Lawsuit Seeks to Include #ClimateChange in #GlenCanyonDam Operations Plan — @CenterForBioDiv #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Glen Canyon Dam

Here’s the release from the Center for Biological Diversity (Robin Silver):

Three environmental groups launched a legal battle this week to force the required examination of climate change science in the federal management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River.

Save The Colorado, Center for Biological Diversity and Living Rivers filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Prescott, Arizona, asserting that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Department of the Interior illegally ignored established climate science in their December 2016 Record of Decision on the Glen Canyon Dam Long-Term Experimental and Management Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement.

Since that decision, which functions as a 20-year operations plan for the dam, the federal government’s management of the dam and the Colorado River has continued to ignore climate science and has relied on ineffective incremental solutions — such as the “drought contingency plan” — rather than the systemic change that is needed to protect the river in a climate-changed world.

The lawsuit alleges that the federal agencies failed to comply with federal law, specifically the National Environmental Policy Act. It demands that the agencies fix these shortcomings by redoing the alternatives analysis in the operations plan, including a full range of alternatives based on predicted climate change-related impacts on the flow of water in the Colorado River. Such a full range must include an alternative that incorporates the decommissioning and removal of Glen Canyon Dam because the projections from the best available climate science indicate there likely will not be sufficient flow in the Colorado River to keep Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam operational.

“Glen Canyon Dam’s life is close to being over,” said Robin Silver, a cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “It has no function anymore. Lake Powell dropped to within about 40 feet of the water level too low to produce power already this year. Dead pool is not too far behind. It’s time that Bureau of Reclamation plans for the dam’s removal.”

“The federal government violated the National Environmental Policy Act with their decision in 2016 and has continued to ignore climate science in Colorado River management,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save The Colorado, the lead co-plaintiff. “As we begin the 2020 water year and more seriously plan for the future, we must throw ‘incrementalism’ out of the toolbox, take climate science seriously, and plan for so-called ‘Black Swan’ drought events on the Colorado River.”

A Black Swan event is an outlier with severe consequences that has been overlooked by the standard process.

“Glen Canyon Dam is the dinosaur of the dam world,” said Dan Beard, former commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation. “We need to prepare for unprecedented low-flow conditions on the Colorado River in the coming years that would drain Lake Powell. The time has come for the dam to be decommissioned and torn down.”

“One of my mentors, Eliot Porter, called Glen Canyon the ‘Place No One Knew,’ ” said John Fielder, a renowned Colorado nature photographer. “The best available climate science requires that the federal government prepare for the rebirth of Glen Canyon and the razing of Glen Canyon Dam.”

“Edward Abbey and his friends had it right, and climate science requires that their vision become real,” said Terry Odendahl, president and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund. “The federal government must prepare an alternative that includes the decommissioning of Glen Canyon Dam.”

The environmental groups are represented by clinical professors Tom Buchele and Jamie Saul of the Earthrise Law Center at Lewis & Clark Law School

Thornton Big Dry Creek project update

Screen shot from the City of Thornton Big Dry Creek Recreation & Floodplain Restoration Master Plan (Click image to read the report)

From The Westminster Window (Scott Taylor):

An effort to convert a portion of the Big Dry Creek from a steep canal through Thornton’s open space into a meandering stream should wrap up this winter.

“The intent is to improve wildlife habitat and make it more of a sustainable creek during large runoff event,” said Paula Schulte, Thornton’s parks and open space project manager. “The water will be able to spread into the flood plain, versus going like a roller coaster down that chute.”

Work reshaping the creek’s path through Thornton’s open space between E-470 and 152nd Parkway and west of York Street should be completed before the year’s end, Schulte said. Landscaping and planting along the creek’s banks should wrap up in May…

The Big Dry Creek is a tributary that covers about 110 square-miles between Golden’s Coal Creek Canyon and Fort Lupton in Weld County, where it meets up with the South Platte River…

Water treatment plants in Westminster and Broomfield feed the stream, too.

“So, now there’s water in it all the time,” she said. “And when you get a storm event on top of everything, it just digs down.”

[…]

The project is costing about $1.5 million, paid for by grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and Adams County Open Space…

Over the next few months, crews from Mile High Flood District will be cutting the stream’s sides, creating tiers and steps down to the water. They shouldn’t change the path of the stream much, but some change will be inevitable.

“In order to spread the creek out, it will change things a little bit,” Schulte said. “The Army Corps of Engineers gave it a permit but that’s just because we needed to room to do it.”

Once the channel is set, crews will begin planting native plants along the area, removing plants like the Russian Olive Trees, a non-native plant that’s considered invasive.

“These are wetland, riparian trees and shrubs — and this according to the Army Corps of Engineer’s permit,” she said. “The goal is to make it all more gorgeous and healthy, with more habitat and much more plant material. Right now, it’s so steep not much can grow there.”

Both the flood district and the Army Corps of Engineers will monitor the area for five years.

Habitat improvement project at Jackson Lake State Wildlife Area will benefit waterfowl — @COParksWildlife

From Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Jason Clay):

Ahead of the start of the waterfowl migration into Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife technicians and officers are finishing up construction for a habitat improvement project at the Jackson Lake State Wildlife Area (SWA).

The habitat improvement project starts by being more efficient with its water.

Crews are installing 2,750 feet of piping – which is greater than the length of nine football fields – for the water delivery system into the managed wetlands. The addition of the infrastructure will be highly more efficient and hands off than the old ditch system that required nearly daily maintenance and clearing when the irrigation season is open.

“It is a big-scale project, but the idea is to make it simpler while saving time and money,” said Wildlife Technician Cory Bullen. “If we can get the water directly into the wetlands without all that loss we were having it saves the ditch company water and saves our water.”

Crews were able to secure a 2018 Colorado Parks and Wildlife Wetland Grant Award to the tune of $120,000 to pay for the vast majority of the $143,000 project bill. The remaining $23,000 was funded out of the local CPW area budget and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service.

The Jackson Lake SWA, located just to the north of Jackson Lake State Park in Morgan County, is 394 acres that is open to dove, rabbit and waterfowl hunting. The waterfowl is the main attraction of hunters, and in the Central Flyway first season that runs Oct. 12 through Dec. 2, the SWA averages around 650 waterfowl hunters with another 200-plus participating in the second season, Dec. 19-Jan. 31.

The majority of the first season hunters used to be in the first three weeks of the season before the irrigated wetlands, which at Jackson Lake SWA there are six of them on eight huntable areas, would begin to skim, or freeze over, by mid-November.

With the infrastructure in place, there is the ability to put a lot more water into the shallow wetlands earlier, not lose as much, and still have water within our rights available to use later in the season. Previously all the water would go out at once.

“A project like this will benefit the habitat and gives us the potential for more options on when we can irrigate,” said Wildlife Officer Todd Cozad. “We should be able to make it better for the waterfowl by having the ability to provide more open water for them. Hunters will be able to benefit from this as well with enhanced opportunities.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the west head gate was turned on and water reached the furthest pond in just five minutes. In years past, that used to take 1-2 days to get there with the old ditch system.

Other species aside from waterfowl that will reap the benefits from the project include greater sandhill cranes and the northern leopard frog.

Additional state wildlife areas in Morgan County with quality waterfowl hunting include Andrick Ponds, Brush Prairie Ponds and Elliott.