@COParksWildlife: #Colorado wolf update

CPW Image – A wolf eats on an elk carcass in northwest Colorado

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Randy Hampton):

With warmer weather and decreasing restrictions, more people are recreating in the outdoors, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife is seeing an increase in the number of sightings of potential wolves in the state.

“Public reporting vastly increases our ability to know what’s happening across the state,” says Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “While not all reports end up being verified as wolves, we make every effort to investigate credible sightings through on-the-ground investigations, biological sampling, and deploying a variety of survey techniques.”

There are several known and some additional credible reports of potential wolves in the state at this time.

Wolf “1084M” North Park Update
The lone wolf that was first confirmed in North Park one year ago continues to persist in that area. The male wolf, designated by Wyoming Game and Fish as 1084-M, was collared in the Wyoming Snake River pack and dispersed into Colorado where he was first photographed in July, 2019. CPW pilots regularly fly the area and assist in keeping track of 1084’s movements. On the ground, wildlife managers conduct ground surveillance and communicate regularly with private landowners in Jackson County.

New report in Laramie River Valley
Wildlife managers are attempting to confirm a credible wolf sighting in the Laramie River Valley in Larimer County. An animal sighted in the area was wearing a wildlife tracking collar, which indicates it is likely a dispersal wolf from monitored packs in Montana or Wyoming, however flights and ground crews have been unable to detect a signal or visually confirm the wolf. It has been determined that the animal in Larimer County is not wolf 1084-M from neighboring Jackson County. If a wolf or wolves are confirmed in Larimer County, they would be the furthest east in Colorado in nearly a century.

New report in Grand County
Two groups of campers in Grand County over the weekend of June 6-7 were surprised to see a large wolf-like animal in the area in very close proximity to their camps. The incidents were reported to CPW. Wildlife officers and biologists responded to the area to gather biological evidence that could be used to confirm the presence of a wolf versus a coyote, lost or escaped domestic dog or domestic wolf-hybrid. Additional searches and monitoring of the area are continuing. Contacts with local animal control officials confirm no missing hybrids in the area. Biological samples were limited. The animal approaching humans so blatantly is atypical wolf behavior so additional work will be needed to fully confirm the animal’s identity. More information will be provided when available.

NW Pack Update
In the very northwest corner of Colorado, Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff continue to monitor the state’s first known pack of wolves since the 1930s. As many as six wolves have been confirmed in several previous sightings by staff, hunters, and landowners. The pack, originally reported to CPW late last year, has been relatively quiet of late.

Wildlife managers were able to recently capture an image of a lone wolf feeding on an elk carcass in the area. Only one wolf was seen over several different nights so it is unknown if the wolf is a member of the known pack or the animal is a new lone disperser into the area.

Disease tracking
CPW biologists and veterinarians have analyzed scat (feces) samples and determined that several members of the pack in northwest Colorado are positive for eggs of the tapeworm Echinococcus canadensis. This parasite can lead to hydatid disease in wild and domestic ungulates. These tapeworms have been found in wolves in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Hydatid disease has not been widely seen in Colorado but testing has been limited. CPW is increasing monitoring for hydatid disease including collecting and analyzing coyote scat to establish baseline data.

While Colorado Parks and Wildlife is working to monitor wolves, follow up on wolf sighting reports, and track disease, it is important to note that wolves in Colorado remain under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wolves are a federally endangered species in Colorado and until that designation changes, all wolf management is under direction of the federal government. Killing a wolf in Colorado is a federal crime and can be punishable with up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Colorado Parks and wildlife has assembled a Frequently Asked Questions document addressing many issues people are curious about. This can be accessed here.

Campers, landowners, and outdoor recreationists that see or hear wolves in Colorado are encouraged to complete the computer-based wolf sighting form which is available online at https://cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/Wolf-Sighting-Form.aspx. If unable to use the online form, sightings can be reported to the nearest CPW office.

Aspinall Unit Operations Update

Aspinall Unit April – July, 2020 Forecasted Inflow

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir
Current Forecast (June 1) = 395,000 AF (59% of average)

Blue Mesa Reservoir current conditions
Content = 595,000 AF (72% full)
Elevation = 7491.7 ft
Inflow = 2200 cfs

Crystal Release = 1450 cfs
Gunnison Tunnel diversion = 1050 cfs
Gunnison River flow = 430 cfs

Spring Operations Summary

Aspinall Unit Operations ROD

Hydrologic Category = Moderately Dry
Peak Flow = 4510 cfs
Duration at Peak Flow = 1 day

Baseflow Target: June/July/Aug = 1050 cfs

(Point of measurement is the Gunnison River near Grand Junction streamgage, commonly called the Gunnison River at Whitewater)

Black Canyon Water Right

Peak Flow = 2840 cfs (24 hour duration)
Shoulder Flow Target = 300 cfs (May 1 – July 25)

(Point of measurement is the Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel streamgage at the upstream boundary of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park)

Projected Operations

Gunnison River flows (Black Canyon/Gunnison Gorge)
Currently around 400 cfs, possibly increasing to 600-700 cfs during July-August
Projected Blue Mesa Reservoir maximum fill = 620,000 AF at 7495 ft elevation
Projected Blue Mesa Reservoir conditions on Dec 31 = 473,000 AF at 7475 ft elevation

Click here to read the current Aspinall Unit Forecast.

Aspinall Unit dams

“Man, you guys did a nice job of coordinating as well as you possibly could with the water you had available” — Don Anderson #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Humpback chub are one of four federally endangered fish species that rely on habitat in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. Humpback chub photo credit US Fish and Wildlife Service.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Recent abundant flows of Colorado River water between Palisade and the Gunnison River confluence during another spring runoff season weren’t entirely the work of Mother Nature.

They also were the product of a coordinated, voluntary effort by operators of upstream reservoirs to coordinate releases of water into the river to bolster peak flows in that stretch of river and aid in the recovery of endangered fish.

This was the 12th coordinated release since the first one occurred in 1997, and the fifth one in the last six years. The coordinated releases occur as conditions warrant and allow each year, to flush out fine sediment in gravel beds that serve as spawning habitat for rare fish. They also improve habitat for insects and other macroinvertebrates that fish feed on…

The upper Colorado River and its tributaries in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are home to four endangered fish. Don Anderson, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee who serves as the instream flow coordinator for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, a public-private partnership, said that what’s known as the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River between the Palisade area and the Gunnison River confluence is primarily used by two of the endangered fish, the razorback sucker and Colorado pikeminnow. But a third endangered species, the bonytail, sometimes makes use of the stretch. And a fourth, the humpback chub, which favors deep, rocky, fast-flowing stretches in places such as Westwater Canyon downstream, also indirectly benefits from water releases primarily aimed at bolstering flows in the 15-Mile Reach.

The 15-Mile Reach experiences less of a spring runoff peak than some other parts of the Colorado River because of Grand Valley irrigation diversions just upstream. The goal of this year’s coordinated releases was to achieve daily flows averaging at least 12,900 cubic feet per second upstream at Cameo, an amount that was nearly achieved on some days last week. At times during a couple of days flows exceeded 13,000 cfs, Michelle Garrison, senior water resource specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board, told entities involved in the coordinated release program in a conference call Wednesday. She said the effort was a success, and Anderson agreed. He told participants that without getting hung up on exact numbers, flows at that level, which meant peak flows of about 12,000 cfs in the 15-Mile Reach, do good work for the endangered fish and their habitat.

The effort involved in part coordinated releases by the Bureau of Reclamation from Green Mountain Reservoir, Denver Water from Williams Fork Reservoir, and the Colorado River District from Wolford Mountain Reservoir. The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District also was a participant.

“Man, you guys did a nice job of coordinating as well as you possibly could with the water you had available,” Anderson told reservoir operators…

The coordinated releases can have benefits far beyond the 15-Mile Reach. Anderson said this year’s coordinated releases helped downstream in the Moab area by topping off flows into a wetland that is a potentially valuable razorback sucker nursery. Also, Utah state wildlife officials have reported concerns about seeing smallmouth bass, which prey on endangered fish, possibly spawning for the first time below Westwater Canyon. The coordinated releases may have helped combat that due to the higher and faster flows, cooler water temperatures and increased water turbidity.

Coordinated runoff flows are just one water-delivery effort targeting the 15-Mile Reach. Each year releases of dedicated endangered fish water are made to boost low flows in the reach later in the summer. Also, releases sometimes are made around early April to supplement flows in the reach after irrigation diversions have begun but before the river levels gain from spring runoff. This year was the first year such releases occurred after stored water was specifically held over from last year with the primary goal of possibly serving that purpose.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says various recovery efforts appear to be working, with scientific analysis showing the razorback sucker and humpback chub could be reclassified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

This map shows the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to four species of endangered fish. Water from Ruedi Reservoir flows down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork, which flows into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Map credit: CWCB

Lake Powell Pipeline hits ‘an important milestone’ with roll out of environmental study — The St. George News

Click here for all the inside skinny and to read the EIS:

The public comment period for the Lake Powell Pipeline Project will close at 11:59 p.m. MDT on September 8, 2020

The Bureau of Reclamation, on behalf of the U.S. Department of the Interior, has issued a Notice of Availability of the draft Environmental Impact Statement/draft Resource Management Plan Amendment for the Lake Powell Pipeline Project, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. The Department is seeking public comment on the draft EIS/draft RMPA during a 90-day public comment period that will close at 11:59 pm MDT on September 8, 2020.

From The St. George News (Mori Kessler):

State and local water officials are pleased with the results of the draft environmental impact statement, more commonly referred to as an EIS, while opponents of the project carry a different view.

“(This) is an important milestone because we can get a permit,” said Brock Belnap, an associate general manager at the Washington County Water Conservancy District overseeing the Lake Powell Pipeline project. “The law requires the federal government to study all the various impacts on the environment the project might affect.”

Based on those environmental impacts, the federal government must establish whether a proposed project is warranted…

“We’re very pleased that the environmental impact statement recognizes that Washington County has a need for the project,” Belnap said.

The EIS also finds Washington County is able to pay for the pipeline project as long as the projected growth continues, Belnap said…

There are two courses recommended for the Lake Powell Pipeline to take. One is the Southern Alternative and the other is the Highway Alternative. While both routes start at Lake Powell and end at Sand Hollow Reservoir, they also either pass through or close to lands held sacred by Native Americans in Arizona.

The Southern Alternative, which is the preferred alternative, travels south of the Kaibab Paiute Reservation along a preexisting utility corridor. The Highway Alternative would take the pipeline along Arizona 389, which cuts across the reservation…

The Kaibab Band stated in the supplement that the Lake Powell Pipeline will create an imbalance by “moving the Colorado River from where the creator placed it across a hundred miles of landscape and depositing it where it does not belong. … This action will make the river angry and confused, the results of which are unknown but clearly a source of imbalance in the world.”

[…]

There is currently a water rights change application before Utah’s state engineers that would allow just over 86,000 acre-feet of water from the Green River above the Flaming Gorge Reservoir to flow down to Lake Powell.

Utah already has rights to that water, Belnap said. If the application is approved, the point of diversion – the location where the state would be allowed to draw water from – would shift from the Green River to Lake Powell…

The Utah Rivers Council, along with over environmental advocacy groups, have sent petitions to Teresa Wilhelmsen, the state engineer, asking her to deny the application.

“Climate change is reducing the flows of the Colorado River because it’s reducing the snowpack of the entire Colorado River Basin,” Frankel said. “As the flows of the river drop, it means that there is less water available to divert. This draft EIS totally shirks the responsibility to determine whether there’s water available in the Colorado River to put in a pipeline.”

There are many peer-reviewed studies available that state there won’t be enough water in the Colorado River to support the pipeline due to climate change, Frankel said. Climate change data used in the draft EIS concerning the subject either ignores these studies or takes from a study that is at least a decade out of date, he said.

As for the pipeline’s pending diversion, it would take less than 6% of the state’s 1.4 million acre-foot Colorado River allocation.

This $2+ billion project would pump 28 billion gallons of water 2,000 feet uphill across 140 miles of desert to provide just 160,000 residents in Southwest Utah with more water. Graphic credit: Utah Rivers Council

Mushrooms are healing the earth, starting with Colorado’s forests — The Vail Daily #zerowaste

Sasata – Own work
Sampling of fungi collected from summer, 2008 foray in Northern Saskatchewan mixed woods, near LaRonge In this photo, there are a few leaf lichens, probably Icelandmoss (Cetraria Icelandia), a couple of mosses or liverworts… (Bryophytes), peatland moss, (Sphagnum) as well as mushrooms. Online references in regards to lichens… CalPhotos: Cetraria islandica; Iceland Moss Cetraria (Iceland Moss) GETTING TO KNOW YOUR PRAIRIE LICHENS GETTING TO KNOW YOUR BOREAL LICHENS Medicinal Lichens”, by Robert Rogers Identifying North American Lichens–A Guide to the Literature

From The Vail Daily (Sarah Kuta):

[Jeff] Ravage is a big fan of mushrooms. He’s also the North Fork watershed coordinator for the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, an organization that has been working to protect the ecological health and water quality of the 1.6 million-acre watershed southwest of Denver since 1998.

In early June, Ravage and a team of volunteers inoculated a massive pile of wood chips at Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms with mushroom spawn. The goal? To highlight how quickly and efficiently fungi can convert a pile of waste and debris into beneficial compost, using completely natural processes.

Ravage’s team has spent the last six years experimenting with and proving out this concept. Now, they want to demonstrate that this fungal degradation process works on an industrial scale in the hopes that foresters and land managers across the country — and even private companies — begin to replicate it.

“The goal is to create enough information to allow people to do this with their local mushrooms where they’re at,” Ravage said. “It could be done by people who run sawmills who have to deal with waste. It could be done by municipal waste management, who end up with a lot of tree trimmings from residents. It can definitely be done by forest managers.”

#Drought news:

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Charlie Wertheim):

Precipitation well below normal coupled with above-average temperatures have led to early snowmelt, according to a news release from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Streamflow forecasts predict between 72% and 79% of normal for the Colorado Basin, the release says. The forecast covers the period from June 1 through July 31, said Brian Domonkos, Colorado Snow survey supervisor…

As compared to last year, the Colorado Basin has just 15% of the snowpack it had on June 1, 2019…

“Soil moisture can’t be understated as a condition that will affect snowpack. We went into this year’s snowpack with pretty dry soils,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District.

Reservoir storage numbers are much better. The Colorado Basin was at 115% of normal on June 1, with no basins having higher percentages. That’s better than last year, when storage was at 90% on June 1, 2019. The state average for reservoir storage this June 1 was 100%.

“When it comes to water users, the information that talks about reservoir storage, that’s where we have an advantage. We’ll have good reservoir storage for agricultural and other water users to get through this year,” Pokrandt said…

“Not every irrigator has reservoir storage to call upon. Irrigators in Garfield County that depend on run of the river, they’re the ones that will feel the greater effect of the tapering off of snowpack and the acceleration of drought,” Pokrandt said.

A map in the release shows statewide precipitation at just 50% of normal, with the Colorado basin slightly better at 53% of average. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins collectively are at the state’s lowest at 24% of average.

Less concerning is data for the water year, which Domonkos said starts Oct. 1. Precipitation statewide for those eight months is 82% of average, with the Colorado basin at 88%.

Precipitation for the first 10 days of June is 100% of normal, which Domonkos said “is still pretty good.”

[…]

Colorado Drought Monitor June 9, 2020.

Nevertheless, the state is suffering from drought.

“The water availability task force is activating the ag[riculture] portion of the state drought plan. It’s an indication that there is drought, and if you look at the U.S. drought monitor as of the 2nd of June a little bit less than 77% of the state is in some kind of drought,” Domonkos said…

“Predictions are we’re going to have warmer temperatures and below-average precipitation through the summer, but you never really know until we get into the monsoonal season and see what happens,” Pokrandt said.

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

From The Conejos County Citizen (Sylvia Lobato):

Critical fire weather conditions continue over the San Luis Valley. Avoid any activities that may spark a fire. The current Fire Danger rating is High. RGNF is under Stage 2 fire restrictions…

In addition to well below normal precipitation, the National Resource and Conservation Service reports the Colorado mountains have also had warmer than normal temperatures. This combination has led to snowmelt rates that are much faster than normally observed.

In Southern Colorado, where the past winter snowpack reached near normal peak values, this led to snow melting out of SNOTEL snowpack metering sites several weeks earlier than normal. The current snowpack level for the Rio Grande Basin is at 0.00 percent of normal. In northern basins where snowpack was above normal, snowmelt still occurred early but closer to a normal time than in Southern Colorado. This early snowmelt in combination with lower than normal precipitation both have contributed to declines in streamflow forecasts over the last two months.

The lowest streamflow forecasts in the state are in the Rio Grande basin where they average a meager 41 percent of normal. The Arkansas basin spans the gap of north to south with much higher forecasts in the headwaters compared to the much drier southern tributaries.

While the average of current streamflow forecasts in all major basins of Colorado are far well below normal volumes, there are still stark differences between the northern and southern basins. The highest forecast values in the state exist in the North Platte, South Platte and Colorado basins. The average of forecast values in these basins range from 72 to 79 percent of normal volumes. The Gunnison and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins both have average forecast values of 55 percent of normal.

West Drought Monitor June 9, 2020.

From Aspen Public Radio (Alex Hager):

Some portions of Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield Counties are experiencing moderate drought because of hotter temperatures and below average precipitation in April and May.

The U.S. Drought Monitor upgraded Aspen and some parts of Pitkin County from “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought,” the second of five levels of drought severity.

In addition to abnormal temperature and precipitation conditions, the Aspen area entered the spring with below-average soil moisture. Drier soils reduce the amount of snowmelt that reaches streams.

“I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed at,” said Steve Hunter, utilities resource manager for the City of Aspen. “But it’s something we’re watching very closely, due to the fact that we had some of the hottest and driest April and May on record in the south, and we’re not far from that where we sit here in Aspen.”

Above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation also took a toll on the area’s snowpack. While the past winter left an average snowpack in the Roaring Fork Watershed, the heat and dryness have caused it to melt away quicker than usual, which could lead to limited water resources over the summer…

The northern part of the state is experiencing normal water conditions, but much of southern Colorado is undergoing either “severe” or “extreme” levels of drought. Gunnison County, directly to the south of Pitkin, is mostly in “severe” condition.

#NewMexico shells out $2.4M for trial team in #Texas #water fight — The Santa Fe New Mexican #RioGrande #aridification

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins. Map credit: By Kmusser – Own work, Elevation data from SRTM, drainage basin from GTOPO [1], U.S. stream from the National Atlas [2], all other features from Vector Map., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11218868

From The Sante Fe New Mexican (Scott Wyland):

The state will pay a total of $2.4 million to two law firms as a seven-year water dispute between New Mexico and Texas inches closer to a trial.

Each law firm received a $1.2 million sole-source contract, which was not open to competitive bidding…

The state Attorney General’s Office, however, said in a legislative newsletter the sole-source contracts were necessary because litigation would be disrupted if new law firms came in at this late stage.

The trial is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2021.

When asked about the hefty fees paid to the Albuquerque and Denver firms, Matt Baca, a spokesman for the attorney general, said they are “some of the best water lawyers and federal court litigators in the country.”

“The trial team is working aggressively to put New Mexico in the best position to prevail at trial,” Baca said in an emailed statement. “Our focus heading to trial is fighting to protect precious water resources for farmers, tribes, and all New Mexico families.”

The U.S. Supreme Court case involves complex legal wrangling but is simple at its heart.

Texas has accused New Mexico of letting farmers pump groundwater for irrigation near the Rio Grande, reducing the river flow and denying Texas its full share of water under [the] 82-year-old [Rio Grande Compact…

The Supreme Court appointed a “special master” to oversee the case.

Two years ago, the special master set deadlines for the legal battle, ordering that discovery of new evidence would end in the summer of 2020 and the case would then go to trial in the fall. The trial since has been bumped to next year.

Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej , a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country – in particular, those which feed the Mississippi River, in pink.