Summary: May 26, 2020
The previous week’s weather was true to early summer form over the Intermountain West. The Colorado River watershed stayed dry save for the far northern reaches of the Upper Green Basin. Areas east of the Continental Divide received several rounds of showers, amounting to 0.50-1.00″ of moisture. Isolated severe storms struck southeast Colorado last Tuesday and Thursday, the 19th and 21st. More widespread moisture hit eastern Colorado on Sunday the 24th. Temperatures stayed cooler than normal for the Upper Colorado River Basin, but it was a warm week for the Eastern Plains, with temperatures anywhere from 2-8 degrees above normal.
While the Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort is reopening, this move is not reflective of the broader snowpack scenario. Northern basins, such as the South Platte and Yampa/White watersheds, are holding onto normal snowpack for this time of year. Over 90% of the season’s peak snowpack has already melted from SNOTEL measurement sites in the San Juan and Rio Grande Basins. As we reach peak streamflow season, we are seeing a mix of above and below normal flows. Streamflows are below normal on the San Juan and Gunnison River Channels. This is troubling, since these areas have nearly no snowpack remaining at SNOTEL sites. Reservoir storage is falling into the below normal range in southwest Colorado as well.
While recent moisture in eastern Colorado is helpful, long-term drought indicators, and vegetative health indices are still paining a grim picture over much of the region. The Vegetative Drought Response Index is showing moderate-to-severe drought conditions across all of southern and eastern Colorado, all of northern and central Utah, and now, much of Wyoming as well. Field condition reports are also discouraging, particularly in areas where severe drought already exists. Impacts include dry soils, lack of green vegetation, inability to drill and plant crops, and cattle being taken to auction early.
The seven-day precipitation outlook shows some shots for moisture mainly over the high terrain. This moisture will come in the form of thunderstorms. Temperatures are forecasted to be well above normal as high pressure air builds over the region. Both medium and long-range outlooks suggest increased chances for above normal temperatures across the region with less certainty with regards to precipitation.
Here’s the release from the USDA (Shawn Reinhardt):
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Bette Brand today announced that the department is investing $281 million in 106 projects to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural communities in 36 states and Puerto Rico. USDA is funding the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program.
“These investments will bring modern, reliable water and wastewater infrastructure to rural communities. They will replace deteriorating, leaking water pipes with new ones and upgrade water handling systems that are decades old. These investments create jobs and improve public health and safety for our rural neighbors,” Brand said. “Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA is committed to partnering with rural communities to help them improve their infrastructure, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
USDA is funding projects in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Eligible applicants include rural cities, towns and water districts. The funds can be used for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities that meet population limits.
Below are examples of water and wastewater projects in rural communities that will receive funding:
The city of Mabton, Wash., will use a $677,000 loan and a $296,195 grant to drill a new well. The city owns and operates a domestic water system that serves 632 active, metered connections. Ground water is currently pumped from two wells, delivered to an 800,000-gallon reservoir, treated by chlorination for disinfection and distributed to customers. The new well will augment water capacity, resulting in improved reliability. The city of Auburn, Ky., will use a $6.1 million loan and a $2.6 million grant to replace the wastewater treatment plant to accommodate increased discharge from a new industrial facility. The expanded treatment plant will continue to provide safe and reliable wastewater treatment services for customers in rural Logan County while expanding capacity for economic development. In Terlton, Okla., Pawnee County Rural Water District #2 will use a $1.7 million loan and a $597,000 grant to rehabilitate wells and bring the water treatment plant up to Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality standards. These improvements will enable the district to reduce the amount of water it is required to purchase. This will help lower operating expenses and increase the efficiency and sustainability of the system. The district provides water to 2,174 rural residents.
In April 2017, [the administration] established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit http://www.rd.usda.gov.
From Colorado Politics (Marianne Goodland) via The Colorado Springs Gazette:
A bill on toxic firefighting chemicals that have contaminated water supplies in southern El Paso County won unanimous support Thursday from the House Finance Committee.
[HB20-1119] was approved by the House Energy and Environment Committee on March 9, before the General Assembly shut down for 10 weeks due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
According to bill co-sponsor Rep. Lois Landgraf, a Colorado Springs Republican, the measure is a fix of sorts for legislation that passed in 2019 which banned the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals, known collectively as PFAS.
The 2019 law banned Class B firefighting foams that contain “intentionally added” per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Those chemicals were used for decades at Peterson Air Force Base in El Paso County and have been found in the Widefield aquifer, which serves Security, Widefield and Fountain, communities near the base…
Last year’s bill created the clean water process for PFAS, Landgraf said. “What we didn’t realize is that it also eliminated the ability of the airports to stay in business. United could not get their insurance because we banned any use of PFAS. They have to practice with it a couple of times every year to keep their insurance in place,” Landgraf said.
This year’s measure allows the testing to take place in airline hangars. The runoff will be captured in catch basins and then disposed of.
The bill also requires a the state’s solid and hazardous waste commission to come up with a certificate for any facility — like an airport — or firefighting department that shows PFAS is present on the premises.
Landgraf said the certificate will help the state track PFAS. “Right now we don’t know who’s using it and not using it,” she said.
The Colorado Aviation Association backs the bill in its current form, according to lobbyist Kelly Sloan, who pointed out that the use of PFAS is on its way out. The Federal Aviation Administration is planning to phase out the use of PFAS at airports, but for now, airports still have to comply with those federal regulations, he said…
The bill now heads to the House Appropriations Committee.