Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:
Colorado Water Conservation Board Hosts Two-Day Forum
On March 4 – 5, Colorado continued to carve the path forward in its Demand Management Feasibility Investigation during a two-day joint meeting between the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and eight Demand Management Workgroups.
Hosted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB), this was the first workshop convening all eight Workgroups – together representing diverse water-related interests across the state. Workgroups reflected on the past year of discussions and presented on challenges and benefits they foresee in a potential temporary, voluntary, compensated program to address Demand Management.
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 only be used to ensure compact compliance and to protect the state’s water users from involuntary curtailment of uses.
“We appreciate the focus, dedication and collaboration of our Workgroup members who gathered this week from across Colorado to move this important conversation forward,” said CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell. “This workshop was the next step in sharing ideas for Colorado’s water future, and positioning our state as a national leader for cooperative problem solving.”
IBCC Director Russell George said, “We began this process of meeting as individual Workgroups in order to begin exploring concerns and benefits of a potential Demand Management Program. The next step in the process was bringing these Workgroups together in this larger forum, which has fostered the critical conversation needed to ensure we are using a grassroots approach. This approach will help inform our state’s decision-makers as they consider options for a possible Demand Management program.”
Demand Management Workgroups include:
Administration & Accounting
Economic & Local Government
Education & Outreach
Law & Policy
Monitoring & Verification
As a headwaters state, Colorado is thoroughly exploring potential tools for managing water in the western United States, and will continue to inform Coloradans throughout the investigation and during the decision-making process.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jennifer Dimas):
The 2020 Ogallala Aquifer Summit will take place in Amarillo, Texas, from March 31 to April 1, bringing together water management leaders from all eight Ogallala region states: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, South Dakota and Wyoming. The dynamic, interactive event will focus on encouraging exchange among participants about innovative programs and effective approaches to addressing the region’s significant water-related challenges.
“Tackling Tough Question” is the theme of the event. Workshops and speakers will share and compare responses to questions such as: “What is the value of groundwater to current and future generations?” and “How do locally led actions aimed at addressing water challenges have larger-scale impact?”
“The summit provides a unique opportunity to strengthen collaborations among a diverse range of water-focused stakeholders,” said summit co-chair Meagan Schipanski, an associate professor in the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at CSU. “Exploring where we have common vision and identifying innovative concepts or practices already being implemented can catalyze additional actions with potential to benefit the aquifer and Ogallala region communities over the short and long term.”
Schipanski co-directs the Ogallala Water Coordinated Agriculture Project (CAP) with Colorado Water Center director and summit co-chair Reagan Waskom, who is also a faculty member in Soil and Crop Sciences. The Ogallala Water CAP, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, has a multi-disciplinary team of 70 people based at 10 institutions in six Ogallala-region states. They are all engaged in collaborative research and outreach for sustaining agriculture and ecosystems in the region.
Some Ogallala Water CAP research and outreach results will be shared at the 2020 Ogallala Summit. The Ogallala Water CAP has led the coordination of the event, in partnership with colleagues at Texas A&M AgriLife, the Kansas Water Office, and the USDA-Agricultural Research Service-funded Ogallala Aquifer Program, with additional support provided by many individuals and organizations from the eight Ogallala states.
The 2020 Summit will highlight several activities and outcomes inspired by or expanded as a result of the 2018 Ogallala Summit. Participants will include producers; irrigation company and commodity group representatives; students and academics; local and state policy makers; groundwater management district leaders; crop consultants; agricultural lenders; state and federal agency staff; and others, including new and returning summit participants.
“Water conservation technologies are helpful, and we need more of them, but human decision-making is the real key to conserving the Ogallala,” said Brent Auvermann, center director at Texas A&M AgriLife Research – Amarillo. “The emergence of voluntary associations among agricultural water users to reduce groundwater use is an encouraging step, and we need to learn from those associations’ experiences with regard to what works, and what doesn’t, and what possibilities exist that don’t require expanding the regulatory state.”
The summit will take place over two half-days, starting at 11 a.m. Central Time (10 a.m. MDT) on Tuesday, March 31 and concluding the next day on Wednesday, April 1 at 2:30 p.m. The event includes a casual evening social on the evening of March 31 that will feature screening of a portion of the film “Rising Water,” by Nebraska filmmaker Becky McMillen, followed by a panel discussion on effective agricultural water-related communications.
Visit the 2020 Ogallala summit webpage to see a detailed agenda, lodging info, and to access online registration. Pre-registration is required, and space is limited. The registration deadline is Saturday, March 21 at midnight Central Time (11 p.m. MDT).
This event is open to credentialed members of the media. Please RSVP to Katie.firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
A member of the public spotted the wolves on Tuesday, March 3, providing a credible sighting report of seven wolves. District wildlife managers were able to investigate and visually verify six wolves in the reported area on Wednesday, March 4. The location of this sighting was several miles south of the January sighting location. Over the past few weeks, wildlife managers have heard from area residents about howling, carcasses, and tracks but actual sightings remain rare. Wolves travel over large distances, especially when establishing new home ranges, so the movement and new sightings are not surprising.
As a federally endangered species, wolves in Colorado remain under the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Colorado Parks and Wildlife works closely with federal partners to monitor wolf presence in Colorado. The wolves migrating into Colorado are likely from larger populations in Wyoming, but could be from populations in Idaho and Montana.
CPW reminds members of the public that killing a wolf in Colorado can result in federal charges, including a $100,000 fine and a year in prison, per offense. Instead, the agency requests that the public give wolves space, and report any sightings to CPW as soon as possible. For more information, visit the CPW website.
After Decade-Long Effort to Secure Full LWCF Funding, Support Builds around Bennet’s Proposal
Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and a bipartisan group of senators introduced the Great American Outdoors Act, legislation to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and reduce the $19 billion dollar maintenance backlog on our public lands. Bennet announced the bipartisan legislation at a press conference last week.
“From Rocky Mountain National Park to the Animas River Trail, Colorado’s public lands are central to our identity and vital for our economy. After working on these proposals for years, I’m hopeful that we’ve reached a tipping point with the legislation we’ve introduced today to fully fund LWCF and address the staggering maintenance backlog, which is the result of years of chronic underfunding for our public lands,” said Bennet. “I hope that this is the start of something that our children and grandchildren can look back on and thank us for. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this bill over the finish line.”
The Great American Outdoors Act would permanently fund LWCF at a level of $900 million and establish a separate restoration fund to address the maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Education, and the Bureau of Land Management using existing revenues from on and offshore energy development.
Bennet has made permanently reauthorizing and fully funding LWCF a top priority since joining the Senate in 2009.
Bennet led the effort to permanently reauthorize the program in Congress with U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.), introducing bipartisan legislation in 2015, and in every subsequent Congress. When LWCF expired in September 2015, Bennet spoke on the Senate floor and wrote to Congressional leadership to help secure a three-year authorization in the end-of-year spending bill. When the program was set to expire again in September 2018, Bennet worked with Burr to file an amendment to the Farm Bill. He also introduced a separate bill with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Burr to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF. In March 2019, he successfully advocated for the permanent reauthorization of LWCF as part of the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. He joined the full funding bill again in April 2019 when it was reintroduced.
Over the years, Bennet has visited several LWCF-funded projects in Colorado, including the Animas River Trail in 2016 and the Yampa River Project in 2018, to learn about and highlight the importance of LWCF in Colorado. LWCF has invested more than $281 million in Colorado projects since its inception.
Bennet has also advocated for robust funding for federal land management agencies for years, sending a letter to former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke in 2017 with proposals to address the national park maintenance backlog in Colorado. Bennet cosponsored the Restore Our Parks Act in 2018, and was an original cosponsor of the legislation when it was reintroduced in 2019.
City officials announced last week it received a $2.9 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration for stabilization work along 9,000 feet of Cottonwood Creek, Biolchini said. The city plans to match the grant with $993,924 from funds intended to improve its stormwater management.
The work will also keep thousands of cubic yards of sediment from washing into Fountain Creek and flowing south to Pueblo, Biolchini said. The project is among 71 Colorado Springs must complete as part of an agreement with Pueblo County to better control the volume and quality of water flowing south in Fountain Creek…
Colorado Springs officials expect to spend $16 million in 2020 on stormwater improvements using fees paid by homeowners and nonresidential property owners, according to the city’s website. Officials must spend $100 million on stormwater projects, operations and maintenance from 2016 through 2020 to comply with the Pueblo agreement. Projects are on track to hit that goal, Biolchini said. The five-year benchmark is part of the requirement to spend $460 million over 20 years on stormwater improvement.
Construction to help prevent erosion of Cottonwood Creek is expected to be designed this year and completed in 2021, he said.
The construction will likely include reshaping the banks so they have gradual slopes and burying hardened structures to keep the creek from changing course, he said.
Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS.
Colorado Snowpack March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Statewide Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Yampa and White Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
South Platte River Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
San Miguel, Dolores, Animas, and San Juan Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Upper Rio Grande River Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Laramie and North Platte Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Gunnison River Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Upper Colorado River Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph March 9, 2020 via the NRCS.
FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
February either gave generously or withheld stingily when it came to snowpack in Colorado, with little in between, and it was all dictated by a fairly sharp north-south dividing line that unfortunately fell north of Grand Mesa.
“Pretty much north of the Grand Mesa, north of Aspen all got well above-normal” precipitation last month, said Karl Wetlaufer, hydrologist and assistant supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Colorado Snow Survey program.
“Below that was well below normal. There’s really not many parts of the state that got in the middle,” he said.
The Mesa Lakes snow telemetry site recorded its lowest February precipitation in the site’s 34-year history, at one inch of water. The two other sites on Grand Mesa — Overland Reservoir and (Trickle) Park Reservoir — recorded their second- and third-lowest precipitation amounts, respectively, for February based on records also dating back decades.
Snowpack at the sites ranged Monday from 65% of median at Mesa Lakes to 73% at Overland.
Statewide snowpack was at 103% of normal as of Monday, down just slightly from the end of January.
Snowpack is at 111% of median in the upper Colorado River Basin, 112% in the Yampa/White basins, 121% in the South Platte basin and 106% in the Arkansas basin. But the Gunnison River Basin is at 90% of median, the Upper Rio Grande, 94%; and the combined San Miguel/Dolores/Animas/San Juan basins, 84%.
Nine snow telemetry sites in northern Colorado had record-high precipitation last month, while six in southern Colorado had record-low amounts.
According to NRCS, the runoff-season streamflows in the combined far-southwest Colorado basins are now predicted to be just 64% of normal, and the forecast for the Gunnison basin is 72% of normal. The Arkansas, Colorado and Yampa/White basins are all predicted to have near-normal runoff volumes.
Reflective of conditions on Grand Mesa, however, the runoff streamflow for Surface Creek at Cedaredge is now expected to be little more than half of average, and the forecast for Plateau Creek is 78% of average.
Andrea Lopez is external affairs manager at the Ute Water Conservancy District, which serves more than 80,000 Mesa County customers. She said the district is concerned not only about snowpack levels on the Grand Mesa but the impact of recent warm temperatures on that snow…
Wetlaufer also is concerned about the recent warm temperatures. Even if they don’t completely melt the snow, they can warm it so when it’s ready to melt it does so faster instead of running off at a more measured pace, he said…
Ute Water’s two Jerry Creek reservoirs, in the Plateau Creek Valley, were 80% full a few weeks ago. Lopez said that fortunately, Ute Water was able to carry over quite a bit of water in them from last year due to the good snowpack last winter. While that will help with water supplies this year even if snowpack remains well below-average on Grand Mesa, two such years in a row could create what Lopez called a “bad situation” when it comes to reliance on those reservoirs.
Denver Water said its reservoirs are all about 5% fuller than they normally are this time of year, and the water in the current snowpack is already up to 96% of peak.
“And that’s just a fancy way of saying, we’re almost to the top amount of water in the snow,” said Todd Hartman, a spokesperson with Denver Water. “We usually don’t see that until come sometime in April. Here we are on March 9th and we are already close to that peak amount of water in the snow. So we do have some reason to feel pretty good, but of course we will still be rooting for a good March and April.”
This is a stark contrast to last March, when Colorado got record amounts of snow. That lead to an avalanche cycle that was described as ‘historic’ by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. You may remember some of those snow slides even hit the highways…
Hartman said this season it was February that came through for them with 200% of average snowpack. He said that was very near a record for that month…
The summer monsoon season was not very active in 2019, and that left the Colorado mountains with well below average precipitation from July to October. Hartman said that will impact how some of the runoff reaches our rivers…
He said that despite that issue, the early stream flow forecasts are good for the Denver Water system, ranging between 100-132% of average.
Denver Water said it can’t tell for sure yet if the reservoirs will fill all the way up this summer, until the snowpack does reach that peak. That usually happens by about the second week of April.