Summary: November 19, 2019
Much of the Intermountain West, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Western Colorado and southwestern Wyoming, experienced warmer than average temperatures and did not receive precipitation this last week. Eastern Colorado received spotty precipitation ranging from 0.01 to 0.50” while northern Wyoming, Big Horn/Sheridan counties, saw the most moisture with 0.50 to 1.50” of precipitation.
While the cold October was helpful in delaying exacerbating drought severity, continued dryness across the Four Corners region and extending north into Utah and Colorado, continues to be a growing concern. With a dry summer and poor performing monsoon, extremely dry conditions extend back to 120 days, with widespread 120-day SPIs below -2. For lower elevations that don’t benefit as much from the stellar spring snows and runoff, there is more of an immediate concern. Hydrologically, the concern isn’t as large right now either, for the reservoirs are still in good condition. Streamflows ended at base flow a little lower than normal. Soils show the very poor conditions that will again come into play during the spring thaw and meltoff. For the higher elevations, impacts right now aren’t significant, and the rest of the snow season offers plenty of time for recovery. San Juan Basin should have a SWE of 3.5” by this time, but is currently sitting at less than an inch. However, it appears the next upcoming storm could possibly make all that up next week.
Outlook’s placement of the next upcoming storm couldn’t be better. It looks like cool, low-intensity, long duration moisture is forecast for the Four Corners, as well as southwestern Utah, this week with generous snow totals for the San Juans. The Four Corners region as well as southern Utah are expected to see upwards of 3.00” while the rest of the IMW are expected to see at least 0.25”. Much of western Colorado and eastern Utah are expected to see 0.75-1.50”. The outlook is showing closer to average temperatures next week with cooler than average temperatures on the two week outlook.
From The Colorado Independent (Bravender):
Five of the most contaminated sites in Colorado are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, according to a new report from a government watchdog agency.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent agency that works for the U.S. Congress, assessed how impacts of climate change — including flooding, storm surge, wildfires and sea level rise — might impact some of the most dangerous hazardous waste sites around the country. The agency looked at 1,336 “active” sites on U.S. EPA’s National Priorities List and 421 “deleted” sites where EPA had determined no further cleanup was needed. The report’s conclusion lay in its title: “EPA Should Take Additional Actions to Manage Risks from Climate Change.”
In Colorado, five of the 20 active and deleted sites surveyed and analyzed by GAO are in areas deemed vulnerable to wildfires or flooding.
Union Carbide Corp.’s Uravan Uranium Project in Uravan, Colo., is in an area with high wildfire hazard potential, GAO found. The Central City-Clear Creek Site in north central Colorado — where heavy metals from abandoned mines have contaminated drinking water — is also in an area with high wildfire potential.
The Lincoln Park section of Cañon City, Colo., which has been affected by the waste disposal activities of a nearby uranium mill, is vulnerable to flooding. The Denver Radium Site and the Captain Jack Mill in Ward, Colo., are also at risk of flooding.
GAO warned in its report that the impacts of climate change could pose risks to public health by spreading pollution from such sites. The agency pointed to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, when an unprecedented amount of rainfall dumped on Houston, damaging Superfund sites and releasing toxic materials.
According to GAO, EPA’s strategic plan from 2018 to 2022 “does not include goals and objectives related to climate change or discuss strategies for addressing the impacts of climate change effects.” EPA officials interviewed by GAO said that the agency doesn’t always include climate change when it’s assessing risks at Superfund sites. The agency is recommending that the EPA integrate climate information at the site level “to ensure long-term protection of human health and the environment.”
Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate sent a letter to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Monday expressing concern over GAO’s findings and over EPA’s response.
“We believe that EPA’s refusal to implement GAO’s recommendations could result in real harm to human health and the environment as the effects of climate change become more frequent and intense,” the lawmakers wrote. They asked EPA to answer a series of questions by next month about how it plans to address the risks climate change poses to Superfund sites.
From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
A Senate committee on Tuesday passed measures to permanently, fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and help address a $12 billion national parks maintenance backlog.
The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources passed the bipartisan measures, both of which are sponsored by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who serves on the committee…
The program long has faced an uncertain future when it has come to whether Congress would continue to reauthorize it and would fully fund it. Earlier this year, Congress passed a bill, signed by President Trump, to permanently authorize LWCF.
The bill passed by the Senate panel Tuesday would fully fund it at a level of $900 million a year. It has been funded at its maximum authorization level of $900 million just twice in its history…
The measure’s passage won praise from groups including the Outdoor Industry Association…
In October, Gardner and other senators including Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced an appropriations bill amendment that had sought to fully fund LWCF for fiscal year 2020.
Gardner spokesperson Annalyse Keller said Tuesday that given the level of bipartisan support involved, the hope currently is to get the bill that got committee approval Tuesday passed through Congress soon and signed into law.
The parks funding measure that passed through committee Tuesday would allocate half of existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development, or up to $1.3 billion a year, for the next five years to addressing the maintenance backlog.