Governor Signs Bill to Fund Arkansas Valley Conduit — Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District applauded state approval of a $100 million financing package for the Arkansas Valley Conduit that will allow construction to begin in the near future.

The Colorado General Assembly passed the annual Colorado Water Conservation project bill which contains the funding earlier this month, and Governor Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Monday.

“The Arkansas Valley Conduit will be a lifeline for the Lower Arkansas Valley for generations to come,” said Bill Long, President of the Southeastern District. “Governor Polis, the General Assembly and the CWCB have all shown vision and foresight with this support of the AVC. This goes beyond just financing a pipeline, because really it’s an investment to assure clean drinking water for the future.”

Long also noted the strong bipartisan support the AVC enjoys from the entire Colorado congressional delegation, and noted in particular the leadership of Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, and Congressmen Scott Tipton and Ken Buck.

“I want to thank the CWCB board and staff for including this funding in their annual bill, and express our sincere gratitude to the legislators from the Arkansas Basin for their leadership and support,” said Kevin Karney, chairman of the District’s AVC committee. “The recognition by the State of Colorado of the benefit of partnering with the Bureau of Reclamation on this project is an enormous boost.”

The AVC is estimated to cost between $564 million and $610 million to complete over a 15-year period. The $100 million in state funding would include $90 million in loans and $10 million in grants over the life of the project. When complete, the AVC will provide clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities.

The AVC had received funding since 2010 to prepare for construction of the 130-mile pipeline which will deliver a safe drinking water supply to the Lower Arkansas Valley. In February of this year, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that $28 million of FY ’20 funding was being directed to the conduit, in an effort to move from planning and design into construction. An additional $8 million has been requested for FY ’21 and is under consideration by Congress.

“The unanimous approval of this funding package by the CWCB board last November was the absolute catalyst for an improved federal funding picture,” said Southeastern District Executive Director Jim Broderick. “Colorado, like other Western states, recognizes developing a strong partnership with Reclamation allows us to overcome water quality and water supply challenges in rural areas.”

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

Celebrating the value of water with art — News on TAP

New public art piece follows the journey of Denver’s water. The post Celebrating the value of water with art appeared first on News on TAP.

via Celebrating the value of water with art — News on TAP

Completing the bucket list, one reservoir at a time — News on TAP

As one adventure ends, a Denver Water employee embarks on a new one under the stars of the Milky Way. The post Completing the bucket list, one reservoir at a time appeared first on News on TAP.

via Completing the bucket list, one reservoir at a time — News on TAP

2020 #COleg: Gov. Polis in #ColoradoSprings to sign bills for regulating toxic firefighting foam — KRDO

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

From KRDO (Kelsie Brentzel):

While neighbors of Peterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Academy are still dealing with the effects of chemicals in firefighting foam that got into the environment, Gov. Jared Polis was in Colorado Springs on Monday to sign bills into law that establishes when and how PFAS can be used.

PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, has been linked to detrimental health effects when found in groundwater. The PFAS family of compounds been deemed “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment.

They were created to make products like Scotchgard and Teflon and are used on military installments and airports in firefighting foam.

Until today there were little to no regulations of the dangerous chemicals in Colorado.

The new laws establish testing and use procedures for PFAS; and it also orders the solid and hazardous waste commission to create rules for facilities, fire departments, or others who want to use or store PFAS. The law also prohibits the use of class B firefighting foam that contains PFAS in certain aircraft hangars starting in 2023.

A $25 fee for every petroleum load that enters the state will also go into effect. The money collected will fund PFAS in Colorado…

In the meantime, it’s possible Colorado could create its own limits for the chemicals in drinking water, as other states have.

2020 #COleg: Polis signs 14 bills Monday affecting water, law enforcement and the economy — The Summit Daily News

State Capitol May 12, 2018 via Aspen Journalism

From The Summit Daily News (Taylor Sienkiewicz):

Gov. Jared Polis held five bill-signing ceremonies Monday, June 29, across Colorado for 14 bills. Topics ranged from employee benefits to education to grants, but several stuck out as directed at rural and mountain communities like Summit County…

The Rural Economic Development Initiative Grant Program, is more wide-reaching. The Colorado Legislature site says the grants would be for projects that create new jobs, specifically for “projects that create diversity and resiliency in the local economies of rural communities.” These jobs can be created through a new employer or the expansion of an existing employer, including local governments and organizations or individuals working in partnership with a local government.

“The Rural Economic Development Initiative is critical to helping rural communities with less than 20,000 people plan and invest in local projects to create jobs and economic opportunity,” Polis said at the press conference…

Polis also signed conservation bills Monday, including the Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project. The bill provides funding for certain projects, such as the Colorado water loss control initiative or the watershed restoration program.

Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier described the bill as “complicated but collaborative” and focused on a lot of big-picture projects. She added that some of these projects will impact Summit County, including one piece of the bill that designates funds to snowmaking.

Now that the money is allocated, Stiegelmeier said there are lots of “projects on the ground” that could receive funding. She said the county has applied for funding through its Open Space & Trails department before and that the Blue River Integrated Management Plan and the Swan River Reclamation Project have received funding.

Polis signed the following bills Monday, June 29:

  • House bill 20-1119: State Government Regulation of Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances
  • Senate bill 20-026: Workers’ Compensation for Audible Psychological Trauma
  • SB20-057: Fire Prevention and Control Employee Benefits
  • HB20-1184: Sunset Colorado Seed Act
  • SB20-002: Rural Economic Development Initiative Grant Program
  • SB20-030: Consumer Protections for Utility Customers
  • HB20-1229: Peace Officers Standards and Training Board Scholarship Rural and Small Law Enforcement
  • SB20-003: State Parks Improvement Appropriation
  • HB20-1403: Colorado Water Conservation Board Construction Fund Project
  • SB20-201: Species Conservation Trust Fund Projects
  • HB20-1366: Higher Education Funding Model
  • HB20-1109: Tax Credit Employer Contributions to Employee 529s
  • SB20-095: Middle School Students Concurrent Enrollment Information
  • HB20-1424: Social Equity Licensees in Regulated Marijuana
  • 2020 #COleg: Gov. Polis signed into law Monday a bill that provides $1 million to support @COParksWildlife’s development of #Colorado’s next state park.

    Fishers Peak. By Michelle Goodall from Trinidad, USA – Fishers peakUploaded by xnatedawgx, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14915627

    Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Bill Vogrin):

    In a sun-soaked open space flanked by 9,633-foot Fishers Peak, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law Monday a bill that provides $1 million to support Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s development of Colorado’s next state park.

    As state and local officials looked on, Gov. Jared Polis on Monday signed into law Senate Bill 3, which provides $1 million to Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop the 19,200 acres surrounding Fishers Peak near Trinidad in Colorado’s next state park. Photo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife / Bill Vogrin

    Polis called the funding critical toward achieving his goal of CPW opening the 19,200-acre park to the public as the 42 state park.

    The governor also called the next state park an economic engine that will drive the economy of Trinidad and the region as he signed Senate Bill 3 in front of a small group of lawmakers and dignitaries including Dan Gibbs, Executive Director, Department of Natural Resources, and CPW Director Dan Prenzlow.

    “This is a big day because developing our 42nd state park is not as simple as opening the gates and inviting the public,” Prenzlow said. “CPW parks staff, wildlife and aquatic biologists, engineers, wildlife managers and all our partners are deep into the process of transforming this former ranch into a showplace for all who might want to recreate here.

    “CPW staff is committed to meeting the governor’s challenge to open this park by 2021 by accelerating the designing and construction of state parks from a multi-year process down to a single year. This funding will help us expedite the process. I’m confident when we finally open these gates, the public will be thrilled at the park that will greet them.”

    Gibbs and Prenzlow were joined by Representatives Daneya Esgar and Perry Will, local government and business officials from Trinidad and Las Animas County as well as leaders of CPW’s non-profit partners The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO), each playing a critical role in the purchase of the Fishers Peak property.

    “We could not have gotten this far without the hard work of our partners from GOCO, the City of Trinidad, TNC and TPL,” Prenzlow said. “Nor could this happen without our partners in the Legislature and in the hunting and fishing communities who provided millions in revenue from hunting and fishing license sales.”

    In February 2019, CPW partnered with the City of Trinidad, TNC, TPL and GOCO to purchase the mostly undeveloped property, prized for its variety of habitat, wildlife and the linkage it provides between grasslands to the east with foothills and mountains to the west.

    On April 2, the partners signed over ownership of the property to CPW and the agency, with its partners, immediately ramped up master-planning efforts to create a park that will protect the natural treasures and wildlife found there while welcoming visitors, including hunters, hikers, mountain bikers, wildlife watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

    For months, biologists have been combing the property to inventory the flora and fauna. Among their discoveries was the presence of the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. In 2014, the mouse was listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service due to loss of habitat and low population numbers.

    Bird surveys continue and are going well; biologists believe they have found a potential golden eagle nest as well as a nesting pair of peregrine falcons. They also report owl sightings.

    Herptile surveys have found an unusual lizard species, a variable skink, making the property likely the only state park with this species.

    Biologists have also deployed dozens of trail cameras across the property to study everything moving on the ground. There’s even coordinated weed-mapping underway with experts studying plants to formulate the appropriate seed mixture to use when landscaping areas of the park.

    The information gathered will then be combined with research into the archaeological and cultural history of the property. Next comes the public process as planners gather input to set management goals for the property and design recreation areas that include roads, parking lots, restrooms, picnic areas, trails and wildlife-viewing areas for the public to enjoy.

    In recent weeks, crews have begun grading and laying gravel on a new access road and parking lot.

    Installing vault toilets is expected to be completed in the coming days. To stay informed on continuing progress of the park, please sign up to receive CPW eNews emails or visit cpw.state.co.us.

    The property remains closed to public access.

    Gov. Jared Polis handed to State Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat, a pen he used to sign Senate Bill 3 into law, providing $1 million for CPW to continue the work of transforming the Fishers Peak property into the next state park. Esgar was a key sponsor of the bill. Photo credit: Bill Vogrin/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

    Highlights From “The First National Flood Risk Assessment” — First Street Foundation

    Here’s the release from the First Street Foundation:

    Graphic credit: First Street Foundation

    BACKGROUND

    A new national report from the First Street Foundation provides a comprehensive national analysis of the state of flood risk in the continental U.S. The findings are the result of the First Street Foundation’s new Flood Model, a high precision, climate adjusted model that assesses flood risk at the individual property level today and into the future. These results are being made publicly available for the first time through a new tool, Flood Factor™, a free online source of high-quality probabilistic flood risk information.

    The model represents the culmination of years of research and development made possible by building upon existing knowledge and peer reviewed scientific applications regularly used in the identification of flood risk. This effort was undertaken with the goal of making flood risk transparent, easy to understand, informative, and available to all. The model was produced in partnership with researchers and hydrologists from Fathom, Rhodium Group, and leading researchers from the country’s top academic institutions.

    Houston, Texas: 3m resolution, 1 in 100 annual flood risk or 1% for the year 2020. Graphic credit: First Street Foundation

    Significantly, the model allows for an understanding of risk from any type of flooding event, including fluvial (riverine), pluvial (rainfall), storm surge, and tidal sources, and addresses the reality that these sources have been, and continue to be, impacted in different ways by changing environmental factors. First Street Foundation’s modeling process has integrated those factors directly into the final risk statistics. In doing so, the model evaluates flooding from multiple risk sources (fluvial, pluvial, surge, and tidal) while also integrating current and future environmental considerations, all at the property level.

    The full report consists of a high-level methodological overview, national summary and state-by-state analysis of the lower 48 United States and D.C., with a focus on providing insight into new findings around flood risk, adaptation, and how changing environmental factors impact future flood risk. The risk identified by the First Street Foundation Flood Model highlights significant variations within and across regions, states, and cities in the U.S. Most relevant for this report is the uneven risk identified across and within these localities, and the regular deviations in identified risk when examining properties located in FEMA’s Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA).

    NATIONAL OVERVIEW

    Key Finding:Many more American homes and businesses are at risk of severe flooding than previously understood.

    At the national level, the First Street Foundation Flood Model identifies around 1.7 times the number of properties as having substantial risk* compared to the FEMA 1-in-100 SFHA designation. This equates to a total of 14.6 million properties across the country at substantial risk, of which 5.9 million properties and property owners are currently unaware of or underestimating the risk they face because they are not identified as being within the SFHA zone.

    Graphic credit: First Street Foundation

    Washington D.C. (438%), Utah (419%), Wyoming (325%), Montana (311%), and Idaho (290%) show the greatest difference between the First Street Foundation Flood Model estimates and FEMA SFHA designation, due mainly to First Street’s nationwide coverage while FEMA’s mapping in some of these locations is not yet complete.

    There are locations where First Street estimates risk is less than that designated by the FEMA SFHA, and while there are differences in this deviation county-by-county and city-by-city, at a state-wide level Arizona, New Jersey, and Louisiana are the only states that show a lower count of properties currently with substantial risk in the First Street model in comparison to the FEMA SFHA. However, when adjusting for future environmental changes, in Arizona, additional properties fall into that risk categorization. In Louisiana, after adjusting for sea level rise that approaches or exceeds protective levee heights, the deviation shifts as the First Street methods uncover an additional 332,700 properties with substantial risk by the year 2050, in turn showing 248,800 more properties with substantial risk than FEMA defines currently. Similarly in New Jersey, adjusting for environmental changes shifts the First Street estimate from 8,100 fewer properties currently at substantial risk than FEMA, to identify73,600 more properties at substantial risk in 2050 than current FEMA estimates.

    Graphic credit: First Street Foundation

    While the aforementioned states show the biggest deviation between First Street and FEMA in terms of the number of properties facing significant risk, the First Street Foundation Flood Model also calculates the number of properties facing any risk** of flooding. When looking at this broader level of risk, which is beyond the FEMA SFHA definition, the data identifies 23.5 million properties in the U.S. as at-risk over the next 30 years. Of these properties, 3.6 million were categorized as facing almost certain risk, with a 99% chance of flooding at least once over the next 30 years.

    Graphic credit: First Street Foundation

    At a more granular level, the results shed light on the unevenness in which changing environmental factors will impact regions of the country differently, and prove the need to incorporate more localized data at a property level in order to fully understand flood risk. Viewing risk at a summarized city, county or state level looks very different than the property-level data Flood Factor will deliver. A property’s Flood Factor is an indicator of its comprehensive flood risk, ranging from 1–10. Properties with higher Flood Factors are either more likely to flood, more likely to experience high floods, or both.

    USES & IMPLICATIONS: NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE

    The availability of the First Street national property-level data enables a wide range of adaptation and policy efforts, including making it possible for individuals, as well as industry and government leaders to:

  • Understand the risks associated with their property and take active steps to mitigate them.
  • The real estate, mortgage, insurance, and investment communities to have a consistent property-level dataset to judge the severity and value of the risk associated with the properties in their portfolio.
  • Federal, state, and local governments to have a new tool for informed policymaking to guide public investment towards adaptations to reduce the risk and build resilience to flooding.
  • Additionally, First Street has created the First Street Foundation Flood Lab, a collection of academic and industry researchers who will drill into our data to derive the information necessary to further our understanding of flood risk, its consequences, and possible solutions.

    These experts represent a wide swath of disciplines, including finance, economics, public policy, risk management, hydrology and engineering who will examine the implications of flood risk data on the mortgage industry, coastal communities, government policy, the National Flood Insurance Program, housing market, low-income and disadvantaged communities, and other related topics. Enabled by data sharing agreements among the data providers and participants, the insights generated by the Flood Lab researchers will enable the data to be applied more rapidly and to greatest effect.

    Read the full report

    Great flood Denver May 19, 1864 via the Library of Congress. Photo credit George Wakely.

    From The New York Times (Christopher Flavelle, Denise Lu, Veronica Penney, Nadja Popovich and John Schwartz):

    Across much of the United States, the flood risk is far greater than government estimates show, new calculations suggest, exposing millions of people to a hidden threat — and one that will only grow as climate change worsens.

    That new calculation, which takes into account sea-level rise, rainfall and flooding along smaller creeks not mapped federally, estimates that 14.6 million properties are at risk from what experts call a 100-year flood, far more than the 8.7 million properties shown on federal government flood maps. A 100-year flood is one with a 1 percent chance of striking in any given year.

    The federal government’s flood maps guide where and how to build, whether homeowners should buy flood insurance, and how much risk mortgage lenders take on. If the new estimates are broadly accurate, it would mean that homeowners, builders, banks, insurers and government officials nationwide have been making decisions with information that understates their true physical and financial risks.

    Numerous cities nationwide — as diverse as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Buffalo, N.Y., and Chattanooga, Tenn. — show the startling gap in the risks. In Chicago alone, 75,000 properties have a previously undisclosed flood risk. And minority communities often face a bigger share of hidden risk…

    Federal flood maps, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have long drawn concerns that they underestimate flood risk. Part of the problem is keeping the maps up to date, which is not only costly and labor intensive, but further complicated as climate change has worsened the dangers.

    In addition, FEMA’s maps aren’t designed to account for flooding caused by intense rainfall, a growing problem as the atmosphere warms.

    When FEMA does issue updated maps, politicians and homeowners often object, hoping to avoid higher federal flood insurance rates. “You can’t appeal your rate. You can only fight your map,” said Roy Wright, who ran the National Flood Insurance Program until 2018. “It turns it into house-by-house combat.”

    […]

    The First Street Foundation created its flood model, called Flood Factor, using federal elevation and rainfall data, and coastal flooding estimates from hurricanes. The foundation then checked its results against a national database of flood claims and historic flood paths.

    Overall, the results, which cover the contiguous United States — including areas the government hasn’t yet mapped for flooding, and places where the federal maps are decades old — show a vast increase in risk compared with official estimates. Many inland areas, including swaths of Appalachia and numerous major cities, saw big jumps.

    However, there are exceptions, particularly along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast, where the government has more thoroughly studied and planned for floods. There, the federal maps show more buildings at risk than the new model suggests.

    First Street said that in some areas, including small municipalities, the model may overestimate flood risk because it doesn’t capture every local flood-protection measure, such as pumps or catchment basins.

    Aspinall Unit operations update: 750 CFS in Black Canyon #runoff

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased to 1650 cfs on Tuesday, June 30th. Releases are being adjusted to maintain flows near the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River. The June 15th runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir predicts 59% of average for April-July inflows.

    Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay at levels above the baseflow target after the release decrease has arrived at the Whitewater gage.

    Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for June through August.

    Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 750 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 650 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

    Looking downstream from Chasm View, Painted Wall on right. Photo credit: NPS\Lisa Lynch

    Navajo Dam operations update

    Update: From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing flows in the San Juan River Basin, and a dry weather forecast, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 800 cfs on Wednesday, July 1st starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing flows in the San Juan River Basin, and a dry weather forecast, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 600 cfs on Tuesday, June 30th starting at 4:00 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Palisade sewer study completed — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

    Palisade needs to decommission its aging wastewater lagoons and a new study shows piping the town’s waste to the Clifton Sanitation District’s wastewater treatment plant is the most cost effective.

    The Palisade Sewer Study looked at several options for treating Palisade’s wastewater, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said. The two main options were to build a new treatment plant in Palisade or send the waste to Clifton.

    “What the city found is that (piping to Clifton) is financially better for the town,” Hawkinson said. “It’s about half the price to take a line to Clifton versus us building our own treatment plant and then decommissioning our lagoons.”

    A brand new plant would cost around $15 million, Hawkinson said, while utilizing Clifton’s existing facility would cost around $7 million. Decommissioning the lagoons will cost around $3 million, she said and will have to be done under either plan, as they will not be able to meet water treatment guidelines…

    Town staff are beginning to research grant opportunities to pay for design and engineering work on the project, which Hawkinson said would cost around $500,000. She said the Department of Agriculture has some grants available and that the town was looking into other funding sources as well.

    Palisade is just east of Grand Junction and lies in a fertile valley between the Colorado River and Mt. Garfield which is the formation in the picture. They’ve grown wonderful peaches here for many years and have recently added grape vineyards such as the one in the picture. By inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +) – https://www.flickr.com/photos/23155134@N06/15301560980/, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    This simple model shows the importance of wearing masks and social distancing — The Conversation


    Hospital and nursing staff wear face masks and observes social distancing guidelines at an event in the U.K.
    Ben Birchall /Getty Images

    Jeyaraj Vadiveloo, University of Connecticut

    The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

    With the advent of an infectious disease outbreak, epidemiologists and public health officials quickly try to forecast deaths and infections using complex computer models. But with a brand new virus like the one that causes COVID-19, these estimates are complicated by a dearth of credible information on symptoms, contagion and those who are most at risk.

    My team at the Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research has developed a free, user-friendly computer model that has a different goal. It demonstrates how infections and deaths progress on a daily basis over a three-month period depending on how people behave in response to the outbreak. This model allows the public to input data that demonstrate how changes in safety measures in their communities, including wearing face covering and social distancing, can significantly impact the spread of this virus and mortality rates.

    Our Goldenson Center COVID-19 model uses a hypothetical 1,000-person population and calculates outcomes using three types of information: the initial number of infections, social distancing, and personal protection measures that include wearing masks, frequent hand-washing and staying quarantined if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Our model then uses this initial information to project on a daily basis the cumulative infections and deaths over a three-month period. It’s not based on actual disease data and is designed to demonstrate the effects of safety measures, rather than make specific predictions.

    This simple actuarial model uses general guidelines, rather than data and assumptions about COVID-19 specifically, to simulate the effect of safety protocols. Here, a hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a population of 1,000, with 10% observing good safety protocols, leads to hundreds of infections and deaths after three months.
    Goldenson Center at the University of Connecticut, Author provided
    This simulation shows the effect on the same hypothetical group of 100 infected people out of a group of 1,000 where 80% of people wear masks and practice social distancing, which slows the infection rate to almost zero after two months.
    Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research, CC BY-NC-ND

    Why it matters

    By inputting different assumptions, people can see how their community’s personal actions can change the course of this pandemic – and how poor protocols can trigger exponential spread of the virus.

    For example, let’s assume that 100 people are infected out of a population of 1,000, with one in 10 wearing masks, keeping appropriate distance and quarantining if necessary. The model shows that 30 days later, the virus would have killed 156 people. After three months, the death toll reaches 460 – with 510 now infected.

    However, our model shows that if half the population practices safe protocols, infections after 90 days drop to 293 and deaths drop even more dramatically, to 149 – about one-third of the lives lost under looser measures.

    The main takeaway is that safety measures that are within our control have significant impact – and ignoring those protocols can have dire consequences.

    If a state opens up and maintains safety measures for at least three months, the virus will be contained and possibly eliminated. On the other hand, if a state opens up too soon and its residents ignore safety protocols, there could be an exponential increase in COVID-19 deaths within months. It’s important for the public to realize that spread of the virus is impacted only by personal behavior.

    What’s next?

    Our model shows that there must be continued emphasis on maintaining necessary safety measures as we relax shelter-in-place rules and get people back to work. Practicing common-sense social distancing, wearing masks in public and quarantining when necessary is a small inconvenience for a limited amount of time – that will contain the devastation of this virus and ensure that our economy is restored.

    [You’re too busy to read everything. We get it. That’s why we’ve got a weekly newsletter. Sign up for good Sunday reading. ]The Conversation

    Jeyaraj Vadiveloo, Director of the Janet and Mark L. Goldenson Center for Actuarial Research, University of Connecticut

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Make way for beavers

    Thanks to a collaborative partnership between the Clark Fork Coalition, National Wildlife Federation, and Defenders of Wildlife, expert assistance is now available to public and private landowners seeking non-lethal approaches to manage beaver activity.

    Growing thirst from Front Range cities threatens Holy Cross Wilderness — The Vail Daily #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    A wetland area along Homestake Creek in an area that would be flooded by a potential Whitney Reservoir. The cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs are looking to develop additional water in Eagle County and divert it to the Front Range. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Vail Daily (John LaConte):

    The public’s chance to comment ends Tuesday in the U.S. Forest Service’s consideration of a permit that would allow the first action in a process which could create a new reservoir in the Homestake Valley near Red Cliff.

    The special use permit would allow the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs to build roads and drill holes in an area of the White River National Forest which is near the Holy Cross Wilderness, 6 miles southwest of Red Cliff.

    Ultimately, if constructed, a 20,000-acre-foot reservoir would flood a corner of the wilderness area and would also relocate Homestake Road, requiring the removal of 500 acres from the Holy Cross Wilderness area.

    But at this time, the Forest Service is only seeking comments on the impacts of the drilling, not the dam. The drilling would give crews information about the feasibility of dam sites, but the drilling in itself would have impacts to the forest as 8-foot-by-22-foot drill rigs could cross wetlands and cut down trees in the path to their drilling destination, where holes of 150 feet would be dug…

    In soliciting comments in June, “we are focusing solely on the potential impacts from this preliminary geophysical work,” said Marcia Gilles, acting Eagle-Holy Cross district ranger. “Any further proposals that might be submitted after this information is collected would be evaluated separately.”

    […]

    “They’re calling this the Whitney Project; I’m calling it Homestake III,” said Mike Browning, a former water attorney in Colorado who is now the chair of the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance.

    The “Homestake III” handle is in reference to the project known as Homestake II, in the early 1980s, which bears a strong resemblance to the Whitney Creek effort. The Homestake II project also sought to build another reservoir beneath the existing Homestake Reservoir, which was constructed in 1964. The Homestake II idea was eliminated in large part to Hern’s efforts.

    “(Hern) was really the spokesperson and really the leader of that movement in the 1980s,” Browning said. “The Holy Cross Wilderness Defense Fund was marshaling the local comments and local opposition.”

    In his Sunday letter to the Forest Service, Hern said the Holy Cross Wilderness Defense Fund, which he co-founded In 1982, has not changed its stance on the project.

    “The people of Colorado love this wilderness and have supported our efforts for over forty years to establish it and preserve it,” Hern wrote. “You should not underestimate the intensity of these feelings and the attitudes of the public in this matter.”

    […]

    ERO Resources Corporation and RJH Consultants, Inc., which prepared the technical report for the special use permit application, referenced the memorandum of understanding in its report.

    “The objective of this study is to evaluate opportunities to construct reservoir storage to develop a portion of the yield contemplated in the (memorandum of understanding),” according to the report, which was published in November. “Specifically, the subsurface explorations described below would provide valuable information regarding the suitability of the area for reservoir development. The cities are currently considering and evaluating multiple reservoir sizes with potential storage capacities between 6,850 and 20,000 acre-feet.”

    One-third of Colorado is now in a severe #drought, mostly in the south — The #Colorado Sun

    From The Colorado Sun (Lauren Irwin):

    Nearly 83% of Colorado is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and 33% is reporting extreme or severe drought, as of Tuesday, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported, up slightly from the week before.

    A year ago, none of the state was experiencing drought conditions.

    The driest conditions are in the southern plains and in southwest Colorado, where wind-driven wildfires are burning in four locations…

    The Southwest Monsoon, which comes annually to Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Colorado in July, brings moisture — and its trademark thunderstorms and flooding — from southern Mexico and is important to farmers and ranchers in the region. This year, the monsoon is expected to relieve dry conditions in the southern parts of Colorado and lower the risk of wildfires there.

    “In seven to 10 days, we hope to be talking about the first moisture pulse coming out of the southwest,” he said. “The onset of the Southwest Monsoon is the first sign that fire and drought season will start moving north.”

    The abnormally dry conditions also have implications for farmers and ranchers and so Gov. Jared Polis has activated the state Drought Task Force. The panel, made up of the departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Local Affairs, Public Safety and the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will assess the potential damage to Colorado’s $8 billion agricultural economy.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 23, 2020.

    From The Ag Info Network (Maura Bennett):

    Governor Polis has issued an order to activate a state agricultural task force to determine potential crop and cattle damage from drought conditions. Drought is now impacting 40 state counties.

    The task force is directed to study the impact and the possible economic fallout for the state’s $8 billion farming industry.

    The Colorado Water Conservation Board (Water Availability) Task Force just highlighted the serious nature of the drought.

    Becky Bolinger, a climatologist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center, told the meeting that when spring arrived the “spigot turned off and the heat turned on.”

    Bolinger: Most areas of the state have been struggling with dry conditions ever since. Drought has extended in the last month and now 33% of the state is now in extreme drought conditions (D3). We have seen an ET event in June over the eastern plains kind of consistent with a flash drought, except we’re already in a drought so what it’s done is make that drought worse.

    The U.S. Drought Monitor reported this week that extreme drought expanded in eastern Colorado and northern New Mexico. The National Resource Conservation Service also reported that reservoir levels are dwindling in southern and southwestern Colorado, including the agricultural San Luis Valley and the Gunnison River Basin.

    Who was George I. Haight and why is he now relevant to the #ColoradoRiver basin? — @AmericanRivers #COriver #aridification

    At capacity, Lake Powell holds more than 26 million acre-feet of water that originates as snowpack from the Upper Basin. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation via the Water Education Foundation)

    From the American Rivers blog (Eric Kuhn):

    As the Colorado basin grapples with climate change, shortages and declining reservoir levels, we revisit one of the critical legal milestones in the evolution of “the Law of the River.”

    As Utah pushes forward with its proposed Lake Powell Pipeline – an attempt move over 80,000 acre feet per year of its Upper Colorado River Basin allocation to communities in the Lower Basin – it is worth revisiting one of the critical legal milestones in the evolution of what we have come to call “the Law of the River.”

    The Colorado River Compact divided the basin into an upper and lower half, with each having the right to develop and use 7.5 million acre-feet of river water annually. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation via The Water Education Foundation)

    The division of the great river’s watershed into an “Upper Basin” and “Lower Basin”, with separate water allocations to each, was the masterstroke that allowed the successful completion of the Colorado River Compact in 1922. But the details of how that separation plays out in water management today were not solidified until a little-discussed U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1955, in the early years of the decade-long legal struggle known as “Arizona v. California.”

    Most, if not all, of the small army of lawyers, engineers, water managers, board members, academics, tribal officials, NGO representatives, and journalists now actively engaged in Colorado River issues are familiar with the 1963 Arizona v. California Supreme Court decision. It was Arizona’s great legal victory over California that cleared the road for the Congressional authorization and construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP). Many in the ranks are also quite familiar with Simon H. Rifkind, the court-appointed Special Master who conducted lengthy hearings and worked his way through a mountain of case briefs and exhibits before writing his 1960 master’s report that set the stage for the court’s decision. Few of us, however, are familiar with George I. Haight. Haight was the first special master in the case, appointed on June 1st, 1954. He died unexpectedly in late July 1955. Two weeks before his death he made a critical decision that was upheld by the Supreme Court and set the basic direction of the case. Today, as the basin grapples with climate change, shortages, declining reservoir levels, and most recently, Utah’s quest to build the Lake Powell Pipeline exporting a portion of its Upper Basin water to the Lower Basin to meet future needs in the St. George area, Haight’s forgotten opinion looms large.

    Confluence of the Little Colorado River and the Colorado River. Climate change is affecting western streams by diminishing snowpack and accelerating evaporation, a new study finds. Photo credit: DMY at Hebrew Wikipedia [Public domain]

    In late 1952 when Arizona filed the case, it was about disputed issues over the interpretation of both the Colorado River Compact and the Boulder Canyon Project Act. Among its claims for relief, Arizona asked the court to find that it was entitled to 3.8 million acre-feet under Articles III(a) & (b) of the compact (less a small amount for Lower Basin uses by New Mexico in the Gila River and Utah in the Virgin River drainages), that under the Boulder Canyon Project Act California was strictly limited to 4.4 million acre-feet per year, that its “stream depletion” theory of measuring compact apportionments be approved, and that evaporation off Lake Mead be assigned to each Lower Division state in proportion to their benefits from Lake Mead. California, of course, vigorously opposed Arizona’s claims. One of California’s first moves was to file a motion with Haight to bring into the case as “indispensable” parties the Upper Division states; Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. California’s logic was that the compact issues raised by Arizona impacted both basins and every basin state (history has shown California was right on).

    The Upper Division states were desperately opposed to participating in the case. Backing the clock up to the early 1950s, these states, including Arizona, had successfully negotiated, ratified, and obtained Congressional approval for the Upper Colorado River Basin Compact. They were now actively seeking Congressional legislation for the Colorado River Storage Project Act (CRSPA), the federal law that would authorize Glen Canyon Dam (Lake Powell) and numerous other Upper Basin projects. Upper Basin officials feared that if they became actively involved in Arizona v. California, California’s powerful Congressional delegation would use it as an excuse to delay approval of CRSPA (as it had successfully done with the CAP). Thus, these states and their close ally, Arizona, opposed California’s motion.

    Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    The basis of their opposition was relatively simple; Under the compact, except for the Upper Basin’s obligations at Lee Ferry, the basins were separate hydrologic entities, the issues raised by Arizona were solely Lower Basin matters, and that Arizona was asking for nothing from the Upper Division states. Their strategy worked. In a July 11, 1955 opinion, Haight recommended California’s motion be denied. By a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court upheld his recommendation and, except for Utah and New Mexico as to their Lower Basin interests only, the Upper Division states were out of the case. The Upper Division states cheered the decision. Arizona’s crafty Mark Wilmer devised a new litigation strategy built on Haight’s logic and ultimately his successor, Simon Rifkind, ruled that there was no need to decide any issue related to the compact. For more details, see Science Be Dammed, Chapter 15.

    In convincing Special Master Haight to deny California’s motion, Arizona and the Upper Division states turned him into an ardent fan of the Colorado River Compact. Haight opined “The compact followed years of controversy between the states involved. It was an act seemingly based on thorough knowledge by the negotiators. It must have been difficult of accomplishment. It was the product of real statesmanship.” In justifying his decision, he found “The Colorado River Compact evidences far seeing practical statesmanship. The division of the Colorado River System waters into Upper and Lower Basins was, and is, one of its most important features. It left to each Basin the solution to that Basin’s problems and did not tie to either Basin the intra-basin problems of the other.” A few pages later, he says “The Compact, by its terms, provides two separate groups in the Colorado River Basin. Each of these is independent in its sphere. The members of each group make the determinations respecting that group’s problems,” and finally “because by Article III of the Colorado River Compact there was apportioned to each basin a given amount of water, and it is impossible for the Upper Basin States to have any interest in water allocated to the Lower Basin States.”

    A field of produce destined for grocery stores is irrigated near Yuma, Ariz., a few days before Christmas 2015. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2016/02/09/drying-out-of-the-american-southwest/#sthash.7xXVYcLv.dpuf

    Fifty five years later, how would Special Master Haight view the problems the Colorado River Basin is facing where climate change is impacting the water available to both basins, through the coordinated operation of Lakes Mead and Powell the basin’s drought contingency plans are interconnected, critical environmental resources in the Grand Canyon, located in the Lower Basin, are impacted by the Upper Basin’s Glen Canyon Dam, and most recently two states, New Mexico and Utah, have found it desirable to use a portion of each’s Upper Basin water in the Lower Basin? With one major exception, I think he would be pleased. Haight understood that through Article VI, the compact parties had a path to resolve their disputes and implement creative solutions. The first part of Article VI sets forth a formal approach where each state governor appoints a commissioner, the commissioners meet and negotiate a solution to the issue at hand and then take the solution back to their states for legislative ratification. This formal process has never been used, but luckily, Article VI also provides an alternative. The last sentence states “nothing herein contained shall prevent the adjustment of any such claim or controversy by any present method or by direct future legislative action of the interested states.” After Arizona refused to ratify the compact in the 1920s Colorado’s Delph Carpenter successfully used federal legislation to implement a six-state ratification strategy (the Boulder Canyon Project Act).

    The exception that would concern Haight is Utah’s unilateral decision to transfer about 80,000 acre-feet of its Upper Basin water to the Lower Basin via the Lake Powell Pipeline. The LPP violates the basic rationale that Haight used to keep the Upper Basin out of Arizona v. California and for which Utah and its sister Upper Division states fought so hard. The project uses water apportioned for exclusive use in the Upper Basin, terms carefully defined by the compact negotiators, to solve a water supply problem in the Lower Basin.

    Caption: Imperial Valley, Salton Sea, CA / ModelRelease: N/A / PropertyRelease: N/A (Newscom TagID: ndxphotos113984) [Photo via Newscom]

    Defenders of Utah’s may believe a precedent has already been set– the Navajo-Gallup Pipeline, which delivers 7,500 acre-feet of New Mexico’s Upper Basin water to the community of Gallup and areas of the eastern Navajo Nation. But if that is to be cited as a precedent, it comes with an important caveat. New Mexico addressed the compact issues through federal legislation with the participation and consent of the other basin states and stakeholders. Utah, by comparison, apparently believes federal legislation, and by implication the consent of others in the basin, is not needed.

    In the face of climate change induced declining river flows and increased competition for the river’s water, there is no question that the basic compact ground rules devised by the negotiators a century ago will face increasing pressure. There will likely be more future projects and decisions that, like the LPP, will challenge the strict language of the compact. The question now facing the basin is how will this revisiting be accomplished? Will it be done in an open and transparent manner that engages not just the states, but a broad range of stakeholders and implemented through legislation (not easy in today’s world, as a practical matter it requires no opposition from any major party to get through the Senate) or by a series of unilateral decisions designed to benefit or advantage individual states or specific entities, but with no input or buy-in from the basin as a whole?

    How quickly the tide turns on #coal — The Mountain Town News #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    Martin Drake Coal Plant Colorado Springs. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Closing coal plant is an easy decision. But Colorado Springs also decided against buying a shiny new natural gas plant

    Colorado Springs will close down both of its coal-fired power plants within the next decade. That’s not surprising. It’s becoming easier to count the number of coal plants still scheduled to remain standing in 2030 as compared those that will be retired.

    The surprise is how quickly the tide has shifted.

    Tom Strand, a city councilman, recalled that he was on the utility’s board of directors in 2015-16. Evaluating the Martin Drake plant, which sits near the city’s center, he said, a majority of directors would commit to a statement closing Drake by 2035. He hoped for a closing by the late 2020s.

    Instead, the city close by the plant 2023 and the city’s second coal unit, the Ray Nixon plant, no later than 2030.

    More noteworthy is the limited role of natural gas that Colorado Springs sees going forward. Six 30-megawatt natural-gas generators will be installed at the site of the Drake plant to take advantage of existing transmission during the next decade.

    But the approved plan – unlike the primary alternative—sees no need a new combined cycle natural gas plant. Colorado Springs has one, and this plan sees it as sufficient.

    The approach approved by the council on a 7-to-2 vote leaves the city nimble, able to seize opportunities in the rapidly shifting energy landscape—a key point of Aram Benyamin, the chief executive of the city utility since November 2018. The two dissenting members expressed reservations about the city’s ability to ensure reliable power without the additional natural gas generation.

    The plan gets Colorado Springs Utilities to 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2030, in accordance with a state law adopted in 2019, and to 90% by 2050.

    Additional modeling and study during the next few years will continue to reveal how new technology and shifted economics may alter what is possible, said Amy Trinidad, public affairs lead at Colorado Springs Utilities.

    Colorado Springs will add 500 megawatts of new wind generation plus solar and also 400 megawatts of battery storage. That compares with the 275 megawatts of large-scale battery storage planned by Xcel Energy as it dismantles two of its three coal-burning units at Pueblo as part of its Colorado Energy Plan.

    This decision puts Colorado Springs, which drifts hard right politically, in lockstep with Colorado’s most left-leaning neighborhoods. There was nary a mention of climate change by the elected officials, although plenty of talk about environmental quality.

    “It strengthens our brand as one of the most desirable places to live and continue to build a city that matches our scenery,” said Mayor John Suthers in a statement.

    Colorado Gov. Jared Polis nodded at climate change in his statement.

    “Colorado continues to set an example for the rest of our country when it comes to renewable energy and climate action, and this announcement comes in the wake of numerous electric utilities across the state committing to a transition to clean energy,” he said. “The pathway toward achieving our goals of protecting our environment and our communities is driven by a bold, swift transition to renewable energy.”

    Polis ran for governor in 2018 on a platform of achieving 100% renewable energy in electrical production by 2040.

    The shift in the last decade can still astonish. Several city council members, in explaining their positions, referenced a decision made by Colorado Springs in 2011 to retrofit the Drake plant with scrubbers to reduce nitrous oxide and other air pollutants. The eventual cost was $2o2 million.

    Some said they were OK with the decision given the context. “Neumann scrubbers for Drake was the right decision at that time,” said Council member David Geislinger. Today, though, the city needs flexibility, he added.

    The worry is that natural gas investments now will be stranded by new technologies and economics by the 2030s. “We made that mistake with the Neumann scrubbers,” said Council President Richard Skorman. Council member Yolanda Avila suggested investing “millions and millions of dollars” in a natural gas plant would be unfair to future generations. “It’s not about us. It’s about the babies that are being born and what we’re giving them.”

    Natural gas was often touted as a bridge fuel. Several years ago, at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association summer meeting, a speaker who apparently didn’t get the memo about carbon emissions got lathered up and said heck, why does it have to be a bridge fuel? Let it be the fuel of the future.

    The vote by the Colorado Springs City Council was a triumph for environmental groups, including 350.org and the Sierra Club. That latter several weeks ago began sending out e-mail blasts to its 1,200 members in its Pikes Peak Chapter urging support for the eventually triumphant portfolio.

    Economic groups also supported the less-gas approach, among them the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC. In a message to members, it emphasized “resiliency, reliability, cost, and environmental stewardship.”

    Still, Lindsay Facknitz said she found the vote to be a “little bit of a nail-biter.” She’s a member of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign who began attending the monthly planning meetings of the utility in January 2019.

    An advisory council composed in part of former utility members favored a major new gas plant to replace the generation from the Nixon plant. This, she suggested, was the thinking of the previous administration at the utility.

    In addition to the two plants being retired by Colorado Springs, Tri-State Generation and Transmission in January announced two of its three coal units at Craig will be retired by 2030. One was previously scheduled to shutter by 2025. Platte River Power Authority also announced definitive plans to close its Rawhide plant by 2030.

    In previous years, Xcel announced plans to close Comanche 1 and 2 units at Pueblo in 2023 and 2025.

    The only units currently scheduled to remain in operation in Colorado beyond 2030 are Pawnee at Brush, the two units at Hayden, and Comanche 3, all of them either fully or primarily owned by Xcel Energy.

    That’s ironic, points out the Sierra Club’s Anna McDevitt, senior campaign representative for the Beyond Coal campaign in Colorado and New Mexico, given that Xcel Energy in 2018 drew national attention when it announced it intended to reduce carbon emissions by 80% compared to 2005 levels by 2030 and 101% by mid-century.

    Xcel will share its plans in Colorado next spring when it files its electric resource plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.

    Colorado Springs with the Front Range in background. Photo credit Wikipedia.

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Mary Shinn):

    “The Drake decision is unbelievably historic,” Colorado Springs Utilities board member Richard Skorman said. “…This is a time for huge celebration.”

    The Colorado Springs Utilities Board, which is also Colorado Springs City Council, supported closing the coal-fired generators at the downtown Drake Power Plant 12 years earlier than previously planned because it is no longer economical to operate them…

    Utilities plans to replace the coal-fired power at Drake with natural gas generators that will be set up on the power plant site temporarily. Employees working at Drake will be moved into other positions and no layoffs are expected, CEO Aram Benyamin said…

    The Utilities Board looked at two plans Friday for future energy. Both set the closure of Drake at 2023; achieve 80% carbon reduction by 2030, as called for under new state rules; and set a course for 90% renewable energy generation by 2050.

    The two plans differed in what energy sources will be used to replace the coal-fired generation at Ray Nixon Power Plant near Fountain by 2030, with one relying more heavily on natural gas and the other relying more on renewable energy. The board voted 7 to 2 to back the latter plan, which proposes wind turbines and battery storage.

    Board members who backed the greater focus on renewable energy said it provides more flexibility and in the long-term avoids some of the risk associated with the cost of natural gas going up. In the short term, the renewable-energy focused plan is also expected to be slightly cheaper, board members said…

    The chosen plan envisions the utility relying much more heavily on wind turbines and large-scale battery storage to help meet the city’s needs…

    If battery storage does not develop as expected ,the utility could fall back on natural gas generation, Benyamin said. But the utility needs to be ready to implement the battery storage if it advances as expected, he said. Battery storage is key because it allows excess energy from solar and wind generation to be stored until it’s needed, he said.

    Most of the residents who spoke to the board Friday backed greater renewable energy generation, citing the health and climate benefits of moving away from fossil fuels.

    “It makes sense to set our sights high and set our sights on technological innovation,” resident Benedict Wright said…

    Colorado Springs Utilities is planning to add 180 megawatts of natural gas generation produced by six modular units to the Drake power plant site where they will replace the coal-fired generation, Benyamin said. The units can be maintained by four people, instead of the 80 needed to run the coal-fired generation, thus cutting costs, he said.

    The natural gas generators need to be located at the Drake site because the electrical transmission system is set up to carry large amounts of energy from that site out to the city, he said. When the transmission system is upgraded, the new generators will be moved to another site, which could be announced in the next month.

    Utilities plans to dismantle Drake completely between 2024 and 2025, if not sooner, Benyamin said. The future appropriate uses of the site are yet to be determined, he said.

    “Almost anything would be better than a coal power plant,” Utilities board Chairwoman Jill Gaebler said.

    A long-simmering water battle comes to a boil in Southern California — The Los Angeles Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    The American Canal carries water from the Colorado River to farms in California’s Imperial Valley. Photo credit: Adam Dubrowa, FEMA/Wikipedia.

    From The Los Angeles Times (Sammy Roth):

    If, like me, you live in Los Angeles — or Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix or Salt Lake City — you drink water from the Colorado River. You probably eat vegetables grown with Colorado River water, and maybe you eat beef fed on alfalfa grown with Colorado River water. When you switch on a light or charge your phone, some of the electricity may be generated by Colorado River water.

    The Colorado, in other words, makes life possible in the American West.

    Nowhere is that more true than the Imperial Valley, a sun-baked desert in California’s southeastern corner where around 500 landowning families use Colorado River water to grow much of the country’s winter vegetables. I’ve spent lots of time there as a reporter. It’s a tragic and beautiful place. Beautiful in the way the sunlight glints across a lattice of irrigation canals that crisscross endless green farm fields, and tragic in the widespread poverty and pollution that undergird a lucrative agricultural economy.

    And more recently, tragic because Imperial County has California’s highest per capita rate of COVID-19 cases.

    In terms of water, the valley is especially important because the Imperial Irrigation District holds a right to an astounding 3.1 million acre-feet of the Colorado River’s annual flow. That’s roughly 20% of all the river’s water allocated across seven western states. It’s about two-thirds of California’s stake in the Colorado, and as much as Arizona and Nevada receive combined.

    Climate change, meanwhile, is diminishing the river’s flow, which is especially worrying because longstanding legal agreements already promise western states more water from the Colorado than is typically available, as John Fleck and Eric Kuhn detailed in a recent book. There’s a reckoning coming, unless cities and farm districts across the West band together to limit consumption.

    The coming dealmaking will almost certainly need to involve the river’s largest water user, the Imperial Irrigation District.

    But at the moment, it’s unclear to what extent the district actually controls the Imperial Valley’s Colorado River water.

    That was the issue debated in a San Diego courtroom last week, or at least a video conference standing in for a courtroom. A three-judge appellate court panel heard arguments from lawyers for the irrigation district and landowning farmer Mike Abatti, who sued the agency to overturn a water apportionment plan that he says would unjustly limit his use of water for irrigation.

    Who is Mike Abatti? As a reporter for the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, I spent many months investigating his enormous influence in the Imperial Valley. I discovered a pattern of government officials with ties to Abatti making decisions that advanced his financial interests — including a public agency that awarded a $35-million energy contract to a company led by Abatti, and a district attorney who publicly cleared Abatti of wrongdoing on the energy contract after describing him as a “good friend.”

    I also found that the trial court judge who presided over Abatti’s water lawsuit against the Imperial Irrigation District — and ruled in his favor — had a long history of business and social ties to the Abatti family.

    In a sweeping decision, Judge L. Brooks Anderholt found that Imperial Valley farmers hold a “constitutionally protected property right” to the region’s Colorado River water, and that the irrigation district’s elected board members have a limited ability to reduce deliveries to agricultural users. Anderholt’s ruling seemed to tilt the balance of power from the district to landowning farmers…

    Lawyers for both sides focused their arguments on the central question of who controls the water.

    Abatti’s attorney, Cheryl Orr, said farmers have a right to however much water they “reasonably need” to cultivate their crops, based on past use. (Farmers currently use 97% of the Imperial Valley’s water.) Orr told the judges that under established law, farmers “have a priority of water that is different and higher than just an ordinary use,” such as household drinking water.

    The irrigation district board “just unilaterally determined that they were going to reorder the priorities and put agriculture at the bottom of the list,” Orr said. “They’re treating farmers as customers of the water district. And they’re not customers.”

    Irrigation district attorney Jennifer Meeker countered that the agency’s elected board members have wide latitude in how they apportion water, so long as they don’t cut off deliveries to farmers. A constitutionally protected property right, she said, would give farmers “a first grab at the water to fulfill all of their past use, and then whatever’s left can go to anybody else.”

    “If you get to a point where there is such a shortage that there just simply is not enough water, everybody is going to end up being curtailed,” Meeker told the judges. The irrigation district’s elected board, she said, “has the right and the discretion” to develop a plan for spreading water cutbacks fairly among farmers, cities and industrial users such as geothermal power plants.

    Whichever side wins, the outcome is liable to radiate outward across the West, like a stone creating ripples in a reservoir.

    More control for the landowning farmers could make future Colorado River negotiations more difficult — or make it harder for growing cities to acquire water supplies that rightfully belong to the Imperial Valley, depending on how you look at it.

    It’s not just Abatti’s lawsuit that could affect Imperial’s role in high-stakes Colorado River negotiations. Local politics are an important factor, too. In April, I wrote about a contentious election for a seat on the irrigation district board. The campaign has fueled rampant speculation over which candidates might secretly be backed by which local power brokers — including Abatti.

    How #deforestation helps deadly viruses jump from animals to humans — The Conversation


    Pangolins have been found with covonaviruses that are genetically similar to the one afflicting humans today.
    Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

    Amy Y. Vittor, University of Florida; Gabriel Zorello Laporta, Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, and Maria Anice Mureb Sallum, Universidade de São Paulo

    The coronavirus pandemic, suspected of originating in bats and pangolins, has brought the risk of viruses that jump from wildlife to humans into stark focus.

    These leaps often happen at the edges of the world’s tropical forests, where deforestation is increasingly bringing people into contact with animals’ natural habitats. Yellow fever, malaria, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, Ebola – all of these pathogens have spilled over from one species to another at the margins of forests.

    As doctors and biologists specializing in infectious diseases, we have studied these and other zoonoses as they spread in Africa, Asia and the Americas. We found that deforestation has been a common theme.

    More than half of the world’s tropical deforestation is driven by four commodities: beef, soy, palm oil and wood products. They replace mature, biodiverse tropical forests with monocrop fields and pastures. As the forest is degraded piecemeal, animals still living in isolated fragments of natural vegetation struggle to exist. When human settlements encroach on these forests, human-wildlife contact can increase, and new opportunistic animals may also migrate in.

    The resulting disease spread shows the interconnectedness of natural habitats, the animals that dwell within it, and humans.

    Yellow fever: Monkeys, humans and hungry mosquitoes

    Yellow fever, a viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes, famously halted progress on the Panama Canal in the 1900s and shaped the history of Atlantic coast cities from Philadelphia to Rio de Janeiro. Although a yellow fever vaccine has been available since the 1930s, the disease continues to afflict 200,000 people a year, a third of whom die, mostly in West Africa.

    The virus that causes it lives in primates and is spread by mosquitoes that tend to dwell high in the canopy where these primates live.

    In the early 1990s, a yellow fever outbreak was reported for the first time in the Kerio Valley in Kenya, where deforestation had fragmented the forest. Between 2016 and 2018, South America saw its largest number of yellow fever cases in decades, resulting in around 2,000 cases, and hundreds of deaths. The impact was severe in the extremely vulnerable Atlantic forest of Brazil – a biodiversity hotspot that has shrunk to 7% of its original forest cover.

    Veterinarians inspect monkeys found dead in Brazil, where primates are suspected of spreading yellow fever.
    Carl de Souza/AFP via Getty Images

    Shrinking habitat has been shown to concentrate howler monkeys – one of the main South American yellow fever hosts. A study on primate density in Kenya further demonstrated that forest fragmentation led a greater density of primates, which in turn led to pathogens becoming more prevalent.

    Deforestation resulted in patches of forest that both concentrated the primate hosts and favored the mosquitoes that could transmit the virus to humans.

    Malaria: Humans can also infect wildlife

    Just as wildlife pathogens can jump to humans, humans can cross-infect wildlife.

    Falciparum malaria kills hundreds of thousands of people yearly, especially in Africa. But in the Atlantic tropical forest of Brazil, we have also found a surprisingly high rate of Plasmodium falciparum (the malaria parasite responsible for severe malaria) circulating in the absence of humans. That raises the possibility that this parasite may be infecting new world monkeys. Elsewhere in the Amazon, monkey species have become naturally infected. In both cases, deforestation could have facilitated cross-infection.

    We and other scientists have extensively documented the associations between deforestation and malaria in the Amazon, showing how the malaria-carrying mosquitoes and human malaria cases are strongly linked to deforested habitat.

    Children in Ethiopia read under mosquito netting, used to protect people from mosquitoes that transmit malaria.
    Louise Gubb/Corbis via Getty Images

    Another type of malaria, Plasmodium knowlesi, known to circulate among monkeys, became a concern to human health over a decade ago in Southeast Asia. Several studies have shown that areas sustaining higher rates of forest loss also had higher rates of human infections, and that the mosquito vectors and monkey hosts spanned a wide range of habitats including disturbed forest.

    Venezuelan equine encephalitis: Rodents move in

    Venezuelan equine encephalitis is another mosquito-borne virus that is estimated to cause tens to hundreds of thousands of humans to develop febrile illnesses every year. Severe infections can lead to encephalitis and even death.

    In the Darien province of Panama, we found that two rodent species had particularly high rates of infection with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus, leading us to suspect that these species may be the wildlife hosts.

    One of the species, Tome’s spiny rat, has also been implicated in other studies. The other, the short-tailed cane mouse, is also involved in the transmission of zoonotic diseases such as hantavirus and possibly Madariaga virus, an emergent encephalitis virus.

    While Tome’s spiny rat is widely found in tropical forests in the Americas, it readily occupies regrowth and forest fragments. The short-tailed cane mouse prefers habitat on the edge of forests and abutting cattle pastures.

    As deforestation in this region progresses, these two rodents can occupy forest fragments, cattle pastures and the regrowth that arises when fields lie fallow. Mosquitoes also occupy these areas and can bring the virus to humans and livestock.

    Ebola: Disease at the forest’s edge

    Vector-borne diseases are not the only zoonoses sensitive to deforestation. Ebola was first described in 1976, but outbreaks have become more common. The 2014-2016 outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa and drew attention to diseases that can spread from wildlife to humans.

    The natural transmission cycle of the Ebola virus remains elusive. Bats have been implicated, with possible additional ground-dwelling animals maintaining “silent” transmission between human outbreaks.

    Bats, sometimes eaten as food, have been suspected of spreading Ebola.
    Tyler Hicks/Getty Images

    While the exact nature of transmission is not yet known, several studies have shown that deforestation and forest fragmentation were associated with outbreaks between 2004 and 2014. In addition to possibly concentrating Ebola wildlife hosts, fragmentation may serve as a corridor for pathogen-carrying animals to spread the virus over large areas, and it may increase human contact with these animals along the forest edge.

    What about the coronavirus?

    While the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak hasn’t been proved, a genetically similar virus has been detected in intermediate horseshoe bats and Sunda pangolins.

    The range of the Sunda pangolin – which is critically endangered – overlaps with the intermediate horseshoe bat in the forests of Southeast Asia, where it lives in mature tree hollows. As forest habitat shrinks, could pangolins also experience increased density and susceptibility to pathogens?

    In fact, in small urban forest fragments in Malaysia, the Sunda pangolin was detected even though overall mammal diversity was much lower than a comparison tract of contiguous forest. This shows that this animal is able to persist in fragmented forests where it could increase contact with humans or other animals that can harbor potentially zoonotic viruses, such as bats. The Sunda pangolin is poached for its meat, skin and scales and imported illegally from Malaysia and Vietnam into China. A wet market in Wuhan that sells such animals has been suspected as a source of the current pandemic.

    Preventing zoonotic spillover

    There is still a lot that we don’t know about how viruses jump from wildlife to humans and what might drive that contact.

    Forest fragments and their associated landscapes encompassing forest edge, agricultural fields and pastures have been a repeated theme in tropical zoonoses. While many species disappear as forests are cleared, others have been able to adapt. Those that adapt may become more concentrated, increasing the rate of infections.

    Given the evidence, it is clear humans need to balance the production of food, forest commodities and other goods with the protection of tropical forests. Conservation of wildlife may keep their pathogens in check, preventing zoonotic spillover, and ultimately benefiting humans, too.

    [Deep knowledge, daily. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]The Conversation

    Amy Y. Vittor, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Florida; Gabriel Zorello Laporta, Professor of biology and infectious diseases, Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, and Maria Anice Mureb Sallum, Professor of Epidemiology, Universidade de São Paulo

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    #Runoff news


    From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

    As of Wednesday, the San Juan River had a reported flow total of 120 cfs. This total is well below the mean for June 24 of 991 cfs.

    The highest reported flow total for June 24 on the San Juan River came in 1941 when the river had a reported flow of 3,940 cfs. The lowest reported flow total for June 24 came in 2002 when the San Juan had a reported flow of just 30.4 cfs.

    #Drought task force activates, Colorado Springs Utilities looks to reservoirs — The #ColoradoSprings Independent #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    US Drought Monitor June 23, 2020.

    From The Colorado Springs Independent (Pam Zubeck):

    As drought conditions deepen, Colorado Governor Jared Polis on June 23 sought activation of the state’s Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan.

    The governor’s office said in a release the drought spans 81 percent of the state, with severe and extreme conditions affecting a third of the state, including El Paso County.

    Colorado’s Drought Task Force includes officials with the departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Local Affairs and Public Safety, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The second phase of the plan means the task force will assess initial damages and impacts of drought in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and recommend mitigation measures. In addition, the Agricultural Impact Task Force is activated to make an assessment on physical and economic impacts.

    Meantime, there doesn’t appear to be any plan to further restrict water use in Colorado Springs where customers have been under restrictions since May to water their lawns no more than three times a week…

    Colorado Springs currently has more than two years’ worth of water in storage, which is good news for gardeners, because more severe water restrictions wouldn’t be triggered until the amount in storage falls to a 1.5-year supply, [Pat] Wells says.

    View from the Pitkin County end of Homestake Reservoir. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Utilities recently completed land acquisition for the 30,000-acre-foot Gary Bostrom Reservoir, the second phase of SDS, which is planned for construction near Bradley Road southeast of the city in the next decade. Another project, called the Eagle River project in the mountains, will create another reservoir, hopefully by 2040 to 2050, Wells says…

    Some years, snowpack fills reservoirs to the brim and rainfall reduces demand, but not every year.

    “What we’re seeing is a lot more variability in the swings,” Wells says, noting that water managers study tree rings, climate change models and other data to try to predict what lies ahead.

    “While our demand has flattened and we’re serving more customers with the same amount of water,” he says, “our supplies are becoming more variable.”

    As Wells quips, quoting baseball legend Yogi Berra, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”

    Take the Colorado River, which provides water to multiple states and Mexico. It’s been in drought conditions for 20 years and provides 60 to 70 percent of Colorado Springs Utilities’ supply.

    Climate change is causing the Southwest aridify. (Left) Since the 1930s, increasing temperatures have caused the percentage of precipitation going to evapotranspiration (ET) to increase at the expense of precipitation going to Colorado River flow, resulting in an unprecedented and still ongoing megadrought (shading) starting in 1999 (8). (Right) Higher temperatures have already reduced Colorado River flow by 13%, and projected additional warming, assuming continued high emissions of greenhouse gases, will increase ET while reducing river flow even more through the 21st century. Data on Left are 20-y running means from ref. 5, and data on Right are calculated from Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 8.5 multimodel Coupled Model Intercomparison Project–Phase 5 (CMIP5) ensemble temperature increases projected for the Upper Colorado River Basin combined with temperature sensitivity of −9.3%/°C estimated by ref. 5, assuming no change in precipitation. Graphic credit: Jonathan Overpeck/Brad Udall

    “We are going to reach a point, as demand continues to grow in the West and supplies become uncertain, we’re going to have to use water more efficiently and cut back some of our demand on the Colorado River,” he says.

    At present, Utilities is capable of delivering 95,000 acre feet of water on demand, but that demand is forecast to rise to 136,000 acre feet in the decades to come.

    That’s why Utilities is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to expanding its water supply.

    “With a growing population, we have to bring in more supplies,” Wells says. “Our storage needs grow as our cities grow.”

    Besides storage, Utilities wants to work more deals with agricultural users like it did in the Arkansas Valley in 2018. Another strategy might be to expand the number of non-potable systems used for irrigation. But ultimately, Utilities, like other water providers in the West, likely will be confronted with re-treating and recycling water back into its domestic delivery system.

    “In the next 30 to 50 years it may become more technically feasible to do direct potable reuse,” he says, noting that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has approved a grant for a Utilities reuse demonstration project in partnership with Aurora, Denver and Colorado School of Mines.

    From The Associated Press via The Aurora Sentinel:

    Polis’ order follows dwindling mountain snowpack, a warmer-than-average spring and far less precipitation than normal, Colorado Politics reported Wednesday. It also comes as the U.S. Drought Monitor reported this week that extreme drought expanded in northern New Mexico and eastern Colorado.

    The order also activates an state agricultural task force to determine the drought’s potential crop and cattle damage impact and the possible economic fallout for the state’s $8 billion farming industry.

    Abnormally dry conditions affect mountain and plains regions and roughly 80% of the state’s landmass is in some form of drought.

    Winter snowfall was low in most of Colorado and May precipitation was less than half of normal, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    Reservoir levels are dwindling in southern and southwestern Colorado, including the agricultural San Luis Valley and the Gunnison River Basin, the service said.

    Becky Bolinger, a climatologist at Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center, said high winds, low humidity, high temperatures and lack of precipitation have produced a “flash drought” situation with higher than normal water evaporation in much of the state that particularly affects agriculture.

    The summer promises higher temperatures and low rainfall and the summer monsoons that deliver rain from the southwest won’t make up for current conditions, Bolinger said.

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Agriculture (Sara Leonard):

    Governor Jared Polis requested activation of Colorado’s Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan this week as drought conditions deepen, reaching more than 81% of the state, with severe and extreme drought conditions in 33% of the state (40 counties).

    Colorado’s Drought Task Force – which includes leadership from the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Local Affairs, Public Safety, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board – determined the need to activate Phase 2 of the Drought Plan on June 18 after a third of the state reached extreme drought conditions. “Phase 2” indicates officially directing the Drought Task Force to assess initial damages and impacts of drought in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and to recommend mitigation measures. This Phase also activates the Agricultural Impact Task Force, which will conduct an initial assessment on physical and economic impacts and recommend opportunities for incident mitigation.

    Counties impacted by abnormally dry (D0) and moderate (D1) drought will continue to be closely monitored. The 40 counties currently experiencing severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought include: Alamosa, Archuleta, Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Elbert, Fremont, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, La Plata, Las Animas, Lincoln, Mesa, Mineral, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pitkin, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache, San Miguel, San Juan, Washington, and Yuma.

    To stay informed on Colorado drought issues, sign up for the State’s Drought Updates or visit the Colorado Water Conservation Board website.

    From The Sterling Journal Advocate (Jeff Rice):

    The extreme northern tier of counties, including Logan County, has so far been spared from the ongoing drought. South Platte Basin reservoir levels are at 89 percent of capacity basin-wide, down a percentage point from the same time last year. In the lower reaches, irrigation reservoirs are between 76 percent of capacity at Empire and 97 percent capacity at North Sterling, again each a few percentage points down from a year ago.

    West Drought Monitor June 23, 2020.

    Heart of the Arkansas Initiative: Conservancy receives $1.6M GOCO grant — The Chaffee County Times #ArkansasRiver

    Looking westerly from a meadow on the Centerville Ranch. Photo credit: Central Colorado Conservancy via The Chaffee County Times

    From Great Outdoors Colorado via The Chaffee County Times:

    The Great Outdoors Colorado board awarded a $1,625,000 grant to Central Colorado Conservancy this month in partnership with The Trust for Public Land and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust to help conserve four ranches covering more than 2,400 acres in Chaffee County.

    The project is part of the Heart of the Arkansas Initiative, aiming to protect the water resources and diverse landscapes surrounding the Arkansas River.

    This grant is part of GOCO’s Special Opportunity Open Space grant program, which funds high-value conservation projects that seek funding beyond the $1 million maximum request amount set in GOCO’s ongoing Open Space grant program.

    These projects will help give outdoor recreationists places to play and enjoy scenic views, protect wildlife habitat, safeguard the state’s water supply and watersheds and sustain local agriculture.

    “This GOCO grant will help match the Conservancy’s easement awards received through Chaffee County’s new Common Ground Fund, which supports community-based conservation projects for local agriculture, healthy forests and managing recreation impacts,” said Adam Beh, executive director for the Conservancy.

    “Our local communities value these ranchland conservation projects and have shown their support through generous donations to match our other fundraising efforts. We appreciate and respect the local landowners who have made the choice to help protect this beautiful valley.”

    TPL, CCALT and the Conservancy will protect four ranches: Centerville Ranch, Arrowpoint Ranch, Pridemore Ranch and Tri Lazy W Ranch. CCALT will hold the conservation easement on Pridemore Ranch, while the Conservancy will hold the conservation easements for the other three ranches.

    This conservation work is also supported by funding from the Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    “The Trust for Public Land has been working with the Conservancy and CCALT for nearly 13 years to help give working landowners in the valley conservation options to help them achieve their financial goals, so we don’t lose the working lands and water rights that are the lifeblood to agriculture and public recreation in the Upper Arkansas Valley,” said Wade Shelton, TPL senior project manager. “By working together, we’ve been able to achieve far more than we’d ever be able to accomplish working on our own, so we don’t lose the very things that make the Upper Arkansas Valley such a special place.”

    The properties boast several miles of stream and riparian corridors along the Upper Arkansas River as well as significant water rights that support agricultural production while contributing to overall watershed health. They also support high quality outdoor recreation experiences for visitors to Browns Canyon National Monument and nearby public lands along the Arkansas River.

    In conjunction with surrounding private and public lands, the properties create a continuous corridor of open space that serves as a seasonal migration route for big game species.

    The riparian areas and surrounding wetlands support several species listed as “greatest conservation need” by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and birds of “conservation concern” as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Data from USFWS also indicates that the landscape is suitable for several federally threatened or endangered species, including North American wolverine, Mexican spotted owl and Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly.

    The properties operate as working ranches and will continue to do so after conservation easements are in place. Tri Lazy W Ranch has won numerous awards for exceptional stewardship of the land, and Arrowpoint Ranch provides natural beef to several local restaurants.

    Centerville Ranch and Pridemore Ranch both feature several hundred acres of irrigated land and produce thousands of tons of hay each year. Conservation will ensure that these lands continue to support the local economy and sustain the area’s rich agricultural heritage.

    The Arkansas River provides numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation and is designated as Gold Medal waters for trout fishing.

    While unrestricted public access is not permitted on any of the properties, visitors can access and fish a section of the Arkansas River that flows through Pridemore Ranch via the adjacent Pridemore State Wildlife Area.

    Centerville Ranch and Arrowpoint Ranch will feature limited opportunities for guided hikes, 4-H programs and volunteer work days.

    Anyone passing through the area will enjoy the exceptional views of the open land stretching between the Arkansas River and the Collegiate Peaks.

    To date, GOCO has invested more than $14.2 million in projects in Chaffee County and conserved more than 3,500 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the conservation of Steel Ranch, Buena Vista River Park, Ruby Mountain Campground and Salida River Trail, among other projects.

    Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces.

    GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

    The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.

    The properties boast several miles of stream and riparian corridors along the Upper Arkansas River as well as significant water rights that support agricultural production while contributing to overall watershed health. They also support high quality outdoor recreation experiences for visitors to Browns Canyon National Monument and nearby public lands along the Arkansas River.

    In conjunction with surrounding private and public lands, the properties create a continuous corridor of open space that serves as a seasonal migration route for big game species.

    The riparian areas and surrounding wetlands support several species listed as “greatest conservation need” by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and birds of “conservation concern” as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    Data from USFWS also indicates that the landscape is suitable for several federally threatened or endangered species, including North American wolverine, Mexican spotted owl and Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly.

    Uncompahgre Fritillary butterfly. By USFWS Mountain-Prairie – Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74757856

    The properties operate as working ranches and will continue to do so after conservation easements are in place. Tri Lazy W Ranch has won numerous awards for exceptional stewardship of the land, and Arrowpoint Ranch provides natural beef to several local restaurants.

    Centerville Ranch and Pridemore Ranch both feature several hundred acres of irrigated land and produce thousands of tons of hay each year. Conservation will ensure that these lands continue to support the local economy and sustain the area’s rich agricultural heritage.

    The Arkansas River provides numerous opportunities for outdoor recreation and is designated as Gold Medal waters for trout fishing.

    While unrestricted public access is not permitted on any of the properties, visitors can access and fish a section of the Arkansas River that flows through Pridemore Ranch via the adjacent Pridemore State Wildlife Area.

    Centerville Ranch and Arrowpoint Ranch will feature limited opportunities for guided hikes, 4-H programs and volunteer work days.

    Anyone passing through the area will enjoy the exceptional views of the open land stretching between the Arkansas River and the Collegiate Peaks.

    To date, GOCO has invested more than $14.2 million in projects in Chaffee County and conserved more than 3,500 acres of land there. GOCO funding has supported the conservation of Steel Ranch, Buena Vista River Park, Ruby Mountain Campground and Salida River Trail, among other projects.

    Great Outdoors Colorado invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers and open spaces.

    GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    Created when voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 5,300 projects in all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.

    The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.

    To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit http://www.tpl.org.

    The Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust is a nonprofit land conservation organization whose mission is to “…conserve Colorado’s western heritage and working landscapes for the benefit of future generations.” Visit ccalt.org for more information.

    Central Colorado Conservancy protects the lands, waters and quality of life of Central Colorado as our communities face pressure and rapid growth.

    Through land easements, restoration efforts and connecting our communities to conservation, Central Colorado Conservancy is leading the change to preserve the places and quality of life we all love for generations to come.

    Visit http://centralcoloradoconservancy.org for more information.

    @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: June 23, 2020

    While the Intermountain West saw widespread beneficial moisture early in the month, conditions have again turned for the worse. The last seven days have been hotter and drier than normal for much of Colorado. Areas that did receive moisture this week were northern Utah, northern Wyoming, the northern Colorado Front Range and far SE Colorado. While moisture in SE Colorado is much needed, these short lived storms were not enough to make improvements in this area with high temperatures and high winds continuing to play a factor. The eastern plains of Colorado have been 6-8 degrees warmer than normal for the month of June to date. This includes several episodes of 100-degree temperatures in SE CO, and widespread wind events. Agricultural weather stations have shown a sharp uptick in potential evapotranspiration, as has the Evaporative Demand Drought Index. Red flag warnings have been common, top soil is short, winter wheat crops are failing, and cattle are being sold. Campo, on the CO/OK border, is still showing about a 5 inch deficit in precipitation for 2020 and is the 3rd driest start to 2020. Northeast Colorado also continues to see dry and warm conditions, no precipitation and 2-6 degrees warmer than average over the last week, which are leading to worsening drought conditions.

    The forecast for the next week indicates warmer than average temperatures for eastern Colorado and cooler than average temperatures for western Colorado. Moisture is expected for much of Colorado, scattered showers along the eastern plains with the greatest probability being over the Front Range with little to no precipitation in the forecast for western Colorado. The 8-14 day outlook is showing a similar story of warmer than average temperatures for eastern Colorado, cooler temperatures in western Colorado and uncertain precipitation probability for most of the state.

    #Drought expands further on #Colorado’s eastern plains — The Kiowa County Press

    From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

    Moderate and severe drought advanced northward on the plains of eastern Colorado this week according to the latest update from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

    While extreme drought – the second worst category – remained steady across most of southern and southeast Colorado, severe conditions advanced in Washington and Yuma counties. Moderate drought expanded to cover the remainder of Yuma County, along with an additional area in Washington County that had been abnormally dry. Moderate conditions also entered southeast Logan and most of Phillips counties. Abnormally dry conditions now cover most of Logan County, the remainder of Phillips County, and all of Sedgwick County.

    Colorado Drought Monitor June 23, 2020.

    Above-normal temperatures, strong wind and little rain have contributed to rapid drought expansion in Colorado over the past month. Soil moisture continues to decline, contributing to cattle sales by ranchers as pasture conditions deteriorate, and yield concerns about wheat crops as harvest season gets underway. Southeast counties, where harvest has begun, are seeing low test weights.

    Nick Palmer at Golden Plains Insurance Agency in Lamar stated Thursday that, “generally, field conditions are fair to poor, with very small pockets of fair to good – mostly caused by isolated thunderstorm events.”

    Governor Jared Polis activated Colorado’s Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan this week as drought conditions deepen. All or portions of 40 of the states 64 counties are experiencing severe or extreme drought. Phase 2 activates the Agricultural Impact Task Force, which will conduct an initial assessment on physical and economic impacts and recommend opportunities for mitigation.

    The seasonal drought outlook from the Climate Prediction Center shows drought increasing through September. Portions of central and northwest Colorado that are currently drought-free or abnormally dry are expected to fall to at least moderate drought over the coming months. The precipitation outlook for July across much of that area shows a 33-40 percent chance of below-normal precipitation. Most of Colorado has a 50-60 percent chance of above-normal temperatures during the coming month.

    Overall, 33 percent of Colorado is in extreme drought, unchanged from the prior week. Severe and moderate conditions both increased one percent to 23 and 12 percent, respectively. Abnormally dry areas decreased one percent to 15 as they were overtaken by more severe conditions. Only 17 percent of the state is drought-free, down one percent from the previous week.

    West Drought Monitor June 23, 2020.

    From The DenverChannel.com (Blair Miller):

    The [drought] task force will have to measure what damage drought has caused in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and recommend to counties how to mitigate the effects of the drought.

    An Agricultural Impact Task Force will also be activated to assess physical and economic impacts of the drought, the Colorado Water Conservation Board said. Polis’ request task force chairpersons and members will be provided by the Colorado Water Center at CSU…

    Drought has gradually crept back into Colorado over the past year. Last year, there were 14 straight weeks of drought-free conditions in Colorado, a streak that ended in August.

    In early May, 76% of Colorado was experiencing at least “abnormally dry” conditions. Sixty-two percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought, while 41% is under severe drought conditions and 11% is experiencing extreme drought conditions.

    But as of last, week 81% of the state was abnormally dry, 65% was experiencing moderate drought, 55% was experiencing severe drought and 33% of Colorado was experiencing extreme drought conditions, according to the Drought Monitor.

    The NRCS also presented a snow survey and water supply forecast Tuesday showing that while snowpack peaked over the median this year, precipitation in the mountains was below average April-May. Reservoir storage remains average, but is far below normal in the Rio Grande Basin and is below normal in southern Colorado. Streamflows have also dropped sharply in the northern mountains because of a dry fall and spring, NRCS said.

    Colorado last activated the Drought Mitigation and Response Plan in May 2018. At the meeting Tuesday, the Colorado Climate Center showed a presentation showing Colorado had its 8th-driest April on record and its 18th driest May since 1895. The presentation also showed above-average temperatures for much of the state in May and June.

    The upcoming seasonal outlook for the next three months from NOAA also shows above-average temperatures and likely below-average rainfall for most of Colorado.

    #Arizona starts talks on addressing dwindling #ColoradoRiver — The Rock Springs Rocket-Miner #COriver #aridification

    From The Associated Press (Felicia Fonseca) via The Rock Springs Rocket-Miner:

    Arizona is getting a jump start on what will be a yearslong process to address a dwindling but key water source in the U.S. West…

    Arizona water officials are gathering Thursday to start talking about what comes next, while other states have had more informal discussions.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is reviewing the effectiveness of the 2007 guidelines. The report is expected later this year.

    Climate change is causing the Southwest aridify. (Left) Since the 1930s, increasing temperatures have caused the percentage of precipitation going to evapotranspiration (ET) to increase at the expense of precipitation going to Colorado River flow, resulting in an unprecedented and still ongoing megadrought (shading) starting in 1999 (8). (Right) Higher temperatures have already reduced Colorado River flow by 13%, and projected additional warming, assuming continued high emissions of greenhouse gases, will increase ET while reducing river flow even more through the 21st century. Data on Left are 20-y running means from ref. 5, and data on Right are calculated from Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) 8.5 multimodel Coupled Model Intercomparison Project–Phase 5 (CMIP5) ensemble temperature increases projected for the Upper Colorado River Basin combined with temperature sensitivity of −9.3%/°C estimated by ref. 5, assuming no change in precipitation. Graphic credit: Jonathan Overpeck/Brad Udall

    Tribe, environmentalists fight rollback of US water rule — The Associated Press #DirtyWaterRule

    Credit: Adam Zyglis Cagle Cartoons

    From The Associated Press (Susan Montoya Bryan):

    The nation’s largest Native American tribe and several environmental groups are waging a legal challenge to a revised federal rule that lifts protections for many streams, creeks and wetlands across the U.S.

    The rule, which took effect Monday, narrows the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the half-century-old Clean Water Act. As a result, critics say the number of waterways across the Navajo Nation and other arid states in the West that were previously protected under the act have been drastically reduced.

    Public health advocates, environmentalists and some Western states, among other opponents, had promised court fights once the rule was imposed, saying the rollback will leave many of the nation’s millions of miles of waterways more vulnerable to pollution.

    “At this point in time, with climate change occurring around the world, it’s more prudent than ever to protect our land, water and air,” said Navajo President Jonathan Nez. “We, as Diné People, have a duty to preserve and conserve our natural resources to ensure that our future generations have access to clean water, air and land.”

    The tribe filed its claim Monday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico.

    Amigos Bravos, the New Mexico Acequia Association and the Gila Resources Information Project followed with their own appeal Tuesday and the Environmental Integrity Project filed a separate claim in Washington, D.C. on behalf of four other environmental groups. The cases name the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agencies in charge of administering aspects of the rule…

    Paula Garcia, the executive director of the New Mexico Acequia Association, said communities around the state rely on traditional irrigation systems that are fed by snow, rain and runoff for crops and livestock. With protections removed for the seasonal waterways that feed the acequia systems, she said agricultural livelihoods will be put at risk.

    Rachel Conn with Amigos Bravos said the rule protects the interests of polluters. “The Trump administration has opened the pollution floodgates,” she said.

    Under the new regulation, permits are no longer necessary for discharging pollution into many rivers, lakes and streams. Charles de Saillan, an attorney at the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, said the effects could be felt by a number of businesses, from rafting companies to community farmers.

    On the Navajo reservation, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, officials say there already are businesses not complying with tribal and federal environmental laws and the revised rule won’t help bring them into compliance…

    New Mexico was among the states that went to court in May seeking to keep the rule from taking effect.

    At the time, New Mexico Environment Secretary James Kenney warned that the rule would leave nearly 90% of the state’s rivers and streams and about 40% of its wetlands without federal protection. He predicted that would “devastate New Mexico’s scarce and limited water resources.”

    The state had pointed out in comments previously submitted to the federal government that New Mexico has no state protections to fall back on. New Mexico is one of three states that don’t have delegated authority from the EPA to regulate discharges of pollution into rivers, streams, and lakes.

    New Mexico Lakes, Rivers and Water Resources via Geology.com.

    From Cronkite News (Ellie Borst) via Indian Country Today:

    Two Arizona tribes and a Phoenix-based advocacy group joined a pair of lawsuits this week to reverse a Trump administration clean-water rule that critics said would open the “vast majority of Arizona’s waterways” to pollution and degradation.

    The suits were filed Monday, the same day a new Environmental Protection Agency rule took effect replacing an Obama-era rule that expanded federal oversight to include seasonal and other waterways.

    Critics said the old rule placed a huge burden on farmers and landowners and they unveiled the Trump administration plan in January as a “commonsense” solution.

    But the lawsuits – one joined by Mi Familia Vota and the other by the Pascua Yaqui tribe and Tohono O’odham Nation – say the Trump administration’s replacement has virtually no protection, and that Americans “stand to lose their most important resource: clean water.” Mi Familia Vota CEO Hector Sanchez Barba derided the new regulation as the “Dirty Water Rule.”

    “The widespread negative community impacts of the Dirty Water Rule are another demonstration that Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is not interested in protecting scientifically critical sources of water in our neighborhoods, communities, and states from polluting corporations,” Sanchez Barba said in a statement.

    The suits are just the latest efforts to block the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, after a federal district judge in the Northern District of California on Friday rejected a push by 17 states to block implementation of the rule.

    That allowed the rule to take effect except in Colorado: It had pursued its own case and won approval from a federal judge, also on Friday, blocking the Trump administration rule in that state…

    Molly Block, EPA assistant deputy associate administrator for policy, said the agency is reviewing the latest lawsuits, but thanked the district judge in California for upholding the navigable waters rule last week.

    “EPA and the Army are confident that the new rule provides much-needed regulatory certainty for farmers, landowners, and businesses and protects the Nation’s navigable waters while striking an appropriate balance between federal and state authority over aquatic resources,” Block wrote in the email.

    Arizona Rivers Map via Geology.com.

    #NISP update

    Cache la Poudre River from South Trail via Wikimedia Foundation.

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

    The Larimer County Planning Commission on Wednesday heard details of plans for constructing and operating the project, which would include building Glade northwest of Fort Collins and laying 35.6 miles of pipeline to carry NISP water out of the county.

    The information packet given to commissioners, including staff reports, environmental impact statements and comments from numerous government agencies, is 3,242 pages.

    The packet includes more than 500 comments from members of the public, including groups and individuals who have been fighting NISP since it was proposed in 2004.

    Concerns about the project and its impact to the Poudre River during federal and state permitting processes were raised again along with new issues on the county level by environmental group Save the Poudre and others.

    Larimer County plans several hearings

    Wednesday’s meeting was the first of three planned by the planning commission on NISP. It consisted of presentations by county staff members and representatives of Northern Water, the main proponent of NISP.

    No public comment was taken. That will happen during hearings scheduled July 8 and 15. An additional meeting would be scheduled if needed to allow Northern Water time for rebuttal following the public comment, county officials said.

    Northern Water is seeking a 1041 permit — named for the state law giving authority to local governments to make decisions on certain types of infrastructure projects — for NISP. The planning commission will make a recommendation on the application to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide whether to grant a permit.

    Three of the nine planning commission members recused themselves from the proceedings citing the potential appearance of impartiality or conflicts of interest: Anne Best Johnson, community development director for the city of Evans, which is a participant in NISP; Bob Choate, an attorney who might be called upon to give legal advice on the project to the Weld County commissioners; and Sean Dougherty, a Realtor who represents a landowner who might be affected by the project…

    Under the county’s 1041 regulations, the county’s purview of NISP is limited to the siting of Glade and associated recreational facilities and the locations of four large pipelines that would carry NISP water through Larimer County.

    The project must meet 12 criteria for approval, including that the project would not negatively impact public health and safety and the “proposal demonstrates a reasonable balance between the costs to the applicant to mitigate significant adverse (effects) and the benefits achieved by such mitigation,” according to the land-use code.

    County development review staff members said the proposal meets the criteria and recommended approval of the permit with 82 conditions, including requirements for several reports and plans for addressing issues such as noise and dust during construction.

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

    As part of the project, Northern would build recreational facilities that would be managed by the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources. The department manages recreation at Carter Lake and Horsetooth, Pinewood and Flatiron reservoirs.

    Facilities at Glade would include a visitor center, campgrounds, hiking, fishing and boating. A four-lane boat ramp would be built on the southeast side of the reservoir.

    The facilities would increase recreational opportunities as envisioned in county master plans, said Daylan Figgs, Natural Resources director.

    Demand for access to recreation will likely increase as the county grows in the years to come, Figgs said. The facilities proposed by Northern would cost about $21.8 million. NISP would cover 75% of the cost, with the rest coming from the county directly or through partnerships.

    [Nancy] Wallace said she was “struck” that the county might have to contribute to the cost of recreational facilities. NISP doesn’t appear to “give much to the county” other than its recreation components and water for Windsor and the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, she said…

    Christine Coleman, a water resources engineer with Northern, told the commissioners $49 million in NISP environmental mitigation work would be done in the county.

    The final environmental impact statement for NISP estimated development of the reservoir could bring in $13 million to $30 million a year in economic benefits, Coleman said. The project would contribute $16.35 million to recreation facilities at Glade…

    To keep water flowing in the Poudre, which can dry up in spots under certain circumstances, NISP would release water from Glade back to the river through a 1.3-mile pipeline.

    The added water would flow 13 miles through Fort Collins before it is picked up by another pipeline upstream from the city’s wastewater treatment plant on Mulberry Street. The guaranteed flow through the city would be between 18 and 25 cubic feet per second.

    “This will increase flows at the Lincoln (Street) gauge in Fort Collins and the Poudre River in eight out of 12 months in average years and 10 out of 12 months in dry years,” said Stephanie Cecil, a water resources engineer with Northern.

    Water would be pumped into a pipeline running east to a pipeline along County Road 1 running south. The pipeline would affect some city-owned natural areas.

    A fourth pipeline would carry water from Glade along a route known as the “northern tier” and connect with the county line pipeline.

    The pipe would run through the Eagle Lake subdivision, sparking resistance to the proposal from local residents…

    Cecil said the pipelines would require 100-foot easements, of which 60 feet would be permanent and 40 feet would be temporary for constructions. Property owners would be paid fair market value for easements, and surface disruptions would be reclaimed to pre-existing conditions or better.

    NISP’s pipelines would range from 32 to 54 inches in diameter. The northern tier pipeline would carry about two-thirds of the water going to NISP participants, Cecil said…

    What’s next for NISP in Larimer County

    The Larimer County Planning Commission is scheduled to take public comment on NISP during hearings schedule July 8 and July 15 at the County Courthouse Offices Building, 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins.

    Both meetings will begin at 6 p.m. Attendance will be limited to 50 people because of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings.

    Comments will be limited to 2 minutes per person. Borrowing, lending or grouping time will not be allowed. Groups and individuals who wish to speak in person or remotely must register at larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041.

    The planning commission will make a recommendation on a permit for NISP to the Board of County Commissioners, which will decide on the application.

    Hearings by the commissioners are scheduled:

  • 6 p.m., Aug. 17 – Presentations only; no public testimony.
  • 2 p.m. Aug. 24 (break from 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • 3 p.m. Aug. 31 (break from 5:30-6:30 p.m.)
  • 6:30 p.m. Sept. 2 – questions, final deliberation and decision
  • Information: http://larimer.org/planning/NISP-1041

    Northern Integrated Supply Project July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

    From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Johnson):

    Larimer County staff has recommended approval of a 1041 permit for the Northern Integrated Supply Project with requirements that include noise, water and air quality monitoring and mitigation during construction of its reservoirs and associated pipelines.

    Engineering, health department and planning staff members outlined that recommendation to the Larimer County Planning Commission on Wednesday during the first of a three-part public hearing for the reservoir project, which over the past decade has drawn vocal opposition and support.

    Northern Water hopes to build the water project on behalf of 15 water providers as a way to pull water in wet years, from both the Poudre and South Platte rivers, to store for when needed. All of the participants have water conservation plans and have reduced their water use by 10%, but still need future water supplies, according to Northern Water…

    The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the main permit to build the project — a decision expected sometime this year after more than a decade of evaluation. However, Larimer County does have some authority through its 1041 permit on certain aspects of construction of the reservoir and its associated pipelines as well as recreation on and surrounding the reservoir.

    The planning commission will make a recommendation to the Larimer County commissioners, who will hold a public hearing that is scheduled across three Mondays starting Aug. 17 and will end with a decision on whether to grant the 1041 permit.

    The first of the planning commission dates, Wednesday, was a presentation by Northern Water and by Larimer County staff. Public comment is slated for the next two hearings, scheduled July 8 and July 15…

    Some highlights of the presentation, from both county staff and Northern Water representatives, include:

  • The realignment of U.S. 287 north of Fort Collins is not part of the 1041 permit, but Larimer County is asking that the design take into effect the impacts on nearby county roads including the already dangerous intersection with U.S. 287 and Colo. 14.
  • Glade Reservoir would be able to store 170,000 acre feet of water with 1,600 surface acres and water that could hit 250 feet at its deepest. The reservoir would be 5 miles long, and the project would include four separate pipeline segments spanning a total of 35.6 miles.
  • Recreation at the reservoir would be detailed closer to construction to reflect trends and interests at the time but would include a mixture of boating, camping, fishing and trails that would help meet demands for a growing Larimer County population. Overall, Northern Water has proposed $21.8 million in recreation amenities and improvements, including a visitors center. Northern Water has committed to covering 75% of those costs through the project; the remainder would be covered through partnerships.
  • Northern Water would need to mitigate impacts on traffic that would range between 400 and 1,600 average daily trips during construction of the reservoir, up to 300 daily trips associated with construction of the pipelines and an average of 1,150 daily trips associated with recreation.
  • Larimer County would require traffic management, dust and noise mitigation plans, as well as groundwater monitoring. Construction would be limited to daytime, and the county would require private well monitoring to ensure that those water sources are not polluted.
  • County staff members believe any impacts on wildlife, wetlands, streamflow, fisheries and other natural resources would be mitigated by existing measures in a Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that was approved by state officials in 2017, as well as through a water quality permit based on multiple studies and evaluations. The mitigation plan calls call for $53 million in improvements, including fish-friendly bypasses at diversion structures, a low flow plan to keep more water in the Poudre River through Fort Collins and enhancements to wetlands and wildlife habitat.
  • The project proposes swapping irrigation water from the Poudre River with water from the South Platte River, which will prevent “buy and dry” of farmland. This could keep more than 60,000 acres of irrigated farmland in production, according to Northern Water.
  • Northern Integrated Supply Project preferred alternative

    100 degrees in Siberia? 5 ways the extreme #Arctic heat wave follows a disturbing pattern — The Conversation #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround


    This Arctic heat wave has been unusually long-lived. The darkest reds on this map of the Arctic are areas that were more than 14 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in the spring of 2020 compared to the recent 15-year average.
    Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

    Mark Serreze, University of Colorado Boulder

    The Arctic heat wave that sent Siberian temperatures soaring to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the first day of summer put an exclamation point on an astonishing transformation of the Arctic environment that’s been underway for about 30 years.

    As long ago as the 1890s, scientists predicted that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would lead to a warming planet, particularly in the Arctic, where the loss of reflective snow and sea ice would further warm the region. Climate models have consistently pointed to “Arctic amplification” emerging as greenhouse gas concentrations increase.

    Well, Arctic amplification is now here in a big way. The Arctic is warming at roughly twice the rate of the globe as a whole. When extreme heat waves like this one strike, it stands out to everyone. Scientists are generally reluctant to say “We told you so,” but the record shows that we did.

    As director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center and an Arctic climate scientist who first set foot in the far North in 1982, I’ve had a front-row seat to watch the transformation.

    Arctic heat waves are happening more often

    Arctic heat waves now arrive on top of an already warmer planet, so they’re more frequent than they used to be.

    Western Siberia recorded its hottest spring on record this year, according the EU’s Copernicus Earth Observation Program, and that unusual heat isn’t expected to end soon. The Arctic Climate Forum has forecast above-average temperatures across the majority of the Arctic through at least August.

    Arctic temperatures have been rising faster than the global average. This map shows the average change in degrees Celsius from 1960 to 2019.
    NASA-GISS

    How heat waves get stuck

    Why is this heat wave sticking around? No one has a full answer yet, but we can look at the weather patterns around it.

    As a rule, heat waves are related to unusual jet stream patterns, and the Siberian heat wave is no different. A persistent northward swing of the jet stream has placed the area under what meteorologists call a “ridge.” When the jet stream swings northward like this, it allows warmer air into the region, raising the surface temperature.

    Some scientists expect rising global temperatures to influence the jet stream. The jet stream is driven by temperature contrasts. As the Arctic warms more quickly, these contrasts shrink, and the jet stream can slow.

    Is that what we’re seeing right now? We don’t yet know.

    Swiss cheese sea ice and feedback loops

    We do know that we’re seeing significant effects from this heat wave, particularly in the early loss of sea ice.

    The ice along the shores of Siberia has the appearance of Swiss cheese right now in satellite images, with big areas of open water that would normally still be covered. The sea ice extent in the Laptev Sea, north of Russia, is the lowest recorded for this time of year since satellite observations began.

    The loss of sea ice also affects the temperature, creating a feedback loop. Earth’s ice and snow cover reflect the Sun’s incoming energy, helping to keep the region cool. When that reflective cover is gone, the dark ocean and land absorb the heat, further raising the surface temperature.

    Sea surface temperatures are already unusually high along parts of the Siberian Coast, and the warm ocean waters will lead to more melting.

    The risks of thawing permafrost

    On land, a big concern is warming permafrost – the perennially frozen ground that underlies most Arctic terrain.

    When permafrost thaws under homes and bridges, infrastructure can sink, tilt and collapse. Alaskans have been contending with this for several years. Near Norilsk, Russia, thawing permafrost was blamed for an oil tank collapse in late May that spilled thousands of tons of oil into a river.

    In a study published last year, researchers found that permafrost test sites around the world had warmed by nearly half a degree Fahrenheit on average over the decade from 2007 to 2016. The greatest increase was in Siberia, where some areas had warmed by 1.6 degrees. The current Siberian heat wave, especially if it continues, will regionally exacerbate that permafrost warming and thawing.

    A satellite image shows the Norilsk oil spill flowing into neighboring rivers. The collapse of a giant fuel tank was blamed on thawing permafrost.
    Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2020, CC BY

    Wildfires are back again

    The extreme warmth also raises the risk of wildfires, which radically change the landscape in other ways.

    Drier forests are more prone to fires, often from lightning strikes. When forests burn, the dark, exposed soil left behind can absorb more heat and hasten warming.

    We’ve seen a few years now of extreme forest fires across the Arctic. This year, some scientists have speculated that some of the Siberian fires that broke out last year may have continued to burn through the winter in peat bogs and reemerged.

    A satellite images shows thinning sea ice in parts of the East Siberian and Laptev Seas and wildfire smoke pouring across Russia. The town of Verkhoyansk, normally known for being one of the coldest inhabited places on Earth, reported hitting 100 degrees on June 20.
    Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

    A disturbing pattern

    The Siberian heat wave and its impacts will doubtless be widely studied. There will certainly be those eager to dismiss the event as just the result of an unusual persistent weather pattern.

    Caution must always be exercised about reading too much into a single event – heat waves happen. But this is part of a disturbing pattern.

    What is happening in the Arctic is very real and should serve as a warning to everyone who cares about the future of the planet as we know it.

    [Get our best science, health and technology stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s science newsletter.]The Conversation

    Mark Serreze, Research Professor of Geography and Director, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Boulder

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Navajo Nation files lawsuit against the U.S. @EPA over the Clean Water Act #DirtyWaterRule

    From The Navajo Nation Facebook page:

    The Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit on Monday against the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, arguing that the recent 2020 Waters of the United States rule significantly diminishes the number and extent of Navajo waters protected by the Clean Water Act in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The new rule could also adversely impact the amount of federal funding that the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency receives for its water programs.

    “At this point in time, with climate change occurring around the world, it’s more prudent than ever to protect our land, water and air. We, as Diné People, have a duty to preserve and conserve our natural resources to ensure that our future generations have access to clean water, air and land. The previous 2015 Waters of the United States rule provided clarity in protecting our Nation’s waters. Therefore, we strongly oppose and disagree with the revised WOTUS,” said President Nez.

    The Nez-Lizer Administration is proposing to use $300 million from the CARES Act funding that the Navajo Nation received for water infrastructure and agriculture projects, which will require clean water resources to development and construct.

    “Our Navajo people always say that water is life, and that’s very true. When we plan for any type of water projects, we are planning for future generations, not just for today or tomorrow. Clean water is a necessity for life,” said Vice President Myron Lizer.

    “Clean water should be protected not only by the Clean Water Act, but also by the Navajo Nation’s treaty rights. It is a necessity of life that is vital to preservation of Navajo culture and tradition,” added Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen N. McPaul.

    Department Manager for Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency’s water programs Ronnie Ben said, “Since the inception of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency’s water programs, our main purpose and goal has always been to protect our Nation’s water sources. However, our job becomes difficult when the federal government rolls back environmental regulations in favor of polluters. We currently have organizations on the Navajo Nation who are not in compliance with Navajo Nation and Federal environmental laws and laxing Waters of the United States doesn’t help bring these companies into compliance.”

    President Nez and Vice President Lizer thank Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen N. McPaul, Navajo Nation Department of Justice Attorney Michael Daughtry, Contract Attorney Jill Grant, and Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency water program personnel for their efforts in bringing this suit on behalf of the Navajo people.

    5 things you should do right now to fight the rising number of #COVID19 cases — The Conversation #coronavirus


    Wearing a mask and using hand sanitizers can protect you and your family at this critical time.
    d3sign/Getty Images

    Kacey Ernst, University of Arizona and Paulina Columbo, University of Arizona

    The increase of COVID-19 cases across the country calls for quick action. Sure, you and your family are exhausted from distancing, you miss your loved ones and you want to get back to your support groups or church.

    But the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, does not stop just because we are tired. In the absence of clear, consistent directions from the federal government, it is more important than ever that people pay attention to the medical and public health facts.

    “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges that we are seeing in Florida, in Texas, in Arizona and other states,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told Congress June 23. Fauci and other public health experts testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Fauci told Congress that he sees a “disturbing surge” in many parts of the country.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci describes the ‘disturbing surge’ in coronavirus cases.

    As an infectious disease epidemiologist from Arizona, one of the current U.S. hotspots, here are five things I urge you to do right now:

    1. Wear a mask. The World Health Organization recommends medical-grade masks for those people age 60 and over, or those with health issues, and triple-layer cloth masks for everyone else over the age of two. If you can’t find those triple-layer masks, you can use a simple cotton or silk cloth face covering to reduce the number of viral particles you emit or are exposed to. Make sure it covers your mouth and your nose. I have seen too many people wearing masks on their chins. And watch your hand-face contact – you can infect yourself by adjusting the mask too much and repeatedly touching your face.

    2. Physically distance. Avoid crowded spaces. If you want to visit friends or family, you must still wear a mask – and keep six feet apart. If at all possible, have these visits outdoors. Indoor activities are most commonly associated with SARS-CoV-2 transmission clusters. Transmission outdoors is less likely, and if you are in places other than Arizona (where the temperature is 106F as I type this), it is probably ideal summer weather to be outdoors.

    3. Wash your filthy hands. And, yes, they can be really dirty, even if they do not appear so. Bacteria and viruses can lurk on them, spreading infection from surface to surface and person to person. And then wash them again. Hand-washing is critically important. I wash every time I walk into the house. Immediately. The benefits of hand-washing regularly may seem obvious, but many forget them. According to studies, washing for about 15 seconds reduces bacterial counts by about 90% of the germs on your hands. Washing for an additional 15 lowers the count to about 99% percent. And yes, hand-washing is better than sanitizer because the soap and water mechanically rid your hands of germs. That said, I keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my car and wipes for after shopping.

    4. Plan ahead in case you or someone in your household gets sick. The reality is that many more of us are going to get sick before this pandemic is over. Planning ahead can give you some peace of mind that you are prepared. This includes doing such things as identifying people or services to transport essential items to your home and developing an emergency contact list. Also, keep cleaning high-touch surfaces, such as light fixtures, faucets and countertops, regularly. Know the symptoms and emergency warning signs for COVID-19. Also, if you live alone, find a buddy who will check in on you regularly in case you get sick. Prepare a kit for yourself that you can keep by your bed.

    5. Maintain awareness of the situation in your community. I know, the data is hard to sort out right now, but one thing to look for in your community is a decline in local cases. Local and state health departments are still providing updated numbers on cases. You can also follow an independent source that is assessing local situations.

    This is a time of uncertainty and anxiety for all of us. We desperately want to get back to normal, but it just isn’t possible yet. So find time each day to take care of your mental health. Take a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, snuggle with a pet, meditate, reach out to others who may need your help, while still social distancing, and advocate for our most vulnerable populations. Your life and those of your loved ones depend upon following public health guidelines.

    [_The Conversation’s most important coronavirus headlines, weekly in a new science newsletter.]The Conversation

    Kacey Ernst, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Arizona and Paulina Columbo, Graduate student, Public Health, University of Arizona

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    #Drought news: (D2) and extreme (D3) drought designations remain for many locations in the #TX and #OK Panhandles, E. #NM, #Colorado, and W. #KS

    Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

    Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

    This Week’s Drought Summary

    Precipitation fell across much of the northern tier states and the eastern half of the CONUS this week. Much of the eastern United States has experienced increased dryness over the past 30-60 days and above normal temperatures. The heaviest rains missed many of the D0 and adjacent areas, warranting D0 expansion for several locations in the eastern CONUS. The Northeast (New York to New England) has seen conditions drastically deteriorate this week. Agricultural impacts are being reported across many areas in New England, particularly Maine, and 7-day USGS streamflows are below the 10th percentile for much of the Northeast Region. Areas just east of the Rockies missed out on some of the heavier precipitation this week, which fell over central Kansas, central Oklahoma, and northern Texas. This allowed for some improvement, mainly in areas that with D0 and D1 designations at the start of the week. However, severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought designations remained for many locations in the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles, eastern New Mexico and Colorado, and western Kansas. Mixed improvements and degradation in the northern Rockies and High Plains…

    High Plains

    Similar to the Southern and Central Plains, many areas in the High Plains Region have fallen victim to above-normal temperatures, high winds, and a lack of precipitation in recent weeks. Some reduction in drought coverage in areas receiving the heaviest precipitation throughout the region, most notably central Kansas where many areas received 2-6 inches of rainfall. However, elsewhere 30 and 60 day deficits continue to increase, corresponding with D2-D4 equivalent SPIs and 25-50 percent of normal precipitation over the past 30 days across most areas depicted in drought. Soil moisture also continues to suffer across western North Dakota, much of Wyoming, and all of Colorado (CPC showing soil moisture below the 5th percentile for much of Colorado). There have been reports of low reservoir levels in North Dakota. Colorado has reported several episodes of 100-degree days in the southeast portion of the state in recent weeks, as well as cattle being sold and failing winter wheat crops. As such, severe drought (D3) is status quo this week for southern and southeastern Colorado…

    West

    Much of the West remains status quo this week. Montana saw the most change, as 7-day rainfall accumulations over 1 inch were able to dig into some of the short-term departures, mainly in D0 areas. However, extreme eastern Montana missed out on rainfall this week. YTD SPIs are less than -2 in Richland County and USGS 7-day average streamflows are below normal (10th-24th percentile) near and just over the North Dakota/Montana state line, which warranted some D1 introduction there…

    South

    South-central Oklahoma and northern Texas saw very heavy precipitation this week (4-8 inches). However, accumulations were lacking a bit in areas with D2 and D3 designations. Above-normal temperatures, high wind events, and below-normal precipitation leading up to this week has led to high evapotranspiration rates and hardened soils, increasing runoff. So more rainfall over extended periods is needed for improvement in some of the driest areas in the Central and Southern Plains. Elsewhere in the Southern Region, 30-60 day deficits continue to be the headliner. Although much of the region saw precipitation, many D0 and adjacent areas saw near to below normal rainfall, warranting some D0 expansion in the Tennessee Valley and eastern Texas…

    Looking Ahead

    June 25-29 shows increased probabilities for precipitation across much of the northern tier states (0.5-1 inch), Midwest (widespread 1-1.5 inches), and Gulf Coast states (1-2 inches, with locally higher amounts), according to the Weather Prediction Center’s (WPC) quantitative precipitation forecast. New England is likely to miss out on any meaningful precipitation (only 0.25-0.5 inch, with locally higher amounts favored). Lesser rainfall amounts are favored for the Southern and Central Plains, which does not bode well for areas experiencing severe and extreme drought. Positive temperature anomalies and high winds are also expected to continue over the High Plains and Central Plains, according to WPC’s 4-7 day gridded forecasts. Much of the Intermountain West are favored to see below normal temperatures.

    The CPC 6-10 day outlook (June 30-July 4) shows a highly amplified pattern with mean troughing over the western CONUS and mean ridging over the eastern CONUS. This pattern favors enhanced odds for below normal temperatures over the western CONUS and above normal temperatures everywhere east of the Rockies, except for portions of the Southeast (near normal). Above normal precipitation is favored over the northern Rockies and Northern Plains, in association with the mean trough over the West. Above normal precipitation is also favored in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. Weak probabilities of below normal precipitation are favored in southeastern areas of the Four Corners Region and southern Texas, with enhanced probabilities for below normal precipitation in the northern Great Lakes, extending to the Northeast.

    And here’s the one week change map ending June 23, 2020.

    US Drought Monitor one week change map ending June 23, 2020.

    Two-Thirds of Americans Think Government Should Do More on #Climate — Pew Research #ClimateChange #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

    A nursery manager plants a whitebark pine at Glacier National Park in Montana in September 2019, part of an effort to restore vegetation following a wildfire. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images via Pew Research

    From Pew Research (Alec Tyson and Brian Kennedy):

    A majority of Americans continue to say they see the effects of climate change in their own communities and believe that the federal government falls short in its efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change.

    At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public – including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats – say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts, tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

    Public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, and there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels. A recent Center analysis finds 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.

    The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds a majority of U.S. adults want the government to play a larger role in addressing climate change. About two-thirds (65%) of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change – a view that’s about as widely held today as it was last fall.

    And public dissatisfaction with government environmental action is not limited solely to climate: Majorities also continue to say the government is doing too little in other areas, such as protecting air and water quality and wildlife.

    Consistent with public concerns over climate and the environment, 79% of Americans say the priority for the country’s energy supply should be developing alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) give priority to expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas. To shift consumption patterns toward renewables, a majority of the public (58%) says government regulations will be necessary to encourage businesses and individuals to rely more on renewable energy; fewer (39%) think the private marketplace will ensure this change in habits.

    Partisans remain far apart on several overarching questions about climate change. Much larger shares of Democrats and those who lean toward the Democratic Party than Republicans and Republican leaners say human activity is contributing a great deal to climate change (72% vs. 22%), that it is impacting their own local community (83% to 37%) and that the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change (89% to 35%).

    Despite these differences, there is bipartisan support for several policy options to reduce the effects of climate change. This is especially true when it comes to proposals put forth earlier this year by Republican members of Congress, such as large scale tree-plantings to help absorb carbon emissions and offering tax credits to businesses that capture carbon emissions.

    In order to reduce the effects of global climate change, 90% of Americans favor planting about a trillion trees around the world to absorb carbon emissions in the atmosphere, including comparably large shares of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (92%) and Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (88%). President Donald Trump expressed support for tree planting efforts in February during his State of the Union address.

    Similarly, 84% of U.S. adults support providing a business tax credit for carbon capture technology that can store carbon emissions before they enter the atmosphere. Large majorities of Democrats (90%) and Republicans (78%) back this proposal, which House Republicans rolled out earlier this year.

    Most Americans also support tougher restrictions on power plant emissions (80%), taxing corporations based on the amount of carbon emissions they produce (73%) and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles and trucks (71%). Partisan divides are wider on these three policies, with Democrats much more supportive than Republicans. Still, about half or more of Republicans say they would favor each of these policies, including 64% who back tougher emission standards for power plants.

    While partisanship remains the predominant dividing line in many views of climate and the environment, there are meaningful differences within party coalitions.

    In particular, Republicans and Republican leaners who describe their political views as moderate or liberal (roughly a third of all Republicans and leaners) are much more likely than conservative Republicans to see local impacts of climate change, support policies to address it and say the federal government is doing too little in areas of environmental protection. Further, younger generations and women in the GOP tend to be more critical of government action on the environment than their older and male counterparts. Republican women also are more supportive of polices aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change than GOP men.

    Differences among Democrats and Democratic leaners are more modest. Strong majorities of both moderate or conservative and liberal Democrats believe the federal government is doing too little to reduce climate change and support a range of policies to address its effects on the environment. There are not meaningful differences in these views among Democrats by either gender or generation.

    Americans see local impacts from climate change, but that view is colored more by politics than place

    A majority of Americans (63%) say that climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. Fewer (37%) say climate change is impacting their own community not too much or not at all. The share who see at least some local impact from climate change is about the same as it was last fall (62%).

    Views of the local impact of climate change are largely similar among Americans who live in different regions of the county. In fact, an identical 64% of those who live in the Northeast, South and West say climate change is affecting their community a great deal or some. Those who live in the Midwest are slightly less likely to say this (58%).

    Partisanship is a far larger factor in views of the local impact of climate change. A large majority of Democrats (83%) say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By contrast, far fewer Republicans (37%) believe climate change is affecting their local community at least some; most Republicans (62%) say climate change is impacting their local community not too much or at all.

    Among Republicans and Republican leaners, moderates and liberals (55%) are much more likely than conservatives (27%) to say climate change is impacting their community a great deal or some. Among Democrats and Democratic leaners, large shares of both liberals (86%) and conservative and moderates (81%) see local impacts from climate change.

    A more granular analysis of geography shows that Americans who live near a coastline are more likely than those who live further away to say climate change is affecting their local community. This pattern holds within both parties but is particularly evident among Republicans.

    Seven-in-ten of those who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal or some. By comparison, 57% of those who live 300 miles or more from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some.

    Overall, 45% of Republicans who live less than 25 miles from the coastline say climate change is affecting their local community at least some, compared with a significantly smaller share (31%) of Republicans who live 300 or more miles from the coastline.

    Roughly eight-in-ten Democrats, no matter where they live, say climate change is affecting their local community at least some. However, Democrats who live close to the coastline are more likely than Democrats who live farthest away from the ocean to say climate change is affecting their local community a great deal (39% vs. 29%).

    When those who see a local impact from climate change are asked about the nature of the impact, those who live near a coastline are far more likely (73%) than those who live farther away (45%) to cite rising sea levels that erode beaches and shorelines as a major impact in their community.

    Strong majorities of Americans back policies aimed at reducing the effects of climate change

    Majorities of U.S. adults favor each of the five proposals to reduce the effects of climate change included in the survey. The most popular, favored by 90% of Americans, is to plant about a trillion trees to absorb carbon emissions. President Trump announced in this year’s State of the Union that the U.S. would join the World Economic Forum’s One Trillion Trees Initiative.

    Widespread public support extends to proposals to provide a tax credit to businesses for development of carbon capture and storage capacity (84%) and tougher restrictions on power plant carbon emissions (80%).

    About seven-in-ten also favor taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions (73%) and adopting tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks (71%).

    The Trump administration has taken steps over the past year to roll back regulations on carbon emissions in areas such as fuel-efficiency standards for vehicles and power plants emissions.

    Support for these policies aligns with how effective the public thinks they would be. A 2018 survey found majorities of Americans believed restrictions on power plant emissions, tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce carbon emissions and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars would all make a difference at reducing climate change.

    Democrats are particularly supportive of policy proposals to reduce the effects of global climate change. Roughly 90% of Democrats favor each of these five policy proposals, and differences among Democrats by ideology tend to be modest. For example, 93% of Democrats, including 96% of liberals and 91% of moderates and conservatives, say they support tougher restrictions on power plant carbon emissions. Differences among Democrats across demographic characteristics such as age and gender also are small.

    Among Republicans, there are large gaps in support for some of these policies by ideology, as well as differences in views between GOP men and women.

    Moderate and liberal Republicans are broadly supportive of these proposals aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. Two-thirds or more favor each of the five proposals, including 80% who say they support tougher power plant carbon emissions standards.

    Among conservative Republicans, 87% support planting more trees to reduce the effects of climate change and 75% favor a tax credit for businesses to develop carbon capture and storage technology. However, their support is significantly lower for other polices: 55% back tougher restrictions on power plant emissions, while fewer than half favor taxing corporations based on their carbon emissions (46%) or tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars (44%).

    Most Republican men and women support tree-planting efforts and offering a tax credit to businesses for carbon capture technology. But GOP women are significantly more likely than men to favor tougher emissions restrictions on power plants, taxing corporations based on their emissions and tougher fuel-efficiency standards for cars.

    Political groups continue to differ over role human activity plays in climate change

    Most U.S. adults think human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels, contributes a great deal (49%) or some (32%) to climate change. About two-in-ten (19%) say human activity contributes not too much or not at all to climate change. Views on this question are about the same as they were last fall.

    Americans continue to be deeply politically divided over how much human activity contributes to climate change. About seven-in-ten Democrats (72%) say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with roughly two-in-ten Republicans (22%), a difference of 50 percentage points.

    The difference is even wider among those at the ends of the ideological spectrum. A large majority of liberal Democrats (85%) say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. Only 14% of conservative Republicans say the same – 45% of this group says human activity contributes not too much or not at all to climate change.

    Views about the role of human activity in climate change also vary by education among Democrats, but not among Republicans. Democrats who have graduated from college are more likely to say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change than Democrats without a college degree. For example, 86% of Democrats with a postgraduate degree say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change, compared with a smaller majority (58%) of Democrats with no college experience. Among Republicans, comparably small shares across level of education see human activity as contributing a great deal to climate change.

    Previous Pew Research Center analyses have found a similar dynamic in views of climate change by level of science knowledge, based on an 11-item index. Among Democrats, those with higher levels of science knowledge are more likely to say human activity influences climate change a great deal than those with lower levels of science knowledge. By contrast, there is no such relationship among Republicans.

    There also are significant differences in these views among Democrats by race and ethnicity. Overall, 80% of white Democrats and 70% of Hispanic Democrats say human activity contributes a great deal to climate change. By contrast, black Democrats are much less likely to take this view: 49% believe human activity contributes a great deal to climate change.

    Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans prioritize alternative energy over fossil fuel sources

    Reducing reliance on carbon-based fuels is viewed by climate advocates as a critical step to preventing the worst impacts of climate change. The survey finds a broad majority of Americans (79%) say the more important priority for the country is to develop alternative sources, such as wind and solar; far fewer (20%) say the more important energy priority is to expand the production of oil, coal and natural gas. Views on this question are about the same as they were in October 2019, the first time the measure was asked on Pew Research Center’s online American Trends Panel.

    An overwhelming majority of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (91%) say that developing alternative sources should be the nation’s energy priority. A smaller majority of Republicans and Republican leaners (65%) also takes this view.

    Among moderate and liberal Republicans, a large share (81%) say developing alternative sources should be the nation’s energy priority. The views of moderate and liberal Republicans are relatively close to those of Democrats: 88% of moderate and conservative Democrats and a near-unanimous 97% of liberal Democrats say the more important energy priority is developing alternative sources. By contrast, conservative Republicans are much more divided in their views: A narrow majority (54%) gives greater priority to developing alternative energy sources, while 45% say the priority should be expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas.

    Partisans hold opposing views on this question: 77% of Democrats, including those who lean to the Democratic Party, believe that government regulations are necessary to shift the country toward reliance on renewable energy, while 61% of Republicans and Republican leaners say the private marketplace will be enough.

    Views on this question, and opinion dynamics among partisans, are comparable to what they were when the question was last asked in 2018.

    Americans’ overall preference to prioritize alternative energy is reflected in views of specific energy source development.

    Large shares say they would favor developing more solar panel farms (90%) and more wind turbine farms (83%).

    There is far less support for expanding fossil fuel energy sources. Majorities oppose expanding coal mining (65%), hydraulic fracturing (60%) and offshore oil and gas drilling (58%).

    A narrow majority of the public (55%) opposes more nuclear power plants in the country, while 43% are in favor. Larger shares of women than men oppose expanding nuclear power, a pattern that’s seen among both Republicans and Democrats and is consistent with views about nuclear power in past Center surveys.

    Public views on which energy sources the country should expand have been stable in recent years, and opinions are very similar to those measured in 2018 and 2019 surveys.

    There is bipartisan support for expanding solar and wind power, though somewhat smaller majorities of conservative Republicans back these two policies.

    By contrast, Republicans – especially conservative Republicans – are more supportive than Democrats of expanding fossil fuel energy sources and nuclear power.

    Majorities of conservative Republicans favor expanding offshore drilling (72%), hydraulic fracturing (65%) and coal mining (63%). By contrast, about half or fewer of moderate and liberal Republicans favor expanding these forms of energy development. Democrats broadly oppose these methods, and opposition is particularly widespread among liberal Democrats.

    Differences in views of energy development by partisanship are about the same as they have been in recent years. See Appendix for details.

    Consistent with past Pew Research Center surveys, younger Republicans give more priority to alternative energy development – and are less supportive of expanding fossil fuel sources – than older Republicans.

    Overall, 79% of Millennial and Gen Z Republicans prioritize the development of alternative energy sources, compared with 66% of Gen X Republicans and 55% of Republicans who are Baby Boomers or older. While Republicans generally are skeptical about the need for government to encourage public reliance on renewable sources, about half 0f Millennial and Gen Z Republicans (48%) think government regulations are necessary; smaller shares of older Republicans say this.

    Millennial and younger Republicans are less supportive of expanding the use of offshore oil and gas drilling, coal mining or hydraulic fracturing than Baby Boomer and older Republicans. There’s a similar, but smaller, generational dynamic among Republicans in views of expanding nuclear power.

    Among Republicans, there is broad support across generations for expanding solar and wind farms, though support is somewhat higher among Millennial and Gen Z than older Republicans. (At this point, Gen Z adults hold views on a range of issues – including the role of government, diversity and climate and energy – that are similar to those of Millennials.)

    Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough on the environment

    Majorities of Americans continue to say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment. About two-thirds of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect water quality of rivers, lakes and streams (67%), protect air quality (65%) and reduce the effects of climate change (65%). About six-in-ten think the federal government is doing too little to protect animals and their habitats (62%), and a slightly smaller majority say the federal government is doing too little to protect open lands in national parks (54%).

    These findings come amid a changing federal regulatory landscape. The Trump administration is reversing or seeking to change more than 100 rules and regulations related to carbon dioxide emissions, clean air, water or toxic chemicals.

    Public views on how much the federal government is doing to protect key aspects of the environment are virtually unchanged in the last two years. In Pew Research Center surveys in both 2018 and 2019, about two-thirds of Americans said the federal government was doing too little to protect air or water quality or reduce the effects of climate change.

    Over the past several years, Americans have become significantly more likely to say protecting the environment and addressing climate change should be top priorities for the president and Congress, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center survey.

    Democrats remain far more likely than Republicans to say the government is doing too little to address aspects of the environment. For instance, about nine-in-ten liberal Democrats say the federal government is doing too little to protect air quality (93%) or water quality (91%). By comparison, among conservative Republicans, just 36% say the federal government is doing too little to protect water quality and only 28% say this about air quality. Majorities of conservative Republicans say the federal government is doing the right amount in these areas.

    Moderate and liberal Republicans are more critical of government action on the environment than conservative Republicans. Narrow majorities say the government is doing too little to protect water and air quality, wildlife and their habit and to reduce the effects of climate change. Ideological gaps among Democrats are more modest than among Republicans. See Appendix for details.

    Among Republicans, women and younger adults are more likely to say the government is doing too little to address aspects of the environment than men and older adults in the GOP.

    About half of Republican women (51%) say the government is doing too little to protect water quality, compared with 39% of Republican men. There’s a similar gap in views that government is doing too little to protect air quality (47% to 32%), and Republican women also are significantly more likely than men to say the government is doing too little in the three other environmental areas included in the survey.

    Millennial and younger Republicans are at least 10 points more likely than Baby Boomer and older Republicans to say the federal government is doing too little in each of the five areas measured in the survey. For example, 53% of Millennial and younger Republicans say the federal government is doing too little to protect air quality, compared with just 30% of Baby Boomer and older Republicans.

    Among Democrats, there are hardly any gaps in views on these questions by generation or gender. (See appendix for more details).

    Remarkable Drop in #ColoradoRiver Water Use a Sign of #Climate Adaptation — Circle of Blue #COriver #aridification

    From Circle of Blue (Brett Walton):

    Use of Colorado River water in the three states of the river’s lower basin fell to a 33-year low in 2019, amid growing awareness of the precarity of the region’s water supply in a drying and warming climate.

    Arizona, California, and Nevada combined to consume just over 6.5 million acre-feet last year, according to an annual audit from the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that oversees the lower basin. That is about 1 million acre-feet less than the three states are entitled to use under a legal compact that divides the Colorado River’s waters.

    The last time water consumption from the river was that low was in 1986, the year after an enormous canal in Arizona opened that allowed the state to lay claim to its full Colorado River entitlement.

    States have grappled in the last two decades with declining water levels in the basin’s main reservoirs — Mead and Powell — while reckoning with clear scientific evidence that climate change is already constricting the iconic river and will do further damage as temperatures rise.

    For water managers, the steady drop in water consumption in recent years is a signal that conservation efforts are working and that they are not helpless in the face of daunting environmental changes.

    “It’s quite a turnaround from where we were a decade ago and really, I think, optimistic for dealing with chronic shortages on the river in the future, knowing that we can turn the dial back and reduce demand significantly, all three states combined,” said Bill Hasencamp, the manager of Colorado River resources for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, a regional wholesaler and one of the river’s largest users.

    Observers of the basin’s intricate politics are also impressed with the trend lines for a watershed that irrigates about 5 million acres of farmland and provides 40 million people in two countries and 29 tribal nations with a portion of their water.

    “It is an incredibly important demonstration of the fact that we can use less water in this incredibly important water-use region,” John Fleck told Circle of Blue. Fleck is the director of the University of New Mexico water resources program.

    Projections for 2020 indicate that conservation will continue, though not quite at last year’s pace. Halfway through the year, the Bureau of Reclamation forecasts water consumption to be roughly 6.8 million acre-feet. An acre-foot is the amount of water that will flood an acre of land to a depth of one foot, or 325,851 gallons.

    “I have to give them credit,” Jennifer Gimbel, a senior water policy scholar at Colorado State University, told Circle of Blue about the lower basin states. “They’re working hard to get these numbers.”

    Raising Lake Mead

    Just five years ago, in 2015, the three states were making use of their entire 7.5-million-acre-foot allotment. By statute and tradition, the basin is divided into a lower basin, where use is higher, and an upper basin, which includes Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The basins have different water allocation systems and rules governing its use.

    In the lower basin, Arizona’s annual allocation is 2.8 million acre-feet, but last year it used just 2.5 million. Nevada used 233,000 of its 300,000 acre-feet. The big savings were in California, which used only 3.8 million of its 4.4 million acre-feet. California hasn’t used that little water from the Colorado since the 1950s, Fleck said.

    The drop in California last year is due in large part to Metropolitan Water District, which consumed only 537,000 acre-feet. Five years ago, the district’s tally was around 1 million acre-feet per year. Urban conservation and development of local water sources have played a large role in the decline, but the district’s Colorado River water use is also influenced by snow levels in the Sierra Nevada mountains. When more water is available to be imported from the northern part of the state, as it was last year, the district leans less heavily on the Colorado River.

    Graphic credit: Circle of Blue via Tableau.com

    Reclamation’s annual audit measures the amount of water consumed by humans, plants, and animals in the lower basin. Consumptive use equals total withdrawals minus any water that is returned to the river system, from irrigation runoff or wastewater treatment plants.

    As meticulous as it is, the audit neglects a significant piece of the basin’s water budget: evaporation from reservoirs and system losses, which is water consumed by riverside vegetation and absorbed by the ground. Together, these add up to about 1 million acre-feet per year, Jeremy Dodds, water accounting and verification group manager for Reclamation, told Circle of Blue.

    This factor is part of the lower basin’s “structural deficit,” which means that total demand in the lower basin — use by Arizona, California, and Nevada, plus evaporation and required deliveries to Mexico — exceeds the amount of water that flows into Lake Mead, the lower basin’s supply source.

    Gimbel, who was the principal deputy assistant secretary for water and science for the U.S. Department of Interior from 2014 to 2016, said that despite the conservation efforts reflected in the audit, the lower basin still has much work to do. “They’re closing the deficit, but they’re not there yet,” she said.

    The goal of the lower basin’s conservation is to keep Lake Mead from a precipitous decline into “dead pool” territory, where the reservoir is too low to send water downstream. The dead-pool threshold is at elevation 895 feet. Not using 1 million acre-feet last year most certainly helped the reservoir. Dodds said that at the current elevation of 1,089 feet, each block of 85,000 acre-feet equals 1 foot of elevation. So last year’s conservation added 12 feet to Mead, compared to a scenario in which the three states use their full entitlement.

    The conservation tool box that the states have employed has a range of instruments. Cities have provided incentives to remove grass lawns and replace inefficient toilets, showerheads, and washing machines. In Imperial Irrigation District, farmers have lined earthen canals with concrete to prevent seepage and they have agreed to fallow land to save water. Those measures, in both town and country, have helped to reduce demand. Supplies, on the other hand, have been bolstered by more investment in recycling and reuse, groundwater treatment, and desalination. As a whole, the seven states in the watershed came together in 2019 to modify rules for mandatory water-use restrictions that kick in as Lake Mead drops.

    The decline in Colorado River water consumption mirrors regional and national trends. In Metropolitan Water District’s service area in Southern California, water use per person fell from about 181 gallons per person per day in the mid-1990s to 131 gallons in 2018, a drop of 27 percent. Colorado River consumption on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation, in Arizona, is down about 20 percent since 2016.

    According to Tom Ley, a water consultant to the tribes, the decline is due to changes in farming practices and participation in a land fallowing program that will see 10,000 acres taken out of production in the next three years. The tribes’ decrease in consumptive water use “may look even more dramatic once the 2020 report comes out,” Ley told Circle of Blue.

    All of these actions amount to a shift in the perception of what’s possible, Fleck said.

    “It shows that the expectation that a growing population and a robust agricultural economy require more water is wrong,” explained Fleck, who is optimistic about the basin’s capacity to wield the tools of conservation effectively. Environmental doom is not the inevitable outcome, he says. “We’re seeing success in the transition away from the tragedy narrative,” he added.

    Still, there are minefields to navigate. There are dozens of proposals in the upper basin states to withdraw more water from the river, which, if they were built, would further stress supplies. Some of the water conserved in Lake Mead is stored as a credit that participating agencies can theoretically draw upon in the future. How agencies handle those withdrawals, especially if large requests are made as lake levels plummet, is an uncertainty. On top of that, a warming climate will suck more moisture from the basin, even before rain and snow reach the river.

    A hot, dry spring this year in the upper basin is evidence of what aridity can do. Snowpack in the basin’s headwaters was roughly average on April 1 and runoff into Lake Powell, a key water supply indicator, was expected to be 78 percent of normal. But then dry conditions arrived in April and May. Combined with dehydrated soils, which took their share of water, the runoff forecast by June 1 had diminished to just 57 percent of normal.

    Those climate signals are the counterbalance to the conservation success so far. Water managers, now wary, know the risk.

    “Just hopefully we don’t get a string of dry years coming back,” Hasencamp said.

    #LakePowell Reached Capacity 40 Years Ago. But What Do The Coming Decades Hold In Store? — KQER #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Lake Powell. Photo credit: The National Park Service

    From KUER (Lexi Perry):

    The water has made development possible and is used for farms, homes and businesses. Meanwhile, recreation has risen to over 4 million annual visitors in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, with tourists bringing in over $420 million to local communities.

    But climate scientists studying the Colorado River find the lake’s water source is quickly declining…

    According to Brad Udall, a water and climate researcher at Colorado State University, the lake is crucial for honoring the commitments laid out in that Colorado River Compact.

    “Lake Powell is what the upper basin considers its bank account for meeting required deliveries to the three lower basin states. So, it’s essential to the management of the river,” Udall said.

    When Lake Powell reached capacity on June 22, 1980, it was a wetter period of time for the region. Today, the lake is just above half full, and a large part of that is because of climate change.

    “Since the year 2000, the flow of the river is roughly down 20% and about half of that decline is due to higher temperatures,” Udall said.

    And as states continue to use the water, lower flows mean there is less to store in Lake Powell and Lake Mead.

    Even though extreme dry and wet years have fluctuated, the West is generally getting drier, said John Fleck, the director of water resources at the University of New Mexico.

    “We really need to call [what we’re experiencing] aridification — the drying out of the Colorado River Basin because of climate change, we can’t just call it ‘drought’ anymore,” Fleck said. “It appears to be this permanent phenomenon that’s lowering the lake levels. You should not expect it to return to high lake levels over long periods of time. That’s just not something we can expect to happen.”

    While the river flow has declined, the demand for water has increased with regional growth. Upper and lower basin states are making drought contingency plans to keep Lake Powell and Lake Mead from reaching critically low levels.

    Udall said states will also have to rethink those original water allocations from the 1920s.

    “It’s hard to balance the equities of trying to respect these agreements that people have planned on versus changing circumstances that make these agreements totally inappropriate for right now. And I don’t know what the answer is but something’s gotta give.”

    […]

    Lexi Peery is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER’s Southwest Bureau in St. George. Follow Lexi on Twitter @LexiFP

    Crop pathogens are more adaptable than previously thought — The Conversation


    Bananas in Java, Indonesia, infected by the fungal pathogen Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense, which causes Fusarium Wilt.
    Clare Thatcher, CC BY-ND

    Antonis Rokas, Vanderbilt University

    The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

    The big idea

    Many of the pathogens threatening the world’s major crops and food security are either fungi or fungus-like organisms known as oomycetes. In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers found that these microorganisms have the ability to rapidly adapt to environmental conditions and to the plant hosts they infect. This finding adds to growing concerns around these types of pathogens, which could become harder to control in both agriculture and forestry.

    Potato infected with the oomycete Phytophthora infestans. This oomycete was the cause of the Irish potato famine that led to the starvation and death of more than 1 million people in the 19th century. Phytophthora infections cause annual damages that amount to billions of U.S. dollars.
    Wikipedia

    To understand why only certain organisms are pathogens and others are not, ecologists like to think of each organism’s lifestyle or “ecological niche.” An organism’s niche is a space defined by its relationship to other organisms, such as the host organisms it interacts with, and preferred environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. For example, the oomycete Phytophthora infestans that causes potato late blight thrives at lower temperatures, around 15 degrees Celsius, whereas Botryosphaeria fungi causing apple “bot rots” prefer temperatures around or above 25°C.

    While the ecological niches of many plant and animal pathogens are well understood, this is not the case for microbial pathogens, such as fungi and oomycetes. To begin filling this gap, the new study synthesized and analyzed temperature and host plant range data from hundreds of fungal and oomycete pathogens.

    The researchers found that although some pathogens infect just one or a few plant hosts, others infect a broad range. The same was true of temperature; some pathogens can grow in a broad range of temperatures, while others thrive in only a narrow range. Simply put, there’s not one pathogen lifestyle; rather, any lifestyle could be that of a pathogen.

    But an even bigger surprise came when the researchers discovered that the two traits, temperature range and plant host range, did not correlate with one another. Thus, crop pathogen lifestyles cannot easily be grouped into general categories, such as generalists that grow in a wide range of temperatures and infect many plant hosts, and specialists, which is the opposite. What’s more, the new study found that both temperature range and plant host range change rapidly during evolution.

    Why it matters

    Rice infected with the rice blast fungus Magnaporthe grisea. Annually, rice blast destroys a quantity of rice that could feed 60 million people.
    Wikipedia, CC BY-SA

    Knowledge that crop pathogens exhibit diverse ecological lifestyles and evolve rapidly is decidedly not good news for our crops and global food security. On a planet where the climate is changing, highly adaptable pathogens are likely to be harder to control. In addition, much of the world relies on an outdated system of agriculture that favors monoculture and reliance on fungicides to which pathogens quickly evolve resistance. This combination make for a deadly mix, with new outbreaks of emerging plant diseases on the rise.

    What still isn’t known

    We still know little about the ecological niches of microbes. Examining host range and temperature, two important traits to the lifestyles of crop pathogens, is but the first step. In the future, researchers will need to examine additional facets of the ecological niches of these pathogens, such as humidity or competition with other organisms, which will be key for understanding why some microbes are pathogens and others are innocuous.

    [Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter.]The Conversation

    Antonis Rokas, Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in Biological Sciences, Professor of Biological Sciences and Biomedical Informatics, and Director of the Vanderbilt Evolutionary Studies Initiative, Vanderbilt University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Major victory for the #GilaRiver, America’s most endangered river of 2019 — @AmericanRivers #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Gila River. Photo credit: Dennis O’Keefe via American Rivers

    From American Rivers (Sinjin Eberle):

    In a major victory for one of the Southwest’s last major free flowing rivers, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission voted 7-2 on Friday to end work on the Environmental Impact Statement for the Gila River diversion. The threat of the diversion spurred American Rivers to name the Gila America’s Most Endangered River® of 2019.

    “This is a resounding victory for last year’s Most Endangered River and one of New Mexico’s greatest natural treasures. We applaud our partners for their years of work and the Interstate Stream Commission for recognizing the value of the free-flowing Gila River,” said Bob Irvin, President and CEO of American Rivers.

    The Gila River Diversion has long been a contentious, wasteful proposal, that would have devastated New Mexico’s last major wild river. Partners including the Gila River Indian Community, Gila Conservation Coalition, Upper Gila Watershed Alliance and Center for Biological Diversity have been vital to the effort to stop the diversion.

    Flowing out of the nation’s first Wilderness Area, the Gila River supports outstanding examples of southwestern riparian forest, cold-water fisheries and a remarkable abundance of wildlife. The Gila River is important to Indigenous peoples who have lived in southwestern New Mexico for thousands of years. Many cultural sites are found along the Gila River and throughout the watershed.

    Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis advocates early engagement of tribes in the decision-making process. (Source: Water Education Foundation)

    “Our people have lived on the banks of the Gila River in Arizona for thousands of years, and we have watched our River dwindle through overuse in the Upper Valley,” said Governor Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community, located in Arizona on the banks of the Gila River. “We have known for decades that our River is in danger, so we were pleased to partner with American Rivers in the fight to protect the River. The action by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to end funding for the proposed Gila River diversion is a significant victory in our common fight to protect the Keli Akimel, as we call the River in our language. Hopefully, with this decision, we can put this wasteful proposal behind us for good. Our fight to protect the Gila will never be over, but this is a resounding victory and I want to thank our partner, American Rivers, for all their hard work in helping to bring this about.”

    The diversion could have dried up the Gila River, impacting fish and wildlife and the local outdoor recreation and tourism economy. The diversions and infrastructure would have harmed critical habitat for seven threatened or endangered species. Declining groundwater levels caused by the diversion and new groundwater pumping would have threatened the cottonwood-sycamore-willow bosque, some of the last remaining intact riparian forest in the Lower Colorado River Basin.

    Now that the diversion proposal is dead, the commission will have the opportunity to re-allocate nearly $70 million to more river-friendly, shovel-ready, local water supply projects benefitting tens of thousands of residents across Southwestern New Mexico, including infrastructure improvements in Deming, Lordsburg, Silver City, and greater Grant County.

    Gila River watershed. Graphic credit: Wikimedia

    The West has a role in reimagining the U.S. — @HighCountryNews #BlackLivesMatter

    From The High Country News [June 23, 2020] (Ruxandra Guidi):

    Our notion of ‘American exceptionalism’ has collapsed. What will replace it?

    was not yet born in October 1968, when U.S. Olympic athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze medals, respectively, for the 200-meter dash. As The Star-Spangled Banner played over the loudspeakers inside the Mexico City stadium, the two men bowed their heads, and each raised a black-gloved fist to the sky. They stood shoeless on the podium, wearing black socks to protest Black poverty. Smith wore a black scarf around his neck to represent Black pride.

    “If I win, I am an American, not a Black American,” Smith said during a press conference afterwards. “But if I did something bad, then they would say ‘a Negro.’ We are Black, and we are proud of being Black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.”

    For their gesture, both Smith and Carlos were thrown off the U.S. Olympic team, but they became instant heroes for many of us around the developing world. Their salute to the Black Power movement amid the ongoing civil rights struggle and the rising death toll of the Vietnam War, their silent protest, spoke to me years later, when I was still a child. I grew up in Venezuela, in a society that liked to define itself as “post-racial,” even though your neighborhood and the color of your skin made you a target for the cops, deprived you of opportunities, increased the chance you’d die young. Today, I’m an adult living in the United States, where the raised Black fist is now omnipresent, even commodified, marking everything from T-shirts to mugs.

    “What does it mean?” our daughter, who is 7, asked recently. I showed her the old photo of Smith and Carlos and tried to explain about the Black Panthers, the history of civil rights in this country, about Black Lives Matter and how, eight years ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by a stranger as he walked home from a convenience store. I told her how a white police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck, even as Floyd repeated, “I can’t breathe” and “Mama.”

    These are not easy conversations to have with a Latina girl living in Arizona, a land marked by centuries of conquest, land grabs and dispossession.

    But I knew that if not today, sometime in the future — and for the rest of her life — my daughter would encounter anti-Blackness and understand how it defies the myth of the Land of the Free. She will come to know that there is no such thing as the American Dream, only a state that continues to disinvest from its own people amid growing inequality. And she will have to learn to navigate anger and despair alongside hope. I say “hope,” because the latest uprisings may yet prove that sustained rebellion can change minds — even change our world. But what will that change bring? If the story of America isn’t one of “liberty and justice for all,” then what is it? And what could it become?

    This nation is experiencing a profound moment of unexceptionalism. By late April, almost three months after the first known COVID-19 death was reported in the U.S., the disease had claimed more American lives than two decades of the Vietnam War. As of this writing, more than 119,923 people in the U.S. have died according to available data.

    A man raises his fist in solidarity with some 500 individuals who had come together during an early June vigil organized by the NAACP calling for an end to police brutality. Photo credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra via The High Country News

    The Western U.S., where I have lived a good part of my adult life, reflects a stark inequality. In Clark County, Nevada, to give one example, almost one-fifth of those who have died from the disease were Black, even though Black residents make up just a little over one-eighth of the county’s population. In Colorado, Latino residents have been equally hard-hit, making up almost one-third of COVID-19 cases. The five highest rates of infection in the U.S. are found in Western tribal nations, according to a study by the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA.

    Such disparities took root in the West generations ago. First, white settlers conjured Manifest Destiny to justify the killing and forced removal of Indigenous peoples and the theft of their lands. Then, a war with Mexico preceded a major land acquisition, setting the stage for another kind of racism, against Hispanics and Latinos. The Great Migration and World War II’s industrialization brought Black Americans into the West, where they continued to face discrimination. Black Westerners are more likely to live in densely populated neighborhoods, in areas marked by redlining and poorly funded schools, with fewer options for healthy food, green space, decent jobs or safety.

    Being Black or brown in America means that you’re less likely to be insured, and that quality hospitals will be farther from your home. It means exposure to toxic pollution and environmental hazards, and record unemployment made worse by a rising cost of living. In the West, these inequalities cross urban-rural divides even more than racial divides.

    Now, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced a reckoning.

    The pandemic not only exposed today’s racial wealth gap, it magnified the contrast between privileged people like myself — middle-class professionals with steady jobs, who could afford to stay home, work remotely and remain healthy — and underpaid workers without child care, insurance or other resources.

    But just as this pandemic has revealed a broken system, it has taught us another lesson, too. The first few weeks in self-quarantine at home in Tucson reminded me that our government does not have our back. But our neighbors and friends and food banks and mutual aid groups do: We may have been stuck at home, but we were not alone.

    IN THE SPRING OF 1991, the vicious beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles cops gave me my first real glimpse into how racism is lived in America. I was 15 years old, one year into my new life in the U.S., and I remember watching the video on the TV news, thinking that our collective rage over this act of brutality would surely lead to the cops’ conviction. Instead, that display of police violence ended in the acquittal of the officers involved, sparking the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles. It also inspired then-President Bill Clinton’s response: the so-called Community Oriented Policing Services office, or COPS, which put 100,000 new police officers on the streets. Some of the officers hired back then are probably still on duty today, facing off with protesters in LA this June during Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

    Perhaps little has changed in the past 30 years. Then again, perhaps change — tangible change — is on the horizon.

    The killing of George Floyd in May has sparked a nationwide uprising, calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racial inequities in the United States. Photo credit: Roberto (Bear) Guerra

    Seven years ago, three young black women —Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Alicia Garza of California and New York’s Opal Tometi — dreamed up Black Lives Matter.

    Within a year of its founding, 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, was killed by a white police officer, who, in an all-too-familiar pattern, wasn’t even charged with a crime. Black Lives Matter was there to “imagine and create a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

    As modern-day abolitionists, Black civil rights protesters today are reiterating decades-old demands that were once deemed unthinkable: They’re calling for the release of low-level offenders from jail, independent investigations of police corruption, and the defunding or dismantling of police departments. But they’re also dreaming beyond the criminal justice system — demanding federal job guarantees, more resources for social workers and educators, rent moratoriums, reparations for not just the descendants of slaves, but displaced Indigenous peoples, and more.

    The current moment has reawakened a feeling I remember from long ago. In 1995, as a freshman at Rutgers, a public college in New Jersey considered one of the most racially and culturally diverse in the country, I was part of something that gave me a sense of purpose for a long time afterwards: the campus takeover by Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian and first-generation immigrant kids like myself to protest the publication of The Bell Curve, a book that made bogus claims about race, including that Black people were inherently less intelligent than whites and Asians. Meanwhile, our university president, Francis Lawrence, echoing the book’s racist pseudo-science, argued that Black students performed poorly on standardized tests because of their “genetic, hereditary background.”

    At basketball games and inside classrooms, wherever we could assemble, we called for Lawrence’s resignation. In the end, Lawrence apologized and was spared. Eventually, the protests quieted down. But a new generation of leaders would come out of these protests and find their own voices. I found journalism. The memory of my fellow students staring into the fire as new copies of The Bell Curve burned still gives me chills. It reminds me of the importance of young idealism, of what it’s like to see demands that may at first seem unattainable suddenly come to life. It continues to give me some hope now for some kind of awakening, a remaking of the world, hope for my daughter’s future.

    After George Floyd was killed, I joined a live webinar featuring former Black Panther and U.C. Santa Cruz professor Angela Davis. Now in her 70s, Davis was flanked by young activists video-conferencing in from around the country. With her office library behind her, Davis beamed as she spoke to activists at least four decades younger than her, reminding them that the United States has always set Black and brown people up for failure. The tragedy of COVID-19 had simply exposed the raw reality many people have known all along.

    Hundreds of people gathered at an NAACP vigil to protest police brutality in in Tucson, Arizona, in early June.
    Roberto (Bear) Guerra via The High Country News

    “Even when it appeared that no one was listening outside of communities of color, this anti-racist organizing has made a major difference,” Davis told us. “We don’t often have the opportunity to so dramatically witness the results of activist and intellectual work that dramatically changes people’s minds and begins to shift mainstream narratives within a very short period of time.”

    We are living through a moment of rebellion and possibility, of long-overdue demands that are finally getting traction beyond so-called communities of color. America’s old foundational myths are being questioned by millennials, Generation Z, and moderate and progressive whites. For the first time in our lives, we are witnessing a Black-led multiracial uprising that’s growing in numbers and impact, not just in large cities, but even in the most obscure rural towns in the West. Here, the mission is urgent. Manifest Destiny and its legacies — conquest and land theft, blind patriotism and old promises — let these wither and die. Let the West instead lead the struggle for reconciliation and reparations for Black, brown and Indigenous peoples. Our new legacy can be one of true justice, civil rights and radical change. Let’s keep it going.

    Contributing editor Ruxandra Guidi writes from Tucson, Arizona. Email her at ruxandrag@hcn.org.

    Governor Polis Activates #Drought Plan and Task Force as Severe Drought Expands Across Southern, Eastern Regions — @CWCB_DNR

    Dry streambed. Photo credit: The Colorado Water Conservation Board

    Here’s the release from the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

    On June 22, Governor Jared Polis requested activation of Colorado’s Drought Task Force and Phase 2 of the State Drought Mitigation and Response Plan as drought conditions deepen, reaching more than 81% of the state, with severe and extreme drought conditions in 33% of the state (40 counties).

    Colorado’s Drought Task Force – which includes leadership from the Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources, Local Affairs, Public Safety, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board – determined the need to activate Phase 2 of the Drought Plan on June 18 after a third of the state reached extreme drought conditions. “Phase 2” indicates officially directing the Drought Task Force to assess initial damages and impacts of drought in areas experiencing severe or extreme drought and to recommend mitigation measures. This Phase also activates the Agricultural Impact Task Force, which will conduct an initial assessment on physical and economic impacts and recommend opportunities for incident mitigation.

    Counties impacted by abnormally dry (D0) and moderate (D1) drought will continue to be closely monitored. The 40 counties currently experiencing severe (D2) and extreme (D3) drought include: Alamosa, Archuleta, Baca, Bent, Chaffee, Cheyenne, Conejos, Costilla, Crowley, Custer, Delta, Dolores, Eagle, El Paso, Elbert, Fremont, Garfield, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Huerfano, Kiowa, Kit Carson, La Plata, Las Animas, Lincoln, Mesa, Mineral, Montezuma, Montrose, Otero, Ouray, Pitkin, Prowers, Pueblo, Rio Grande, Saguache, San Miguel, San Juan, Washington, and Yuma.

    To stay informed on Colorado drought issues, sign up for the State’s Drought Updates or visit the Colorado Water Conservation Board Drought webpage.

    Colorado Drought Monitor June 16, 2020.

    #Water-Related Outdoor Recreation in #Colorado Generates Over $18 Billion Annually — The Business for Water Stewardship

    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

    From the Business for Water Stewardship (Claudia Hensley):

    New study finds Colorado’s waterways support over 100,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue across the state

    Anew​study​releasedbyB​ usinessforWaterStewardship​todayfoundthat water-related outdoor recreation in Colorado ​produces $18.8 billion in economic output, and contributes $10.3 billion to the state gross domestic product (GDP) overall​. According to the study:

  • 6.7 million people participate in water-related outdoor recreation​ in Colorado annually, whether in the form of hiking, jogging, camping, fishing or other water-related activities on or around Colorado’s waterways.
  • Water-related recreation supports over ​131,000 jobs a​ round the state that provide​ $6.3 billion in household income ​and generate an estimated ​$2.7 billion in tax revenue.
  • “The access to unparalleled outdoor recreation is part of what makes living in Colorado so special. But it’s not only about quality of life — outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the state economy, and Colorado’s waterways are an essential economic engine,” said ​Molly Mugglestone, Director of Communications and Colorado Policy, Business for Water Stewardship​. “Investing in clean and plentiful waterways isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Continued stewardship of Colorado’s waterways is essential to the long-term health of Colorado’s economy, ecosystems, and communities.”

    “The access to unparalleled outdoor recreation is part of what makes living in Colorado so special. But it’s not only about quality of life — outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the state economy, and Colorado’s waterways are an essential economic engine,” said ​Molly Mugglestone, Director of Communications and Colorado Policy, Business for Water Stewardship​. “Investing in clean and plentiful waterways isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Continued stewardship of Colorado’s waterways is essential to the long-term health of Colorado’s economy, ecosystems, and communities.”

    The study, conducted by ​Southwick Associates​, presents economic contributions based on estimated retail spending in Colorado attributable to time on or along the water spent engaging in one of nine target activities (trail sports, camping, picnicking or relaxing, water sports, wildlife-watching, fishing, snow sports, bicycling or skateboarding and hunting or shooting) across nine river basins (Arkansas, Colorado, Gunnison, Metro, North Platte, Rio Grande, San Juan / Dolores San Miguel, South Platte, Yampa / White Green). Of the nine basins surveyed, the Colorado River mainstem alone generates $3.8 billion in economic output annually and supports 26,768 jobs.

    “We believe it’s critically important to promote the outdoor industry’s importance to Colorado’s economy and our way of life. These figures are staggering, but not surprising,” said ​David Dragoo, founder of Mayfly Outdoors.​ “At Mayfly, we see the impact that recreation and engagement has on our community in Montrose as well as across the state. We think it’s part of our job to help ensure our communities can access and enjoy our rivers and waterways. Protecting river resources is even more important than ever as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    In releasing this study BWS has partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association to promote the critical need to protect Colorado’s rivers and waterways. “Outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver in the state and Colorado is home to many outdoor businesses and to our industry’s largest gathering, Outdoor Retailer, said ​Lise Aaangeenbrug, executive director,​ ​Outdoor Industry Association.​ “While we can’t gather as an industry this summer in Denver, watching the growth of people going outdoors during the pandemic and the release of this important data gives the industry great hope for the future. Protecting our state’s public lands and waterways are more important than ever to provide places to go outside and support the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

    “We know that our great outdoors, including Colorado’s beautiful rivers, are a huge part of what makes our state such a great place to call home, drawing millions of people from around the globe every year and bringing industry and business here. But we can’t stop at enjoying nature – we must also protect it for the future. This study shows how much our state’s economy depends on preserving our rivers. We must continue to protect our quality of life and keep our environment as a top priority,” said ​Kelly Brough, President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

    A raft, poised for action, on the Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Denver Post (Judith Kohler) via The Broomfield Enterprise:

    The report released Monday by Business for Water Stewardship said 6.7 million people participate in water-related recreation annually, supporting more than 131,000 direct and indirect jobs. That translates to $6.3 billion in household income, $2.7 billion in tax revenue and roughly $10 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, according to the analysis by Southwick Associates.

    “The general message is the importance of rivers, waterways, to our economy,” said Molly Mugglestone, director of Colorado policy for the business organization. “We need to preserve and protect these areas that people want to go to and spend time on.”

    […]

    The report relies on spending data collected by Southwick Associates for the Outdoor Industry Association and a survey that looked at where people recreated. The report includes responses from 1,252 people and targets such activities as swimming, rafting, kayaking and other sports on the water as well as trail running along the water, fishing and wildlife watching.

    The report analyzes statewide data and date for nine river basins in the state…

    The Business for Water Stewardship’s promotion of keeping waterways healthy is a big benefit for the outdoor industry, [David] Dragoo said. “As an industry, we don’t really have any infrastructure, if you will. Our corporate infrastructure is our public lands and our waters.”

    In Brief: #Colorado wins injunction against new Clean Water Act rule — @WaterEdCO #DirtyWaterRule

    Fen soils are made of a rich, organic peat material that take thousands of years to form and require a constant groundwater source to survive. At the Rocky Mountain Fen Research Project, scientists transplanted fen soils from another site to the “receiver” site south of Leadville where they restored a groundwater spring to sustain the transplanted soils. Photo credit: Sarah Tory/Aspen Journalism

    From Water Education Colorado (Jerd Smith):

    A federal court has granted Colorado’s request to temporarily halt a new Clean Water Act rule that leaves thousands of miles of fragile streams and wetlands in the state unprotected. The rule was set to take effect today.

    The court said that Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser had met the requirements for a temporary injunction to be granted. The decision came as a federal court in California rejected a similar request that was nationwide in scope and backed by several states including California and New York, according to Bloomberg business news.

    The decision means the state will have more time to set up a new regulatory program to replace at least a portion of the protections lost under the new Waters of the U.S. rule, or WOTUS, as it is known.

    #Colorado’s oldest [pre-Boulder Canyon Project] #water rights get extra protection from state engineer — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Twenty-seven water rights on Coal Creek near Redstone, which were associated with the now-defunct Mid-Continent mine, were placed on the 2011 revised abandonment list. By a directive from the state engineer, the state’s oldest water rights are protected from ending up on the 2020 abandonment list, which comes out next month. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    For the second time, the state’s top water cop has directed the Western Slope’s oldest and most valuable water rights to be left off the once-a-decade abandonment list. That means hundreds of these mostly irrigation water rights have been granted immunity — even though they are no longer being used — from the threat of “use it or lose it,” further enshrining them in the state’s system of water administration and dealing a blow to the validity of the well-known adage.

    Every 10 years, engineers and water commissioners from the Colorado Division of Water Resources review every water right — through diversion records and site visits — to see whether it has been used at some point in the previous decade. If it hasn’t, it could end up on the decennial abandonment list, which is scheduled to come out in July.

    But a November 2018 email from state engineer Kevin Rein to all four Western Slope division engineers instructs them to not include pre-compact rights on the abandonment list. That includes all the water rights in the Yampa/White/Green, Colorado, Gunnison and San Juan/Dolores river basins.

    “Since the nature of the pre-compact water rights is unique in Colorado when it comes to administration of the Colorado River Compact, and in recognition of the fact that the value of the rights could benefit all water users in Colorado, as opposed to only the owner of the water right, I will ask that you direct your staff to do no further investigation of pre-compact water rights and to not include them in the Division Engineers Proposed Abandonment list for 2020,” the email reads.

    A primary job of the state and division engineers is to administer Colorado’s system of prior appropriation, in which the older the water right, the more powerful it is.

    Rein said he talked with major water providers and managers along the Front Range and on the Western Slope before making the decision, but he would not say which ones or anything about the nature of those conversations.

    Former state engineer Dick Wolfe issued a similar directive regarding the 2010 abandonment list, meaning Colorado’s water rights that date to before June 25, 1929 — when Congress ratified the Colorado River Compact — have enjoyed an extra level of protection from state-led abandonment for two decades.

    “We need to allow for the fact that if those water rights are abandoned and taken off the tabulation, then that amount of water is no longer available to Colorado,” Rein said.

    But what exactly the value of unused, pre-compact water rights could have to all Colorado water users remains unclear. Post-compact water rights, meaning those after June 25, 1929, are still eligible for the abandonment list.

    According to Rein, the decision to include water rights on an abandonment list is administrative one and he has statutory authority to revise the list.

    Kevin Rein. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism

    Colorado River Compact

    A major fear of Colorado water managers is what’s known as a “compact call.” If the upper basin states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — don’t deliver the required 75 million acre-feet of water over 10 years as specified in the Colorado River Compact to the lower basin states — California, Nevada and Arizona — it could lead to a compact call. This scenario, which looms larger each year with the increasing effects of drought and climate change on an over-allocated river, could trigger involuntary cutbacks for Colorado water users.

    But water rights that had been perfected before the compact was ratified are exempt from these cutbacks. And now the state is adding unused, pre-compact water rights to this exempt category. In Colorado, many of these oldest water rights belong to Western Slope agriculture.

    Like moving a pawn early in a chess match, it is unclear exactly how this directive from Rein could help Colorado in the future. Nobody really knows whether or how a compact call (or negotiations among states to avoid one) might play out. Therefore, no one can say exactly what value these pre-compact water rights have to Colorado.

    Water experts and managers throughout the upper and lower basin were reluctant to talk about the issue and gave diplomatic responses to questions about the sensitive political issue of interstate compact compliance.

    “I don’t know the answer,” Rein said. “I think there’s general agreement that these water rights may have value in a compact-call scenario. I don’t know because of the complexities of it.”

    Some water experts say preserving these pre-compact water rights, even though they aren’t being used, could give Colorado stronger footing in potential negotiations with lower basin states by propping up Colorado’s consumptive-use tally on paper.

    “I would say it’s a conservative approach and it might help in your negotiations with other states,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress. “You would be making the argument that we have this portfolio of water rights, these are still on the books. But again, you’re trying to forecast how a negotiation might proceed, and I think to meaningfully comment on that would be almost impossible right now.”

    Preserving these irrigation water rights also means they would be available to transfer to other users in the future, such as Front Range water providers — whose water rights are mostly post-1929 and therefore vulnerable to cutbacks under a compact call — as the state continues to urbanize.

    In a prepared statement, Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead said the water provider, which supplies water to 1.4 million people, “is supportive of the state’s efforts to protect Colorado’s pre-compact rights. This approach will benefit and help provide additional security for Colorado River water users on the West Slope and Front Range.”

    Reagan Waskom, director of the Colorado Water Center at Colorado State University, agreed that hanging onto those pre-compact water rights could be in the state’s best interest.

    “The idea of holding as many of those pre-compact rights in place makes sense from a purely Colorado-centric point of view,” said Waskom. “We still don’t know what a compact call or curtailment would look like, so we are going to stay as conservative and protective as we can.”

    The Colorado River Water Conservation District is in favor of Rein’s directive, according to general counsel Peter Fleming. The Glenwood Springs-based River District works to protect water rights on the Western Slope, which often means advocating for agriculture interests.

    But Fleming brings up an interesting point: The value of water rights in Colorado is based on them being used. If these water rights still exist on paper but haven’t been used in a decade — in some cases, two decades — what is their value?

    “There’s this notion that pre-compact water rights are sacrosanct and very important, and that’s true if they have continued to be used and historically consumed,” Fleming said. “But you don’t just make water available by saying these rights that haven’t been used for X number of years still exist. So, I guess I would say it’s a risk-avoidance strategy, but it’s an unproven strategy.”

    Coal Creek, where 27 water rights associated with the now-defunct Mid-Continent mine were placed on the 2011 revised abandonment list, flows into the Crystal River at Redstone. The state engineer has directed that all Western Slope, pre-Colorado River Compact rights are safe from state-led abandonment in 2020. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    Abandonment

    Rein’s directive also helps debunk the adage “use it or lose it.” While the pre-compact rights are not being used, they also are no longer in danger of being lost. The threat of the state taking away a water right has now disappeared for Western Slope pre-compact irrigation rights.

    The often-misunderstood tenet “use it or lose it” is embodied by the abandonment process.

    Some water users believe that if they don’t divert the full amount they are entitled to — even if they don’t always need that much — the state will take it away and it will be available to another water user. But the concept is much more nuanced than that.

    Colorado water law says abandonment is “the termination of a water right in whole or in part as a result of the intent of the owner thereof to discontinue permanently the use of all or a part of the water available.”

    Just not using the water will not lead to abandonment; there must be an intent to abandon the right.

    For a water user to keep their water right, they must put the water to “beneficial use,” which in the case of irrigation water means growing crops. If the water has not been used for 10 years — meaning there are no diversion records and the local water commissioner does not see evidence of water use on their site visits — division engineers could presume that the water right has been abandoned. They put it on the state’s initial abandonment list, which is updated every 10 years and published in local newspapers.

    Water-right holders then have one year to file an objection to their listing in writing with the division engineer.

    “We don’t like close calls, so if they diverted the water 11 years ago, we are going think, ‘Eh, I don’t know,’ because we are talking about somebody’s property right,” said Alan Martellaro, Division Engineer for Water Division 5.

    After working through the objections with water-right holders, the division engineer publishes the revised abandonment list. If a water-right holder still protests their placement on the list, they can go to water court to argue that they did not intend to abandon the water right.

    For the 2010 Division 5 abandonment list, Martellaro said the pre-compact rights comprised easily half the list before Wolfe instructed division engineers to take them off. The 2011 revised Division 5 abandonment list included about 75 water rights, one-third of which were related to the now-defunct Mid-Continent mine on Coal Creek near Redstone where a 1981 explosion killed 15 miners.

    The 2020 abandonment list is expected to come out in July.

    Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit and investigative news organization that covers water and river issues in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story appeared in the June 22 edition of The Aspen Times.

    From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

    Use it or lose it.

    That saying is at the heart of how access to water is managed in the western U.S. Laws that govern water in more arid states, like Colorado, incentivize users to always take their full share from rivers and streams, or risk the state rescinding it. The threat comes in the form of a once-a-decade document that lists those users on the brink of losing their access to one of the region’s most precious resources.

    It’s called the Decennial Abandonment List — and being included on it strikes fear and paranoia into rural pockets of the state, where farmers and ranchers depend on water for their livelihoods. Farmers trade tales of neighbors who’ve been mistakenly listed, with a notice sent to a wrong address, and who eventually see their water rights effectively canceled. Abandonment horror stories are akin to urban — or in this case, rural — legend.

    Western Colorado water lawyer Rob Pierce says there’s one thing his clients, mostly farmers and ranchers, are always asking him about.

    “The whole concept of abandonment,” Pierce said. “It gets mentioned all the time.”

    Pierce practices for the Grand Junction-based firm Dufford Waldeck, and he said interest in abandonment reaches its apex right before the state releases the list. Colorado’s initial abandonment list is scheduled for July 1, the first time it’s been updated since 2010. Preparations for this year’s list began in 2018.

    Municipal water rights are subject to inclusion on the abandonment list, but show up in far fewer numbers than agricultural water rights.

    By law, state regulators are required to compile the list every 10 years. It details all the water rights no longer being used to irrigate crops, flow through city plumbing systems or cool turbines in factories and power plants. If they’re determined to no longer be in use, they’re scrubbed from the record, and can’t be used again. Because the stakes are so high, Pierce said scuttlebutt about who’s on it and who’s not starts early…

    The idea behind the abandonment list is rooted in Western water law. Ever since the 1800s, when the concept of prior appropriation became the dominant methodology to divvy up water in the region, Westerners have been able to petition for rights based on their ability to put it to “beneficial use.” Not using it? Then you can lose it.

    But like many old adages in the West’s water lore, Pierce said, it’s more complicated than it sounds…

    “It’s not as easy as ‘use it or lose it’ makes it sound I think,” [Kara] Godbehere said. “That terminology is maybe a little inflammatory or misleading because it’s not as though without you realizing it, your water right would just slip out of your hands.”

    It’s actually pretty difficult to lose it, Godbehere said. First, a user has to stop diverting the water for a long time. She points out abandonment lists come out once in a decade, and it sometimes takes an even longer period of 15 to 20 years to establish non-use. Users aren’t likely to put their right in jeopardy unless there’s a strong pattern of non-use, she said. And, even more importantly, she said, you have to intend to abandon it. It’s not an accident.

    “It’s not as though it just sort of disappears one day and somebody is left wondering, where did my water go?” Godbehere said…

    Rights can either be fully or partially abandoned as well. If a farmer switches to a more water-efficient crop, like replacing a field of alfalfa hay with hemp for example, the water consumed over time could be less. And the water right used to irrigate that field could end up being partially, not completely, abandoned.

    More than 2,700 individual water rights were initially listed as abandoned on the 2010 list. After going through a court process, where people who think they’ve been erroneously included have time to appeal, the list was whittled down to roughly 2,200 water rights that were officially declared abandoned, according to records from the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The vast majority of those rights were from farms and ranches, used to irrigate crops or pastureland. Agriculture uses about 80% of all available water in Colorado…

    The abandonment list allows his department to clean up the books every now and then, and remove old rights from the record. Without abandonment, Rein said, a situation could arise where someone with old water rights, who hadn’t used them in a long time, all of a sudden starts using them again. That new use could upend how a whole water system functions, leaving some users short…

    The Colorado River. Photo credit: Abby Burk

    This year’s list also reflects some ongoing uncertainty in the realm of Western water politics. Earlier this year Rein sent a message to his division engineers, the state officials who compile the abandonment lists in their regions, telling them not to abandon rights that pre-date the 1929 Boulder Canyon Project Act, the piece of legislation that authorized the construction of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River.

    Colorado is still uncertain what role abandonment might play in the hypothetical legal battle that could result from a violation of the Colorado River compact, which spells out a certain amount of water the states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico are expected to send downriver to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico.

    Those pre-1929 rights are called “present-perfected rights,” and likely aren’t subject to any sort of curtailment that would result from a compact call on the river. They’re some of the oldest, and most valuable, water rights in the entire Colorado River watershed.

    But how those rights play into it is still unknown. Rein said after consulting with lawyers at the Colorado attorney general’s office, he instructed his division engineers not to include them. The same thing happened in 2010, so for more than 20 years, those pre-1929 rights haven’t been included on the list.

    How do those present-perfected rights benefit Colorado’s standing in a protracted legal battle over the management of the Colorado River?

    “That’s where I need to just honestly tell you, I don’t know,” Rein said. “And I’m not embarrassed to say I don’t know.”

    An irrigation system known as a center pivot sprinkler sits in a field near Longmont, Colo. The systems have helped Colorado use its farm water more efficiently, but state use still exceeds the national average. Credit: Jerd Smith via The Fresh Water News (Water Education Colorado)

    “The most valuable thing that people have on a farm or ranch, is the water right,” said Jeni Arndt, a Democratic state representative from Fort Collins.

    In general, the more water you have rights to, the more money it’s worth. The actual value can vary depending on drought conditions, and whether nearby residential development or other new demands for water are coming online. So if the volume is tied to a dollar amount, and a user can be paid big sums of money to transfer their right to a new use, why would anyone ever want to conserve it?

    @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: June 16, 2020

    “What the rain giveth, the wind taketh away” – CoCoRaHS observer CO-WE-340.

    While the Intermountain West saw widespread beneficial moisture early-to-mid last week, conditions have again turned for the worse. The last seven days have been hotter and drier than normal, particularly east of the Continental Divide. The eastern plains of Colorado have been 6-8 degrees warmer than normal for the month of June to date. This includes several episodes of 100-degree temperatures in SE CO, and widespread wind events. Agricultural weather stations have shown a sharp uptick in potential evapotranspiration, as has the Evaporative Demand Drought Index. Red flag warnings have been common, top soil is short, winter wheat crops are failing, cattle are being sold, and fire bans are in place. Eastern Wyoming has also been warmer and drier than normal, but last week’s rains were an effective stop gap measure to worsening conditions according to several condition monitoring reports.

    The Upper Colorado River Basin west of the Continental Divide is likewise seeing its share of drought impacts. Most streamflows have peaked earlier than normal, and are now regressing to base flow. Large reservoirs are still benefiting from 2019’s snowpack, but have seen far less inflow this year. Soils and vegetation are mostly on the dry side as well save for a few lucky wetter patches. Red flag warnings are active today in western CO, NW NM, S UT, and N AZ.

    The forecast indicates a cool down is on the way late this week, which will be accompanied by some scattered showers on the eastern plains. Fire starting lightning will be a major concern with this cold front. Precipitation totals are unlikely to break drought conditions. Further relief may be in the pipeline at 8-14 days out, but uncertainty is high.

    The latest outlooks are hot off the presses from the Climate Prediction Center. What do they have against the upper #ColoradoRiver Basin? #COriver #aridification

    We caught bacteria from the most pristine air on earth to help solve a #climate modeling mystery — The Conversation


    Not all clouds are the same, and climate models have been predicting the wrong kinds of clouds over the Southern Ocean.
    Kathryn Moore, CC BY-ND

    Kathryn Moore, Colorado State University; Jun Uetake, Colorado State University, and Thomas Hill, Colorado State University

    The Southern Ocean is a vast band of open water that encircles the entire planet between Antarctica and the Southern Hemisphere landmasses. It is the cloudiest place on Earth, and the amount of sunlight that reflects off or passes through those clouds plays a surprisingly important role in global climate. It affects weather patterns, ocean currents, Antarctic sea ice cover, sea surface temperature and even rainfall in the tropics.

    But due to how remote the Southern Ocean is, there have been very few actual studies of the clouds there. Because of this lack of data, computer models that simulate present and future climates overpredict how much sunlight reaches the ocean surface compared to what satellites actually observe. The main reason for this inaccuracy is due to how the models simulate clouds, but nobody knew exactly why the clouds were off. For the models to run correctly, researchers needed to understand how the clouds were being formed.

    To discover what is actually happening in clouds over the Southern Ocean, a small army of atmospheric scientists, including us, went to find out how and when clouds form in this remote part of the world. What we found was surprising – unlike the Northern Hemisphere oceans, the air we sampled over the Southern Ocean contained almost no particles from land. This means the clouds might be different from those above other oceans, and we can use this knowledge to help improve the climate models.

    Whether clouds contain small liquid droplets or ice crystals or both is influenced by the particles in the air.
    Kathryn Moore, CC BY-ND

    Ice clouds and liquid clouds

    Clouds are made of tiny water droplets or ice crystals, or often a mixture of the two. These form on small particles in the air. The type of particle plays a big role in determining whether a liquid droplet or ice crystal forms. These particles can be natural – like sea spray, pollen, dust or even bacteria – or from human sources like cars, stoves, power plants and so on.

    To the untrained eye, an ice cloud and a liquid cloud look much the same, but they have very different properties. Ice clouds reflect less sunlight, precipitate more and don’t last as long as liquid clouds. It matters to the weather – and to climate models – what kinds of clouds are around.

    Climate models tend to predict too many ice clouds over the Southern Ocean and not enough liquid clouds when compared to satellite readings. But satellite measurements around the poles are hard to make and less accurate than other regions, so we wanted to collect direct evidence of how many liquid clouds are actually present and determine why there were more than the models predict.

    This was the mystery: Why are there more liquid clouds than the models think there are? To solve it, we needed to know what kinds of particles are floating around in the atmosphere around Antarctica.

    Before we went down there, we had a few clues.

    Previous modeling studies have suggested that the ice–forming particles found over the Southern Ocean may be very different from those found in the Northern Hemisphere. Dust is a great ice cloud seeder, but due to the lack of dusty land sources in the Southern Hemisphere, some scientists have hypothesized that other types of particles might be driving ice cloud formation over the Southern Ocean.

    Since most models are based on data from the Northern Hemisphere, if the particles in the atmosphere were somehow different in the Southern Hemisphere, that might explain the errors.

    We used these sampling instruments to capture airborne bacteria and determine where the air, and the particles that start the clouds, came from.
    Kathryn Moore

    Bacterial maps

    It’s hard to directly measure the composition of particles over the Southern Ocean – there simply aren’t very many particles around. So, to help us track down what is inside the clouds, we used an indirect approach: the bacteria in the air.

    The atmosphere is full of microorganisms that are carried hundreds to thousands of kilometers on air currents before returning to Earth. These bacteria are like airborne license plates, they are unique and tell you where the car – or air – came from. Since scientists know where most bacteria live, it’s possible to look at the microbes in an air sample and determine where that air came from. And once you know that, you can predict where the particles in the air came from as well – the same place the bacteria usually live.

    In order to sample airborne bacteria in this remote ocean region, one of us headed out on the Australian Marine National Facility’s R/V Investigator for a six-week expedition. The weather was unruly and the waves were often white-capped, but for one to two days at a time, we sucked air from the bow of the ship through a filter that caught the airborne particles and bacteria. We then froze the filters to keep the bacterial DNA intact.

    The bacteria in the air above the Southern Ocean are locals, almost entirely the same bacteria that live in the waters below.
    Thomas Hill, CC BY-ND

    Ocean bacteria alone

    In most ocean regions around the world, especially in the Northern Hemisphere where there is a lot of land, the air contains both marine and terrestrial particles. That’s what we expected to find down south.

    With the frozen filters safely back at our lab in Colorado, we extracted DNA from the bacteria and sequenced it to determine what species we had caught. Much to our surprise, the bacteria were essentially all marine species that live in the Southern Ocean. We found almost no land-based bacteria.

    If the bacteria were from the ocean, then so were the cloud-forming particles. This was the answer we were looking for.

    Ice nucleating particles are very rare in seawater and marine particles are very good at forming liquid clouds. With mostly marine-based particles in the air, we’d expect the clouds to mostly be made of liquid droplets, which is what we observed. Since most models treat clouds in this region the same way they do clouds in the dustier Northern Hemisphere, it’s no wonder the models were off.

    Going forward

    Now that we know the summertime Southern Ocean clouds are being formed from purely marine particles, we need to figure out if the same is true in other seasons and at higher altitudes. The larger project, which involved planes as well as ships, has given atmospheric scientists a much better idea of the clouds both close to the ocean surface and high up in the atmosphere. The climate modelers among us are already incorporating these new data into their models and will hopefully have results to share soon.

    Discovering that the airborne particles over the Southern Ocean are mostly coming from the ocean is a remarkable finding. It not only improves global climate models, it also means we confirmed the Southern Ocean is one of the most environmentally pristine regions on Earth – a place that has probably changed very little due to human activities. Our work will hopefully improve climate models, but has also given researchers a baseline for what a truly pristine marine environment looks like.

    [You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can get our highlights each weekend.]The Conversation

    Kathryn Moore, PhD student in Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University; Jun Uetake, Postdoctoral Atmospheric Scientist, Colorado State University, and Thomas Hill, Research Scientist, Colorado State University

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Poem: Summer-Solstice Longest-Light Fathers-Day 2020 — Greg Hobbs

    Summer-Solstice Longest-Light Fathers-Day 2020

    My Wester-Pointed prow and rudder set for best intention,
    Enter for that realm of light; Invite the sky to flash within

    This hallowed earthern bowl; These throated-breasted-feathered
    Beings cry, “I’m Here and Here and Here;” Stand forth the

    Quaking Aspen, the Star-Shaped Columbine, the Wild Geranium!
    I leave the mountain hold me up above the fruited plain.

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