Colorado re-mapping floodplains of most-affected waterways — TheDenverChannel.com

Flooding in Longmont September 14, 2013 via the Longmont Times-Call

From TheDenverChannel.com (Deb Stanley):

After the 2013 floods devastated communities and took several lives, the state of Colorado is remapping the regulatory floodplain of the most affected waterways in Colorado.

“It’s important to provide public and local land use managers with the most accurate flood risk information so they can make better decisions,’ explained Thuy Patton, Flood Mapping Program Manager for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

In some counties, there are areas that now have higher flood risk and other areas that now have lower flood risk, which changes which homes are in the flood plain. NOTE: these numbers are approximate, based on public information, and are subject to change.

In Boulder County, with this update, 420 new structures are in flood risk area and approx. 400 structures are now not in special flood hazard area, Patton explained.

In Jefferson County, 53 structures were added.

In Larimer County, 601 structures were added and 1,571 were removed.

In Weld County, 453 structures were added and 1,994 were removed.

In Sedgwick County, 85 structures were added and two were removed.

In Washington County, 26 structures were added and 31 were removed.

In Morgan County, 38 structures were added and four were removed.

And in Logan County, 222 structures were added, while 59 were removed.

FEMA uses Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) to set flood insurance premiums. The Preliminary FIRMs will become FEMA’s final effective FIRMs in 2021, pending any appeals received by FEMA.

Learn more about the mapping project here.

Boulder County is starting a series of public meetings about the changes. Representatives from FEMA, the mapping team, and Boulder County will be present at each session. Each open house will focus on specific reaches, but residents are invited to discuss any stream at each meeting:

  • Lower Boulder Creek, New Dry Creek, Coal Creek, and Rock Creek – Tuesday, Jan. 14 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Boulder County Recycling Center – 1901 63rd Street in Boulder County
  • Saint Vrain Creek, Lower Left Hand Creek, Dry Creek #2, and Little Thompson River – Thursday, Jan. 16 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Boulder County Parks and Open Space Ron Stewart Building – 5201 St. Vrain Drive in Longmont
  • North, Middle, and South Saint Vrain creeks and Cabin Creek – Tuesday, Jan. 21 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Highlands Presbyterian Church – 1306 Business Highway 7 in Allenspark
  • Little James Creek, James Creek, Upper Left Hand Creek, and Geer Canyon – Tuesday, Jan. 28 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.) Jamestown Town Hall – 118 Main St. in Jamestown. This is a joint meeting between Boulder County and the Town of Jamestown
  • Fourmile Canyon Creek, Two Mile Canyon Creek, Gold Run, Fourmile Creek, Boulder Creek and North, Middle, and South Boulder creeks – Thursday, Jan. 30 | 5 to 6:30 p.m. (presentation at 5:15 p.m.). Boulder Public Library Main Branch, Boulder Creek Room – 1001 Arapahoe Ave. in Boulder
  • Administration Proposes #NEPA Overhaul: Need to maintain strong scientific standards, public engagement — The Nature Conservancy

    U.S. Capitol building. © Devan King/The Nature Conservancy

    Here’s the release from The Nature Conservancy (Eric Bontrager):

    The Trump administration today proposed several changes in the regulation governing how the federal government fulfills its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

    The law, enacted in 1970, requires the federal government to assess the environmental and other impacts of federal actions like permitting infrastructure projects prior to making final decisions. The changes proposed by the White House Council on Environmental Quality include cutting down review times, limiting consideration of factors like climate change from NEPA analysis, allowing some developers to do their own reviews and expanding the use of categorical exclusions that eliminate further impact analysis for certain-sized projects.

    The following is a statement by Lynn Scarlett, chief external affairs officer at The Nature Conservancy:

    “The National Environmental Policy Act is one of the United States’ foundational environmental laws, responsible for helping improve the quality of our air, water and ecosystems while giving members of the public a greater voice in the health and future of their communities. The best way to achieve more efficient and effective project decisions is to work collaboratively to identify environmental issues early in the design process. Setting arbitrary, time-certain deadlines for completion of project reviews and simply limiting the scope of projects and impacts that must be considered will not improve the quality of NEPA analysis, will do little to increase efficiency and does not address underlying issues of agency cooperation and stakeholder engagement.

    “With climate change impacts bringing severe consequences to many communities across the nation, NEPA provides a tool for assessing how actions affect greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change to people, their livelihoods and the environment. We recognize the challenges and complexity of such assessments, particularly for indirect impacts, but those challenges are not a reason to neglect or avoid such analysis, as these changes propose.

    “The Nature Conservancy continues to support efforts to improve the NEPA process on the ground. However, several of the changes proposed today would reduce the law’s safeguards, transparency and inclusiveness. To deliver on the basic purpose of NEPA – ensuring federal agencies consider the environmental consequences of their actions and inform the public about them – we need to retain strong scientific standards, support thorough analysis and continue robust public engagement. We urge the administration to reconsider proposed changes that will not improve the process but instead will move NEPA away from its intended purpose.

    “When the administration first set out to reassess how it should enforce NEPA, we provided a number of detailed recommendations to achieve many of the goals articulated through better implementation and enforcement of existing regulations rather than a broad overhaul. As we analyze the administration’s proposal, we encourage the administration to reexamine those recommendations and the tools already at its disposal rather than inventing new ones to reform NEPA.”

    The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 79 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit http://www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

    @ColoradoClimate: Weekly #Climate, #Water and #Drought Assessment of the Intermountain West

    Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center. Here’s the summary:

    Summary: January 14, 2020

    It was a quiet week in the Intermountain West, with most of the region seeing little to no precipitation. The Tetons in northwest Wyoming and the Wasatch range in Utah saw the best precipitation totals with 0.50 – 2.00″. The northern mountains in Colorado saw between 0.5 to 1.00″. Less than 0.10″ through the rest of the region.

    January to date has seen the same pattern we saw last week with dryness through most of the region with some precipitation in the Tetons and the northern mountains in Colorado. Precipitation that has fallen this month has been a bit below normal. This is showing up on the short-term SPI with below normal numbers for much of our region.

    Snowpack is still above normal for the region and thanks to near to below normal temperatures, the snowpack is sticking around as it should this time of year, even with lower precipitation amounts the first two weeks of 2020.

    Temperatures in eastern Colorado have been above normal and with the dry conditions, producers are starting to get nervous about their winter wheat. This is an area we will keep a close eye on over the coming weeks and months. The 7-day outlook does not give much hope for eastern Colorado, with less than 0.10″ expected, however, the 8-14 day forecast is calling for chances of above normal precipitation. Fingers crossed the outlook is right.

    The 7-day outlook for the rest of the IMW region shows a typical January pattern, with precipitation expected in the mountains and little to [none] expected in the lower elevations.

    As the #SaltonSea shrinks, it leaves behind a toxic reminder of the cost of making a desert bloom — Food & Environment Reporting Network

    Aerial view of the Salton Sea from the north-northeast (from over Joshua Tree National Park), looking into the early afternoon sun. Photo credit: Dicklyon via Wikimedia Commons

    Here’s an in-depth report from Lindsay Fendt that’s running on the Food & Environment Reporting Network website. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Now the Salton Sea has another problem: Climate change is making this dry region even drier. And a growing demand for water in the booming cities and suburbs of Southern California has reduced the amount of Colorado River water diverted to nearby farms. In the coming years these two factors are expected to dramatically increase the pace at which the lake shrinks, exposing more lake bed and the agricultural toxins trapped in the mud.

    The desert winds lift dust from the lakebed, and scientists fear that eventually the toxic residue of more than a century of agricultural runoff will be blown into the air — and into the lungs of residents. The area surrounding the Salton Sea already has some of the worst air quality in the country, caused by particulate matter swept up from farms and the desert. Local residents have some of the highest rates of asthma and other respiratory problems in the state, and public health officials say the heavy metals and chemicals in the lake bed pose an even greater threat…

    It seems unnatural, the shimmering water surrounded by chalky sand and cactus. But water has found its way into this desert basin repeatedly throughout history. Before dams and other diversion structures fixed the Colorado River on its current path, the river used to periodically migrate across the floodplain, changing course to circumvent sediment that had built up in previous seasons. Sometimes it emptied here in the Salton Sink. During one such period, the river sustained an even larger lake, Lake Cahuilla, that stretched from the Coachella Valley, up by Palm Springs, all the way to northern Mexico.

    We fly near the Chocolate Mountains that rise up south of the Salton Sea, and Ruiz points to a discolored line high on one of the ridges where a thousand years ago lake water once reached.

    “If you talk to anyone from the Cahuilla tribe, the people who have been in this basin forever, they say water has always been here,” Ruiz said. “So this isn’t just about saving some artificial lake.”

    Lake Cahuilla dried up sometime in the 16th century after the river again shifted course, this time to the Gulf of California. Dams have tamed the river’s meandering, and it’s unlikely the Colorado will ever find its way into the Salton Sink again. Yet the river’s water is still coming, diverted into the desert via the 80-mile-long All-American Canal.

    Northern Integrated Supply Project recreation plan update #NISP

    Aerial view of the roposed Glade Reservoir site — photo via Northern Water

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

    Plans for Glade Reservoir, the main storage component of the Northern Integrated Supply Project, are coming into sharper focus as the project approaches a series of landmark county hearings. Larimer County commissioners will review Northern Water’s 1041 permit application this spring. The permit covers the construction of Glade Reservoir and water pipelines for NISP, which would take water from the Poudre River to shore up supplies for 15 Northern Colorado municipalities and water districts…

    Larimer County’s upcoming review of a project decades in the making is just one reason 2020 is expected to be a game-changing year for NISP — for the project’s leader, Northern Water, and for the sizable camp of people trying to stop it…

    You can now count some neighbors of the Glade site in the latter. Residents of the Bonner Peak Ranch, Cherokee Meadows and County Road 29 areas have banded together to form a new opposition group called Save Rural NoCo…

    Members of Save Rural NoCo, as well as NISP nemesis Save the Poudre, plan to make their position clear during public comment at the 1041 hearings. The hearings haven’t been scheduled yet because Northern Water hasn’t submitted its 1041 application, but it likely will do so in the coming weeks, spokesman Jeff Stahla said.

    The submission will trigger a 90-day deadline for Larimer County to hold planning commission and board of commissioners hearings…

    NISP’s main proposed pipeline would carry water from Glade Reservoir about 40 miles southeast toward the project’s participants. The other pipeline would carry water from the Poudre River in Fort Collins about 5 miles east to meet up with the larger pipeline at the county line. The nonfinalized pipeline map is posted on nisptalk.com. A portion of the proposed route is similar to that of the rejected Thornton pipeline.

    While Thornton’s 1041 proposal drew commissioners’ ire for a perceived lack of benefit to Larimer County, Northern Water might have an easier time selling NISP as an asset.

    Most of the project’s 15 participants are outside of Larimer County, but about 16% of NISP’s water yield is projected to go to Fort Collins-Loveland Water District and Windsor. FCLWD is mostly in Larimer County, and Windsor traverses Larimer and Weld counties.

    And Northern Water’s conceptual recreation plan for Glade Reservoir describes the reservoir as an opportunity to alleviate pressure on Larimer County’s highly trafficked reservoirs and support population growth. The Larimer County Reservoir Parks Master Plan identifies Glade Reservoir as a “future park strategy.”

    If Glade is built, Larimer County will likely manage recreation at the site. Early concept plans for the reservoir and its surrounding acreage include a visitor center, 170-acre recreation area, boat ramp, three parking lots, unpaved hiking trails east of the reservoir and five campgrounds totaling more than 60 camping sites. Northern Water plans to pay Colorado Parks and Wildlife to stock the reservoir with walleye, saugeye, black crappie, bluegill, yellow perch and rainbow trout. Among an expansive list of other potential recreation opportunities are mountain biking, cross country skiing, rock climbing, horseback riding, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, power boating and jet skiing.

    Northern Water predicts recreation at the reservoir will generate $13 million to $30 million annually in tourism, economic opportunities for area businesses and sales tax revenue.

    On the other hand, NISP would significantly decrease flows in the Poudre River during peak season, diverting more than 40,000 acre-feet annually from a river that is already heavily used. Northern Water plans to send some water down the Poudre through downtown Fort Collins to reduce the impacts here, and the project is projected to slightly increase flows during off-peak season. Northern Water has also committed to spend millions on stream channel and riparian vegetation improvements, among other mitigation efforts.

    But the Poudre relies on high springtime flows to flush out sediment and preserve wildlife habitat along the river corridor, and NISP opponents like Save the Poudre argue that no amount of mitigation spending can negate the detriment of taking so much water out of the river…

    The 1041 process is technically supposed to be focused purely on the siting of Glade Reservoir and the NISP pipelines, but debate about NISP often blurs the line between nuts-and-bolts infrastructure issues and the project’s larger significance for the Poudre River.

    The most significant review of NISP’s necessity and environmental impacts is being carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected to issue a record of decision on NISP in 2020. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is expected to issue a decision on the project’s water quality permit by the end of the month.

    “When this was first contemplated, I don’t think anyone predicted it would all come together in the first quarter of 2020,” Stahla said. “What it means is that (NISP) is going to be top-of-mind for the next several months for folks here in Larimer County.”

    Glade Reservoir construction could begin as soon as 2023, with the first water storage taking place in 2028…

    Save Rural NoCo’s opposition to NISP might have begun with the predicted nuisance of living near Glade Reservoir, but residents interviewed by the Coloradoan said it’s grown into a wider-ranging objection to the project’s impacts on the Poudre River and wildlife…

    Jan Rothe, who lives off County Road 29C, feels the project’s benefits are being outsourced to the 15 participants’ fast-growing communities, most of which are spread across Boulder, Weld and Morgan counties…

    Northern Water will work with the county to mitigate noise and traffic impacts near Glade, Stahla said, and commissioners can impose conditions on recreation for the 1041 permit. For example, he said, motorized boating could be restricted to the east side of the reservoir so residents aren’t bothered by the noise.

    He added that the area is already home to a shooting range and a quarry, though, so the reservoir wouldn’t exactly be the only source of noise.

    Stahla said about 50 comment cards collected at the last open house showed a mix of opinions. Most of the commenters were concerned about the recreation plan fitting in with the neighborhood rather than objecting to the reservoir itself, he said…

    And Stahla took issue with the idea that NISP serves no benefit for Larimer County. NISP’s largest participant, Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, has a service area covering about 45,000 residents primarily in Larimer County. Windsor is located partially in Larimer County and has about 31,000 residents. The other communities are home to thousands of people who live in one place and commute to work in places like Fort Collins and Loveland, he said.

    Fort Collins itself gets about half its water from the Poudre River, and Horsetooth is filled with a mix of water from the Poudre and the Colorado Big-Thompson Project.

    “To look at your kid’s teacher who has to drive in from Eaton every day and say, ‘Well, that’s just a Weld County benefit” — I think it misses some of the larger points about where Northern Colorado is as a region,” Stahla said. “As the region has grown and become a mecca for economic and job growth, not everyone’s been able to fit within the area of Fort Collins Utilities. And therefore, the people outside of it need to have secure water supplies as well.”

    Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.