Partner, Kogovsek and Associates, Inc.
Ex-Officio: Federal Affairs Liaison
Christine Arbogast is a native Coloradan. She has a degree in journalism and political science and has worked with Congressman Ray Kogovsek since 1979. Since 1985 when Kogovsek & Associates was established, the small firm has worked primarily in the Western states on resource and tribal issues as well as local government concerns, capital construction projects and health care. Christine is an active member of the Water Congress Federal Affairs Committee and the National Water Resources Association. She chairs the NWRA’s federal affairs committee, and is a member of the Colorado River Water Users’ Association and the National Congress of American Indians.
Colorado snowpack is registering well above normal across the state, and reservoirs are plenty full, a situation water managers say bodes well for this year’s water supply, assuming that spring snows materialize as they normally do.
“We’ve been shut out [in terms of snowfall] on the Front Range and Eastern Plains,” said Peter Goble, climate specialist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center. “But January is normally our dry season. If there is a good time to be shut out, it’s now.”
Even with a dry January, statewide snowpack is measuring at 110 percent of average. Snowpack along the Front Range is registering at 111 percent in the South Platte River Basin and 112 percent in the Arkansas Basin.
Consistent high mountain snows are helping keep ultra-dry conditions at bay, Goble said at a meeting of the state’s Water Availability Task Force on Jan. 23 in Denver.
Reservoir levels are also holding strong, with stored water statewide measuring at 106 percent of average. The same time last year that number was just 81 percent.
Looking ahead to the warm spring months, Goble said he had some concerns that forecasts called for an essentially equal chance of wet or dry weather.
Southern Colorado and the Eastern Plains have been hit particularly hard by chronic drought conditions over the past eight years, and weather watchers expressed concern that these regions will suffer if the spring turns out to be warmer and drier than normal.
Still, Karl Wetlaufer, assistant snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said mountain snows are remarkably healthy and consistent across the state.
Snow levels in each of the major river basins are above average and nearly equivalent. The Yampa River Basin, in northwestern Colorado, stands at 114 percent of average this week, while the upper Rio Grande is measuring at 110 percent of average.
Snowpack is closely watched across Colorado because every region in the state relies on melting mountain snows for the majority of their water supplies.
Each month, until May, the snowpack is measured and runoff forecasts are made so that water managers can plan for the year.
Though Colorado left a severe drought behind last spring, after a winter of spectacularly deep snows, a dry fall pushed large swaths of the state back into drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Now just under half of the state, largely the southern portion, is classified as being in moderate or severe drought.
Still, if the spring turns out to be dry, forecasts indicate snowpack will likely be in the 85 percent of average range at their peak in mid-April. But if spring storms bring plentiful snow, that number could easily soar above 115 percent of average. And even that may be conservative.
“We could see something really wacky happen that will bring us well above even this current forecast,” Goble said.
Jerd Smith is editor of Fresh Water News. She can be reached at 720-398-6474, via email at email@example.com or @jerd_smith.
Water managers are cautiously optimistic about the current snowpack and predicted runoff, even though the overall picture right now points to a moderate-dry year for the Gunnison Basin.
“I feel like we’re in pretty good shape. Of course, you can’t have too much snow. It’s like having too much fun,” said Steve Anderson, manager for the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association.
“But we’ve got full reservoir accounts. It’s kind of amazing, but we’re almost exactly where we were a year ago at this time. If we can have what we had last February, March and April, we would be in really good shape, but we could settle for less and still be in good shape.”
Within the Bureau of Reclamation’s Aspinall Unit, the snow-water equivalent was 110 percent of normal for this time of the year, as of Monday, BuRec hydrologist Erik Knight said…
According to the runoff forecast as of Jan. 1, Blue Mesa’s inflow was close to 87 percent of average, at 590,000 acre feet. Ridgway and Taylor Park each were sitting comfortably at 86 percent of average.
“With mid-January at 590,000 acre feet, that just puts us in that average-dry category. That is based on historic numbers. We consider ourselves to be in an average-dry year,” Knight said. “It’s got the opportunity to go any direction so far.”
The drought monitor shows moderate drought, with pockets of severe drought as of mid-month, although compared with the situation at the same time last year, that is an improvement.
Precipitation-wise, Montrose was sitting a bit below average just prior to Monday’s surprise storm, according to the National Weather Service.
For the month of January, Montrose had measured 0.28 inches; usually, it is 0.56. The tally did not include precip from Monday’s snow dump, which as of 6 a.m. that day, was about 1.5 inches — 18-hundredths of an inch liquid equivalent.
Anderson also said statewide efforts continue to update the Colorado Water Plan, slated for completion in 2023, and to fully fund its implementation.
Voters last November passed Proposition DD, establishing a 10-percent tax on net proceeds from sports betting, to help pay for implementation…
He also invited water users to UVWUA’s annual board meeting, set to begin at noon Feb. 4, at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta. Keynote speakers include Greg Peterson of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and Jim Pokrandt of the Colorado River District.
FromBiz West Media/Boulder Daily Camera (Dan Mika) via The Fort Morgan Times:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment gave approval to efforts to build the Northern Integration Supply Project, or NISP, securing one of three final permits the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District needs before it can start on the $1.1 billion water project.
In a letter to Northern Water earlier this week, officials said the state has “reasonable assurance” the project would comply with all required water quality standards at the state levels.
The letter said while the project wouldn’t directly discharge pollutants into water sources, it has “the potential to cause or contribute to long-term water quality impacts.” It is requiring member cities to monitor 21 locations along the NISP for water conditions needed to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems, and to watch for bacteria, sediment and runoff material that could harm humans in contact with the river…
NISP member cities and organizations include the Fort Collins Loveland Water District, Left Hand Water District, Erie, Lafayette, Windsor, Frederick, Firestone and Dacono…
Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla said the state’s approval is a major milestone for the project as it approaches the final few months of getting required permits.
“This is something we’ve been working on for years to submit the required data, and we’re pleased to see this response from the state,” he said.
Northern Water requires two more permits before it can start construction on the project. A final decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected by June, while the utility next month plans to file for a “1041 local powers” permit with Larimer County. Residents would then have 90 days to offer feedback before county commissioners make a decision.
The state’s report card on infrastructure is not necessarily one to hang on a refrigerator this year, as officials with the Colorado Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers said Thursday there is room for improvement.
The organization gave 14 categories of infrastructure in Colorado an overall grade of a ‘C-.’ The 2020 Report Card for Colorado’s Infrastructure was released Thursday…
According to the report, civil engineers evaluated the following individual categories: aviation (B), bridges (C+), dams (C+), drinking water (C-) [ed. empahasis mine], energy (C+), hazardous waste (C-), levees (D+), parks (C), rail (B-), roads (C-), schools (D+), solid waste (C-), transit (C-) and wastewater (C-). Schools received one of the lowest grades (D+), exhibiting needs that far exceed the funding available for necessary replacements, repairs or upgrades – adding up to an approximately $14 billion funding gap…
The Report Card, which did not list specific cities or areas in the state, was created as a public service to residents and policymakers to inform them of the infrastructure needs in their state. Civil engineers used their expertise and school report card letter grades to condense complicated data into an easy-to-understand analysis of Colorado’s infrastructure network…
Officials said though drinking water capacity is currently sufficient, some rural areas are challenged to provide clean water to their constituents due to aging pipelines.
Water consumption in Colorado is nearly 50% lower than the national average. Officials said that is mostly due to a successful public education program focusing on water conservation implemented in the early 2000s by various water utilities…
Dams scored about the national average at a “C+.” In Colorado, the number and quality of Emergency Action Plans have significantly increased: Today, approximately 98% of high hazard potential dams now have an EAP, putting fewer residents at risk in the event of a dam failure…
Click on a thumbnail graphic below to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.
US Drought Monitor January 28, 2020.
West Drought Monitor January 28, 2020.
Colorado Drought Monitor January 28, 2020.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
A series of Pacific weather systems continued to move across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) in a fairly westerly jet stream flow during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. The systems dropped copious amounts of precipitation along the Coastal and Cascade mountain ranges of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, with above-normal precipitation continuing across most of the Pacific Northwest to the Rockies. The Pacific systems were dried out once they crossed the Rockies, but some picked up Gulf of Mexico moisture to provide above-normal precipitation from parts of New Mexico northeastward to the Great Lakes. Surface lows were generated by the upper-level Pacific systems, with some tracking to the Northeast and others moving along the Gulf Coast. The Gulf lows gave Texas to the Lower Mississippi Valley above-normal precipitation, while the others generated above-normal precipitation in the Middle Appalachian to Mid-Atlantic states. It was drier than normal from California to the Rio Grande Valley, across most of the northern Plains and Southeast, and parts of the central High Plains and Ohio Valley. With a westerly flow, most of the CONUS was warmer than normal, with only the Southeast having near to cooler-than-normal temperatures…
Much of the High Plains region had less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation this week. Half an inch or more fell across southeastern Nebraska to southern Kansas and in the mountains of Colorado and western Wyoming, with pockets of 0.25-0.50 inch elsewhere. Although 6-month precipitation deficits are still significant, D2 was deleted in western and southern Colorado where recent precipitation made 1 to 3-month precipitation deficits and drought indicators less severe and where mountain snowpack was near normal. D0-D2 were trimmed slightly in southwest Kansas where precipitation was above normal this week. Reports from eastern Colorado indicate that the recent lack of precipitation is deteriorating conditions. Topsoil is blowing about in the wind, and winter wheat needs more moisture before green-up, so this area will be watched for deterioration in the coming weeks. Based on USDA reports, topsoil moisture was short to very short (dry to very dry) across 61% of Colorado, 32% of Kansas, and 24% of Wyoming; 23% of the pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition in Colorado; and 24% of Colorado’s winter wheat and 23% of winter wheat in Kansas was in poor to very poor condition. USDA reports from Colorado’s southeastern counties included: “conditions were noted as extremely dry and moisture was needed. A reporter noted high winds severely damaged or blew out winter wheat stands in [some] areas. Livestock were being heavily supplemented.”[…]
The Pacific weather systems continued to drop several inches of precipitation across coastal areas of Oregon, Washington, and northern California. More than 2 inches was estimated from radar across the coast to Cascades, with 5 inches widespread and locally over 10 inches occurring in parts of Washington. Their westerly track and fast movement dried them out once they traversed the Cascade range, with half an inch to an inch of precipitation falling in the lee areas of Washington and less than half an inch in the Oregon lee regions. The persistent precipitation has made up for deficits over the last month across the coastal regions, and last 2 months in western Washington, but deficits are still widespread and severe for the last 3 to 24 months. Mountain snowpack (SNOTEL snow water equivalent, or SWE) was improved in some basins. But with warmer-than-normal temperatures causing the precipitation to fall more as rain rather than snow, many other basins across the Pacific Northwest still had below-normal SWE values. The western edge of D0-D1 was pulled back in Washington and Oregon to reflect the persistent precipitation, and D1 was pulled back in north central Washington and central Oregon, but otherwise no change was made to the depiction in the Pacific Northwest.
Northern California received 2 or more inches of precipitation this week, but amounts dropped off rapidly to the south, with little to no precipitation falling in Southern California to southern Nevada. Pockets of half an inch or more of precipitation occurred over the higher elevations of Utah and the Four Corners. In California, according to the state Department of Water Resources, Sierra Nevada snowpack, which was 105% of average (for the date) on December 23, stood at 74% of the late-January average on January 28. January has been quite dry across the state, with precipitation deficits occurring in places out to the last 6 months. As a result, a large area of D0 was added to the central valleys and from the Bay area to the Sierra Nevada, stretching into the Reno area of Nevada. According to USDA reports, 65% of topsoil moisture was short to very short, and 87% of winter wheat was in poor to very poor condition, in New Mexico. In northeastern New Mexico, “wheat was stressed from the lack of moisture.” But precipitation this week and previous weeks has lessened deficits in the Great Basin to southern Rockies, resulting in pullback of D0 in western Utah and deletion of D2 in east-central Utah and north central New Mexico…
Eastern portions of the South region received widespread half inch or more of precipitation, while western Texas was dry, especially along the Rio Grande Valley. An inch or more of precipitation fell from eastern Texas and southeast Oklahoma to the Mississippi River, with embedded areas of 2+ inches along the Gulf Coast and from northern Louisiana to southern Arkansas. Half an inch or more also fell in the Oklahoma panhandle and northern portions of the Texas panhandle. Consequently, drought and abnormal dryness contracted in parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas. But drought or abnormal dryness expanded or intensified in parts of western Texas, southern Louisiana, and southeast Mississippi. The USDA reported that 28% of Tennessee’s pasture and rangeland was in poor to very poor condition, but, as for the Southeast, this was due to autumn drought, followed by insufficient time for re-growth before winter…
A low pressure system brought precipitation to the southern Plains during Tuesday, January 28, after the cutoff time for this week’s USDM, and it moved across the Southeast on Wednesday, January 29, while another Pacific system brought precipitation to the Pacific Northwest. During the next 2 weeks, Pacific weather systems will continue to cross the CONUS in a westerly jet stream flow, with low pressure systems also developing along the Gulf of Mexico coast. For January 30-February 3, 3 or more inches of additional precipitation are forecast for coastal Oregon and Washington, with an inch or more across the northern Rockies and 0.25 inch or more for the rest of the Pacific Northwest to northern High Plains, Great Basin to central Rockies, and east-central Arizona. Most of California, southern Nevada, and Arizona to New Mexico are forecast to be dry. Little to no precipitation is also predicted for much of the Plains. Half an inch or more is expected from eastern Texas to the Lower Mississippi Valley and the central Gulf Coast, with an inch or more widespread from Georgia to North Carolina and across southern Florida. Half an inch or less of precipitation is predicted for the rest of the country from the Mississippi River eastward. Temperatures are predicted to be warmer than normal across most of the CONUS, with some below-normal maximum temperatures in the Southwest. For February 4-8, odds favor below-normal precipitation from California to Utah, and across most of Texas to Oklahoma, while above-normal precipitation is favored across Alaska and most of the rest of the CONUS. The outlook calls for warmer-than-normal temperatures from the Mississippi River to East Coast and the Alaska panhandle, and colder-than-normal temperatures in the Southwest and much of Alaska.
Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s the summary:
Summary: January 28, 2020
Snowpack continues to steadily accumulate throughout the Intermountain West, while conditions stayed dry on the plains east of the Continental Divide. The highest accumulations occurred in the northern Wasatch, Tetons, and northern Colorado Rockies. This is a fairly typical pattern for this time of year. Best accumulations ranged from 1.00-2.00″. The central Rockies and Wasatch received 0.50-1.00″. The lower elevations of the Upper Colorado River Basin and San Luis Valley received a couple rounds of snow, but accumulations were light, totaling less than one quarter of an inch of moisture.
Temperatures remained cooler than normal in the Upper Colorado River Basin, and were milder than normal east of the Continental Divide. This is a continuation of the pattern we have been seeing throughout much of January and February. A number of generally weak weather disturbances have tracked across the region from the west or northwest. These have been sufficient for keeping seasonal snowpack accumulation on pace with normal, and temperatures down in the mountain valleys. However, these airmasses have been drying out over the leeward side of the Rockies, leaving scant moisture for the plains. Some areas of eastern Colorado did receive a few tenths of an inch of moisture yesterday evening (1/27), which is enough to hold off on degraditions, but not enough for improvements.
Streamflows across the region are mostly in the normal range, though we are currently in base flow conditions, and a high fraction of gages are ice affected. Reservoir storage levels in Colorado and Utah are at or above average with the exception of some smaller reservoirs, whose levels may be low due to management practices rather than climatic conditions.
January impacts in the Intermountain West can be difficult to ascertain. Stresses to water resources, ecosystems, and agriculture from dry conditions generally manifest after snowmelt. At the moment, this is making drought recovery difficult to judge in southern and western Colorado/eastern Utah. The 2019 monsoon season was an abject failure, leading to increased consumptive use, decreased dryland productivity, and increased fire danger. All of this evidence lead to D2, severe drought being instated. D2 has been removed where precipitation/snowpack has been most promising, but not everywhere.
Remaining pockets of D2 exist in western Colorado/eastern Utah and the San Luis Valley. This D2 is still potentially justifiable based on 6-month precipitation deficits. However, the accompanying short-term drought impacts have been arrested for the season. There are no USDM Drought Impact Reporter entries for Colorado in the last 30 days. As the snowpack season continues to mature, and snowpack stays above average, our degree of certainty that similar impacts will not return upon snowmelt increases.
Outlook: A weak disturbance is currently exitiing the region. Another one will push through Wednesday into Thursday. High pressure and unseasonably warm temperatures are expected to cover the region over the weekend.
The Climate Prediction Center is indicating an increased chance of below normal temperatures and above normal precipitation over the 8-14 day time frame. A stronger low pressure system is currently forecast to track across the region next Monday/Tuesday, leaving much cooler air in its wake. For some, this may end up being the coldest air of the winter season.
I attended the Climate Change panel yesterday afternoon and it rocked. There is a general session today on Climate Change. Water Congress is bringing the issue up front and center where an existential crisis should be.
Click here to view the convention hash tag #cwcac2020. (There are others using the same hash tag for Pakistani football (soccer).
Policy priorities for the 2020 Colorado legislative session.
Colorado lawmakers returned to the Capitol on January 8th to kick off the 2020 legislative session. Even before bills were introduced, it was clear that the General Assembly will wrangle with issues that will touch every corner of the state and impact the daily lives of Coloradans. Water is one of these key issues.
Despite the optimism from a snowy December, Colorado’s snowpack is now starting to fall closer to average. Although Colorado is perched at 108 percent average snowpack statewide, much of the West Slope remains in drought conditions. With enough snowpack, flurries will melt and become flows for healthy rivers that support all of us. But as water supplies are becoming more unpredictable, sharing a limited water supply—statewide—between urban, rural, agriculture, industry, environmental and recreational needs is the challenge at hand.
Audubon Rockies is working with lawmakers and partners to prioritize water security for people, birds, and the healthy rivers that we all depend upon. Colorado’s birds and people cannot thrive unless our rivers do too. Here are three water priority areas for Audubon Rockies in the 2020 Colorado legislative session.
Funding Colorado’s Water Plan
Water security for Coloradans, birds, and rivers begins with implementing the state Water Plan. In the light of climate change and booming population growth, Colorado’s Water Plan, finalized in 2015, aims to ensure a sufficient supply of water for the various users across the state including environmental, agricultural, municipal, industrial, and recreational needs. Implementing Colorado’s Water Plan is projected to cost $3 billion in total, or $100 million a year over the next 30 years.
In November 2019, voters approved Proposition DD to legalize sports betting and a 10% tax on these casino revenues which will result in an estimated $12 million to $29 million annually, the majority of which will go toward the Water Plan. Proposition DD is expected to generate more than $7 million in new tax revenue for the Colorado Water Plan in 2020, a significant bump up from past funding sources.
At this point, it is not clear how the state will spend these dollars given the various priorities and the considerable Water Plan funding gap. The language in DD was vague and will need refinement and transparency. Stakeholders and lawmakers will likely explore options with the legislature to guide how DD funds are spent on Water Plan implementation.
Audubon will advocate for spending that supports healthy rivers for the birds and people that depend on them, as we support a fully funded Water Plan.
Supporting the Colorado River
In 2019, the Drought Contingency Plan was adopted by the upper and lower Colorado River basin states. One of next steps for Colorado and the other upper basin states is to investigate the feasibility of a demand management program. The Water Resources Review Committee recommended SB20-024 to create a robust public engagement process similar to the development of the Water Plan before adopting any rules or recommendations regarding demand management. While public input is nearly always a positive, this process seems to get ahead of the process established by the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s (CWCB) demand management workgroup. Audubon is monitoring SB20-024.
With Colorado’s water supply becoming more unpredictable and valuable, particularly on the West Slope, concerns were raised by the Water Resources Review Committee to address anti-speculation. Specifically, concerns were raised that agricultural water rights are being sold to entities with no real interest in farming or ranching in Colorado that are holding those rights for future, more profitable transactions. SB20-048, Study Strengthening Water Anti-Speculation Law, would create a working group to explore ways to strengthen anti-speculation laws and report its findings and recommendations to the committee next year. Audubon is in favor of SB20-48 to keep Colorado’s water out of the hands of risky transactions. We need to support our agricultural heritage and the habitats our working landscapes provide.
For the second year, Colorado lawmakers will see the return of two similar bills attempting to expand the instream flow program. Since 1973, the instream flow program has given the CWCB the unique ability to hold instream flow rights—water rights with the sole purpose of preserving the natural environment by remaining in streams or lakes. First, HB20-1037, Augmentation of Instream Flows, is essentially a rerun from last year with key benefits for the Cache la Poudre River near Fort Collins. The bill permits the CWCB to use water for instream flow purposes, if the water has been decreed for augmentation without seeking a further change of use in water court. (Augmentation water restores water uses that are out of priority.) This would create a new pool of water, with lower administrative costs, which could be available for instream use.
The second bill, HB20-1157, Loaned Water For Instream Flows To Improve Environment, looks to expand the existing instream flow loan program. Under the current law the instream flow loan program allows water right holders to loan water for three years out of a 10-year period to the CWCB to preserve water for rivers where there is an existing instream flow water right. The current program participation is not renewable.
HB20-1157 looks to expand the instream flow loan program by increasing the years of participation from three to five years in a ten-year period, and allow for two additional ten-year renewal periods. It also supports greater notification to local water users, provides for an expedited process to address water-short river emergencies, and adds a longer term procedure for loaning water to instream flow decreed river segments for improvement of the environment. The instream flow loan program is completely voluntary and allows greater flexibility for the water right holder to use their property right in a beneficial way.
In 2019, a similar bill to HB20-1157 passed the House of Representatives only to die in Senate Committee. Perceptions around the potential impacts to soil health from fallowed fields and on historical irrigation return flows from leaving water in stream rather than applying it on the land may have caused the bill to fail. With robust engagement and input from Audubon, partners, stakeholders and the Colorado Water Congress over the past year, bill sponsors are more optimistic for successful instream flow loan expansion in 2020.
Audubon supports multiple tools in the toolbox to support healthy rivers, agriculture, and economies. HB20-1157 and HB20-1037 bring greater flexibility and beneficial options for rivers and water right holders.
Here’s a guest column from the White River Conservation District that’s running in The Rio Blanco Herald-Times:
The State of Colorado adopted the Colorado Water Plan in 2016. The Plan proposes to create a water management roadmap to achieve a productive economy, vibrant and sustainable cities, productive agriculture, a strong environment and a robust recreation industry. Specific to protecting and enhancing stream flows, the plan calls for 80% of locally prioritized rivers to be covered by Stream Management Plans (SMP) by 2030.
Through this effort, locally-led groups are encouraged to develop plans that will help meet the above 80% goal. The Water Plan initially encouraged only SMPs using biological, hydrological, geomorphological and other data to assess the flows or other physical conditions that are needed to support collaboratively identified environmental and/or recreational values.
However, experience across the State has shown the need to incorporate a more holistic approach including consumptive uses (agriculture, municipalities, energy, etc.). These types of plans are often called an Integrated Water Management Plan (IWMP). The local community is encouraged to determine what they want to accomplish and then find the right planning effort to help them achieve their goals.
The White River and Douglas Creek Conservation districts embarked on an effort in 2019 to identify what local needs can be met through the development of a plan and to determine community support for this effort. The districts are working with a Planning Advisory Committee (PAC) made up of 16 individuals representing agriculture, municipalities, industry, environment, recreation and land/water right holders. The committee is well balanced geographically within Rio Blanco County and members have strong knowledge of water rights, water quality and quantity concerns, water planning efforts, and local customs and cultures.
During December, district staff conducted approximately 25 interviews of local citizens identified by the committee. Questions developed by the committee were used for the interviews. The information gathered from the interviews are being used to develop a starting point for the much broader discussion within the community during January…
More information on the process and Planning Advisory Committee is available on the districts’ website at http://www.whiterivercd.com. Please contact the district office at 970-878-9838 with any questions. We look forward to your input.
This 7 minute video showcases the beauty and joy of young people who come from a long legacy of intergenerational leadership, grounded in community. They are fighting against the culprits of climate change and climate destruction in their own communities, and winning! Frontline youth are also an integral part of the creative and innovative solutions to the climate crisis that are grounded in our communities’ cultural practices and reclaiming the traditions of our ancestors. In Frontline Youth: Fighting for Climate Justice you’ll learn more about what climate justice means to them and get a glimpse into their lives and struggle for a better world.
The council looked over Resolution No. 19-32: A resolution approving a General Fund purchase of Development Fee Credits from the Water Enterprise Fund for issuance to a City Economic Development Incentive Program. The City loaned funds over a number of years from the General Fund to the Water Fund for operational and capitol expenses.
The current fiscal year end balance on the loan is $819, 205. The City intends to establish a program that can provide economic incentives to the development projects.
City Manager Daniel Miera explained the process to the Council. The payback plan will change from 20 years to 11 years. Mayor Fey asked Miera if the City is forgiving the balance of the loan from the Water Fund. Miera replied that the Water Fund will still be owed to the City, but it will come in a different form.
Alderman Aiken wanted to know if the City charges interest on the loan, and Miera reported that no interest was charged. Alderman Hidahl thought this was a creative solution and an advantage for the City to encourage development. Mayor Fey agreed and felt the incentive program should be used for the core of the city rather than exterior development. The Resolution passed 5-0…
Miera was asked if the water budget was too high. [Daniel Miera] responded the budget shows a positive operating fund, for which the city has been striving for many years. It has been in the negative in years’ past.
According to the National Weather Service, Grand Junction has accumulated 10.9 inches of snow. Normally, around this time, there would be 11.9 inches. Across the state, snowpack in the mountains is doing a little better than normal.
“When you look at the snowpack in the mountains, which is where all of our water comes from, the mountains statewide, in Colorado, are averaging about 110 percent of normal,” said Matthew Aleksa, Meteorologist for the National Weather Service.
There has been 5.3 inches of snow, so far, for the month of January.
When Wendy Rash was diagnosed in 2005 with a thyroid disorder, chronic fatigue and other ailments, her doctor couldn’t explain her suddenly failing health.
Soon, other family members became ill. Her brother-in-law contracted fatal kidney cancer. Her father-in-law developed esophageal cancer. Then her 32-year-old son began having severe kidney problems.
It wasn’t until 2016 that scientists tested the tap water they had been drinking and found it was contaminated with man-made chemicals known as per-fluorinated compounds, part of a family of chemicals called PFAS. The chemicals were traced to firefighting foam from a nearby military airfield, one of hundreds of Pentagon bases nationwide that for decades may have contaminated drinking water used by tens of thousands of people.
“We had no clue,” said Rash, 58.
The role played by PFAS in the family’s illnesses is not known. Studies have shown a link between the chemicals and a range of health problems, including an elevated risk for some cancers, but they have not established a clear cause-and-effect relationship.
Rash’s family history of illnesses is common in Fountain, a Colorado Springs suburb flanked by mountains and military bases. And the scientific uncertainty about how much risk residents face has only worsened the anxiety many feel, as Fountain and surrounding towns have become a center of the growing national furor over the possible health effects of ingesting PFAS.
Congress is trying to expand regulation of the chemicals. Earlier this month, the House voted 247 to 159 in favor of a bill requiring the Environmental Protection Agency to designate PFAS as hazardous substances, which would free up funds for the cleanup at contaminated sites.
But the Trump administration has threatened to veto the bill, saying in a Jan. 7 statement that such a move would force high compliance costs on businesses and states, and that the EPA, not Congress, should make the decision.
Dominion, a wholesale district, has the vision to develop a renewable water and centralized wastewater system for northwest Douglas County. Dominion’s system provides options where none have existed before.
To create a water system that is built to last, we leveraged location, infrastructure and partnerships to create a regionally integrated network. As we grow, our values remain the same: dependability, water quality, environmental stewardship and innovation.
Dominion began this journey by partnering with other water providers to leverage regional assets to most economically and efficiently serve our customers. We continually engage our regional partners and prioritize cooperation within the water and wastewater community.
Currently, we have agreements with South Metro WISE (Water Infrastructure and Supply Efficient Partnership), Aurora and Castle Rock for renewable water. These agreements, along with Dominion’s other water supplies, give us the flexibility to provide water to Sterling Ranch and potentially new customers within our 33,000-acre service area.
Dominion will continue to grow and strengthen its portfolio. In addition to our water supply agreements with regional partners, in 2019, Dominion’s board approved the purchase of 500 acre-feet of storage in the Chatfield Reallocation Project from the state of Colorado. With this storage, shared with nine other water providers, Dominion will expand its ability to efficiently utilize its renewable water.
In 2020 Dominion’s long-term investments will connect northwest Douglas County to the largest water providers in Colorado. At the heart of Dominion’s system is the new Eastern Regional Pipeline that will bring 1,325 acre-feet of renewable WISE water to our region and add to Dominion’s already robust and reliable water supply portfolio.
This pipeline is the key to bringing renewable water to northwest Douglas County, giving those on unsustainable groundwater an exciting opportunity. The pipeline will not only carry the WISE supply but also future supplies to serve prospective customers and firefighting capabilities for much of the region. The new pipeline is nearly complete and is expected to connect this summer, completing a loop the south metro water providers have been working toward for over a decade.
Dominion also continues to stay in the forefront of innovative solutions to support and develop water technology, sustainability and management. We are developing rainwater harvesting through the only state-approved pilot project. In late 2019, thanks to a long-running relationship between Vanderbilt University and Sterling Ranch, Dominion, Aurora and South Metro partners are working with Vanderbilt on water-treatment technologies that would address water quality challenges faced broadly by Colorado and nationwide.
Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased to 800 cfs on Wednesday, January 29th. Snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is currently at 106% of normal. The Jan 15th runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir predicts 87% of average for April-July inflows. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.
Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for January through March.
Currently, there are no diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 1100 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be at zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 800 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.
This scheduled release change is subject to changes in river flows and weather conditions. For questions or concerns regarding these operations contact Erik Knight at (970) 248-0629 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
FromSanta Fe New Mexican (Robert Nott) via The New Mexico Political Report:
State leaders looking for a way to address a litigated claim that New Mexico is not providing enough water to Texas under a decades-old compact want funding for a water conservation pilot program south of Elephant Butte.
Though the plan remains vague, both Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the Legislative Finance Committee are proposing to support it by allocating funding to the project in the 2021 fiscal year.
The plan would let water users in the southern part of the state figure out how and when to leave certain areas of their farms unplanted — or fallow — to conserve ground and surface water.
“It’s the start of a solution to the lack of water resources south of Elephant Butte,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, who first announced the plan at a Journey Santa Fe event this month. “It’s critical that the solution comes from the farmers down there.”
The Governor’s Office is proposing a $10 million allocation in next year’s budget for a year’s implementation of the pilot program. The LFC’s $30 million proposal takes a three-year approach to the plan, Wirth said.
Either way, many state legislators from both political parties believe the far-from-fleshed-out pilot needs more legislative oversight…
Wirth and State Engineer John D’Antonio both said that while the plan in itself is a solid step toward conserving water, the shadow of the legal fight over the Rio Grande — litigation that is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court — adds urgency to the action.
The Rio Grande Compact of the late 1930s set up a complicated deal in which Colorado, New Mexico and Texas all are allocated a certain amount of water from the river…
The Texas-New Mexico legal conflict started in 2013 when Texas argued New Mexico farmers are using too much water, including through the drilling of wells, from the Rio Grande as it flows through New Mexico on its way to Texas.
In 2017, the Supreme Court denied New Mexico’s legal motions to dismiss the Texas complaint…
D’Antonio said his office is looking at temporarily fallowing some of the land that uses Rio Grande water and then studying the hydrological effects of it to see if the plan could sustain a similar long-term effort among farmers willing to take part.
The lower Rio Grande water users would “pay into a fund that would compensate those farmers for fallowing,” he said. “The initial money the state would put up would allow for that program to evolve over time.”
John Utton, a water attorney who represents several water-users in the southern part of the state — including New Mexico State University and the Camino Real Regional Utility Authority — said it’s vital planners look at areas that could be permanently fallowed without damaging the state’s agricultural business.
“There may be time where there is more land available and other times when we need to shrink a little bit but we don’t want to permanently fallow agricultural efforts,” he said. “Pecans, green chile and onions are all an important part of our economy and need to be kept viable.”
From email from the Center for Colorado River Studies:
A forum discussion on what politics, policy, and climate change have in store for Lake Powell.
Thursday, February 20, 6:30 pm
Historic Star Hall, Moab, Utah
Free and open to the public!
Join us, and a panel of experts, to start a conversation about long-term issues associated with management of Lake Powell. Since the Colorado River began filling Glen Canyon in 1963, the future of Lake Powell has been up for discussion. Climate change, politics and water-use policy all now factor into the fate of this vast reservoir in southern Utah.</blockquote>
“These geoengineering technologies condemn the ocean to acidification and us all to continued toxic air pollution and higher energy costs from fossil fuels. Plan B very much sub-optimal.” — Jonathan Overpeck (@GreatLakesPeck)
FromClimatewire (John Fialka) via E&E News via Scientific American:
The top climate change scientist for NOAA said he has received $4 million from Congress and permission from his agency to study two emergency—and controversial—methods to cool the Earth if the U.S. and other nations fail to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
David Fahey, director of the Chemical Sciences Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory, told his staff yesterday that the federal government is ready to examine the science behind “geoengineering”—or what he dubbed a “Plan B” for climate change.
Fahey said he has received backing to explore two approaches.
One is to inject sulfur dioxide or a similar aerosol into the stratosphere to help shade the Earth from more intense sunlight. It is patterned after a natural solution: volcanic eruptions, which have been found to cool the Earth by emitting huge clouds of sulfur dioxide.
The second approach would use an aerosol of sea salt particles to improve the ability of low-lying clouds over the ocean to act as shade.
This technique is borrowed from “ship tracks”—or long clouds left by the passage of ocean freighters that are seen by satellites as reflective pathways. They could be widened by injections of vapor from seawater by specialized ships to create shading effects.
Research in both techniques, Fahey emphasized, are recommended in a forthcoming study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine titled “Climate Intervention Strategies that Reflect Sunlight to Cool Earth.”
But in a sign of how controversial the topic is, Fahey recommended changing the nomenclature from geoengineering to “climate intervention,” which he described as a “more neutral word.”
Fahey also emphasized this is not an approval to move forward with geoengineering. Rather, it’s to prepare the U.S. government for a political decision if the world fails to adequately limit the rise of global warming…
“One of the things I’m interested in doing is let’s separate the science out,” he added. The idea is to give policymakers a clear view of how a hurry-up bid to save the planet would work.
Even then, the results likely wouldn’t be immediate. Fahey showed slides and graphics that noted that a Plan B might take until the next century to complete the cooling…
There would be drawbacks, he noted, after being asked by a researcher whether injections of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere might reduce seafood by acidifying the oceans.
“When you put aerosols up into the atmosphere, it does a lot of things,” Fahey, a physicist, responded. “That opens up this whole menu of things that you’d have to worry about.”
He said other aerosols such as calcite or titania “might have less impact, but nobody knows. We want to look at them in the laboratory.”
Several smaller nations have complained that the use of aircraft to inject aerosols into the atmosphere might alter the weather or destroy the ozone layer, which protects humans from some of the more harmful radiation from sunlight.
Fahey suggested that a scientific approach would require solving a list of unknowns, including tests to find out what’s in the stratosphere today and how to get aerosols to spread there homogeneously. Another likely area of research: unintended consequences…
At the moment, the government has no planned experiments and NOAA’s authority does not extend into the stratosphere. But there is a bill in Congress called the “Climate Intervention Research Act” that would broaden its jurisdiction…
Until now, neither Congress nor the administration has ventured to tackle the Plan B issue. The closest thing to testing it is a Harvard University-sponsored project called the “Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment” (SCoPEx).
It proposes a small-scale test using a propeller-driven balloon. It would ascend to a height of 12 miles over New Mexico and then release less than 2.2 pounds of calcium carbonate…
The idea is to create a tubular area in the sky—about six-tenths of a mile long and 109 yards in diameter—through which the sensor-packed balloon could slowly move back and forth, mixing the air and monitoring the solar-reflecting abilities of the scattered materials. It also would track the impact of the treated area on the surrounding atmosphere.
When SCoPEx would happen remains unknown.
Harvard, sensitive to the question of how to govern such experiments, has appointed an outside advisory committee to help oversee and evaluate the test. According to David Keith, a Harvard physicist who is one of the leaders of the project, the outside committee would help determine if and when the experiment should move forward.
Funding for the experiment will come from Harvard research funds and a list of outside contributors to a fund controlled by Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program. Compared with U.S. space, defense and climate-related experiments, the cost of the effort would be minuscule.
Keith could not be reached for comment about Fahey’s announcement, but Fahey said NOAA supports the Harvard stratospheric test and has contributed an instrument to help it measure the dispersion of particles.
As we look forward into 2020, the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) continues the important work of investigating whether a Demand Management program would be feasible and advisable for the State of Colorado. Demand Management is the concept of temporary, voluntary, and compensated reductions in the consumptive use of water in the Colorado River Basin. Any water saved would be used only to ensure compact compliance and to protect the state’s water users from involuntary curtailment of uses.
The Drought Contingency Plan, a suite of agreements among the seven Colorado River Basin States, was executed in May 2019, and provided the opportunity to begin initial discussions about a potential Demand Management program in the Upper Colorado River Basin. All Upper Basin States, including Colorado, are currently conducting their own feasibility investigations. Though these states recognized that Demand Management may be a mechanism for ensuring ongoing compact compliance, they also recognized that significant stakeholder outreach and interstate coordination would need to come first. In the event that Colorado reaches the conclusion that Demand Management is feasible and advisable, all other Upper Colorado River Basin States must agree to key elements before any program could be created.
Colorado’s investigation is guided by the 2019 Demand Management Work Plan, which was adopted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Plan provides a framework for initial stages of the investigation, including: workgroups, regional workshops, and education and outreach.
Since the CWCB’s June 2019 update on Demand Management, the workgroups have met multiple times across the state to identify issues associated with a potential Demand Management program. Workgroups consist of experts in Colorado River issues and water management, along with water stakeholders. All meetings have been open to the public. Meeting details and reports are available on the CWCB website. In addition, the IBCC is aiding in this process by analyzing how principles of equity may be incorporated into any potential Demand Management program, if one is set up. This ongoing work is informing the feasibility investigation.
The second regional Demand Management workshop will be held at the Colorado Water Congress https://www.cowatercongress.org/2020-annual-convention.html on January 29 from 9:00 – 11:30 am. This workshop will provide an update on the feasibility investigation, and an opportunity for attendees to provide feedback on the work completed so far and potential next steps.
We are only in the initial stages of the feasibility investigation. CWCB staff plans to seek additional guidance this summer from the CWCB Board relating to the next steps of the feasibility analysis. Additionally, CWCB staff has reported to the Water Resources Review Committee as requested and continues to work with the Colorado General Assembly to secure funding for the feasibility investigation.
The CWCB recognizes the importance of a thorough investigation, including discussions with Colorado water users, stakeholders, and others across the state. At this stage, we cannot provide a timeline for completion of this feasibility investigation.
Get involved in the discussion:
Attend a workgroup meeting. All meetings are open to the public and provide opportunity for public comment.
Attend a regional workshop to hear updates on the feasibility investigation and provide feedback.
Reach out to us directly at email@example.com.
The CWCB would like to thank workgroup members who have spent significant time considering these important issues, as well as the water stakeholders and other Coloradans who have been involved with this investigation throughout the process. The CWCB looks forward to continuing its important work on Demand Management in the New Year.
To provide written comments on demand management, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information from CWCB staff, email Sara Leonard at email@example.com.
Director, Colorado Water Conservation Board
Powderhorn Mountain Resort’s goal of adding top-to-bottom snowmaking is dependent on a reservoir and pipeline project.
That project cleared another hurdle on Friday with the announcement of a draft approval.
The draft decision from the Grand Valley Ranger District authorizes the construction of a snowmaking supply pipeline, a pump house, an intake pad, and also the Rim View Connector Trail for mountain biking.
The decision includes an environmental assessment of the project.
The draft decision now initiates a 45-day period where objections can be filed. Individuals who submitted written comments during the combined scoping and comment period in September 2019 have standing to file an objection to the draft decision.
Objections must be submitted by mail, express delivery, messenger service, or hand delivery to Objection Reviewing Officer, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, 1617 Cole Blvd. Bldg. 17, Golden, CO 80401. Email objections can be submitted at SM.FS.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The first phase of the project will connect Powderhorn to Anderson Reservoir No. 2 with a pipeline that can supply up to 140 acre-feet, or around 45.6 million gallons of water, to the snowmaking system.
The Trump administration formally proposed a rule last week that strips away protections that have been in place 50 years for waters all across the U.S. In what is seen as a victory for fossil fuel producers, farmers, and real estate developers, the proposed rule retains protections for large bodies of water, rivers, and streams—but removes safeguards for many wetlands, intermittent streams, and groundwater.
E & E News reports that a group called Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, made up of current and former EPA scientific advisers, has filed a complaint calling for an investigation into the process leading to the new rule, charging that it was based more on politics than science. They claim that the final rule contradicts the overwhelming scientific consensus on the connectivity of wetlands and rivers and streams. They add that officials instructed staff not to submit comments for the record.
The new rule, which will be implemented in 60 days, is sure to be challenged in court by environmental groups and some state attorneys general. The outcome, if it makes it to the Supreme Court, is not certain. One environmental law expert told Politico that conservative justices on the Court may not like the way the Trump administration ignored both science and the experts it picked to advise the EPA.
The directors of the Colorado River Water Conservation District are revisiting a recommendation to ask voters to restore part of the district’s original mill levy.
River District General Manager Andy Mueller recommended at the district’s quarterly board meeting this week asking voters in the November 2020 election to raise the district’s property tax rate from a quarter-mill to a half-mill, taking its budget from roughly $4 million to $8 million.
That works out to 50 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
According to a memo from Mueller, the River District has taken steps over the last year to reduce expenses — which have climbed at a rate of 3% per year — such as putting a grant program on hold, instituting an early retirement program to reduce the number of full time employees and reducing its fleet of vehicles by two. These efforts, however, are not a long-term fix to what Mueller called a structural deficit.
Mueller’s recommendation seeks to remedy a dwindling general fund caused by the bane of many Colorado taxing districts: the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and Gallagher Amendment, which restrain the growth of government by placing limits on the amount of taxes allowed to be collected. The River District gets 97% of its revenue from property taxes.
“It’s not with lack of thought that I’m recommending this board consider asking the voters, appropriately under TABOR, to support a tax increase,” Mueller told River District directors. “We want to see that money going to partners on the West Slope and projects that span the scope of our water improvement needs.”
Some directors said they supported the measure, which was first publicly discussed at a February 2019 meeting.
“I think it’s obvious this is a necessary step forward,” said Karn Stiegelmeier, who represents Summit County.
Others agreed about the need to increase the River District’s revenue but expressed doubt a tax measure could pass in western Colorado’s more conservative counties, such as Mesa, Montrose and Delta, especially in a presidential election year with high turnout.
“I think we face a really difficult battle,” said Tom Alvey, who represents Delta County. “There are a number of tax-averse areas on the Western Slope.”
The River District was created by the state Legislature in 1937 to protect and develop water supplies in 15 Western Slope counties, including Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle. County commissioners appoint its directors to three-year terms. The Glenwood Springs-based organization works to shape Colorado water policy and advocates for keeping water on the Western Slope.
Even though the River District plays an important role in Colorado water planning, its financial might has lagged behind its political clout. A revenue increase would help remedy that, Mueller said.
“What we are trying to do is respond to the public’s concerns about (a secure water future) and be the leader at the table and not just with our skilled staff and political influence, but also with money,” he said.
But before the tax money can start rolling in, voters have to know what the River District is and what it does. To that end, staff has undertaken a rebranding of the River District to help voters connect what it does with its name. Staff has stepped up efforts with social media, a newsletter and video featuring Mueller and West Slope water users, and is also planning a series of webinars and workshops around the 15 counties.
“We are trying to help people realize there is an agency charged with protecting two-thirds of the West Slope and assist in the long-range planning for water supply and helping them realize while we may not touch their daily lives, how important that work is,” Mueller said.
In addition to Mueller, the River District employs attorneys, engineers, hydrologists, legislative lobbyists and communications specialists to protect the West Slope’s water interests.
Directors did not make a decision at this week’s meeting on whether to put the tax question on this year’s ballot. Instead, they agreed to continue to research the issue and discuss it with their constituents.
“I would need some time before I say yay or nay,” said Steve Acquafresca, who represents Mesa County. “I need some time to talk to people and consider the issue.”
Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of rivers and water. This story ran in the Jan. 24 edition of the Post-Independent, The Aspen Times and The Vail Daily.
On the surface, HB20-1072 [Concerning a requirement that the university of Colorado study potential uses of emerging technologies to more effectively manage Colorado’s water supply, and, in connection therewith, making an appropriation, conditioned on the receipt of matching funds from gifts, grants, and donations] appears basic, proposing the state match $40,000 in research funding for the University of Colorado and Colorado State University to study water management technology like remote sensors, cellular and satellite telemetry, areal observation, water resource forecasting and blockchain documentation.
Despite the relatively small dollar amount, the results from this study, said Evan Thomas, the director of the University of Colorado Boulder’s Mortenson Center and co-author of the bill, could create a better understanding of the entire state’s water portfolio and allow for more informed conversations about what can be done to preserve it.
“These technologies offer greater transparency, which can often lead to greater trust,” Thomas said. “Right now you just have a bunch of ditch riders, people you have to pay to go around and look at meters on people’s lands, and it’s expensive, it’s not done very often, the meters aren’t that good, and the farmers are suspicious. It’s adversarial.”
As a result, many water rights holders have strongly resisted any sort of change of use for fear of unintended consequences that could end up interrupting their supply.
Furthermore, because water rights can be reduced if the entire allotment is not put to beneficial use each year, Blake Cooper, Boulder County’s agricultural resource manager, said farmers use as much water as they can, when they can, because they don’t know if it will be there later in the season.
“But,” Thomas said, “if you have more objective and more regular measures of water use and availability, as well as forecasting, and if you could be paid to conserve water instead of being penalized for using less water, it starts to create market incentives that will facilitate relationships (among water users) and let us to be a lot smarter and proactive about making sure that water is available year-round and year over year.”
While these markets already exist, with more robust data on how much water a right holder is using, how much water is currently available, and how much is forecast for later in the season, Thomas said right holders could trade water “quarterly, monthly, or even weekly potentially,” with more certainty it will not effect their own supply later in the year.
Dan Lisco, a hay farmer in Boulder County, installed remote soil moisture monitors on his farm last year. Because he could see when soil moisture was high and wouldn’t absorb any more water, he was able to turn off his center pivot irrigation system for several days throughout the season.
Not only did Lisco say this allowed him to save a little water and nearly eliminate runoff, which can lead to nutrient pollution and soil erosion, but it also cut down on pumping and electricity costs, which helped cover the costs of the monitors.
According to Phytech, the company that makes soil moisture monitors deployed by Lisco, the monitors can reduce a farm’s water use by up to 40%.
With the new technology discussed in House Bill 1072, Lisco could have extrapolated how much less water he was using and how much water was forecast for the rest of the season, then sold off any excess water to another farmer or environmental group looking to keep more water in the river to improve recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat.
Most loud sounds heard around Fort Collins late at night are typically from partying college kids or trains — not wild animals.
This is not the case for Coloradans living in Moffat County, where Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials confirmed a wolf pack sighting Jan. 19, according to a Jan. 22 press release.
During the investigation of an animal carcass surrounded by wolf-like tracks, CPW officers attempted to locate the wolves and heard distinct howls in the area. The press release said they observed six wolves through binoculars about 2 miles away from the carcass.
“After watching them for about 20 minutes, the officers rode in to get a closer look,” said JT Romatzke, CPW northwest region manager, in the press release. “The wolves were gone, but they found plenty of large tracks in the area.”
Gray wolves have not inhabited Colorado since roughly the 1930s when, according to the CPW website, they were “systematically eradicated” through trapping, shooting and poisoning to keep them from killing livestock.
Initiative 107, which will be on the November 2020 state ballot, proposes the reintroduction of gray wolves onto designated lands west of the Continental Divide. The initiative would require a CPW commission to implement a plan to restore and manage gray wolves; prohibit the commission from imposing any land, water or resource restrictions on private landowners; and fairly compensate owners for losses of livestock caused by gray wolves.
“We’re pretty convinced that they’re at least making themselves somewhat at home in that spot,” CPW Public Informations Officer Rebecca Ferrell told FOX31 Denver.
The wolves were spotted in northwest Moffat County, which is about 300 miles away from Fort Collins. It is possible the wolves came from neighboring Wyoming or Utah, though CPW has not released any information on that matter.
Wolves are capable of traveling long distances, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, meaning they even could have traveled from a Montana or Idaho Wolf Recovery Area.
The press release said that while wolves remain federally protected, they are also under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The gray wolf is still considered an endangered species by FWS, and killing a wolf can result in federal charges.
CPW urges the public to immediately contact them if anyone sees or hears wolves or finds any evidence of wolf activity in Colorado. CPW’s website has a wolf sighting form that must be filled out on a computer and not a mobile device.
Serena Bettis can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @serenaroseb.
1. “WEco recognizes the presence of physical, economic, and cultural barriers that influence access to water education and lead to a lack of diverse representation and overall participation in the water sector.
2. WEco acknowledges a broad and diverse range of relationships and interdependencies of different people and cultures with water and the natural environment.
3. WEco will strive to be more effective by building a leadership team and network of partners that are represented of Colorado’s diverse population and which fosters an inclusive, safe, equitable and supportive environment, full of learning and sharing and free of harassment, prejudice, and discrimination.
4. WEco commits to responsible and ethical collection and use of data and information gathered for all projects.”
Here’s the release from American River (Chris Williams):
The Trump Administration [on January 23, 2020] announced the release of its Revised Definition of the Waters of the United States, a sweeping federal rule that drastically weakens the reach and authority of the Clean Water Act to protect the Nation’s rivers, small streams and wetlands.
In 2001 and 2006, two convoluted Supreme Court rulings created uncertainty about the extent of the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction. The Obama administration engaged in a lengthy rulemaking process to clarify the authority of the Act to protect small streams and wetlands that are so important to river health and contribute to the drinking water supplies of two in three Americans. Following years of painstaking scientific, economic and legal analysis, hundreds of public meetings, and a comment period that produced over a million comments, the “Clean Water Rule” was adopted in 2015, reaffirming the Act’s broad authority “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.”
The Trump administration’s rule replaces the Clean Water Rule, undermining protection of rivers, wetlands, and clean water. It uproots decades of regulatory practice and judicial precedent with little public input and virtually no scientific analysis. It is setting aside the findings of over 1,200 peer-reviewed studies, collected in EPA’s own Connectivity Report, that demonstrate the vital importance of small streams and wetlands to the water quality, flow, and overall ecological health of larger rivers downstream. The rule deals a crippling blow to the Act’s authority to protect wetlands, excluding more than half of the nation’s wetlands from the Clean Water Act’s reach, and eliminating protection for almost 20% of the nation’s rivers and streams.
Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers made the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s Revised Definition of the Waters of the United States:
“The Trump administration’s Dirty Water Rule is an affront to the health and safety of hundreds of millions of people across the country who depend on rivers and streams for clean water. It is reckless and capricious, reversing the Clean Water Rule which was firmly based on sound legal and scientific analyses, extensive fact-finding and stakeholder input, and broad popular support.
President Trump has frequently said he wants ‘crystal clean water.’ This rule will result in dirty water, plain and simple.”
An appeals court Thursday reopened a lawsuit stemming from a dispute over fishing in the Arkansas River near Cotopaxi.
The dispute is between a fly fisherman who likes to fish in a particular spot in the river and the owners of the adjacent land where they live.
It is near where Texas Creek flows into the river.
The fisherman, Roger Hill, 77, contends he has a right to fish at the spot because he thinks the riverbed belongs to the state of Colorado.
The owners of the adjacent property, Mark Everett Warsewa and Linda Joseph, contend they own the riverbed, up to the river’s center line, where it adjoins their property.
Hill, of Colorado Springs, alleged they used force on several occasions, starting in 2012, to chase him away from his favorite fishing spot.
The Pueblo Chieftain reported in 2018 that he sued, asking a judge to declare that part of the riverbed belongs to the state and is open to public use, “so he can again safely fish (there).”
Last year, Magistrate Judge Kathleen M. Tafoya of the U.S. District Court for Colorado ruled against Hill, concluding he did not have “standing” to sue. He then took his case to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
On Thursday, the Denver-based appeals court overturned Tafoya’s decision, saying she erred that Hill lacked standing of the particular type she cited…
The appeals court said in its 12-page decision that it may turn out that Hill does not have standing to sue, but not on the basis of a particular type of standing that Tafoya used in ruling against him.
Hill was represented by attorneys of an entity known as Lawyers for Colorado Stream Access.
The Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, based in Salida, and the Colorado Water Congress, based in Denver, joined the appeal as “friends of the court” in support of the land owners. Their missions include protecting Colorado water resources.
Elected officials and advocacy groups in Colorado responded to a change to a federal rule on water protections.
The previous rule, called “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, was established in 2015 by the Obama administration. That rule, however, was under intense scrutiny by Republicans, property rights groups, and several industries for what they perceived as federal regulatory overreach, citing it’s expansive interpretation.
That rule was repealed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Army in September.
The new rule, called the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, was announced on Thursday at a builders’ industry trade show in Las Vegas.
The Trump administration says the new rule will still protect navigable waters from pollution but also will provide regulatory relief and more certainty for development.
“EPA and the Army are providing much needed regulatory certainty and predictability for American farmers, landowners and businesses to support the economy and accelerate critical infrastructure projects,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement. “After decades of landowners relying on expensive attorneys to determine what water on their land may or may not fall under federal regulations, our new Navigable Waters Protection Rule strikes the proper balance between Washington and the states in managing land and water resources while protecting our nation’s navigable waters, and it does so within the authority Congress provided.”
The new rule creates four different categories for bodies of water to be federally regulated under the Clean Water Act, and excludes certain types of bodies of water such as ditches.
The new rule drew broad criticism from Colorado Democrats and environmental groups that work in the state.
“In Colorado, we value our clean water. Our rivers, streams, and lakes serve as the lifeblood of our communities and help support our thriving outdoor and agriculture industries,” Gov. Jared Polis said. “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., tweeted that the new rule “removes protections for smaller bodies of water & rolls back federal protections for smaller headwaters that have been protected for almost 50 years – including the Colorado River.”
Western Resource Advocates, an environmental advocacy group headquartered in Boulder, in a tweet urged state lawmakers “to stand w/ their communities & lead where the federal government won’t. We’re calling on our leaders throughout the West to come together & safeguard healthy rivers & clean water.”
Republicans and some industry groups praised the rule change for reducing regulations.
“The uncertain interpretation of the term ‘navigable waters’ created by WOTUS has left farmers, ranchers and private land owners unprotected from federal land and water grabs,” U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., said “Over the last three years, President Trump’s administration has worked to repeal unnecessary and burdensome regulations with updated versions that better suit the needs of our agricultural communities.”
Don Shawcroft, president of the Colorado Farm Bureau, which advocates for agricultural interests, said the new “rule provides clarity and stability for farmers and ranchers everywhere, ensuring that farmland remains healthy and productive, and our waters protected. It is a major win for Colorado agriculture.”
Both the Colorado Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business-Colorado supported the rule change.
In response to proposed PFAS regulations, cities and water managers are raising concerns over their financial liability
In the summer of 2018, Lucy Molina, a 45-year-old mother of two who lives in Commerce City near the Suncor oil refinery, said a city council member told her that her tap water was contaminated with toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, also known as PFAS. At the time, she said, she didn’t know what the chemicals were. It was just one more reason to not drink the water in the heavily industrial north Denver area…
The city’s water utility, South Adams County Water and Sanitation District, put out a news release in July 2018 saying the water was safe to drink because the PFAS concentrations fell below the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory limit of 70 parts per trillion. One part per trillion is about equal to one grain of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
But in the wake of growing public concern over PFAS, a group of chemicals used in a range of products, including firefighting foam, non-stick cooking wear and Gore-Tex waterproof outdoor gear, Colorado’s health agency is questioning whether that concentration limit is in fact safe.
“If I ask the state toxicologist and I ask experts in the field, they will never use terms like ‘safe’ with respect to PFAS,” said John Putnam, the director for environmental programs at the Department of Public Health and Environment. “Because we don’t really know, since there are limits to all these studies.”
New research has linked exposure to PFAS to health issues including cancer and immune, reproductive, and hormonal dysfunction. But the EPA’s advisory level, which is not enforceable, hasn’t changed since 2016 and seems unlikely to be revised any time in the near future. The Trump administration’s EPA has been rolling back water protections. And Congress has failed to pass comprehensive PFAS regulations, in part because Republicans, including those in Colorado’s delegation, have concerns about how much it will cost cities and water managers to comply. Compliance could include more frequent testing of water supplies costing thousands of dollars per week and upgrades to water treatment facilities that could cost millions of dollars.
That’s left Colorado in the unprecedented position of scrambling to set a drinking water standard — and then trying to enforce it. Putnam said this is a task the state doesn’t have the money or staff to handle yet. And any effort it takes to cut corners to hold polluters accountable or mandate cleanup could be challenged in court by cities, water managers and other groups concerned about their own financial liabilities…
But some residents in Colorado are tired of waiting. Since 2016, the state has known the toxic, mostly non-biodegradable “forever chemicals” have been found in Colorado’s drinking water supplies above the federal advisory limit. The chemicals have been found in groundwater within fire districts in Boulder County and near Front Range military bases, airports and other industrial sites that use PFAS-laced foam to extinguish fires. The cities of Security, Widefield and Fountain, which share a watershed with military bases and the Colorado Springs Airport, are ground zero for PFAS contamination in Colorado. A well at the Peterson Air Force Base tested at 88,000 parts per trillion for a PFAS compound. El Paso County, home to the three cities and four military sites — Air Force Academy, Fort Carson Army Base, Peterson Air Force Base and the Schriever Air Force Base — was selected by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry as the site to take blood samples from residents and study the health effects of PFAS. The chemicals are less likely to be found in high levels in water supplies in other areas of the state, but given the chemicals’ omnipresence in modern life, they’re likely found in nearly everyone’s blood…
In response to public demand and inaction at the federal level, Colorado’s health department is asking the state legislature for legal permission to write drinking water standards for PFAS and is working on separate rules that could hold water polluters accountable by setting a groundwater standard and new permit permit requirements for how much PFAS is allowed to be released into the water.
The bill also could require fire departments and facilities that use PFAS to inform the state how much they have stockpiled, and if used, require that the PFAS be captured and disposed of properly.
Separate from the bill authorizing the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to write drinking water standards, the health department’s Water Quality Control Commission has been working on a new PFAS policy that would allow the state to regulate the chemicals through updated groundwater rules. The regulations could also set new conditions on water pollution permits.
Denver is among the cities raising concerns about the proposed regulations. The city has fire departments that use PFAS chemicals and owns the Denver International Airport, which is required by Federal Aviation Administration to use PFAS in its firefighting foam for safety certifications, and it faces financial liability for any regulations adopted. In a written comment to the state’s PFAS Action Plan, a representative for Denver said the state could be legally liable if it moves too fast with PFAS regulations, citing Colorado’s Administrative Procedures Act.
To set such standards under the state’s Administrative Procedures Act and other laws, the state will have to study health research, exposure potentials, and the cost-effectiveness of requiring utilities to meet such guidelines. That will take time and money, Putnam said. In many ways, Putnam said, Colorado’s law was written to slow the pace of regulation…
In September, lawmakers approved $500,000 so that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment could subsidize drinking water testing and pay a third party to analyze the samples. As of Jan. 16, of the 891 water providers and private well owners the state notified, 132 have applied for funding to test their supplies. In the 2020-2021 state budget, the department is requesting $250,000 to hire two new toxicologists to help study PFAS exposure and another $500,000 to continue the drinking water testing program.
It’s unclear whether lawmakers will approve the additional money…
Some environmentalists and water utility managers say polluters should be paying the price for cleanup and monitoring. States like New York have sued companies like DuPont and 3M, which manufacture PFAS chemicals. Scott, of the South Adams County Water and Sanitation District, said the state should focus on identifying the source of the pollution “so the cost of having to do the treatment is not passed on to our customers.”
Scott said PFAS contamination in his district could be coming from any number of industrial sources in the area. Suncor, an oil refinery located along Sand Creek, has acknowledged it has released PFAS into the water. The facility uses firefighting foam to put out petroleum-based fires…
Commerce City resident [Lucy] Molina said people should at least be given more information about their water quality. She said many of the area’s residents, nearly half of whom are Latino, speak only Spanish. The latest water report is in English. And it doesn’t mention the cancer risks of PFAS exposure.
From the Republican River Water Conservation District (Deb Daniel) via The Yuma Pioneer:
The USDA recently published the 2018 Farm Bill Environmental Assessment. It states that the 2018 Farm Bill provides the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, the discretion to permit dryland agricultural uses on land enrolled under a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) agreement.
In Section 2.4 of the Draft Programmatic Environmental Assessment of the Conservation Reserve Program it states that the USDA has determined to not allow dryland agricultural uses of land while enrolled in CRP under a CREP agreement.
USDA also announced that the agency is once again accepting CREP applications. Well owners interested in applying for this conservation program should contact their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices. The sign-up deadline for CREP this year is September 30, 2020. The Republican River Water Conservation District also offers supplemental contracts to well owners who have a CREP contract with FSA. Annual payments received from FSA are dependent on which county the well is located in. The RRWCD pays different levels depending on the location of the well. In 2016, the Republican River Compact Administration (RRCA) approved the operation and accounting for the compact compliance pipeline and Colorado’s compliance efforts in the South Fork Republican River Basin.
This agreement also requires Colorado to voluntarily retire up to an additional 25,000 acres from irrigation in the South Fork Republican River Basin. Of that amount, Colorado must retire at least 10,000 acres by 2024 and the remaining 15,000 acres by December 31, 2029.
As part of this requirement, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado agreed upon a boundary of the South Fork Republican River drainage basin (shown as South Fork Focus Zone (SFFZ) in map). Wells located in the SFFZ are paid a higher annual payment by the RRWCD to encourage permanent retirement of acres in this area.
Anyone interested in applying for a CREP contract should contact your local FSA office or Deb Daniel, General Manager of the RRWCD at the RRWCD office (970) 332-3552, mobile (970) 630-3525 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Despite the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recently proposing several segments of Boulder County’s waterways as impaired, data collected by the Keep It Clean Partnership, which coordinates water quality monitoring for seven municipalities in Boulder County show the region’s water quality has remained relatively stable over the last five years.
“There were no notable issues with temperature, we saw significant decreases in levels of nitrogen and arsenic, E Coli levels remained stable, and we saw some increases in phosphorous but it remained below the state standard” Kevin Peterson, project coordinator of the Keep It Clean Partnership, said following the organization’s release of its 2018 Water Quality Report. “That’s a success, especially considering the population growth in the area.”
While Peterson refrained from directly citing a cause for this trend, he gave a nod to all the work the County and the various cities and towns have done to improve their handling of stormwater and treatment of wastewater, as well as to reduce nutrient pollution from agriculture.
The state’s decision to designate the section of Boulder Creek from 13th Street east to its confluence with South Boulder Creek as impaired, he said, was in large part the result of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment changing how it measures E Coli…
Meghan Wilson, a spokesperson for the City of Boulder, agreed.
“We’re aware that the methodology has changed in terms of designating stream segments as impaired,” she said. “My understanding is the condition has not changed, rather how they are designated has changed.”
While Peterson said ridding E Coli from a waterway is exceptionally difficult in urbanized areas, Cristina Ramirez, the Keep It Clean Partnership’s outreach specialist, noted there are several ways people can help reduce levels, including picking up dog waste, properly maintaining your home’s septic system, limit the amount of fertilizer applied to lawns and ensure irrigation systems aren’t overwatering and sending excess water into the gutter.
The specter of climate change underscores the importance of gauging how well Colorado’s mountains can wring moisture from those enigmatic flakes
As the world’s climate warms, forced by the buildup of man-made greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the key questions for the arid West will be how much snow falls on the region’s mountains and how much usable water it will yield.
“As climate changes, we need a more accurate understanding of the water in the snowpack,” said Deems, 46, who got hooked on studying snow as a University of Colorado undergraduate, in part because, as a backcountry skier, he was interested in avalanches. “So far it has been difficult to measure snowpack and get good information on how much water is going to come out of it.”
Snow is elusive. It comes in storms that mix and mingle with mountains and forest. Even after the storms leave, winds continue to move it around the landscape. “Pretty rapidly it becomes a difficult problem to simulate the snow accumulation process,” Deems said.
“Snow is close to its melting point, so it can change its character over a short distance or time,” he said. “It’s weird stuff.”
The big Earth system models (ESMs) used to plot global climate change have challenges simulating snow. Deems said he hopes the data generated from remote-sensing exercises, like the airborne observatory, will eventually “nudge the ESMs in the right direction.”
The airborne observatory is the result of a collaboration between the snow and ice data center, which is affiliated with NASA and CU Boulder. Deems has been with the project since it began in 2012.
Lidar – light detection and ranging radar – measures the snow-water equivalent and the mass spectrometer measures the albedo, the snowpack’s reflective capacity, an indicator of melting.
The airborne observatory is part of NASA’s larger SnowEx project, which aims to estimate how much water is stored in Earth’s snow-covered regions.
The snow-pit measurements were to help calibrate – “ground truthing” scientists call it – the remote sensing data from the airplane above.
Snow presents a water-gauging enigma
What scientists know from on-the-ground observation and model simulations is that in the last few decades, there has been less snow in the West, and it is likely there will be even less in the future.
In ascertaining what is going to happen to the region’s water, understanding snow is the most bedeviling element.
When it rains, it rains. But snow only comes when both the precipitation and temperature are just right. At warmer temperatures, the air holds more water and the snowfall is bigger, but a few degrees more and the snow turns to rain.
Since 1980, the area covered by snowpack has declined 20% in the low to middle elevations across the basins of the Colorado, Missouri and Columbia rivers, according to a study led by U.S. Geological Service (USGS) researcher Gregory Pederson. This contributed to low stream flows and a more active fire season.
A tree-ring paleo study by Pederson found that in the last 1,000 years, there were only two periods of sustained low snowpack that compared to current levels — from 1300 to 1330 and from 1511 to 1530.
But in each of those cases, there was a regional split, tied to forces such as the El Niño, the periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters, which led to drying in either the northern Rockies or the southern Rockies while the other area was wet. Now the dearth of snow stretches across the West.
“Over the past millennium, late 20th-century snowpack reductions are almost unprecedented in magnitude across the northern Rocky Mountains,” according to a research paper by the Pederson team.
An analysis by researchers at Oregon State University and the University of California, Los Angeles found that between 2005 and 2016, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and Cascades declined at 90% of the snow-monitoring sites with long records, with a third posting drops that were “significant.”
To see what the future may hold, a team led by John Abatzoglou, a University of Idaho geography professor, regionalized temperature and precipitation projections from 20 of the global ESMs and added data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Snow Telemetry System (SNOTEL).
There are about 730 SNOTEL sites across the West and Alaska. Each has a “snow pillow,” akin to a waterbed filled with antifreeze that measures the density of the snow and its water content.
In warmer areas, such as the Cascades, snowpack reductions of 35% to 70% were projected by mid-century, according to the Abatzoglou models. In the coldest locations, including the middle and southern Rockies, snowpack was seen declining 5% to 20%.
But the model also showed that in a few of the coldest, high-elevation stations, including some in Colorado, the impacts of warming would be offset by increased precipitation. Still, overall the loss of snow would lead to an 18% decline in the flow of the Upper Colorado River.
The added moisture in the air would lead to more of the snowpack coming from a handful of very heavy storms, while there would be fewer snowfalls over the snow season. That season will narrow to December through February.
The shoulder months of November and March, which have been in part of the snow season, will see a mix of rain and snow – except a few areas where snow will continue to dominate, such as central Colorado and the Unita and Bighorn ranges, according to the Abatzoglou analysis.
At “broad scales,” the models indicate a 30% decrease in areas across the West with temperatures favorable for snow, one Abatzoglou study calculated.
Still, figuring out what is going to happen in the mountains is tricky, Abatzoglou said in an interview. “We’ve under sampled our mountains. We don’t nearly have as good a record,” he said. “The models are coarse.”
“We’ve seen decreases in snowpack, but how is snow going to be moving forward?” he asked. One scenario sees years with large snowfalls and years with “snow droughts.”
Another University of Idaho study found that as temperatures increase, snow droughts will become six times more likely in the second half of the century.
“When water falls, it is so much more valuable when it falls over the mountains as snow,” Abatzoglou said. “It contributes substantially to ecosystems and regional water supplies.”
As the snowfall becomes more limited and variable, understanding the spatial patterns of the snowpack becomes all the more important. “Where are the refuges that will be able to hang on to snow?” Abatzoglou said. “If we get a little more on spatial estimates, we can get a better handle on water supply.”
Digging by hand for details
Getting a handle was precisely what Deems and Elder were doing with their avalanche shovels. There are four SNOTEL sites in the Blue River drainage of Lake Dillon, Denver Water’s largest reservoir. Deems and Elder were above those SNOTEL sites.
It turned out when the Airborne Snow Observatory scans were twinned with the on-the-ground measurements, more than half of the season’s inflow to Lake Dillon was in the upper reaches of the mountains, even after the SNOTEL sites had melted out.
There was an estimated 114,000 acre-feet of water above the SNOTEL sites, enough water to supply nearly 300,000 families of four for a year.
“Those SNOTEL sites don’t measure anything above 10,000 feet in our watershed,” Elder said. “We have a large area above that, and we don’t get good information on it.”
“Ninety percent of water management is dealing with the extremes, the wet years and the dry years, which are getting drier, that is where climate change plays havoc,” said Douglas Kenney, director of the Western Water Policy Program at the CU Law School…
The goal is a policy that is adaptive and flexible, Kaatz said, because there is no crystal ball with which to tell the future. “We are aware of the limitations of what climate science can tell us,” she said. “We just don’t know what is really going to happen. That’s why planning for a range of scenarios makes sense.”
There is one certainty, she said. “The future is going to be warmer, hotter. Climate change is appearing here and now, and it is not going away.”
The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers announced this past week that they will roll back much of the 2015 clean water regulations known collectively as Waters of the U.S.
Whether that’s good or bad depends, as usual, on who you are, but membership in a particular group doesn’t necessarily mean support or opposition is consistent. Most of agriculture seems to be happy, but some ag groups are suing to block the rule rollback…
On the other side of the coin are farmers, ranchers and livestock feeders, along with those who manage surface water in the western U.S., who hailed the rollback as a victory of reason and logic, and respect for states’ rights to manage natural resources within their borders.
Colorado Corn released a statement Thursday in which CCGA President Dave Cure, a Wray, Colo., corn grower, asserted again the claim that farmers are better stewards that they’re given credit for.
“Farmers rely on clean water to make a living and often go above and beyond regulatory requirements to be avid stewards of all their resources,” Cure said. “The new rule clarifies oversight on dry land that is sometimes wet, something the 2015 WOTUS rule did not. These and other improvements allow the kind of farming practices to protect the environment to continue and new ones to be implemented without confusion.”
The Fertilizer Institute also praised the rule rollback saying the new rules “ensure a future with both clean water and clear rules.”
Even in California, supposed bastion of socialist over-regulation, California Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson said this week’s release of the Navigable Waters Protection encourages farmers and ranchers.
“You won’t find a stronger ally than farmers and ranchers when it comes to protecting land and natural resources, because they depend on those resources to produce food and farm products,” Johansson said. “The new rule promises clear guidelines to help farmers maintain and improve water quality while retaining the flexibility they need to manage their land.”
Those who opposed the 2015 rules charged that the rules were unclear and, thus, overreaching. They claim that the regulations extend the EPA’s and the Army Corps’ regulatory reach over what is termed “navigable waters,” which ranchers, farmers and states argue gives the federal agencies’ unprecedented authority over drainage ditches and nearly anything else that can contain water. It was even supposed, among Logan County water experts, that Pawnee Creek, which runs water only once every few years, would be regulated under WOTUS.
The apparent intent of the rules was to clean up not just America’s major waterways, but also anything that feeds into them. After all, how can the Mississippi River be cleaned up if its tributaries are dumping millions of tons of pollution from upstream into it? Thus, the Big Muddy would best be protected by cleaning up the Missouri, the Platte, the South Platte, the Poudre, the Big Thompson and the Saint Vrain. That might make sense if there was no state oversight of surface water quality in Colorado. But there is. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – a state-sized version of the EPA – has stringent rules about water quality in Colorado, which is why all six municipalities in Logan County are spending millions of dollars to upgrade their water supplies and wastewater treatment systems.
Colorado also has decided that it was wasteful to have both the CDPHE and the Department of Agriculture setting regulations for water and air quality for agricultural producers, so CDPHE turned that regulation over to CDA. Federal oversight of the quality of surface water in Colorado would greatly complicate efforts by ag producers to make a living while still protecting the environment they depend on for that living.
That’s why, in 2015, Colorado’s Attorney General, Republican Cynthia Coffman, joined the attorneys general in 12 other states to sue to block WOTUS. North Dakota led the charge and was joined by Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming, as well as the New Mexico Environment Department and State Engineer. Notice that all but Missouri are western states whose water laws are modeled after Colorado’s Doctrine of Prior Appropriation. It is always a fear in the West that when the federal government gets involved in water regulations, DOPA, also known as the Colorado Doctrine because this is where it was born, will be usurped by federal regulations modeled along the riparian doctrine best known east of the Mississippi. More than a century of water law and interstate compacts could be thrown into turmoil as a result.
Not everyone in the West was unhappy with the 2015 rules, however. According to Pamela King, reporter for E&E News, the New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association sued the that EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers in October last year claiming that the government cannot revert to 1986 regulations governing which wetlands and waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. At that time there were 22 states in which the WOTUS rule was still in effect, and it was blocked in 27 other states.
The situation is fluid, so to speak, and a search of newspaper and webzine headlines on the subject shows anywhere from 12 to 18 states trying to block WOTUS and a fresh round of lawsuits shows states lining up to sue to keep the WOTUS regulations.
Through it all both supporters and opponents identify the push and pull by the president in office at the time. The 2015 regulations are called Obama rules, although they were adopted by supposedly autonomous and non-partisan bureaucrats at the EPA and Corps of Engineers; similarly, the repeal is laid at Donald Trump’s doorstep, although it was done by those same agencies after gaining input from myriad citizen organizations.
And Colorado still isn’t quite sure what it wants to do about WOTUS. In September the new attorney general, Democrat Phil Weiser, said that if he thought the EPA rollback went too far, he might take legal action. Attempts by the Journal-Advocate to find out whether that action has been taken yet hadn’t been fruitful by time of publication.
I understand the farmers and ranchers point of view. I don’t worry about them much, they know the pitfalls of modern chemicals used in Ag, strive to be responsible stewards of the land, and know that developed Ag land has an exemption under the 2015 rules. However, the states and the U.S. government needs to keep a tight grip on the extractive industries and irresponsible folks that locate in rural areas and don’t pay for their pollution.
Clean-water rules unveiled Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency could remove the vast majority of Arizona’s waterways from federal oversight, a change environmentalists call bad news in a region where water is “super precious.”
While farmers may save legal fees under the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule, the government likely will not.
“We’ll absolutely be fighting it in court,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, who said the new rule will be one of President Donald Trump’s “ugliest legacies.”
“This sickening gift to polluters will allow wetlands, streams and rivers across a vast stretch of America to be obliterated with pollution,” Hartl said in a prepared statement.
Critics said the impact will be particularly strong in states like Arizona, where a 2008 EPA study said 94% of the waterways are ephemeral and intermittent – exactly the sort of waterways that will be exempt from federal regulation under the new rule…
The change is the latest step in the Trump administration’s efforts to roll back the Waters of the United States rule enacted under President Barack Obama. The so-called WOTUS rule was a response to complaints by landowners that there was no clear definition of waterways that fell under the regulatory control of the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers…
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality declined comment on the new federal rule Thursday, except to say it is reviewing the proposal to “fully understand how it impacts Arizona waterways.” But, in anticipation of the new federal rule, the state has been working for some time on a Waters of Arizona definition that is aimed to fill gaps left by the federal approach and protect state waterways through a “local control approach.”
Wheeler said federal officials had states in mind when they created their new plan.
“Our new rule recognizes this relationship and strikes a proper balance between Washington, D.C., and the states, and clearly details which waters are subject to federal control under the Clean Water Act, and importantly, which waters fall solely under the state’s jurisdiction,” Wheeler said…
But Rep. Raul Grijalva tweeted that what he called the “#DirtyWaterRule endangers the drinking water for the millions of Arizonans and other Western residents who depend on the Colorado River.” Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, added that “clean water is a human right.”
The Center for Biological Diversity cited 75 endangered species that could be threatened by the change, with Hartl specifically noting the yellow-billed cuckoo and the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, both of which live near streams.
“People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies,” Hartl said.
The updated policy excludes some wetlands and all ephemeral streams — which only flow after a heavy rain or intense snowmelt.
They act as tributaries to rivers that millions of people across the southwest count on for drinking water and irrigation.
In Colorado, about 70 percent of all streams will be affected by the new rule. In New Mexico and Nevada, it’s upwards of 90 percent.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
Federal agencies on Thursday finalized a new clean-water rule that supporters including U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton say provides much-needed regulatory certainty.
But opponents, including the administration of Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, say it will result in the weakest protections since the passage of the Clean Water Act nearly a half a century ago…
Tipton said in a statement that the previous uncertainty “left farmers, ranchers and private land owners unprotected from federal land and water grabs.” He said the clarification provided by the new rule “will restore long-standing states’ water rights and greater certainty for the Coloradans whose livelihoods depend on availability of water.”
But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is criticizing the rollback, saying it could impact 70% of waters in the state…
“The EPA’s announcement today is alarming as it puts our precious waters at risk,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director, said in a CDPHE news release.
“In the absence of federal leadership, we are going to do everything possible to protect streams and wetlands in Colorado,” Patrick Pfaltzgraff, director of the Water Quality Control Division, said in the same release.
Polis released a statement saying in part, “Our administration will continue to reject attempts by the Trump administration to gut proven ways to protect our health and environment.”
Last April, the Polis administration and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser submitted joint comments on the rule proposal that was finalized this week. Their letter said that as with many western states, the large majority of Colorado’s stream miles are intermittent or ephemeral. The state said the proposal would shrink federal jurisdiction far below guidance issued in 2008 by the George W. Bush administration “to a smaller number of Colorado waters” than what presidential administrations have required since the Clean Water Act’s passage. While many ephemeral waters aren’t jurisdictional under the 2008 guidance, the new rule categorically excludes them from jurisdiction, “regardless of their connection to downstream waters,” the state wrote.
It wrote that the proposed rule “shifts the burden onto Colorado to protect federally excluded wetlands and waters, thereby saddling Colorado with the burden of protecting the quality of water received by nineteen states that receive Colorado waters.”
However, the Polis administration and Weiser, in the letter, supported the rule’s continued exclusion of prior converted cropland and its “recognition of the importance of upholding state sovereignty to administer and allocate water.”
The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced the shift, which significantly narrows what waters can be defined as “navigable,” and thus subject to federal rules. It also lifts federal oversight for most groundwater, many wetlands and some streams, passing those smaller water sources to state and local control.
At a news conference Thursday in Colorado Springs, Mayor John Suthers, Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn and EPA bosses praised the new rule, saying it will be bring clarity and certainty to businesses and farmers.
Bill McKibben first wrote about the changing climate more than 30 years ago, and he continues to document global warming and speak out against the largest culprits. Most recently, he was arrested while protesting Chase Bank’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry.
McKibben will be in Aspen this weekend, learning to downhill ski and speaking as part of Aspen Skiing Company’s occasional speaker series Aspen U. Elizabeth Stewart-Severy talked on the phone with McKibben from his home in Vermont.
You’re coming to Aspen to talk about climate change — but also to learn to ski. Under most projections, the ski industry is looking to suffer pretty badly from climate change. Why do you want to learn to ski now?
It must be said that I actually ski a lot. I’m a die-hard cross-country skier and just came in from a ski through our woods here in Vermont. But I am eager to get to Aspen and get up — I don’t know if I’ll be able to ski down the mountain, but I am eager to ride the chairlift up and just take a look at all the beautiful mountains from up top.
As for skiing, it could be one of the, I guess, less important but more painful casualties of the climate-warming era. Already, the number of days on average that winter lasts is shrinking. Already, in the West there is considerably less snow on average than there used to be. We’re starting to watch a whole season that’s helped define the psychology of people at our latitude for eons; we’re watching it begin to disappear.
The ski and outdoor industries want to move the needle on climate change and bring action on climate change. Here, locally, Aspen Skiing Company is focused on national lobbying efforts rather than emphasizing their efforts to reduce emissions from local operations. The company gets criticism for this and for hosting events like X-Games, which are taking place this weekend and have a large carbon footprint. Is that fair criticism?
I think actually at this point, the changes that we need to make are so large that probably the best leverage does come from trying to work on national and international policies.
I’m coming to Aspen mostly because, frankly, it’s where lots and lots of people in the financial industry come to play, and the financial industry — the biggest banks and asset managers in the world — are increasingly the focus of efforts to try and slow down climate change.
I think perhaps Larry Fink, from BlackRock, the single biggest financial company in the world, is a sometime-Aspenite. And you probably saw the fairly remarkable news that after unrelenting pressure from activists, BlackRock is now stepping up its efforts to at least begin doing something about climate change. We need a lot more of that.
So, for me, the fact that there are people in Aspen who need to understand the effects of their businesses on the one planet that we’ve got is the most significant draw.
So, are you coming to Aspen hoping to reach some of the super-wealthy people who come here on vacation, or with second- and third-homes or live here?
If I’m not able to reach them, then I’ll settle for reaching the people who take them for ski lessons and give them yoga classes and hope that it all begins to trickle down somehow to these guys, because we really — we’re out of time.
I was arrested in the lobby of a Chase Bank in Washington, D.C., the one nearest the Capitol — I wrote about it in The (New York) Times. We’re launching this big, big campaign to get players like Chase and the big insurance companies and the big asset managers — BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, Citibank, Wells Fargo, BofA (Bank of America) — to get them to do the right thing, because right now they’re doing the wrong thing and doing it with incredible effect. Just like the fossil-fuel companies, the big financial firms are now carbon majors. Their money is driving the destruction of the planet.
I think it’s less seismic in the short-term details of the policies they announced, which are not all that far-reaching. They’re mostly talking about coal, not gas and oil, at this point.
The part that, when I wrote in The New Yorker, was seismic about it was simply that the institution with, by far the most money in the world, is now saying that they’re deeply unsettled about the financial future of the fossil-fuel industry. And so, as a result, everyone else will be unsettled about that future, too, and it’ll make it more expensive for these firms, these fossil-fuel companies, to raise capital, harder to find the people to back their insane ventures like new pipelines or going off to drill in the Arctic or whatever it is. And that’ll help. It’ll help. We don’t know exactly how much it will help, but it will definitely help some.
One of the reasons that we’re really going after the financial community is because they could move fast. Our political systems, you may have noticed, tend to move rather slowly, and that’s partly because of the enormous influence of the fossil-fuel industry on our political systems. But the financial industry can, when pressured, move quickly. And when it moves, it moves globally, which is an asset here, too, because they don’t call it global warming for nothing.
I want to come back to individual accountability. The young face of climate activism right now, Greta Thunberg, has really taken individual accountability to a whole new level. She refuses to fly as she lobbies for action on climate change.
I know her and like her and work hard with her, (and) she said this fall that the point of what she was doing was not to tell people that they should never fly. The point of doing it was to point out how hard it is to travel sustainably in the world now, and that’s a really effective and powerful and important thing to do.
What is the role of individuals in thinking about climate?
Well, I mean, look, we all know the things that we should be doing, and I hope people are — from eating lower in the food chain to lowering their carbon footprint in all kinds of ways. And if we had gotten started on all this when we should have, then those things might well have been enough.
I wrote the first book on climate change 31 years ago. One of the things I have to restrain myself from doing from time to time is saying, “Oh, if only you listened to me when.” Because 30 years ago, fairly modest changes would have added up over time to a real significant change at this point.
But not only didn’t we start changing, thanks to the fossil-fuel industry and their incredible disinformation campaign, we doubled down. We accelerated precisely in the direction we were moving. We’ve emitted more carbon since that first book came out than in all of human history before.
So now we’re at the point where the only way to make this math square is with real changes in the political and economic ground rules. That’s why things like the Green New Deal are so important. That’s why getting really systemic change out of Chase Bank or BlackRock is so important. So, along with the things that individuals need to be doing in their lives, really the most important things individuals can do is be a little less individual and join together with others in movements large enough to change those ground rules. That’s why we started things like 350.org or this new coalition at stopthemoneypipeline.com. We’re going to figure out lots of ways to aggregate that pressure and perhaps have it add up to enough pressure in a short enough period of time to help us catch up with physics.
You were recently arrested — the same day as actors Martin Sheen and Joaquin Phoenix — as you occupied a branch of Chase Bank to protest the bank’s ties to the fossil-fuel industry. Can you describe a little bit of what it’s like to be arrested for this?
Well, it’s never fun to be arrested, and that’s good. I mean, it should never be a kind of casual thing, because in a working society, one wants to do what the law says and so on. And it’s also disruptive to go into someone’s place of business and say, “We’re going to sit here for a while.” We obviously had no beef with the people working in the bank and told them so, and they were very receptive and kind to us.
But we needed to try and send a message that it’s not all right what Chase Bank is doing. They’re the biggest lender in the world to the fossil-fuel industry by a large margin. Since the Paris Climate Accords were signed, they’ve lent 29% more to the fossil-fuel industry than any bank on the planet. They’ve lent $196 billion.
They’re by far the biggest banker of the most-expansionary projects, all the new pipelines and deep-sea drilling and so on. Sooner or later, there has to be, I guess, a little impoliteness along the way. We tried hard not to be rude, but we stayed and, after a couple of hours, were taken away to the jail in the District of Columbia and spent eight or nine hours there and were released for trial in March.
Yes. That’s why I wanted to join in that — I mean partly just because I was sickened by all the endless pictures of children in cages, but I think people need to understand the deep connection between climate change and immigration.
As we make it too hot for people to farm in the places where they or their families have farmed for generation upon generation, they’re going to have no choice but to move. Some of that migration is going to be internal, but a lot of it’s going to have to be external. We think now that perhaps the biggest driver of immigration out of Honduras and Guatemala over the last few years has been a really dramatic drought there that’s made it almost impossible for small farmers to grow crops.
This is just the beginning. I mean, we’ve seen about a million people show up on our southern border, but the United Nations estimates that we could see, in the course of this century, a billion climate refugees. So we’re going to have to come up with some system other than walls and cages to deal with this, especially since the people who are becoming climate refugees, almost entirely, it’s not their fault. It’s not like anybody in Honduras or Guatemala or wherever — Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands — it’s not like they burned very much coal or gas or oil. I mean, that was us.
Aspen Journalism collaborates with Aspen Public Radio and The Aspen Times on coverage of the environment. A segment of this interview aired on APR on Jan. 23, and an excerpt ran in the Jan. 23 edition of The Aspen Times.
From the Colorado Conservation Tillage Association via The High Plains Journal:
Twenty-six sessions at the High Plains No-Till Conference in Burlington, Colorado, have been approved for certified crop adviser credits. Eight of those sessions will also offer continuing education credits for licensed qualified supervisors, certified operators, and private applicators.
Scheduled for Feb. 4 to 5, the event will take place at the Burlington Community and Education Center. In addition to a trade show and outdoor equipment display, breakout sessions will be presented on an assortment of subjects, including soil health, regenerative grazing, farm profitability, specialty crops and technology. Farmers will also share their firsthand experience with composting, no-till and other conservation methods on producer panels dedicated to grazing cover crops and finding niche and direct markets.
The crop adviser credits approved for the event include four in Nutrient Management, four in Soil and Water Management, one in Integrated Pest Management, 10 in Crop Management, six in Professional Development, and one in Precision Ag.
In addition, continuing education credits will be available in the categories of Environmental Protection, Use of Pesticides, Agriculture Insect Control, Agriculture Weed Control and Stored Commodities Treatment
A full schedule and more information about the High Plains No-Till Conference can be found at http://www.HighPlainsNoTill.com. Online registration is available through Jan. 31, and walk-ins are welcome for the event. The $180 registration fee includes lunches, snacks, and access to all sessions, the trade show, and the Beer and Bull Social on Day 1.
Additional questions may be directed to Joni Mitchek at 833-466-8455 or email@example.com.
Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
Demand Management – a Hot Topic!!
There was an in-depth conversation around the Demand Management topic!
Celene Hawkins stated that the Demand Management workgroups are just at the beginning stages of work and there are still many questions. There is a greater need for coordination and keeping a steady pace of the work, while not moving too quickly so as to not miss things, as these are very complicated issues and need to take that time that is needed to do the work. There will be a joint IBCC and Demand Management work-group meetings that will take place March 4-5 where discussion could take place about that better coordination and how the CWCB can support the work-groups moving forward.
Russell George stated that the IBCC is not a work-group in Demand Management, they intentionally stand aside because they wanted to be ready as the IBCC to pick any particularly thorny question with the statewide implication that needed their help. The IBCC believes that at this point in time, and because of what’s going on with the river as a whole and the water levels of the big reservoirs, Demand Management becomes probably one of the most important issues for discussion on Colorado water issues that there is today. George explained that we owe it to the other Upper Basin states who are going through this drill, to work together to find an approach that works in all four states or to learn together that Demand Management can’t be done. Whatever conclusion is reached, it needs to be based on open and careful consideration of Demand Management as a tool that is being evaluated, as called for in the Drought Contingency Plans and Legislation.
From Weather5280.com (Becky Bollinger). Click through for additional maps and the interactive map from Becky:
We’re almost one month into 2020, and this is an exciting time for climatologists. Upon the completion of this year, calculations will begin to update the climatological normals. Wondering what those are? Well, any time you hear your local meteorologist mention the average for the day, or see headlines like “temperatures much above average” or “expect drier than average conditions,” that average is based on climatology that has been calculated, using the most recent 3 decades, by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
Our averages are currently based off temperatures and precipitation observed 1981-2010. After the end of this year, the new averages (or normals) will be for the period 1991-2020 (basically we’re dropping the 1980s and adding the 20-teens). Why update the normals? Well, whether you think climate change is human caused or not, we all agree that the climate is variable. It’s important to make sure that we’re accurately representing the current climate when talking about what’s “normal.”
If weather conditions were truly random and the variability around the average never changed, we could assume to experience an equal number of above average or below average conditions. Like flipping a coin, we’d expect, with enough coin tosses, we’d have an equal number of heads and tails. Have we experienced the same number of above average temperatures vs. below average temperatures? Take a look at the map below (number of above average months vs. below average months for the 1991-2019 period) to see that, simply, the answer is no. If the data were truly randomly distributed, we’d see mostly white on this map (i.e. the ratio between above average and below average conditions would be 1 to 1). Overwhelmingly, most of the counties show a ratio greater than 1.
Areas in blue would indicate that we see a greater number of cooler than average months compared to warmer than average months. Notably, there is only one county, in Iowa, that comes up blue. And only a small handful of counties in the upper Midwest that are near 1.
Warmer colors indicate more warmer than average months have occurred. Areas in orange show counties that have observed 33-66% more warmer than average months than colder than average months (i.e. for every 3 colder than average months, you could expect 4-5 warmer than average months). Most of the southwestern counties are orange. A handful of counties – located in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida – have a number higher than 1.66.
So, comparing to the 1981-2010 normals, we see that for most of the country there have been a higher number of warmer than average months from 1991 to 2019. Does this mean we’ll see higher averages when the 1991-2020 normals are calculated? Let’s see what things look like when we break it down by month.
For each month, I’m estimating what the new average might be by calculating the mean of the observations for 1991-2019 (caveat: obviously we still have one year to go, and also NCEI does additional calculations to smooth data, remove biases, add/remove stations, etc. Meaning, what I’ve estimated here is not necessarily going to match exactly what the new normal becomes). Some very interesting patterns emerge:
In the cold season months, monthly averages through much of the upper Midwest will be cooler than the current average. In fact, from January – August, there is very little warming observed between the two averaging periods for a lot of the central to northern plains. It’s speculated that this is linked to agricultural and irrigation practices throughout the region (wetter soils will prevent the air above it from warming as much).
For the southeast, we can expect to see cooler averages estimated in the month of November. This is possibly driven by a significant increase in fall precipitation over the southeast.
Widespread warmer averages can be expected across the U.S. during September and December. While the warming looks more extreme for December, the difference there is largely due to dropping a couple of extreme cold months in the 1980s. For September, there is quite a significant and consistent amount of warming occurring, especially in low temperatures.
August is the month where we would expect the least changes for much of the country. This makes sense if you consider that August is the warmest month for much of the northern hemisphere, so there’s “less room to grow” so to speak.
Agritourism is becoming more and more popular as a secondary (or even a primary) revenue stream for all sorts of producers and growers. There are a number of agritourism enterprises on the Western Slope, including Orchard Valley Farm, The Living Farm, Covered Bridge Ranch, Mr. B’s, Prock Elk Ranch, Bray Ranches, and others…
Tri-River Area Agritourism Series – Growers and producers are invited to attend this 4 part series from 6-8pm at the Delta County Courthouse Room #234 each Wednesday night beginning January 29, 2020. The Tri River Area Agritourism Workshop Series will cover topics including, Legalities and Insurance, Marketing and Advertising, Special Events, and Partnership Building and Craft 101 Applications. The workshop series features industry leading speakers from Colorado Agritourism Association, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Colorado State University, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and more. Registration includes dinner at each session, attend all four sessions for $50 or $15 per session.
Questions? Contact Kelsi Seymour at firstname.lastname@example.org
The series will cover a number of critical topics presented by industry leaders from the Colorado Agritourism Association, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and others.
Key topics to be covered include Legalities and Insurance, Marketing and Advertising, Special Events, and Partnership Building and CRAFT Program.
The Jan. 29 evening will be the Legalities and Insurance forum led by Corry Mihm, executive director, Colorado Agritourism Association and Joshua Applegate of Farmers Insurance.
The Marketing and Advertising workshop will be on Feb. 5 with the speakers Wendy Lee White, marketing specialist, Colorado Department of Agriculture, Markets Division and Kelli Hepler, Delta County Agritourism, VP of the Colorado Agritourism Association Board.
Lynn Gillespie, of The Living Farm, Susie Kaldis-Lowe, executive director NFV Creative Coalition, and Andrea Earley Coen, executive director, Guidestone Colorado will lead the Special Events workshop on Feb. 12.
The last session, on Feb. 19 will be on Partnership Building and the CRAFT program. The presenter will be Dawn Thilmany, associate director, Community and Economic Development, professor of Ag and Resource Economics at Colorado State University; Harrison Topp, director of membership, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.
“The Trump Administration’s new water rule makes it a lot easier to pave America’s critical wetlands and put up parking lots,” said David Yarnold, president and CEO, National Audubon Society (@david_yarnold) after the Administration announced the finalization of its rollbacks to the Clean Water Act. “Wetlands are not only important places for birds, they also are natural buffers that absorb flood waters and purify water for us all.”
The newly published, Navigable Waters Protection Rule, removes Clean Water Act protections for many rivers, streams, and wetlands that could allow them to be altered, degraded or filled. For example, a large number of streams and wetlands that are only wet for part of the year are now exempt from Clean Water Act protections. Some 138 species and subspecies of birds in the U.S. are designated as “wetland dependent” and many more are threatened by the new rule.
“This disintegration of Clean Water Act protections further threatens birds by putting critical habitat at risk of pollution and destruction of habitat,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, vice president for water policy at the National Audubon Society. “We’ve already lost 3 billion birds in the past 50 years and we know that two-thirds of North American bird species are at risk of extinction from climate change.”
Birds use lakes, tributaries, streams, ponds, wetlands, prairie potholes, and other water bodies for breeding, nesting, and raising young. These water bodies provide crucial sources of drinking water and food, stop-over locations during migration and needed shelter for birds as they seek protection from predators and harsh weather.
The rule will adversely impact birds in the arid southwest, in the Great Lakes to the north, in the Everglades to the south, and in the Delaware River basin to the east. The Clean Water Act is one of our most powerful environmental laws. The final rule undermines the science-based definition of “Waters of the United States” and is another example of this Administration passing laws and policies that are bad for birds and people.
Local groups call for plugging of discharging mines
Todd Hennis, owner of the Gold King Mine, is not happy about the proposed Superfund cleanup around Silverton, saying the suggestion to plug more mines only redistributes potentially toxic water and doesn’t solve the problem…
In December, two community groups formed to help guide the Superfund process – the Citizens Advisory Group and the Silverton-San Juan County Planning Group – submitted letters to the EPA with a similar recommendation.
The main message: focus on the sites – namely the Gold King, American Tunnel, Mogul and Red & Bonita – which are contributing the most amount of contaminated metals into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.
According to data from the now-defunct Animas River Stakeholders Group, almost half of all metal loading from the 120 draining mines sampled around Silverton comes from these four sources.
And the suggested solution? Place more bulkheads.
“While currently the (Bonita Peak) enjoys high-priority status as a Superfund site, the (community group) is quite concerned its priority could change in the future,” the CAG wrote. “… Bulkheads can be funded with manageable, annual budgeting, unlike a large water treatment facility, which may need a big financial infusion all at once.”
Hennis, for his part, has long maintained that the original bulkheads placed on the American Tunnel caused his mines to start to discharge mine wastewater. Sunnyside Gold has adamantly denied the Sunnyside Mine is connected geologically to Hennis’ mines.
Regardless, Hennis said he was “shocked and appalled” to learn the community groups were in favor of more bulkheads as a main treatment option.
“Bulkheading doesn’t work,” Hennis wrote. “It appears all they accomplished in the long term was to re-distribute acid mine water flows elsewhere, and in the same volume as the original problem.”
Hennis says that if the Gold King and Red & Bonita are plugged, it could shift water back into the American Tunnel, where bulkheads there could be overwhelmed.
“Rolling the dice on a potential catastrophic failure of the American Tunnel bulkheads makes no sense whatsoever,” he said. “If a release of 3 million gallons of mine water from the Gold King raised absolute havoc downstream, a potential release of billions of gallons from the Sunnyside Mine Pool would have unthinkable consequences.”
Hennis instead said the only long-term solution would be to drain the Sunnyside Mine pool, treat the water and shut off spots where water gets into the Sunnyside Mine network.
But this could be costly.
Richard Mylott, spokesman for EPA, said the agency is working to understand the impacts that bulkheading would have on water quality and water levels within the Cement Creek area…
Mylott said EPA has installed several wells to monitor the groundwater system when it tests the closure of the Red & Bonita.
Since 2007, Parks and Wildlife has conducted a biennial fishery survey of the reach with assistance from Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service and the Colorado Water Quality Control Division. After evaluating the latest survey, Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist Jon Ewert found “an obvious and significant decline occurring in this fishery.”
That conclusion is based on the steady drop in total biomass of surveyed fish collected during each survey since 2011. The 2011 estimated trout biomass was 228 pounds per surface acre. Since then, the figure has dropped by more than 50%.
“The 2019 survey yielded the lowest estimate to date, which is less than half of the peak values observed in 2009 and 2011,” the report said. “The consistency and repeated observations of this downward trend over a period of several years makes it a virtual certainty that this is not an artifact of sampling error.”
The survey was conducted on a 581-foot stretch of the Blue River, named the Fourmile Bridge reach, that is 2.7 miles upstream of the Dillon Reservoir…
While the report does not make any conclusion as to what might be causing the decline, it does urge action and study to discover the root causes for the fishery depletion and address them to improve the health of aquatic wildlife in the Blue River…
Ewert said the report is meant to jumpstart that investigation.
“The purpose of the report is to highlight the fact that there’s this situation developing where we can observe a steady decline in fish,” Ewert said Wednesday. “It means to say, ‘Let’s come together and figure out how to improve the situation.’”
Though no cause has been established, the report does speculate as to the possibility that the stretch’s habitat has changed so that it no longer supports a high density of fish. That could include contamination from abandoned mine runoff, obstructions in the water placed by humans or other disruption caused by human activity.
Richard Van Gytenbeek, Colorado River Basin outreach coordinator for freshwater habitat conservation nonprofit Trout Unlimited, said that areas worth exploring include the health of the aquatic food chain, which starts with algae.
“Aquatic invertebrates need algae to graze on, they are really dependent on that food source,” Van Gytenbeek said. “You need more phosphorus and nitrogen in the water to get the algae. Without that, you don’t have the bugs fish feed on, which puts that population under stress, as well.”
The other area Van Gytenbeek believes is worth exploring is the characteristics of the current fish population.
“If you have a bad spawn year, and not many fish go upstream to spawn, you’re going to have very low numbers in that year’s class,” Van Gytenbeek said. “Two, three, four years down the road, when that year’s class of fish get sexually active, there’s not as many spawning.”
Van Gytenbeek also suggested that high elevation environments might have a part to play, with lower water temperatures than at sea level.
Ewert pointed out in the report that despite the decline, the surveyed stretch of river is still a healthy fishery.
Here’s the release from Northern Arizona University (Heidi Toth):
Where does the water in the Grand Canyon come from?
We all know the Colorado River, but it’s not the most mysterious water resource in the Grand Canyon; we know it moves through at a rate of about 12,000 cubic feet per second as it travels from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. But Roaring Springs, Grand Canyon National Park’s only water source, is a bigger mystery—one NAU researcher Natalie Jones hopes to have a hand in solving.
Jones, an NAU research technician and graduate student contracted by the Grand Canyon Physical Sciences program, asked where the water in Roaring Springs comes from in research she did with School of Earth and Sustainability professor Abe Springer. It’s building on previous research for both of them. They published their findings in November in Hydrogeology Journal, with Jones as the lead author and in collaboration with researchers at the Grand Canyon National Park, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and the Kentucky Geological Survey at the University of Kentucky.
So, where does the water come from? It’s complicated. But this research helps to pinpoint the region feeding the springs and, importantly, the risk of contamination in that region. It takes researchers one step closer to understanding how to protect this vital resource.
Jones and her co-authors set out to investigate how to create a better way to model karst-aquifer vulnerability in the Grand Canyon. Having a model that more accurately predicts different variables in the geology and water behavior in the park will benefit future researchers and water managers as they consider individual recharge areas and how best to protect them.
What is karst and why does it matter?
Did you know water can sometimes dissolve rock? Karst is a type of rocky feature such as a cave or sinkhole that forms in dissolvable rocks. Karst creates pathways that can carry water quickly from the land surface directly to underground aquifers. Karst landscapes cover about 16 percent of the Earth’s land surface, including most of the Colorado Plateau around Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. It’s an important geologic feature that most of us have never heard of.
Karst aquifers, which have a pipe-like flow network of caves and conduits, directly supply up to 25 percent of the world population with water for drinking, agriculture and other needs and they are uniquely vulnerable to contamination. Two such aquifers, the Redwall and Coconino aquifers, supply water to Roaring Springs and many other Grand Canyon springs. The two aquifers are stacked on top of each other. While there are many types of vulnerability models, most ignore the complication of layered karst aquifer systems; this results in oversimplified, less accurate modeling.
“Vulnerability models identify regions of high, moderate and low vulnerability on the land surface, which directly relates to how quickly and efficiently water or contaminants would sink and enter the aquifer,” Jones said. “However, existing well-regarded vulnerability modeling methods for karst aquifers did not produce realistic results for our region.”
How does the modeling work?
Jones modified the well-known concentration-overburden-precipitation method (COP). This method is effective, the researchers say, but it oversimplifies some details, which limits the model. She presented two new models that better address the factors that help scientists predict vulnerability.
The modifications more accurately account for recharge patterns in the Grand Canyon region, which has many karst features and a deep, complex aquifer system. Jones and the research team automated a process to identify sinkholes from high-resolution topography data, converted those data into sinkhole densities, and combined those data with a map of fault locations in the region. Jones then incorporated these features into the existing model using a geographic information system to produce the final vulnerability model.
It meant significant data processing, but the result was a model that produced greater resolution of vulnerability regions and fit well with previous groundwater flow path analyses. In addition to creating a better model on which future research can build, Jones found similar patterns in vulnerability between the two karst aquifers in the Grand Canyon region, despite them being separated by more than 600 meters of impermeable rock.
Jones also learned that about a fifth of the Kaibab Plateau has high vulnerability to contamination of the Redwall-Muav aquifer, which is about 1,000 meters deep, and almost half of the plateau surface (45.6 percent) has high to very high vulnerability for the Coconino aquifer, which is much closer to the surface.
What does this mean for me?
If you’ve stopped to fill your water bottle while you’re hiking the Grand Canyon or admiring the views on the canyon rim, this matters to you. Since the Roaring Springs is the only source of water in the park, its quality has significant value. This research provides better information to water managers to protect the Grand Canyon’s water resources, including creeks on the north side, which researchers think are recharged by the Kaibab Plateau.
“These springs and streams support diverse ecosystems, and many hikers and wildlife rely on them for survival,” Jones said. “This research helps narrow down where these water sources are coming from and could help us better protect them in the future.”
Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor:
US Drought Monitor January 21, 2020.
West Drought Monitor January 21, 2020.
Colorado Drought Monitor January 21, 2020.
Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:
This Week’s Drought Summary
Pacific weather systems migrated across the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) in a fairly westerly jet stream flow during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. East of the Rockies, they tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture and dropped above-normal precipitation in a storm track that stretched from Texas to the Great Lakes. The jet stream flow amplified as the week progressed, producing a strong trough over the eastern CONUS with a ridge migrating across the West into the central CONUS. Cold arctic air was directed by the trough into the East behind surface frontal low pressure systems. The Pacific fronts dropped precipitation along the coastal ranges, but the air masses quickly dried out as they crossed the interior West, resulting in below-normal precipitation from the High Plains west to the coastal ranges. The Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts were mostly drier than normal. Weekly temperatures were warmer than normal from Texas to the Mid-Atlantic, and colder than normal along the West Coast and northern to central Plains. Drought and abnormal dryness expanded across parts of the West, southern Plains and Gulf Coast, and Mid-Atlantic coast, but contracted in parts of the northern Rockies and southern to central Plains, as well as Hawaii and the Alaska panhandle…
Half an inch or more of precipitation fell across parts of the eastern Dakotas and eastern Kansas, with less than half an inch westward. Very little to no precipitation occurred across large parts of the western High Plains from Colorado to the Dakotas. D0 was trimmed in parts of southern Nebraska and adjacent Kansas. But D0 expanded in northeast Colorado into adjacent Nebraska, and a spot of D0 was added in north central Wyoming. Dry conditions were evident in northeast Colorado in many indices, especially SPI, SPEI, soil moisture, and groundwater indicators, and most notably at the 4-month time scale. Temperatures have been warmer than normal in this area, December was drier than normal, and very little precipitation has fallen in January. An area to watch is southeast Colorado, where reports note that winter wheat is suffering and soils are very dry, and evaporative demand (as measured by the EDDI [Evaporative Drought Demand Index]) is high, indicating the occurrence of warm temperatures, low humidity, and higher winds…
The Pacific weather systems have brought precipitation to coastal Oregon, Washington, and northern California this week, with 2 to locally over 5 inches measured in favored upslope areas. But this is the wet season and precipitation normals are high, so only a few parts of southwest Oregon, northwest California, and northwest Washington were wetter than normal for the week. The rain soaks the coastal soils and makes it wet in the short term, but the bigger hydrological picture is dry. Precipitation in the Pacific Northwest is below to much below normal for the water year to date (beginning October 1, 2019), and mountain snowpack is below normal in many areas. The Pacific fronts move quickly across the region, drying out as they cross the coastal ranges and leaving below-normal precipitation in interior Washington and Oregon. Streams are near to above normal along the coast, but below normal east of the coastal ranges. Other indicators reveal dryness east of the coastal ranges, including soil moisture, SPI, and SPEI, especially for the 1 to 9 month time scales. As a result, the 3 D1 areas in interior Washington and Oregon were joined, and D0 expanded in northeast Washington. D0-D1 expanded in southeast Idaho and D0 expanded in southwest Montana, where 3-month precipitation deficits were notable. But above-normal precipitation over the last 30 days prompted contraction of D0 in the Idaho panhandle and adjacent Montana, and in parts of eastern Idaho. The impacts indicator in the Pacific Northwest was changed from S to SL to indicate both short-term and long-term precipitation deficits…
Bands of 2+ inch precipitation occurred across parts of Texas into central Oklahoma, and from eastern Texas into Mississippi, with some reports exceeding 5 inches. Half an inch or more of precipitation surrounded these areas across the region. But some areas had less than half an inch, including parts of western, southern, and east-central Texas, western Oklahoma, southeast Louisiana, and parts of Arkansas. For the dry areas, this week’s subnormal precipitation added to deficits stretching back 6 months or more. For the areas that were wet this week, the precipitation helped with short-term deficits, but longer-term deficits remained and were especially still severe at the 6-month time frame. The D2 in southwest Oklahoma was eliminated and its surrounding D0-D1 contracted. D0-D3 was contracted in the wet areas of Texas, but D0-D2 expanded in the dry areas. D0-D1 contracted in northwest Louisiana into adjacent Texas. Three-month precipitation deficits prompted expansion of D0 along the Louisiana coast into southern Mississippi…
Pacific weather systems will continue to cross the CONUS in a westerly jet stream flow. For January 23-28, 3 or more inches of precipitation is forecast for the northern California to Washington coast and coastal ranges, with an inch or more across parts of the Rockies, especially the northern Rockies. An inch or more of precipitation will be widespread from central Texas to the Tennessee Valley, across parts of the central Plains to Midwest, and from northeast Georgia to New England. Half an inch or less of precipitation is predicted for the rest of the West to central and northern Plains, and parts of Florida and the Great Lakes. Temperatures are forecast to be warmer than normal for much of the CONUS. For January 29-February 1, odds favor above-normal precipitation across eastern Alaska and the panhandle as well as most of the CONUS. Below-normal precipitation is expected for western Alaska, parts of the southwestern CONUS, and northern portions of the Great Lakes and New England. Odds favor a continuation of warmer-than-normal temperatures across most of the CONUS and the Alaska panhandle, with below-normal temperatures in the Four Corners area and across most of Alaska.