#Drought news: Moderate (D1) to Severe (D2) Drought Conditions Return to Portions of South Central and Southeast #Colorado

Colorado Drought Monitor February 11, 2020.

From The Prowers Journal (Russ Baldwin):

…the latest US Drought Monitor, issued Thursday February 13th 2020, indicated severe drought (D2) conditions across southwestern through northeastern portions of Baca County.

Moderate drought (D1) conditions were indicated across most of Saguache and Costilla Counties, as well as all of Mineral, Rio Grande, Alamosa and Conejos Counties. Moderate drought (D1) conditions were also indicated across extreme southwestern Huerfano County, Las Animas County, southeastern portions of Pueblo County, Otero County, most of Crowley and Kiowa Counties, Bent County, Prowers County and the rest of Baca County.

Abnormally dry (D0) conditions were indicated across Lake and Chaffee Counties, eastern portions of Saguache and southwestern portions of Fremont Counties, Custer County, the rest of Huerfano County, southwestern through northeastern Pueblo County, extreme southeastern El Paso County, as well as extreme northwestern Crowley and extreme northeastern Kiowa Counties.

Drought free conditions were indicated across Teller County, and the rest of Fremont, Pueblo and El Paso Counties…


The January 27th, 2020 USDA Colorado Crop Progress Report indicated minimal moisture during the month of January resulted in diminished topsoil moisture supplies across the state, with 61 percent of topsoil moisture being reported at short or very short. Subsoil moisture faired a little better with 34 percent being reported as short or very short statewide.


The February 1st Colorado Water Supply Outlook Report indicated statewide precipitation for the month of January came in at 76 percent of average, bringing statewide 2020 Water Year precipitation to 88 percent of average overall.

In the Arkansas Basin, NRCS data indicated January precipitation was 62 percent of average, which brings water year to date precipitation to 87 percent of average overall.

Colorado NRCS data indicated statewide snowpack at the end of January was at 109 percent of average overall, which is 104 percent of the available snowpack at this same time last year.

In the Arkansas Basin, NRCS data indicated February 1st snowpack was at 119 percent of average overall, which is 97 percent of the available snowpack at this same time last year.

NRCS data indicated statewide water storage was at 105 percent of average overall at the end of January, as compared to 83 percent of average storage available statewide at this same time last year.

In the Arkansas Basin, water storage at the end of January came in at 96 percent of average, as compared to 89 percent of average storage available at this same time last year.

>365 statements of opposition so far in Elbert County Denver Basin Aquifer change case

Denver Basin Aquifer System graphic credit USGS.

From The Elbert County News (Tabatha Stewart):

More than 365 parties in Elbert County have filed statements of opposition with the Colorado Water Court, in District 1, against a request by Independence developers to amend the uses for 75 acre-feet of water per year to include domestic, municipal, industrial, commercial, stock watering, fire protection and exchange and augmentation purposes, both on and off the subject property. Original decreed uses are for in-house and irrigation on the subject property.

A public notice published in the Elbert County News Dec. 19 raised concerns from citizens that developers would be allowed to take water off the property and sell it, and the increased uses would affect the water in their wells, which draw from the Upper Dawson aquifer.

Elbert County citizens rallied and held public meetings to share information about how to address the concerns, with some expressing mistrust of county commissioners and Craft Companies, the developers of Independence. Concerned residents had until Jan. 31 to file a statement of opposition with the water court, if they felt the change would affect their wells. More than 365 did so, with some residents combining their statements and hiring an attorney, and others filing individually.

“I’ve entered about 365 parties so far, and I’m not done,” said water court clerk Connie Coppes on Feb. 3.

Jill Duvall, who helped organize the public meetings, said residents have filed out of a need for self-preservation, since the majority of residents in Elbert County rely on well water.

“More than 90 percent of us out here are on wells. If they run dry we’re done,” said Duvall. “I think the main concern for all of us is them taking the water off the property. And we would like to see them take the water from the lower aquifers for construction.”

The water in question comes from five bedrock aquifers in the Denver Basin aquifer system, with Upper and Lower Dawson being in Elbert County. Other aquifers include Denver, Arapahoe and Laramie-Fox Hills, all of which have their eastern extent in Elbert County.

Susan Schick, a member of Independence Water Warriors, agreed that the potential to take water off site is a big concern, but also said many don’t trust county commissioners to stop it from happening if the time comes.

“Primarily we don’t want the water to go off site,” said Schick. “The county commissioners have confirmed that a public hearing would be needed before that could happen, but we don’t trust that they would respect the wishes of the public if that time came. I don’t think our commissioners are planning for those of us who are already out here.”

Commissioner Chris Richardson has maintained that no water will ever leave the county.

“Bottom line is that there is to be no transfer of water out of the county, and any use/sale off the development but within the county can only be approved in a public hearing with the BOCC,” Richardson stated in a previous interview.

With so many statements of opposition filed with the water court, it could be quite a while before Craft’s request for a water amendment could be approved, or denied…

Craft representatives have expressed a willingness to speak with concerned citizens, both during public meetings and in previous Elbert County News stories. They issued this statement regarding the filing of statements of opposition.

“We have repeatedly offered to answer any questions regarding the Upper Dawson amendment by listing our outreach representative’s contact information (Peter Wall) on social media and in two local community articles (Elbert County News and Ranchland News). To date, our representative has not received a single inquiry from those opposing this amendment. As we’ve stated, we used standard language in the Upper Dawson amendment — language that is well within our rights. In fact, the language we used is the same language that has also been used in many of our opposers’ decrees.

A new chapter in an epic ‘Fish story’ — News on TAP

Decades after sprawling reporting project on four rare Colorado River species, some hopeful news for a prehistoric swimmer. The post A new chapter in an epic ‘Fish story’ appeared first on News on TAP.

via A new chapter in an epic ‘Fish story’ — News on TAP

2020 #COleg: New bills on water speculation, land use and instream flows advance at #Colorado Capitol — @WaterEdCO

State Capitol May 12, 2018 via Aspen Journalism

From Water Education Colorado (Larry Morandi):

Four weeks into the work year, Colorado lawmakers have pushed forward water bills that would study ways to strengthen anti-speculation laws, offer a new avenue to set aside more water for streams, and authorize cities to consider state conservation goals and future water supplies before approving new development.

Water speculation

Senate Bill 48 passed the Senate unanimously on Jan. 29. It requires the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to form a working group to explore ways to strengthen anti-speculation laws. The agency must report its recommendations to the interim Water Resources Review Committee by Aug. 15, 2021. Although Colorado’s constitution and case law prohibit water speculation—hoarding water without putting it to beneficial use—the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail, said she’s aware of out-of-state entities purchasing agricultural water rights without having “the best interests of our communities and agricultural future in mind.” She’s also concerned that if Colorado is faced with cutbacks in Colorado River use, due to ongoing drought and climate change, it will make Colorado’s water that much more appealing to speculators looking to profit.

“I want to make sure we are fully prepared for what I think will be a new water future, and this bill will allow us to stay ahead of that and be proactive instead of reactive.” The bill is scheduled to be heard by the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee on Feb. 27.

New water source for instream flows?

House Bill 1037, which passed the House unanimously Jan. 29, authorizes the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to use an acquired water right, whose historic consumptive use has been previously quantified and changed to include augmentation use, to boost river flows for environmental benefits. Farmers have long used so-called augmentation water to help offset their water use, particularly of groundwater, when that use is not in priority within Colorado’s water rights system. Now, augmentation water could also be used to boost instream flows.

Rep. Jeni Arndt, D-Fort Collins, the bill’s sponsor, noted that an augmentation plan can “make water rights available to boost instream flows without injury” to existing water rights. HB 1037 goes next to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 20.

Still another measure addressing instream flows, House Bill 20-1157, would significantly expand the state’s existing instream flow lease program. Sponsored by Rep. Dylan Roberts, D-Avon, it is scheduled to be heard Feb. 13 in the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee.

Coordination of land use and water planning

House Bill 1095 was approved by the House Rural Affairs and Agriculture Committee on Feb. 3 and was scheduled to be heard on the House floor Feb. 12. It authorizes counties and municipalities that have adopted master plans that contain a water supply element to include state water plan goals and conservation policies that may affect land development approvals. Rep. Arndt, also this bill’s sponsor, noted that the 2015 Colorado Water Plan projects a municipal and industrial water supply gap of 560,000 acre-feet by 2050, and has an objective for municipal and industrial water conservation of 400,000 acre-feet by the same year.

Testimony in support of the bill argued that it would help ensure enough water to meet future demand by ensuring new development doesn’t outpace water supplies. Opponents expressed concern that master plans were not the most effective means to achieve the bill’s objectives, and that local governments already have the requisite authority. The bill passed on a 7-4 vote and goes next to the full House for debate.

Enough public input for now on demand management

Senate Bill 24 was defeated in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Jan. 30 at the sponsor’s request. The bill would have required that the CWCB gather additional public input on efforts to create a multi-state water conservation program, known as “demand management,” in which up to 500,000 acre-feet of water could be set aside in Lake Powell to protect minimum power pools and to provide additional protection for Colorado and other upper basin states should the river system hit crisis levels. It also would have required CWCB to submit any draft program to the interim Water Resources Review Committee, which would then hold public hearings in basins across the state, and to consider the committee’s feedback following the conclusion of those hearings.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, requested that the committee defeat it because he believes, for now, it isn’t necessary. “The bill has created the reaction we wanted…..we’ll be watching to see how the outreach plays out,” he said.

Larry Morandi was formerly director of State Policy Research with the National Conference of State Legislatures in Denver, and is a frequent contributor to Fresh Water News. He can be reached at larrymorandi@comcast.net.

Western Water Webinars: Saline Lakes Series Part 1 – #SaltonSea, February 20, 2020 — @Audubon

Just above the horizon here, a haboob (dust storm) can be seen heading north.
This was shot at what remains of the Salton Sea Naval Test Station. Photo credit: slworking2/Flickr

Click here to register:

Audubon’s Western Water Initiative advocates for healthy rivers and lakes in the arid West, as well as the people and birds who depend on them.

Audubon’s priority saline lake ecosystems—Great Salt Lake, Lahontan Valley, Salton Sea, Owens Lake, Mono Lake, and Lake Abert—are at risk due to changes in water quality, quantity, and timing of water delivery. These changes are brought on by drought, diversions, and climate change.

This series of webinars will focus on efforts by Audubon and others to protect some of these unique systems. In this first webinar we will focus on a unique ecosystem that lies at the intersection of Western Water priority landscapes: The Salton Sea.

Two members of Audubon California’s Salton Sea team, Andrea Jones (Director of Bird Conservation) and Frank Ruiz (Salton Sea Program Director) will discuss the history and current status of the Salton Sea, its relationship to the Colorado River and Delta, the status of birds, policy initiatives, and community engagement and education programs. Learn how you can contribute to our efforts at the Salton Sea, both locally and remotely.

Feb 20, 2020 04:00 PM in Mountain Time (US and Canada)

When It’s Okay (or Not) to Feed Birds — @Audubon

Baltimore Oriole and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Photo: Melissa Groo via The Audubon Society

From The Audubon Society (Melissa Groo):

Providing food—for photography or simple enjoyment—can be a thorny issue. For guidance, ask yourself these three questions.

Whether we identify as birders or photographers or both, we are always looking for ways to get closer to birds, or to bring them closer to us. Offering food—sating the hunger that is such a primal drive for all of us—is an easy way to do that. But knowing what kind of food is okay to supply, and when, and where, can be confusing. Over and over, in nature-photography forums and on social media, I see the following questions: “Isn’t all bird feeding harmful?” and “What’s the difference between feeding birds at a feeder and feeding owls?” and “How can you be okay with handfeeding Gray Jays and opposed to feeding owls?

These are false equivalences that, in the end, only hurt birds. To paint every species with one broad brush is to ignore or deny the varying needs and circumstances of every kind of bird and the realities of its particular life—realities that depend on population status, habitat, physiology, and the unique challenges it faces. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.

So how do we make sense of it all?

The Three Questions

When I was younger, a mentor of mine gave me this advice: Before speaking, ask yourself the following three questions: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? I sometimes fall down on the job, but I aspire to follow these as best I can. When thinking through this issue, it occurred to me that, similarly, three questions could be applied to any bird-feeding situation. And that the answers could help guide decisions in a way that is best for both birds and people.

1. Is this species at risk?

Information on the status of a species is just a click away. Good sources include state and federal listings, the IUCN Red List, and Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds. Using these, we can easily discover how a species is doing in our states, provinces, countries, or worldwide. We may even find that the status of a species varies greatly from one place to another.

If a bird is classified as “threatened,” “endangered,” or “of special concern,” that means it is struggling to survive. We must exercise extreme caution when making decisions that might affect that bird. Even if we have the best intentions, what we think might benefit a bird might actually cause unintended negative consequences.

A case in point: Florida Scrub-Jays. If you were to do a simple google search like “scrub-jay status Florida,” you would quickly find that this species is listed as vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN and as federally threatened. Fewer than 5,000 Florida Scrub-Jays remain. Their numbers have dropped by 90 percent over the past century, as the scrub and scrubby flatwoods they require have been fragmented and destroyed by development and agriculture.

Florida Scrub-Jay. Photo: Melissa Groo via Audubon Society

Bird lovers quickly realized that Florida Scrub-Jays will come readily to the hand for peanuts. Unfortunately, studies have shown that jays fed by humans reproduce earlier in the year than those that are not. As a result, their fledglings hatch before the caterpillars they rely on for nutrition are available, leading to malnourishment and starvation. People also feed jays near roads, and collision with vehicles is a major cause of their death. Thus, it’s now illegal to feed Florida Scrub-Jays unless you have a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Snowy Owls are also in precipitous decline. Although there are a number of reasons why offering food, such as pet-store mice, to owls can be harmful, certainly the fact that this species is vulnerable to extinction, per the IUCN, makes feeding them particularly irresponsible and ill-advised.

In short, birds that have special population status due to their declining numbers should not be fed (unless, say, you’re a researcher working with appropriate permits). This advice is in line with the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics.

2. Is the food appropriate and safely provided?

The most common place we offer food to birds is, of course, in our own backyards. Fortunately, there is a wealth of information on how to safely set up and maintain bird feeders. Providing feeders means taking on a responsibility, as in addition to food they can present a whole host of risks, including the spread of viruses and parasites, a greater chance of window strikes, and increased vulnerability to cats and raptors. But if best practices have been followed, research shows that feeders may actually help birds to survive and reproduce.

Of course, the healthiest, most natural food you can offer to attract birds to your yard are native trees and shrubs, such as serviceberry or crabapples, which are a longstanding food source for them. Plant species native to each part of the country can easily be looked up in Audubon’s native plants database.

One of the least healthy foods is also one of the most popular, especially in parks with resident waterfowl. Bread has little nutritional value and may cause an unhealthy condition referred to as “angel wing.” Opt instead for cracked corn or oats—in moderation, of course. Leftovers from overfeeding can contaminate water, spread diseases, and attract rodents.

3) Is feeding this bird likely to change its behavior in harmful ways?

Ask yourself: Might feeding this bird cause it to associate food with a particular place? Does it draw the bird closer to roads, for example, where it could be struck by a car? Feeding owls by the side of the road presents an obvious danger: Collisions with vehicles are a leading cause of death for owls, since they fly low over the ground and relatively slowly at times.

Snowy Owl. Photo: Melissa Groo via Audubon Society

Feeding a bird might also lead it to trust people. Could that habituation eventually put it in danger? Does the bird migrate to a region where it’s not well understood, or where it’s hunted? The answer will be different for a bird of prey (possibly yes) than for a songbird at a feeder or for a chickadee hand-fed sunflower seeds in a preserve (probably no).

On the flip side, you should also ask whether feeding a bird might cause it to aggressively seek handouts from people. We’ve all seen gulls at the beach or swans in a park grab food out of someone’s hand. Once these birds begin to associate people with easy food, they can become bold and pesky. This both creates a hassle for people and poses a danger to the birds, as they gain a bad reputation and eventually may be harmed. Local ordinances and regulations may not permit feeding expressly because of these issues. There are also laws regarding feeding that govern our national park system, where it’s illegal to feed any wildlife.

You don’t have to be a bird expert or conservationist to realize that birds today face a multitude of challenges. When thinking of offering food to birds, as nature photographers, birders, or nature lovers, each one of us can take a little time to do some research and to sensibly weigh the pros and cons of our choices. We can make informed decisions, and hopefully balance our desire to get the shot with what’s best for the birds.

Ski country faces facts on airplane #carbon emissions — The Aspen Times Weekly #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

San Juan Mountains March 2016. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

From The Aspen Times Weekly (Allen Best):

In early December a friend from Denver and I both traveled to Las Vegas for a conference. I flew, he drove. We both worry about greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere and the strong evidence now emerging of climate disruption. Which of us should have more carbon guilt?

“Flying shame,” the phrase translated from its native Swedish, has come into vogue in some circles. We zoom around the continent, sometimes across great oceans, because we can, and because it’s wonderful compressing great distances with so little effort, so quickly immersing ourselves in new geographies and cultures, and because, as was the case of my friend and I, we thought our work required it.

Quick and easy movement has a cost, though.

If emissions from airplanes were a country, they would rank somewhere between Japan and Germany. That means about 1.5% of global emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent) as of 2012, according to the World GHG Emissions Flow Chart 2014. Other sources, slicing the greenhouse gas pie differently, put it at 2.4%. Residential buildings (11.2%), cars and trucks (10.6%) or even livestock and manure (6.5%) produce more.

Scientists, however, suspect impacts may actually be double or more than those at ground level because of the chemical interactions of emissions at high altitudes…

A slow boat or train?

Perhaps the Swedes were unnerved by their fires above the Arctic Circle. In 2015, Olympic biathlon gold medalist Bjørn Ferry committed to stop flying. Some Swedish celebrities have followed suit. To avoid flying, the adolescent climate activist Greta Thunberg last summer sailed to the U.S. to call for urgent action. She has a following, as was acknowledged by Time magazine with its Person of the Year designation. It’s fair to assume that some snow riders, with their devotion to environmental action, follow Thunberg.

What’s the least carbon-tainted mode of travel to a mountain resort? Bicycle, obviously, although catching a bus will do you well, too. It’s a bit cumbersome, definitely more time-consuming, but you can take a bus from Chicago, for example, to Glenwood Springs, then catch a RFTA bus to Aspen or Snowmass. The state-sponsored Bustang from Denver to Glenwood Springs has won raves. But again, don’t be in a hurry.

You can take the train to Glenwood Springs, too, but few people ride the rails to go skiing. At Colorado’s Winter Park, for example, rails emerge from a tunnel under the Continental Divide within a few dozen yards of ski slopes. But Amtrak delivers just 10,152 travelers to the nearby depot in Fraser annually. A ski train from Denver adds 20,000 passengers annually for day trips.

We fly because we’re in a hurry. Air travel has become more efficient in jet fuel. By the metric of passenger travel achieved on a gallon of jet fuel, air travel has improved from 34 passenger miles per gallon in 1991 to 56 passenger miles today.

Not all air travel is equal, though. Air Force One, with its executive desk and sleeping quarters, of course, has a higher carbon footprint than somebody flying scrunched between other economy passengers. And first-class commercial travel has three times the carbon footprint of economy.

How far you fly also matters. Shorter flights have a greater carbon intensity per mile than long-haul flights. A quarter of the fuel on a single trip can be burned in getting from the ground to 30,000 feet. That makes short-hop flights, say between Denver and Aspen, the most energy intensive.

This rule only applies so far, though. The fuel for every long-haul flight itself requires energy for transport, because of its weight. WorldWatch Institute estimates that the most fuel-efficient distance for airlines is 2,600 miles, a little longer than the trip from New York to Los Angeles. But those added miles still produce more fuel consumption and hence emissions. Shorter, if less efficient, is still less.

What does this mean in practice?

The carbon-tracker website maintained by the International Civil Aviation Organization allows you to calculate your carbon dioxide emissions. For example, an economy round-trip flight between New York City’s JFK Airport and Denver produces 946 pounds of per passenger. That’s the equivalent of 59 bowling balls. Talk about carry-on baggage. A longer distance, say a roundtrip from London’s Heathrow to Denver, produces a fatter footprint as does flying premium instead of economy: 3,934 pounds. OK, you wanted to know: 246 bowling balls.

What makes environmental sense — and economic sense for ski areas — is that when customers fly, they linger. A study of Rocky Mountain resorts by Colorado-based RRC that was commissioned by the National Ski Areas Association found 40% of out-of-state customers who flew stayed six days or longer. Of international travelers, 80% stayed six days or longer. The difference was particularly evident among those who stayed between 10 and 22 nights at the resorts.

“As would be expected, international visitors tend to have the longest stays, followed by out-of-state visitors (and then) in-state visitors,” RRC’s David Becher says.

Driving, in some situations, could be worse than flying. It depends upon the vehicle and the number of occupants. Driving solo from Chicago to Denver in an SUV, for example, will be more carbon intensive than flying economy. But number of occupants, distance and plushness of the jet make this less than straightforward. The best guide to travel comparisons I found was assembled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. (See chart, below).

For the Las Vegas conference, my friend from Denver rented a medium-sized electric hybrid that gets 40 mpg and drove alone. I flew first to Reno and then Las Vegas. My return to Denver was direct.

Who should have less carbon guilt? My research on the carbon-tracker website suggests I was responsible for 240 pounds of carbon emissions compared with 334 pounds for my friend in his rented hybrid car. Had my friend and I gone together by car, we would have had much lower carbon footprints. But we didn’t know of each other’s plans. It gets complicated.

My friend does buy carbon offsets when traveling, whether by car or by plane. Such offsets have become more common. Air travelers flying into and out of a few mountain resort communities are now participating in an offset program called Good Traveler. Good Traveler was initiated in 2016 by the San Diego International Airport, which chose the Basalt-based Rocky Mountain Institute to manage it. It now has 17 U.S. airports, including major hubs in San Francisco and New York City. The Aspen-Pitkin County Airport joined the Good Traveler program in 2020…


Burning biofuels, instead of fossil fuels, would theoretically reduce emissions. But they have been unable to achieve scale.

In 2018, just 2 million liters of alternative jet fuel were produced, compared with the 360 billion liters of jet fuel consumed that year. Note the “m” and the “b.” Some suspect that lifecycle carbon costs of biofuels make them little better than conventional fossil fuels, too.

Electrification of planes has produced excitement of late. All-electric planes began use in 2019 at a Denver-area airport for training of pilots. In December, a Vancouver company attracted international attention when it conducted a 10-minute demonstration flight of a 17-passenger seaplane retrofitted to operate on batteries. Harbour Air hopes to begin commercial operations within two years, planning an eventual fleet of 40 e-planes for short hops along the Pacific Coast in the Seattle-Vancouver area.

Ampaire has made slower-moving, short-range and smaller aircraft such as are used to shuttle passengers among the Hawaiian Islands its goal. Peter Savagian, the company’s senior vice president of engineering, told an Aspen audience in November that such short-haul flights were responsible for one-third of global air emissions. NASA awarded Ampaire and another company, IKHANA, contracts to pioneer hybrid diesel/electric configurations for the 19-passenger Twin Otter.

Advances in battery storage will be needed for longer distances. The newest batteries hold just 2% the energy of liquid fuel, Wired magazine explained in a 2017 story. In other words, 1,000 pounds of jet fuel yields about 14 times more energy than a 1,000-pound battery.

In his talk at an Aspen Institute symposium titled “The Future of Aviation in a Carbon Constrained World,” Savagian counseled patience.

“It will be decades before the largest aircraft are likely to be fully electrified,” he said. But when that happens, both airlines and consumers will benefit, he added. His company projects savings of 90% from electrified airplanes and maintenance costs cut 50%. Those savings, in turn, will allow airlines to cut fares by 15%, producing 40% more volume.

Speaking at the same event, Aspen-area resident Amory Lovins — a co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute — maintained that airplane manufacturers could use carbon-fiber composite materials to make airplanes three to five times more energy efficient.

“Many components made of metal today should not be,” Lovins said. He cited a simple $20 coffee pot. Replaced by a higher-tech model with energy consumption, it saves weight and hence fuel. “You take a pound out of a typical airplane and it’s worth around $2,000 in net-present value in fuel costs.”

Lovins has credentials. In 1976, amid the Arab oil embargos, he wrote a landmark essay published in Foreign Affairs magazine that talked about climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Both businesses and governments responded to his vision sluggishly. Time has mostly proven him correct.

Price signals are needed to spur airlines to more rapid adoption of fuel-saving technology…

Some think we’re in such a climatic pickle that we need to explore high-risk geo-engineering strategies.

For example, can temperature rise of accumulated greenhouse gases be counteracted by reflecting more sunlight away from the Earth’s surface with giant mirrors in space? Another idea calls for spraying aerosols into the stratosphere, which is about 10 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, simulating the effect of volcanic eruptions. A volcano eruption in the Philippines in 1991 cooled global temperature by 0.6 degrees Celsius for about two years.

Direct air capture is another idea, part of a broader set of solutions called negative emissions technology. This idea seeks to withdraw carbon dioxide or other greenhouse pollutants from the atmosphere. This is already being done in British Columbia by a company called Carbon Engineering. The company was founded in 2009 by David Keith, then a professor at the University of Calgary. Keith, with backing from Bill Gates and Murray Edwards, succeeded in removing CO2 from the atmosphere in 2015 and converting it into fuel in 2017 at the prototype between Vancouver and Whistler. Now, with backing from oil producers Chevron, Occidental and BHP, he’s trying to accomplish this at scale.

But Keith, in a 2013 book called “A Case for Climate Engineering,” warned against seeing geo-engineering as the solution to climate change. “Our gadget-obsessed culture is all too easily drawn to a shiny new tech fix,” he said. Best, he said, would be to avoid creating emissions.

Locally, emissions reduction has come up in plans to upgrade the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. A citizens’ group appointed by the Board of County Commissioners early identified “carbon emission reduction” as a core community value that needs to be applied to the new facility. Varied ideas about what that means have come up as community outreach and the planning process played out over the past year.

Some have suggested the airport itself should be carbon neutral or negative. It has little carbon footprint, however, compared with the planes that use it. A report to the commissioners early last year estimates 81,000 metric tons annually of emissions, a 30% increase between 2014 and 2017. Commercial and private jet traffic makes up more than 94% of those emissions.

In aviation, as in so much else, it’s easier to create problems than solutions. A case in point is Denver International Airport, the fifth-busiest airport in the U.S. and a hub for many connecting flights to Aspen and other ski towns. The airport plans to add 39 new gates to accommodate growing traffic. Nowhere in the stories announcing the expanding airlines was mention of the carbon footprint.

Allen Best writes about energy, water and other topics from a base in metropolitan Denver. More of his work can be found at http://mountaintownnews.net.

Whirling Disease resistant rainbow trout now a reality in Colorado — #COParksWildlife

In the Gunnison River gorge, CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio, holds a whirling-disease resistant rainbow trout. CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Joe Lewandowski):

Whirling Disease first impacted Colorado’s rainbow trout in the mid-1990s and eliminated many wild populations of this popular sport fish. The aquatic tragedy sparked a decades-long effort by Colorado Parks and Wildlife research scientists to find a remedy and re-establish populations.

Since 2003, the researchers have been crossing a strain of rainbow trout resistant to the disease with other strains of rainbows in the hope of developing a trout that would fend off whirling disease. Now, after more than 20 years of study, frustration, experimentation and dogged persistence by CPW’s aquatic researchers, the tide has turned in the fight against the dreaded disease. Whirling-disease resistant rainbows are now thriving in the wild and the agency is collecting their spawn, enabling hatcheries to propagate millions of fish that will be distributed to rivers and streams throughout the state.

“Thanks to advance genetic testing, we know these fish are maintaining their resistance to whirling disease,” said George Schisler, CPW’s aquatic research chief. “Now they are surviving, reproducing and contributing to future generations of Gunnison River rainbows.”

This long success story started on an August day in 1994 when former CPW researcher Barry Nehring, while walking the river bank in the Gunnison Gorge, noticed small fish swimming helplessly in circles. He knew immediately that the fish were infected with a microscopic spore that damages the cartilage of young fish and prevents them from swimming and developing normally. Whirling disease had arrived in the wild.

The disease was accidentally introduced to Colorado in the late 1980s when infected fish were imported to state and private hatcheries. After those fish were stocked in 40 locations, the spore spread and within a decade infected many rivers throughout state. The disease kills young fish, so eventually natural reproduction by wild rainbows ended across much of Colorado.

In search of a remedy, CPW scientists and biologists from wildlife agencies throughout the West started researching the disease in the late 1990s. At a national conference in Denver in 2002, a researcher from Europe who studied whirling disease gave a presentation about a strain of disease- resistant rainbow trout he’d found at a hatchery in Germany. Schisler, working with the University of California-Davis, imported eggs and then tested the hatched fingerlings, known as Hofers – named after the German hatchery. He found they were 100 times more resistant to the disease than the various CPW rainbow strains.

He also learned that because these fish had been raised in a hatchery for decades, they showed no inkling of the flight response needed to elude predators in the wild. So researchers started crossing them with wild strains, such as the Harrison Lake and Colorado River rainbow to produce fish that exhibit wild behavior and maintain resistance to whirling disease. Those fish were stocked in rivers around the state and some natural reproduction started.

Biologists working in the East Portal Section of the Gunnison River gorge began documenting wild reproduction of rainbow trout in that location in the mid-2000s. These fish demonstrated strong resistance to whirling disease, but also had instincts to survive in the wild. Through advanced genetic analysis, Schisler and his research partner, Eric Fetherman, determined that a DNA marker unique to the stocked Hofer-crosses appeared to have been incorporated into this population, resulting in observed resistance to the disease.

The researchers and agency aquatic biologists determined that developing a brood stock using the Gunnison River trout would be the best way to repopulate Colorado’s rivers with wild rainbows. Since 2014, more than 500,000 eggs have been collected from these fish to stock into whirlingdisease positive rivers and to create hatchery brood stocks.

The trout now has its own moniker: The Gunnison River Rainbow.

CPW’s Glenwood Springs hatchery is propogating both the pure Gunnison River Rainbows and crosses of those fish and other strains of whirling disease-resistant rainbows. This summer more than 1.3 million of fingerling disease-resistant rainbows will be stocked in rivers and streams throughout the state.

The ultimate goal of the stocking effort is to restore natural reproduction in the wild, eliminating the need to stock rainbows in the future.

However, re-establishing the rainbows continues to be a long-term project. After rainbows vanished, brown trout took over Colorado’s big rivers. They prey on the small rainbows that are stocked or hatch and compete for food and habitat with adult rainbows. Biologists say it will take many years for rainbows to become firmly established.

Research scientists don’t declare victory easily, but Fetherman noted that the research project in the East Portal is officially closed. Populations across the state will continue to be monitored because the tiny worms that produce the spores causing whirling disease will likely always exist in Colorado’s rivers.

“I feel like we’ve done some good work and these fish are ready to be stocked statewide,” Fetherman said.

For more information on CPW’s aquatic programs, go to: https://cpw.state.co.us/thingstodo/Pages/Fishing.aspx

Platte River Power Authority sets public sessions on energy options — The Loveland Reporter-Herald #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Transmission towers near the Rawhide power plant near Fort Collins, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From the Platte River Power Authority via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

Platte River Power Authority will hold public focus group meetings as the power provider works to update the plan that details how it will continue to deliver electricity to customers in Loveland, Estes Park, Fort Collins and Longmont as it moves toward more renewable resources.

Platte River will hold sessions in each of those four communities, facilitated by Colorado State University’s Center for Public Deliberation, to receive input from residents and business owners as it updates its Integrated Resource Plan. A new such plan is produced every five years, using input, technology and best practices to lay out a mix of power sources.

This plan is being completed in 2020, one year early, because the power provider’s board of directors decided to pursue a 100% carbon-free energy mix by 2030. Currently, about 30% of the energy delivered by Platte River is carbon-free, a number that will increase to 50% by 2021 with new wind and solar power sources and could reach 60% by 2023, according to a press release.

Jason Frisbie, general manager and CEO, said in a press release that Platte River made significant progress on this updated plan last year and is now looking for input from businesses and residents regarding the “energy future of Northern Colorado.”

The meetings are scheduled for 6-8 p.m. on each of the following dates:

  • March 4, 17th Avenue Place Event Center, 478 17th Ave. in Longmont.
  • March 5, Ridgeline Hotel, 101 S. St. Vrain Ave. in Estes Park.
  • March 11, Embassy Suites, Devereaux Room, 4705 Clydesdale Parkway, Loveland.
  • March 12, Drake Centre, 802 W. Drake Road, Suite 101, Fort Collins.
  • To attend a focus group, RSVP to 970-229-5657 or online at cpd.colostate.edu/events/platte-river-power-community-focus-groups/

    #NewMexico funds could help revamp management of #RioGrande — The Associated Press

    Elephant Butte Dam is filled by the Rio Grande and sustains agriculture in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico.
    Sarah Tory

    From The Associated Press (Susan Montoya Bryan):

    New Mexico lawmakers are considering setting aside $20 million that could be used as seed money as water managers, municipalities and farmers scramble to find ways to reduce groundwater pumping that is at the center of a high-stakes legal battle.

    The fight over the Rio Grande has pitted Texas against New Mexico as demands increase and drought persists. It will be up to a special master appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court to eventually decide how New Mexico goes about ensuring enough of the Rio Grande flows south to users in Texas and Mexico.

    Right now, the system is out of balance, and Texas is arguing that New Mexico should be forced to reduce its pumping by as much as 60%. That would be equivalent to more than half of the water supplied annually to residents in Albuquerque, the state’s largest city.

    Such a reduction would be disastrous for users in southern New Mexico, says John D’Antonio, New Mexico’s top water engineer…

    The seed money would be used over three years for a combination of projects, from paying farmers to voluntarily fallow their land at certain times to efforts aimed at recharging the aquifer connected to the river. Other initiatives could involve importing more water…

    About 85% of the water being pumped along the lower Rio Grande goes to irrigate the nation’s most productive pecan orchards, chile and onion fields and other crops. The city of Las Cruces, New Mexico State University and electric utility Public Service Co. of New Mexico are among other major users. They have proposed paying into a fund that could be used for rotational fallowing and other efforts to address problems along the river…

    The Elephant Butte Irrigation District already has been looking at everything from stormwater capture to desalination of brackish groundwater and temporarily fallowing. But officials there agree with D’Antonio, saying the agriculture community alone cannot bear the full burden…

    … some advocates say New Mexico lawmakers need to boost funding for the state’s water management agencies to improve planning, collect more data and ensure the state doesn’t violate its compact delivery obligations. They point to a high vacancy rate within the state engineer’s office, saying more workers are needed to deal with a backlog of water rights cases, for example.

    D’Antonio said he’s trying to rebuild his agency following nearly a decade of austere state budgets and is hopeful the Legislature understands the importance of securing New Mexico’s water resources moving forward.

    “My feeling is there’s not a more important issue for an arid state like New Mexico than its water issues,” he said. “You start and stop with water. If you don’t have water, it really puts a kibosh on everything else that we do from an economic standpoint.”

    Weaning off #coal: Northern #Arizona starts a painful transition — The Navajo Times #JustTransition


    From The Navajo Times (Krista Allen):

    The city of Page, the Navajo Nation, and the Hopi Tribe are now dealing with economic repercussions of the Navajo Generating Station shutdown.

    When Salt River Project, operator of NGS, and the participants announced on Feb. 13, 2017, they had voted to close the power plant at the end of 2019, the community of Page and both tribes knew the closure would be disastrous for their economies.

    SRP permanently shut down the three units of the plant on Nov. 18, 2019. Since then, there has been a gnawing sense of despondency and anxiety in the Page-Lake Powell area where the closure has not only affected NGS and Kayenta Mine employees but also has impacted schools, Page Hospital, businesses and the libraries in Coconino County, among others.

    Page schools

    When Rob Varner, superintendent for Page Unified School District, started his job five years ago, student enrollment was around 2,650. Today, the enrollment f is 2,530, a 4.53 percent decrease. But the data constantly fluctuates…

    There are six schools within PUSD, which covers 1,800 square miles, including five northwestern Navajo Nation chapters. The student population within PUSD is 81 percent Native American, with at least 16 tribes represented. And of that population, 179 students have parents working at NGS.

    “We have seen a slow trickle of folks leaving,” Varner said…

    PUSD has lost $772,334 in revenue since the plant closed. This is due to student loss and cash inflow, said Varner…

    Page Hospital

    Page Hospital CEO Susan Eubanks said she has seen a decrease in revenue at the hospital, which decreases the facility’s access…

    Community college

    When talks of the NGS closure first started, Colleen Smith, president of Coconino Community College, talked to SRP about the possibility of developing some re-careering programs and a center for several of the regional colleges and universities to work together to provide higher education for people who were laid off from the plant.

    “I was encouraged to write a grant to SRP, but we didn’t receive anything, and we never received notice that we weren’t receiving anything,” Smith said. “We just wanted to provide good training. And I was working with (Coconino County District 5 Supervisor Lena Fowler) who was trying to help everyone.”

    Though CCC did receive some plant equipment to use for education.

    “But you need to know, along the way the things we’ve tried,” Smith said. “I’m adamant that we do not close (CCC’s Page Instructional Site) but that we continue to work to solve problems, be innovative and figure out how to provide more education up here in the northern part of our county. And we’ve been working with a lot of people to try to do that.”

    CCC has three campuses – two in Flagstaff and one in Page – and has been covering 18,000 square miles since 1991. CCC serves about 9,500 students annually. Smith said 75 percent of CCC students are full-time students who have jobs. And 20 percent of the CCC student population is Native American.

    But that percentage isn’t the same for the Page Instructional Site, said Kay Leum, executive director of extended learning at the Page campus, where 85 percent of the student population is Native.

    From fiscal year 2008 to 2017 state aid for the community college districts decreased by 71 percent, from $164.6 million to $47.7 million.

    Smith said that’s huge because nationally it’s considered appropriate funding for a community college to get one-third of its funding from the state.

    “One-third of the fund comes from local property taxes and one-third of the fund comes from tuition and fees,” Smith explained. “So, with these massive cuts – the cuts have affected CCC more than some colleges because we depend … on those funds: state appropriations because of our tax rate being so low (46 percent), far below the next (highest) one.”

    Smith said because the tax rate is so low, those cuts in state appropriations really impacted CCC.

    “It makes a difference in the things you accomplish … and I’m very proud of our college,” Smith said. “I think we’re good stewards for public funds because I think we’ve accomplished a lot with very little.”

    When the plant closed, CCC projected a loss of about $597,813 out of a $20 million general fund budget.

    “The effect of recession and cuts that all started in 2008 were massive,” Smith said. “Since then, we’ve seen significant increases in tuition and fees at our college. There were major cuts to classified and professional tech staff. Therefore, loss of programs, reduction in the number of students in the nursing program. (CCC) almost lost the program but instead cut it in half – many cuts.”

    And the Page Instructional Site nearly closed. Fowler convinced CCC officials to keep it open. The Williams campus, however, closed its doors.

    “Instead of closing the (Page campus), CCC just cut everything to the bone,” Smith said. “But I understand why that was done. It doesn’t mean I agree. I understand.”

    CCC has only 41 full-time faculty positions appropriated for its budget. Smith says that’s not enough. There are also some part-time faculty.

    Smith added that if CCC loses the $597,813, the board will have to make some decisions a little like what happened in 2008.

    “But I’m not saying these are the decisions they (CCC board) would make,” Smith said. “If we were to increase tuition to the amount that it would take to cover this loss, it would at least be (an extra) $10 per credit hour, which would be $300 more in tuition for students who are already paying the highest tuition in the state for community colleges.”

    Smith added that she’s strongly against closing the Page Instructional Site and that the board is trying to find ways to keep the Page campus open.

    “We did get some one-time money this year and one of the things we have been wanting to do is really support this campus (for new programs).”

    Three of those programs are a marine technology maintenance program, a hospitality program, and a tourism program to serve the area.

    “And everything we’re doing, we’re trying to bring our people home and keep them here, keep families together and strengthen our communities,” Fowler said. “When we talk about our communities. We don’t think about just Page or just LeChee, it’s all of us together.”

    La Junta Utilities Commission meeting recap

    Reverse Osmosis Water Plant

    From The La Junta Tribune-Democrat (Bette McFarren):

    Director of Water and Waste Water Tom Seaba reported this week that Colorado Department of Health and Environment has conducted its permit inspection of the new waste water treatment plant, and the results are good.

    Speaking at the Tuesday meeting of the Utilities Commissioners, Seaba said the total cost of the project was about $18.86 million. Three loans were obtained for the construction of the plant from the Colorado Water Resource and Power Development Authority. The first was for nearly $13.6 million, the second for $3 million, and the third for $3 million…

    Seaba also said he was pleased with the performance of his reverse csmosis plant crew. Through observation and careful maintenance, they were able to extend the life of the A and C Train membrane replacements — to 131 months from 58 months on the A Train, and to 137 months from 52 months on the C Train. They have saved one complete replacement of all three trains, at a savings of $386,442.

    In other news, the back-flow prevention survey is continuing. For businesses that do not have any back-flow prevention or cross connection control, the survey will consist of a visual inspection of the plumbing and building information. Reminder letters have been mailed to those consumers that have a known back-flow prevention device registered with the city.