Mile Reach are what drives us here at the Water Trust. The problems we address are complex, politically and technically challenging, and getting more so. The idea that a “wet” year could turn into a semi-emergency because of 45 days or so of dry heat would have been remarkable fifty years ago. These days? Not really that surprising. But this is the challenge we face, and we get excited by finding creative ways to meet them that benefit multiple river users.
When flows decline, which we all expect in the years to come because of the changing climate and growing population, the need to share our water becomes even more important. And harder to arrange. But that’s the Water Trust’s sweet spot, and we’re happy to be able to do it on that most American of rivers, the Colorado.
On September 20th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a partial deletion of the Vasquez Boulevard/Interstate 70 (VB/I-70) Superfund site in Denver, Colorado from the National Priorities List (NPL) of the nation’s most contaminated sites. EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have determined that all required cleanup activities are complete in the area proposed for deletion.
“The deletion of this area from the Superfund list represents the culmination of two decades of efforts to sample, clean up and restore residential yards affected by lead and arsenic contamination in north Denver,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gregory Sopkin. “We share this residential cleanup achievement with our partners at the State of Colorado, the City of Denver and the local community.”
Under the Trump administration, EPA’s Superfund program has reemerged as a priority to fulfill and strengthen the agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment. In fiscal year 2018, EPA deleted all or part of 22 sites from the Superfund’s NPL, the largest number of deletions in one year since FY 2005 and a significant increase over the past few years.
EPA is finalizing the deletion of the residential area of the VB/I-70 Superfund site, also called Operable Unit 1, based on a determination that no further action is needed to protect human health and the environment. EPA received public comments on the proposed deletion from February 6th to April 8th 2019 and prepared a responsiveness summary to those comments, which is available online at http://www.regulations.gov (Docket # EPA-HQ-SFUND-1999-0010) or at the Valdez-Perry Branch Library, 4690 Vine Street, Denver, Colo.
The area will continue to be subject to regular EPA review for protectiveness. EPA will continue to address contamination concerns at remaining portions of the VB/I-70 site, which includes the locations of two former smelters. EPA proposed the deletion of Operable Unit 1 earlier this year and concluded a public comment period in March.
The VB/I-70 Superfund site includes four square miles in north Denver, including the Cole, Clayton, Swansea/Elyria, southwest Globeville and northern Curtis Park neighborhoods. EPA placed the site on the NPL in 1999 due to metals contamination, mainly lead and arsenic, associated with historic smelter operations in the area. In 2003, EPA selected a remedy for residential properties that included extensive soil sampling, soil removal, and a community health program. In completing that work, EPA has sampled more than 4,500 residential yards and cleaned up more than 800.
Historically, the affected north-Denver neighborhoods were a major smelting center for the Rocky Mountain West. Two smelting plants—Omaha & Grant and Argo—operated at the site for varying lengths of time, beginning as early as the 1870s, refining gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc. As a result, heavy metals were deposited in area soils at levels that, in some cases, posed a health risk to residents. Groundwater impacted at the former smelter locations is currently being addressed as Operable Units 2 and 3 of the VB/I-70 Superfund site.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Anne Manning):
Gross Dam spillway design being put to the test by CSU civil engineers
On any given day, the roar of water cascading over a 20-foot-high dam spillway greets visitors to Colorado State University’s Hydraulics Laboratory. Muck boots are required footwear, as water from the spray spreads across the floor, drains into an under-floor reservoir, and flows back toward an outtake pipe for recycling.
The experimental spillway, constructed by CSU civil engineers, is a test bed for an ambitious dam-raising project in southwest Boulder County by Denver Water. CSU engineers are applying their hydraulics expertise to help verify key design and functionality aspects of the spillway, part of the public utility’s planned upgrade to Gross Dam. The reservoir impounded by Gross Dam provides water to more than 1.4 million residents along Colorado’s Front Range.
The engineering team designing the project for Denver Water, Stantec and primary subcontractor AECOM, commissioned civil engineering professors Chris Thornton and Rob Ettema to create a 1:24 working scale model of the heightened dam’s new spillway. The spillway is the only portion of the dam over which water passes.
A project of this magnitude requires a physical hydraulic model, Thornton said.
“Computers have come a long way, but they’re not even close to being able to resolve what’s happening in terms of interaction of forces,” Thornton said. “Turbulence and air entrainment are very hard to model accurately.”
Taylor Hogan, a civil engineering master’s student and Hydraulics Laboratory manger, led the design and building of the model, which required close to 500 custom-built pieces. It is called a stepped spillway, which dissipates energy from the water as it flows over the dam. The steps slow the water, trap air bubbles, and allow water to safely descend. Adding to the model construction’s complexity is a slight arch to the spillway profile – mimicking the current profile.
The CSU engineers are now testing and documenting performance, including capacity, flow rate, and ability to handle a major influx of water from a storm or natural disaster. When complete, Gross Dam’s will be the tallest stepped spillway in the United States.
The planned height of the dam necessitated the stepped design. The dam is slated to be raised 131 feet over its current height of 340 feet, increasing the capacity of Gross Reservoir by about 25 billion gallons.
“The expansion will allow Denver Water to add balance and resiliency to its water collection system, which today is at risk of damage from natural disasters such as wildfires and floods,” said Jeff Martin, Denver Water’s Gross Reservoir Expansion Project program manager. “It will also help to manage the greater uncertainty that comes with a changing climate.”
The Stantec/AECOM team specified that the spillway be able to manage extreme high flows they estimate to be possible during the rare occurrence of a massive storm.
“The spillway is designed very conservatively and must perform safely when exposed to extreme conditions,” Ettema said.
The CSU researchers are wrapping up the modeling work for Stantec/AECOM to complete the spillway design. The remaining work includes optimizing the layout of the energy-dissipation basin at the bottom of the spillway, to ensure Gross Dam’s design meets safety requirements. Design engineering on the overall dam project is expected to extend through the end of 2020.
The global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average for August 2019 tied as the second highest for the month of August in the 140-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The June–August 2019 temperature was also second highest and the January–August temperature was the third highest such period on record.
This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.
August 2019 Temperature
The August temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.66°F above the 20th century average of 60.1°F and tied with 2015 and 2017 as the second highest for August in the 1880–2019 record. The five warmest Augusts have all occurred since 2014. August 2016 is the warmest August on record with a global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average of 1.76°F.
Record-warm August temperature departures from average prevailed across parts of the northern and western Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, northern and southern parts of North America, the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean as well as parts of Africa and central Asia. No land or ocean areas had record-cold August temperatures.
The most notable warm surface temperature departures from average during August 2019 were present across parts of the North Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, northern Canada, the south-central contiguous U.S., the Baffin Bay, central Europe, north-central Russia, as well as parts of southern Africa and eastern Antarctica, where temperatures were at least 2.7°F above average or higher. The most notable cool temperature departures from average occurred across parts of northwestern Canada and western Russia. Temperature departures for these locations were at least 2.7°F below average or cooler.
The August globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.05°F above the 20th century average of 56.9°F. This value was the fourth highest August land temperature in the 140-year record.
Regionally, Europe, Africa and the Hawaiian region had an August temperature that ranked among their three highest August temperatures on record.
The August globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.51°F above the 20th century monthly average of 61.4°F, the highest global ocean temperature for August on record. This value surpassed the previous record set in 2016 by 0.04°F.
August 2019 Sea Ice
The August average Arctic sea ice extent was the second smallest in the 41-year record at 838,000 square miles (30.1 percent) below the 1981–2010 average, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. The record smallest August Arctic sea ice extent was set in 2012 at 34.4% below average.
Antarctic sea ice extent during August was 120,000 square miles (1.8 percent) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the fifth smallest August extent on record.
Seasonal (June–August 2019)
The June–August 2019 average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.67°F above the 20th century average of 60.1°F and the second highest for June–August in the 1880–2019 record. June–August 2016 was the warmest such period on record at 1.71°F above average. The five warmest June–August periods have occurred in the last five years. The global land and ocean surface temperature for the three-month season has increased at an average rate of 0.13°F per decade since 1880; however, the average rate of increase is more than twice as great (0.32°F per decade) since 1981.
The Northern Hemisphere June–August 2019 land and ocean surface temperature tied with 2016 as the warmest such period in the 140-year record at 2.03°F above average.
The Southern Hemisphere June–August 2019 land and ocean surface temperature was 1.33°F above average and tied with 2015 as the second highest June–August temperature since global records began in 1880, trailing behind 2016 (1.37 above average).
Record-warm temperatures during the three-month period were present across parts of the western coast of Alaska, the Bering Sea, western Pacific Ocean, Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, western and southern Africa, northern Indian Ocean, South America, Europe and Asia. No land or ocean areas had a record-cold June–August 2019 temperature.
The most notable warm surface temperature departures from average during June–August 2019 were present across much of the high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, specifically across the North Pacific Ocean, the Bering Sea, western Alaska, northern Canada, central Europe and north-central Russia. The temperature departures from average in these locations were at least +2.7°F or higher. The most notable cooler-than-average conditions were limited to western Canada, western Russia and parts of Indonesia and surrounding ocean, where temperatures were at least 1.8°F below average or cooler.
The globally averaged land surface temperature for June–August was the third highest on record at 2.20°F above the 20th century average of 56.9°F. Only 2016 and 2017 were warmer.
Regionally, South America, Europe, Africa, the Gulf of Mexico and the Hawaiian region had a June–August temperature departure from average that ranked among the three warmest such periods on record. Of note, Africa had its warmest June–August on record.
The June–August globally averaged sea surface temperature tied with 2016 as the highest for June–August on record at 1.48°F above the 20th century average of 61.5°F. The five warmest global sea surface temperature for June–August have occurred since 2014.
Year-to-date (January–August 2019)
The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69°F above the 20th century average of 57.3°F — the third highest for January–August in the 140-year record, trailing behind 2016 (+1.94°F) and 2017 (+1.71°F).
The year-to-date period was characterized by warmer-than-average conditions across much of the globe’s land and ocean surface. Notable warm temperatures were present across much of Alaska, northwestern Canada and central Russia, where temperatures were at least 4.5°F above average. The most notable cooler-than-average temperatures were present across much of the contiguous United States and the southern half of Canada, with temperatures at least 1.8°F below average or cooler.
Record-warm temperatures during the year-to-date period were present across parts of the southern half of Africa, Australia, Alaska, Mexico and Asia, as well as across New Zealand and its surrounding ocean, western Indian Ocean and North Pacific Ocean. No land or ocean areas had record-cold temperatures during January–August 2019.
The year-to-date globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.56°F above the 20th century average of 48.1°F. This value was also the third highest for January–August on record — only 2016 and 2017 were warmer.
Regionally, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Hawaiian region had a January–August 2019 temperature departure from average that ranked among the five highest such period on record.
The year-to-date globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.37°F above the 20th century average of 61.1°F. This was the second highest for January–August in the 1880–2019 record, trailing behind 2016 by 0.13°F.
On Thursday, Steamboat Resort announced that it plans to donate $500,000 to the Yampa River Fund as a founding donor to the new endowed fund, which will pay for projects to protect the Yampa River’s flow…
The Yampa River Fund will pay for three types of projects aimed at benefiting all water users, from South Routt ranchers to Steamboat rafters to people drinking water from Craig faucets and the endangered fish living in Dinosaur National Monument. This includes leasing water to boost flows in dry years, actions to restore the river health and water infrastructure improvements.
The $500,000 donations will be matched dollar for dollar under a million-dollar matching challenge grant, boosting the amount raised by the money to $1 million…
The Nature Conservancy will lead management of the fund until at least 2021.
Perlman said the resort is “putting their money where its mouth is” in supporting its core values, particularly collaboration and environment. This donation is the largest single cash donation since the resort was founded in 1963. Last week, Steamboat Resort also announced it has created a new department focused on environmental sustainability…
The resort will donate $100,000 per year to the fund for the next five years.
Smith said Ski Corp.’s donation “lays a strong foundation for the effort to be successful.” Ski Corp. will participate in the fund’s board of directors and the smaller steering committee that will make funding decisions…
Ski Corp. will join about 20 other local governments, companies and organizations overseeing the fund’s operation. Other entities range from agricultural organizations, such as the Moffat County Cattleman’s Association and Community Agricultural Alliance, to nonprofits, such as the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council and Friends of the Yampa, to businesses, including Smartwool and Tri-State Generation and Transmission…
[Nancy Smith] also noted there’s still $2 million needed to reach organizers’ fundraising goal of $4.75 million over the next five years.
On Thursday, Sept. 19, community members gathered in Steamboat Springs for the launch of the Yampa River Fund, an endowed fund that will be used to fund projects to improve river health, protect the water supply, and boost river flow in dry years.
Currently the fund has about $2 million, but organizers plan to build the fund up to $5 million.
The Yampa River Fund specifically directs its money to goals included in several Northwest Colorado river management plans, including those created by the Yampa, White and Green River Basin Roundtable, and many others. These goals include protecting water users on the Yampa from curtailment, finding ways to address water shortages, and keeping water infrastructure up to date.
Another factor that instigated the water fund are the reservoir releases that are becoming a regular occurrence to increase river flow in dry years…
Other signatories that have joined Craig and Moffat County in the fund include the Colorado River District, the Colorado Water Trust, the Community Agriculture Alliance, Friends of the Yampa, Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District, Northwest Colorado Chapter of Parrotheads, Routt County, Smartwool, Steamboat Ski Resort, the Nature Conservancy, and the towns of Dinosaur, Hayden, Oak Creek, and Yampa…
The fund would have a steering committee of nine members along with a four-member board and the Nature Conservancy has apparently taken the lead on dispersing the funds. Any decision made on the board must be by unanimous consent, meaning if Moffat County doesn’t agree, it won’t happen…
Craig City Council signed the agreement at their Sept. 10 meeting. The city is interested in using the fund to possibly finance a diversion structure on the Yampa River near Loudy-Simpson park.
A public comment period on the plan to improve public health and protect the environment is open until Oct. 10. The post Denver Water’s Lead Reduction Program Plan submitted to EPA appeared first on News on TAP.
Below is an excerpt of a story I wrote for WyoFile about an epic river expedition that followed the route of John Wesley Powell’s historic journey down the Green and Colorado Rivers. The piece was picked up by Adventure Journal and The Salt Lake Tribune. May 24, 2019 was 150 years to the day after […]
There was more buzz this week at two big Colorado River Basin events about the idea of a “grand bargain” to deal with coming collisions between water overallocation and the Law of the River.
The idea crept into the title of the Water Education Foundation’s 2019 Santa Fe Symposium – “Can We Build a Bridge to a Grand Bargain in the Basin?”. It also came up repeatedly at the Colorado River Water Conservation District’s fall water seminar, including in a luncheon keynote by the University of Colorado’s Doug Kenney, who has done a lot of the analytical heavy lifting on the idea.
While most of the people yakking about it in public right now are folks unaffiliated with organized water interests (folks like, well, me), the interesting thing right now is the behind-the-scenes conversations among decision makers within the system. There’s been positive interest across geographic and water-using communities, including both Upper and Lower Basin folks, and both ag and municipal water users.
My collaborator Eric Kuhn, the former general manager of of the Colorado River Water Conservation District well known as a staunch defender of rural Colorado West Slope water interests, is in the middle of all this, speaking at both events. While the ideas has many parents, Eric has come to be identified with it in part because, now that he’s retired, he can thrown down a bit more than when he had the portfolio of obligations that comes with running an agency.
The idea’s been kicking around for more than a decade, but it was in fact Eric who first publicly documented what to that point had been private discussions. In a widely read 2012 white paper (p. 41, pdf here), Eric detailed a conversation at a 2005 meeting of the basin states principles at a hotel here in Albuquerque. The details are arcane (click through for Eric’s explanation) but the idea is that each basin gives up politically treasured but practically unrealistic interpretations of the Law of the River in a compromise that avoids litigation and provides more certainty for the water management communities in both basins.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is taking a hard look at the Trump administration’s decision last week to roll back Obama-era clean water regulations as he determines how to respond.
The Democrat says that he might challenge the unwinding of the Waters of the United States Rule if he determines that the Environmental Protection Agency has gutted the policy to the extent that Colorado’s water quality could suffer without sufficient oversight…
Weiser said his office worked with lawyers in a host of Colorado departments, including the heads of agriculture, natural resources and public health and environment, earlier this year to urge the EPA not to cut clean water regulations beyond what they were in 2008 as they slashed the Waters of the United States rule.
In 2008, the EPA issued guidance on which waterways, including wetlands and streams, are covered by the Clean Water Act. The Waters of the United States rule implemented by the Obama administration shored up and expanded that guidance.
Weiser told The Colorado Sun last week that he was still examining the rollback and didn’t yet know exactly how the state would respond.
“The sort of guideposts are how close to the rules that were adopted to what we recommended,” Weiser said…
The Trump administration has vowed to implement revised clean water policies before the end of the year, and they are expected to be less inclusive than the Obama-era policy. President Donald Trump ordered the Waters of the United States rule repealed and replaced in February 2017.
We were walking along a trail sandwiched into a narrow strip of woods between a row of campsites and the Tucannon River. A pair of girls whizzed past us on bicycles. In a pack on my husband’s back in front of me was our 13-month-old son. It was cool under the trees, but in the moist air along the river, the mosquitoes were out in force. One landed on the baby’s left ear as I watched, and I wondered why the hell we were doing this, but then a veery began singing somewhere nearby, I caught sight of the sunlight glinting on the water through the brush, and for a moment everything felt okay.
This was our first time taking our son camping. Not having any experience doing this with a tiny human in tow, we thought it would be sensible to start small, with a single night at a state park about 30 minutes from our home in southeast Washington. It’s really just a patch of trees by the river surrounded by rippling green wheat fields that would be dry and brown by the end of summer, the campground populated mostly by RVers stopping over on cross-country treks. But in addition to the mosquitoes, it had yellow warblers flying through our campsite, muskrats swimming in a side creek, and a reputation as a good spot for trout fishing. We figured it would do as well as anywhere for a test run of sleeping in a tent with an almost-toddler.
It took me a while to decide for certain that I wanted to do this at all. Nothing else in my life is quite as effective as a walk in the woods for calming the clamor of my anxieties or quieting the never-ending to-do list in my brain. I never feel more content, more myself. I want my son to see that part of me, and I hope that a sense of kinship with the natural world might enrich his life as it has mine.
But I worry. By encouraging him to cultivate that same connection, am I only setting him up for a painful future? He’ll live to see the unfolding climate crisis diminish our planet’s living beauty in ways that will be permanent and painful. I’m afraid that by teaching him to love streams full of salmon and woods full of songbirds, I’m betraying him, dooming him to a bitter, grieving adulthood when the streams are empty and the woods are silent. Would I serve him better by spending my weekends, say, volunteering with climate justice campaigns, rather than teaching him to make s’mores and identify constellations and bird songs?
I try to justify it to myself with data. Researchers have found a connection between early experiences in nature and environmental activism later in life; kids who play in the woods become adults who invest their time and energy in taking care of the planet. There’s also evidence that kids who spend time in nature do better in school, are healthier mentally and physically, and are even more generous and altruistic than their peers.
That’s the kind of kid I want to raise. But ultimately, it wasn’t the statistics that made up my mind. It was a feeling — hope. Taking our son camping has become my stubborn way of hanging onto hope that a beautiful future is still possible. So we went to the woods.
FOR THE MOST PART, it turns out, camping with a 1-year-old is not particularly relaxing. I struggled to entertain our energetic little boy while my husband put up the tent and made dinner, and later it was a huge relief when, about 10 minutes after we put him to bed, he finally fell asleep. But the weekend wasn’t really about relaxing; it was about setting the tone for the kind of family we want to be.
And we survived. In fact, when we got home the next day — after changing a poopy diaper, coaxing my son to take a nap in his crib, showering, unpacking, and hosing a mysterious sticky substance off our tent — I made a reservation for another night the following month at a different campground. This one was a little further away, at a trailhead for a path along a river up into Washington’s Blue Mountains.
How can I help my son build a strong relationship with something that’s changing before his eyes? How can I tell him to build his sense of self on something that won’t be there for him in the same way in five years, 10, 50? I’m still figuring it out. But here’s the thing — change and loss are part of parenthood, too. My son is changing every day, the tiny baby I held last year already gone for good, and I can’t know what the future holds for him. All I can do is try to take good care of him, advocate for him, love him and teach him how to hope.
Rebecca Heisman is a science communicator and writer who lives in Walla Walla, Washington. Follow her on Twitter at @r_heisman.
If water flows to money, in Colorado, it flows to the Front Range. There, a booming population has strained municipal governments, which are actively looking elsewhere for new water sources. This is nothing new: In recent decades, locals have fended off several schemes to export the San Luis Valley’s water east over the mountains. The latest of these is Renewable Water Resources, a venture backed by Denver metro money and former Republican Gov. Bill Owens. Worsening drought, poor commodity prices, economic trends towards consolidation and the ever-present threat of state intervention in local water management have some people worried — and others sensing an opportunity.
Sean Tonner, a businessman and longtime state Republican operative who worked for Owens, is behind the current water export scheme. Tonner exudes salesmanship, the sort of person who calls you by your first name the second he meets you. His plan reworks one that was pushed by the late Gary Boyce, a notorious water export advocate. Tonner, who now owns Boyce’s 11,500-acre property at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, proposes a 22,000-acre-foot pipeline to carry water from the northern end of the valley over Poncha Pass to Douglas County in the southern Denver metro area. His company would buy and remove from irrigation about 30,000 acre-feet of San Luis Valley water, paying local farmers for the water rights that would offset the export.
Tonner uses the phrase “win-win” to describe the project. The front page of the project’s website reads: “Best for the San Luis Valley. Best for the environment. Best for Colorado.” Few in the valley see it that way. The Rio Grande Water Conservation District rejected the proposal in January 2019, and the board has told Tonner it would fight any attempt to export water from the valley. Several town governments oppose the plan, as well. If it goes to court, the exporters would have to prove that the plan would not injure Rio Grande water rights, the aquifer or the protected areas that rely on the aquifer, including Great Sand Dunes National Park.
At a February water conference at Adams State University, former U.S. Sen. and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar — the most public member of the well-known Salazar family, which has farmed in the southern part of the valley since the 1850s — declared that “water will flow out of this valley to the North only over my dead body,” drawing a raucous cheer from the audience of farmers and ranchers.
Even so, it is easy to imagine the valley’s economic plight making it possible for Tonner’s proposal to catch on. His plan offers incentives that previous plans lacked, including a $50 million fund for local governments to use in the community. If the valley’s financial woes worsen — or if the state were to shut off thousands of wells in Subdistrict 1 — that cash could sway some desperate local officials.
Tonner claims he has local support. At a community meeting in Saguache on May 23, he told the large crowd that he had enough water users interested in selling to obtain 22,000 acre-feet of water. Few farmers and ranchers want to admit this, but the valley’s grim circumstances are pushing some to sell.
Ron Bartee and his son, Dale Bartee, work on modifying a grain combine from the 1970s to harvest their new crop of flax seed, a less water-dependent grain. Luna Anna Archey/High Country News
Tyler, age 12, and Kolby Bartee, 8, move their herd of sheep out to pasture. Luna Anna Archey/High Country News
Deanna Bartee, a professor at Adam’s State University, goes through Kolby’s morning lesson before he works on the farm in the afternoon. Deanna and Dale homeschool their sons because the boys wanted to be more involved on the farm. Luna Anna Archey/High Country News
I put the question to rancher Dale Bartee in August: What would happen if the drought returns next year, the valley’s pumping fee is higher, and the export company shows up with ready money?
“If the price is right, it would be very hard to say no,” he said with a sigh, sitting at his kitchen table. It’s an admission he does not like making out loud. Like many here, Bartee sees the export advocates as turncoats, exploiting the imbalance of economic and political power concentrated on the other side of the mountains to extract rural resources. Repeated attempts to export the valley’s water make the people feel dispensable.
“For me, I will probably be one of the last ones to say yes to it, because of my boys,” Bartee said, whose two sons work the farm with him.
“They both say they want to come back, they want to farm,” their father said. “And if I sell out, what do they have left?”
If the valley’s water use were corrected, Rio Grande Water Conservation District Manager Cleave Simpson believes, the export schemes would evaporate. “Buy and dry” proposals, as they are known, seem less appealing when water supply and demand are in better balance, he said. The subdistrict model is an attempt to allow current farms to carry on at slightly diminished capacity, rather than face the “draconian” decision of either selling to exporters to get what money they can or risk having pumping rights suspended by the state engineer.
“I don’t think producers should have to make that choice,” Simpson said.
Nick Bowlin is an editorial fellow at High Country News. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In an earlier Colorado River Research Group publication (Tribes and Water in the Colorado River Basin, June 2016), we noted how more than 2 dozen federally‐recognized tribes in the basin hold rights to divert nearly a fifth of the river’s average flow, with several additional claims unquantified or pending. This assessment was drawn from the 2012 Basin Study which, admittedly, was a preliminary and incomplete review of tribal rights failing to consider tribal plans for additional development and how that development would affect existing uses. These reserved water rights came into existence when reservations were established, many in the late 1800s, so that Indians would be able to establish a viable homeland. Indian reserved water rights are not dependent on use and are not subject to abandonment; most remain undeveloped. The U.S. Supreme Court made clear the importance of tribal water claims in Arizona v. California, quantifying the rights of the five tribes with reservations directly along the Colorado mainstream in these two states to divert nearly one million acre‐feet annually. Since that 1963 decision, many other tribal claims have been resolved—primarily using settlement agreements confirmed by Congress. Other significant claims, however, remain unresolved.
Despite the strength and magnitude of these water rights, tribes with reservations in the Colorado River Basin historically have not been active participants in basin water planning and decision making. However, over the past year, things appear to be changing. For example, while the Basin Study made no attempt to consider tribal plans for additional use of water under their rights or how that development would affect existing uses, it did set the table for a subsequent Tribal Water Study conducted jointly by Reclamation and the Ten Tribes Partnership. That study was issued in December, 2018. Even more recently, Arizona’s participation in the Drought Contingency Plan was made possible in large part due to the participation of the Gila River Indian Tribe and the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT). Each tribe committed 50,000 acre‐feet per year of tribal water for three years to be kept in Lake Mead to help maintain storage levels and reduce the threat of a legal shortage declaration. Arizona will pay each tribe $250 per acre‐foot, or $12.5 million per year, for the water. With these milestones now in place, it is valuable to reexamine what we know of tribal water rights, and what the next steps might be in fully integrating tribes into Colorado River management.
Here’s an in-depth look at Greta Thunberg from Bill Weir writing for CNN. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:
Eyes wide and head down, her discomfort with crowds and small talk make it easy to understand why Greta Thunberg says she was “an invisible girl” for most of her 16 years.
But when Thunberg went to Washington — into the lights, cameras and lack-of-action that makes up the modern congressional hearing — the smallest and youngest person in the room came off as the oldest soul on Capitol Hill.
Brushing off Republican talking points and Democratic flattery with equal flat annoyance, even friendly softballs were treated as reminders that she takes this much more seriously than most grown-ups. Even those in the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Climate.
“How can we get more kids involved in this issue?” asked Rep. Ben Luján, a Democrat from New Mexico.
“Just tell them the truth,” she said. “Tell them how it is. Because when I found out how it actually is, it made me furious.”
Her manner is level and unflinching, her voice soft and halting and she admits she may be the most reluctant activist in modern times. Yet in the age of Instagram filters and charismatic influencers, something about her raw honesty around a message of blunt-force fear turned this girl from invisible to global.
“As it is now, people in general don’t seem to be very aware of the actual science and how serious this crisis is,” she said to the scattered lawmakers and dozens of cameras at the hearing this week. “I think we need to inform them and start treating the crisis like the existential threat it is.”
Click here to read the text of her speech to Congress.
Lead on Greta, Coyote Gulch was on the streets of Denver on Friday hoping that we’ll get through to the folks in power before it is too late.
Photos from the Climate Strike September 20, 2019 in Denver, Colorado.
Denver School Strike for Climate, September 20, 2019.
FromColorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas and Sam Brasch):
Students across Colorado walked out of class to help kick off an international week of climate action. Thousands of people marched down Denver’s 16th Street Mall from Union Station to rally at the state Capitol.
Amanda Opp of Lakewood High School said she is really angry about climate change.
“Our parents need to understand that this is going to be our problem,” Opp said.
Isha Kanu, a 17-year-old senior at Northfield High School, left class to show support for the Green New Deal. She says the proposal makes it so people don’t have to choose between the climate and the economy.
Sebastian Andrews, a student at the Denver School of the Arts, said he couldn’t not join the strikes.
“My biggest fear in life is that I didn’t do everything I could,” Andrews said. “I want to be on the side of history that can say, ‘I told you so and I tried.’”
The Wrights joined the strike as a family. They said they’re trying to get people to understand the issue as a “climate crisis” instead of “climate change.”
FromThe Denver Post (Elizabeth Hernandez and James Burke):
“It’s still this hot — and it’s September,” said 14-year-old Piper Moss, a Denver School of the Arts student who marched from Union Station to the Capitol building along with thousands. “It’s outrageous.”
Friday’s Global Climate Strike inspired dozens of youth-led movements to spring up across the state from Salida to Colorado Springs to Breckenridge. The Colorado protests joined others across the country and the globe intended to raise awareness about sustaining the future of the planet.
Abi Horton, 16, took the 16th Street Mall Ride to Union Station with a group of her Denver School of the Arts classmates. In transit, the girls wondered how much of a future they’d have left to protect if the climate crisis wasn’t taken seriously.
“People keep saying we need to preserve the Earth for our children and their children and their grandchildren, and I’m thinking,’Is the Earth going to live that long?’ ” Horton said. “I’m semi-prepared for a future that’s post-apocalyptic. I know that’s sad, but it’s true.”
Streams of people — young, old, disabled, veteran activists, new conservationists and beyond — flooded the 16th Street Mall, eventually spilling onto the lawn of the state Capitol with their protest songs and signs leading the way.
Xanthia Borg, 14, came with her Jefferson County Open School classmates and carried a sign that read “our planet is getting hotter than my imaginary boyfriend.” Seventeen-year-old Sebastian Andrews from Denver School of the Arts held a sign bearing a picture of Bill Nye the Science Guy that pleaded, “Listen to this man.” Shreya Shrestha, 17, of Colorado Springs’ Pine Creek High School carried a sign reading, “Our oceans are rising and so are we.”
Shrestha and her friends drove to Denver from Colorado Springs on Friday morning, motivated to be among like-minded people and make their voices heard. Shrestha said her peers just started an environmental club at their school and plan on being louder about global warming.
“If we don’t do anything, my future won’t exist,” Shrestha said. “It’s heartbreaking and enraging.”
Minogue-Rau was among a group of middle schoolers at Denver School of the Arts who held a protest on the edge of their school grounds because they weren’t allowed to leave their campus.
“I want to die of old age,” Minogue-Rau said. “Not because of climate change.”
Inside the school, 17-year-old Amelia Gorman oversaw a letter writing campaign to local lawmakers. “We’re just a small voice of thousands,” she said. “And I think it’s unfair that those in power aren’t listening.”
Back at the Capitol, young people filled the steps leading into the building where laws are made, calling for those in power to hear them out and heed their warnings.
Hailey Hayes, a 17-year-old from South High School, said the mass turnout and unity gave her chills.
“It’s incredible,” Hayes said, looking at the crowd. “This shows that people aren’t willing to stand idly by and watch the planet burn.”
In Canberra and Kabul, Cape Town and Berlin, and across the globe, hundreds of thousands of people took the streets Friday to demand that leaders tackle climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit.
Many were children who skipped school to take part in the second “Global Climate Strike,” following a similar event in March that drew large crowds.
Events kicked off in Australia, where protesters marched in 110 towns and cities, including Sydney and the national capital, Canberra. Demonstrators called for their country, the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Even though we ourselves aren’t sick, the planet which we live on is, and we are protesting and fighting for it,” said Siobhan Sutton, a 15-year-old student at Perth Modern School.
Organizers estimate more than 300,000 protesters took to Australian streets in what would be the country’s biggest demonstration since the Iraq War in 2003.
The protests are partly inspired by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly demonstrations under the heading “Fridays for Future” over the past year, calling on world leaders to step up their efforts against climate change. Thunberg is expected to speak at the U.N. Climate Action Summit on Monday.
Hundreds of rallies took place across Europe, including in the Czech Republic, Germany, Britain and Poland, which is still widely coal-reliant and where many middle schools gave students the day off to enable them to participate in the rallies in Warsaw and other cities.
In Berlin, organizers said 80,000 people gathered in front of the capital’s landmark Brandenburg Gate, not far from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office where the Cabinet was thrashing out the final details of a plan to curb Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions .
In Helsinki, the Finnish capital, a man dressed as Santa Claus stood outside parliament holding a sign: “My house is on fire, my reindeer can’t swim.”
Smaller protests took place in Asia, including in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Hong Kong and India.
“We need to reclaim our constitutional right to clean air and water,” said Aman Sharma, a 16-year-old protester in India’s capital New Delhi.
In Tokyo, hundreds of students and environmental activists marched through the business and shopping district of Shibuya, chanting “Climate Justice!” while holding hand-painted placards made of cardboard with messages such as “Go Green,” ”Save the Earth,” and “the Earth is on fire.”
Smaller rallies were held in more than a dozen cities around Japan, including Kyoto, the nation’s ancient capital that hosted the 1997 climate conference.
In a quiet protest in Seoul, about two dozen environmental activists flashed messages in Morse code on LED flashlights, calling for action to rescue the earth.
In the Afghan capital, Kabul, an armored personnel carrier was deployed to protect about 100 young people as they marched, led by a group of several young women carrying a banner emblazoned with “Fridays for Future.”
Fardeen Barakzai, one of the organizers and head of the local climate activist group, Oxygen, said “we want to do our part. We as the youth of our country know the problem of climate change. We know war can kill a group of people. … The problem in Afghanistan is our leaders are fighting for power but the real power is in nature.”
Rallies were also held in Johannesburg and the South African capital, Pretoria, as well as Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where some young protesters wore hats and outfits made from plastic bottles to emphasize the dangers of plastic waste, a major threat to both cities and oceans.
Climate change “is worse than homework,” one sign proclaimed.
Experts say Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change and the least equipped to deal with it. Governments have pleaded for more support from the international community.
Further rallies were planned later Friday in the United States, where organizers say more than 800 events are expected.
Here’s the release from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (Vanessa Kauffman):
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt, approved $28 million in funding for various wetland conservation projects.
Marking its 30th anniversary since enactment, the 2019 North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) grants will be used to ensure waterfowl and other birds are protected throughout their life cycles. Of the funds issued, $23.9 million was allocated for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 150,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds in 20 states throughout the United States. These grants will be matched by more than $72 million in partner funds.
“These public-private grants help uphold President Trump’s important promise to America’s sportsmen and women to preserve our nation’s wildlife and provide access to our public lands for future generations,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Landmark legislation like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act has made that possible for all Americans and these treasured natural resources during the past 30 years.”
Wetlands provide many ecological, economic and social benefits such as habitat for fish, wildlife and a variety of plants. NAWCA grants conserve bird populations and wetland habitat while supporting local economies and American traditions such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching, family farming and cattle ranching. This year’s projects include:
Missouri River Valley Wetlands – $1 million to acquire, restore and enhance 4,618 acres within major wetland and grassland complexes within the Missouri River Alluvial Plain in western Iowa and northwest Missouri, benefitting northern pintail, lesser scaup and many other species.
Upper Snake River – $1 million to protect and enhance 1,691 acres of migrating, breeding and wintering habitat in eastern Idaho. Species that will benefit include trumpeter swan, northern pintail and mallard.
Texas Bays, Wetlands and Prairies II – $1 million to enhance 2,885 acres of wetland types and other critical wetland habitats in mid-coast Texas. The project will benefit mottled ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks, fulvous whistling ducks and other species.
The commission also received a report on 31 NAWCA small grants, which were approved by the North American Wetlands Conservation Council in March. Small grants are awarded for smaller projects up to $100,000 to encourage new grantees and partners to carry out smaller-scale conservation work. The commission has authorized the council to approve these projects up to a $5 million. This year, $3 million in grants was matched by $11.1 million in partner funds.
NAWCA is the only federal grant program dedicated to the conservation of wetland habitats for migratory birds. Since 1989, funding has advanced the conservation of wetland habitats and their wildlife in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico while engaging more than 6,200 partners in nearly 3,000 projects. More information about the grant projects is available here.
The commission also approved $4.2 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund to conserve 2,200 acres in Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. These funds were raised largely through the sale of Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps, commonly known as “Duck Stamps.”
“Buying Duck Stamps is one of the many ways hunters contribute to conservation.” said Bernhardt. “Expanding waterfowl habitat and hunter access through this Duck Stamp-funded acquisition is a great way to kick off hunting season.”
“NAWCA is a cornerstone funding program for DU’s conservation work across the continent,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam. “Secretary Bernhardt’s announcement of the $28 million in approved funding for the program will ensure DU and our partners are able to continue habitat improvement projects across North America. These funds will be matched dollar for dollar and are often doubled, tripled or more in conjunction with project-specific partners. This allows organizations like DU and our partners to provide critical habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife. We appreciate the Secretary’s foresight and his commitment to conservation.”
“CSF applauds the Department of the Interior for the issuance of $28 million in funding for grants that are made available through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, said President of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Jeff Crane. “Since inception, this highly successful program has completed more than 2,800 projects spanning across nearly 30 million acres in all 50 states, Canada and Mexico. NAWCA requires that for every federal dollar contributed to the program, a non-federal source must equally match the federal contribution. Sportsmen and women are often part of this non-federal match, making this a partnership that benefits habitat conservation and our great outdoors traditions.”
“The habitat restoration work on the Klamath Marsh Refuge is particularly important for migrating waterfowl given the water shortage and long-term decline of wetlands in the nearby Klamath Basin,” stated Mark Hennelly, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for the California Waterfowl Association. “Our Association appreciates the commission and the Department of Interior’s ongoing efforts to address waterfowl habitat needs in southern Oregon and northeastern California.”
Funds raised from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps go toward the acquisition or lease of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Duck Stamps – while required for waterfowl hunters as an annual license – are also voluntarily purchased by birders, outdoor enthusiasts and fans of national wildlife refuges who understand the value of preserving some of the most diverse and important wildlife habitats in our nation.
The Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge project will restore and conserve more than 2,200 acres on the upper Williamson River for migratory birds, including several species of waterfowl, such as northern pintail, mallard, American wigeon, Canada geese, white-fronted geese and snow geese. The restoration will improve the area for native fish species, especially redband and rainbow trout, providing for world-class fishing as well as expanding public use opportunities for wildlife observation and photography.
Since 1934, the Federal Duck Stamp Program and Migratory Bird Conservation Fund have provided more than $1 billion for habitat conservation in the Refuge System.
The National Wildlife Refuge System, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is an unparalleled network of 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts. There is a national wildlife refuge within an hour’s drive of most major metropolitan areas. Refuges offer world-class public recreation, from fishing, hunting and wildlife observation to photography and environmental education. More than 55 million people visit refuges every year, creating economic booms for local communities.
The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission is chaired by the Secretary of the Interior. Its members include Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico; Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas; Reps. Robert J. Wittman of Virginia and Mike Thompson of California; Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture; and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The commission has helped in conserving much of this nation’s most important waterfowl habitat and in establishing or enhancing many of the country’s most popular destinations for waterfowl hunting.
Additional information about North American wetlands and waterfowl conservation can be found at https://www.fws.gov/birds/, which offers waterfowl enthusiasts, biologists and agency managers with the most up-to-date waterfowl habitat and population information.
Click here to view the list of approved projects. Included is a project in the San Luis Valley:
Project Description The project will focus on the protection, restoration and enhancement of two major habitat types. First, it will largely use conservation easements to protect seasonally flooded wet meadows, which provide important wildlife habitat as well as hay for local ranching operations. This project will permanently protect 2,800 acres of these wet meadow habitats. Second, it will restore and enhance streams, riparian areas, and wetlands mostly on public lands with a focus on returning historic flood regimes to playa wetlands. This project restores and enhances over 2,400 acres of mostly playa wetlands. As a secondary goal, project activities will protect, restore and enhance well-developed cottonwood and willow riparian areas, which are important to wildlife but extremely rare in the upper San Luis Valley.
FromThe Center Square (Derek Draplin) via The Kiowa County Press:
Two wetland conservation projects in Colorado were among several nationally to be awarded federal grants this week, according to the U.S. Department of Interior.
The grants for Colorado projects are part of $28 million in funding for wetland conservation approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which is chaired by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.
The grants are awarded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and will affect 150,000 acres of wetland and upland waterfowl habitats on 20 states across the country, the department said this week.
Additionally, the $28 million in federal grants will be matched by $72 million in funding from partner organizations.
In Colorado, the North Park Wetland Conservation Partnership and the Arkansas River Wetlands Conservation Partnership each received a $1 million grant. Both projects have proposed match amounts of $2 million.
The grants for both projects were awarded to Ducks Unlimited, a national waterfowl conservation organization.
In the Arkansas River project, Ducks Unlimited and partner organizations will “conserve over 17,000 acres of wetlands and adjacent prairie in the Arkansas River Valley of Colorado through restoration activities and conservation easements,” a project description says.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Conservation Fund and The Nature Conservancy are among the partners with Ducks Unlimited.
The North Park will “conserve 6,510 acres of high-quality wildlife habitat,” in conjunction with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust, among other groups.
Mike George, Ducks Unlimited’s director of conservation programs for Colorado, said the projects will also benefit clean water and recharge aquifers in the state.
Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.
US Drought Monitor September 17, 2019.
West Drought Monitor September 17, 2019.
Colorado Drought Monitor September 17, 2019.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
Rapidly intensifying “flash drought” — attributed in part to extreme late-summer heat — continued to afflict many areas from the lower Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States to the Gulf Coast. Likewise, an abysmal Southwestern monsoon (to-date) led to increasing drought intensity and coverage in Arizona, while short-term drought persisted across the Hawaiian Islands. Conversely, moderate to heavy rain eased or alleviated dryness and drought from the Great Lakes into the Northwest as well as in southwestern Alaska and southern Puerto Rico…
Widespread moderate to heavy rain (1-6 inches, locally more than 8 inches) over the northern half of the region contrasted with pockets of dryness and drought in the southern and western High Plains Region. The rain eliminated the last vestiges of Abnormal Dryness (D0) in North Dakota and eastern Nebraska. Conversely, input from local experts as well as 60-day rainfall locally less than 50 percent of normal led to a minor expansion of D0 and Moderate Drought (D1) in southwestern Kansas. The rest of the region remained unchanged and largely devoid of dryness concerns, though D0 and D1 remained in place over western and southeastern portions of Colorado as well as southwestern Wyoming…
An abysmal Southwestern monsoon contrasted with increasingly wet weather in the Northwest. The Southwestern monsoon, which typically runs from June 15-September 30 and accounts for up to half the total annual precipitation in some parts of the Southwest, has featured less than 50 percent-of-normal rainfall (locally less than 30 percent). While showers over the past week in New Mexico (1-3 inches, locally more) helped stem the recent trend toward increasing drought in the east, rain bypassed most of Arizona. Input from local experts as well as mounting 6-month rainfall deficits supported an expansion of Severe Drought (D2) in the driest locales of southern and central Arizona.
Farther north, moderate to heavy rain fell for a second consecutive week from the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies, with the highest totals (2 inches or more) observed on the windward slopes of the mountains. This pushed two-week totals to locally more than 4 inches, spurring additional reductions of Abnormal Dryness (D0) as well as Moderate to Severe Drought (D1-D2). Reductions to D0 in the eastern Great Basin were spurred by input from local experts, who indicated a lack of any lingering impacts due to a recent uptick in precipitation in northeastern Utah (locally more than 2 inches over the past two weeks)…
As with the Southeast, intense late-summer heat and acute short-term dryness led to a sharp increase in drought intensity and coverage across central portions of the region. Excessive heat (95-102°F) and pronounced short-term rainfall deficits (30-day rainfall totaling locally less than 10 percent of normal) heightened evapotranspiration rates and soil moisture losses, resulting in quickly escalating drought impacts (often referred to as a “flash drought”.) It should be noted that “flash drought” often occurs more quickly (in terms of impacts) than the data indicates. In terms of temperatures, Wednesday, September 18th marked the 18th consecutive day of 90-degree heat at Little Rock, Arkansas (the long term historical total-September average is 9 days); September 18th also marked the 7th day with 100-degree readings at Meridian, Mississippi (only one other year—1980—had this many, and only 7 other years total had 3 or more (records dating back to 1889)). For this weeks’ analysis, the expansion of D0 (Abnormal Dryness) as well as Moderate (D1) to Extreme Drought (D3) was driven by guidance from local experts, impact reports from observers, as well as temperature- and rainfall-driven data products which focused on the past 30 to 60 days. Increases in drought were most pronounced from central and northeastern Texas into the central and northern Mississippi Delta, where 60-day rainfall has totaled a meager 25 percent of normal or less. State-wide average topsoil moisture was rated more than 70 percent short to very short (according to USDA-NASS) as of September 15 in the Mississippi Delta States, and 83 percent poor to very poor in Texas (tied for second highest in the nation with Virginia, only 2 percentage points behind California’s 85 percent). Despite the generally dry, hot weather pattern, heavy showers and thunderstorms (2-4 inches) provided highly localized drought relief across southeastern and north-central Texas as well as western Oklahoma. After the end of the monitoring period (12z Tuesday), heavy showers associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda were bringing rain to southeastern Texas; the impacts of this rainfall will be incorporated in next week’s U.S. Drought Monitor…
An active weather pattern will foster periods of moderate to heavy rainfall from the southern Plains into the Midwest, while intermittent rain and mountain snow linger from the Pacific Northwest into the northern Rockies. Meanwhile, moisture associated with the remnants of Tropical Storm Imelda will fuel locally heavy showers in southeastern Texas and the western Delta. Some late-season monsoon showers are also possible in the Four Corners Region, though the heaviest rain may stay east of the region. Despite the stormy weather pattern, little—if any—rain is expected across the Southeast, with only light showers in the offing farther north in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern States. The NWS 6- to 10-day outlook for September 24–29 calls for above-normal temperatures along the central California Coast and from the Rockies to the East Coast; cooler-than-normal weather will be confined to the Northwest and lower Southwest. Near- to above-normal precipitation across much of the nation will contrast with drier-than-normal conditions from the Southeast into the Mid-Atlantic States.
I’ll be at the Colorado River Water Conservation District Annual Seminar today. I will post the seminar hash tag as soon as we work it out this morning. You can follow along on my Twitter feed @CoyoteGulch.
Now that the 2015 extensions have been rolled back, federal water rules revert back to where they were in 1986. Experts say while the move has created uncertainty, it does not erase the bulk of federal water protections.
“Having the rule removed doesn’t remove the regulation,” said Colorado River District spokesman Chris Treese. “It doesn’t remove the protections that are still there. So I don’t think people have to worry.”
“There is state permitting and there is local permitting that would protect from any of the horribles that people suggest could happen.” Treese said. “That you could dump a toxic waste with impunity if the Trump era rule were in place. I don’t believe that’s true.”
Dangling money, the developers at Renewable Water Resources — which counts former Gov. Bill Owens as a principal — contend that because the urban Front Range is the richest part of the state, it has the potential to give the most to the poorest.
They envision pumping 22,000 acre-feet per year from 14 wells drilled 2,000 feet deep at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, building a pipeline costing $250 million to $600 million, and then pumping water at least 40 miles northward over Poncha Pass toward Front Range cities.
“We need between 300,000 acre-feet and 500,000 acre-feet of new water for the Front Range. The question is: Where’s that going to come from?” said Sean Tonner, managing partner of Renewable Water Resources.
“We can take it out of the Colorado River, but we know what the stresses are there. The Poudre River? The Arkansas? The South Platte is already the most over-appropriated river. Folks are looking at moving water from the Mississippi River back to Colorado,” he said. “These are the lengths people are looking to for adding water.”
Exporting San Luis Valley water would be “fairly easy” compared with other options, Tonner said…
The San Luis Valley retort? “There is no win-win,” said Cleave Simpson, manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and a farmer, who has been traveling statewide to make the case against this trans-basin diversion of water…
The intensifying water battle here reflects the rising tensions and inequities across the arid western United States, where water and control over water looms as a primary factor of power. Thirsty Castle Rock, Parker, Castle Pines and other south metro Denver suburbs, where household incomes top $110,000 and development has depleted the groundwater, can marshal assets that dwarf those of farmers in the San Luis Valley, where families’ average income is less than $35,000…
State officials in Denver say they will study Renewable Water Resources’ proposal once the developers file it at the state water court in Alamosa.
“We’ll have to have a perspective of being open to anything,” said Colorado Department of Natural Resources director Dan Gibbs, declining to take a position…
A Renewable Water Resources diagram provided to The Denver Post presented details of a water-siphon project that would begin near Moffat on a company-owned ranch with 14 wells spaced 1 mile apart. A pipeline, 24 inches to 32 inches in diameter, would convey no more than 22,000 acre-feet of water per year northward at least 40 miles over Poncha Pass to Salida, and also to a point west of Fairplay, Tonner said.
San Luis Valley water then could be diverted into the Arkansas River, the Eleven Mile Reservoir used by Colorado Springs and the upper South Platte River that flows into a series of Denver Water reservoirs, he said.
The exported valley water purchased by south Denver suburbs ultimately would be stored in the newly enlarged Chatfield Reservoir southwest of Denver and Parker’s Rueter-Hess Reservoir, still barely half full. Suburban water users would pay the cost of the pipelines, Tonner said, and Renewable Water Resources would use $68 million raised from investors to purchase water rights in the valley — rights to pump 32,000 acre-feet of water for irrigation. But the developers would export no more than 22,000 acre-feet a year. The difference would mean a net gain for the aquifer…
At least 40 farmers have inquired about selling water rights, some of them meeting with former Gov. Owens and other Renewable Water Resources officials. Tonner also declined to identify those farmers…
The ethics of siphoning water away from low-income areas toward the richest parts of the state would have to be considered as part of the state’s water project planning process, said Rebecca Mitchell, director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
“That is definitely something that has to be looked at. Is that the way we want to grow as a state? Is that what the value structure is?” Mitchell said. “There are cases where those (trans-basin diversions) can be win-win. But without the buy-in of the local community, there are going to be struggles.”
In recent months, Renewable Water Resources’ principals have been working quietly in the valley, meeting with farmers and proposing the creation of a $50 million “community fund” and possibly other payments. Just the annual interest income from such a fund could exceed Saguache County’s current budget, Tonner said.
By paying farmers for a portion of their water rights, Renewable Water Resources could help them stay on their land, perhaps growing different crops that require less water such as hemp, and infuse the valley with the $50 million and possibly other payments while also retiring wells to ensure a net gain of water in the aquifer.
Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):
The James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant at Pueblo Dam was dedicated on Monday, September 16, , before a crowd of about 100 people.
The hydroelectric generating facility was completed in May 2019 and is named for James W. Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Southeastern President Bill Long hailed Broderick’s vision for pursuing the project under a Lease of Power Privilege with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The process was started in 2011, and culminated in 2017, when the lease was signed. Construction of the $20.5 million plant took 18 months.
“Jim has given a lot more than his name to the James W. Broderick Hydropower Plant. It has been Jim’s vision to create this project, and to use the revenues generated by the plant to enhance the benefits of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project,” Long said. “this is an example of the type of creative thinking and leadership that Jim brings to every aspect of his service to the Southeastern District.”
Broderick, in accepting the honor, credited his wife Cindy and their daughter Amy for his own success as a water leader not only in southeastern Colorado, but throughout the state and the western region. Broderick currently is president of the Colorado River Water Users Association, and has led other agencies within the state, including Colorado Water Congress and the Arkansas Basin Roundtable.
Broderick also recognized the Southeastern District’s early partners in the Lease of Power Privilege, Colorado Springs Utilities and Pueblo Water, for technical assistance and support in bringing the power plant project to completion. Other contributors during the planning and construction process included Black Hills Energy and Pueblo West.
[Those on] hand for the event [included] Brenda Burman, Commissioner of Reclamation, and Becky Mitchell of the Colorado Water Conservation Board…
Burman said the plant is one of 14 built on existing dams so far under a Lease of Power Privilege, and shows how maximum benefits can be realized from existing federal projects. Reclamation operates the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in cooperation with the Southeastern District. The Project provides supplemental water for cities and farms in the Arkansas River basin by importing water from the Colorado River basin.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board provided a $17.2 million loan to construct the hydroelectric plant. Mitchell hailed the plant, which uses water to produce energy, as the type of project the state will become involved with as it moves in the future.
The power plant will generate, on average, 28 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power 2,500 homes a year. It was constructed under a design-build contract with Mountain States Hydro of Sunnyside, Wash.
Power will be sold to the City of Fountain, and to Fort Carson, through Colorado Springs Utilities.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
TRIBAL ROLE IN THE COLORADO BASIN
An August report from the Colorado River Research Group outlines the magnitude of water rights held by Native American tribes, barriers to more complete development of these rights and the need to meaningfully engage the tribes in negotiations on the future management of the Colorado River. You can find the report here.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Creek Week – YOU Can Make a Difference!
QUICK – FUN AND EASY
From September 28 – October 6
1 – 2-hour commitment
Anyone can participate – All Ages, Demographics
What is approximately 40 times as heavy as a hippopotamus, is 180 times as heavy as a grand piano, and is 42 times as heavy as a car? The answer is the amount of trash, in tons, that volunteers have picked up during “Creek Week” since its inception in 2014.
“Creek Week” began as a way to encourage citizens to help remove litter and debris from our land and waters, raise awareness of watershed health and to foster a sense of community, and has grown into an annual event. It provides an opportunity for communities to give back, to enjoy the parks and trails they are cleaning and to understand their place in the Fountain Creek Watershed.
Concerned citizens from Palmer Lake, Monument, Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Pueblo and beyond will come together from September 28-October 6, to clean and protect the Fountain Creek Watershed.
Participants include individuals and groups, from towns, cities, churches, and organizations. Last year nearly 3,000 volunteers removed 24 tons of litter from Palmer Lake to Pueblo and further. Volunteer participation has grown 350 percent over its 5-year history. Now it’s your turn to get involved. Complete the online form to facilitate a Crew, or click on Public Event Registration to join in on 40+ public cleanups at: at http://www.fountaincreekweek.com . For any “Creek Week” related questions, email the Steering Committee at email@example.com.
So many environmental responses have just been minor tweaks to an economy based on endless consumption — take your electric car to the drive-through for an Impossible Burger and a Coke with a paper straw. Of course it’s better than the alternative. But it’s nowhere close to the depth of change required if we hope to actually pull our planet back from the brink. Restricting plastic straws is great. But we also need a ban on those significantly larger cylindrical sucking things. And electric cars are nice, if you can afford them. But what we really need is free, zero emissions public transit with energy-efficient non-market housing and health care steps away. We need new ways of thinking, beyond Trumpian temper tantrums or the dangerous incrementalism of the supposedly serious centrists.
The High Line Canal Conservancy spent the last five years developing a plan to preserve their unique and popular recreation area.
They privately raised $4 million, and they plan on raising much more to make their 15-year plan successful.
With fewer [diverters along] the canal for irrigation in recent years, Denver Water is planning to switch gears and use it for stormwater.
Highlights of the plan include easier trail access, uniform signage, tree care, and safer crossings, which provides for building a couple of new underpasses for the trail.
On Saturday, they unveiled this plan publicly for the first time.
“This plan is just a critical piece,” Conservancy Executive Director Harriet LaMair said. “It’s a guideline for all the local governments for how they can commit dollars, and we can raise private dollars for this canal.”
I first ate at the Hot Tomato Pizzeria in Fruita in the fall of 2006. Back then, Fruita was a sleepy destination where you could pull into the 18 Road campground on a Friday night and easily find a spot. And after a day of mountain biking, nothing topped the cold beer, hot pie and […]
Across Wyoming, school districts are grappling with the question of arming school employees. It’s a question the Wyoming Legislature made possible in 2017, when it adopted House Bill 194, the School Safety and Security Act. I reported on the thorny and emotionally charged issue in August for WyoFile. July 23 was the kind of muggy […]