Larimer County #NISP hearing recap

Map of the Northern Integrated Supply Project via Northern Water

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

Larimer County’s first public comment session for the Northern Integrated Supply Project’s 1041 permit application showcased heavy opposition to a reservoir plan that critics say would cause devastating impacts to the Poudre River.

About 100 people gave about 6 hours’ worth of testimony at the Monday hearing, which was the first of two hearings devoted solely to public comment on NISP’s 1041 proposal. Over 90% of the comments were in opposition to the permit.

Larimer County commissioners will accept more public comment Aug. 31, and NISP proponent Northern Water will have the chance to provide rebuttal to the comments at an upcoming meeting. Commissioners are expected to vote on the permit Sept. 2, but that could be pushed back.

The 1041 permit covers only a part of the NISP project: the siting of Glade Reservoir, NISP’s main water storage component, and four water pipelines throughout the county…

NISP opponents, however, say they doubt the project will be able to deliver all that water. They also say the project’s heavy spring and summer diversions will constitute a death blow to an already strained river that loses over half of its water before it reaches Fort Collins. The project could divert between 25% and 71% of the Poudre’s stream flows, depending on the month and time of year, with most of the diversions taking place in the higher-flow months of April to August…

[David] Jones was one of many local scientists who spoke in opposition of NISP and offered pointed criticism of its wildlife mitigation and enhancement plan. The plan includes a “conveyance refinement” proposal that would run some of the diverted water through a portion of the river in Fort Collins with the goal of addressing dry-up points and improving streamflows…

[Barry Noon] also criticized the mitigation plan for not sufficiently accounting for climate change, which climatologists project will deteriorate Colorado river flows, shrink mountain snowpack and exacerbate droughts like the one currently gripping the state. The Poudre relies solely on mountain snowpack, and the Grey Mountain water right that accounts for about half of NISP’s water is a relatively junior water right that is less likely to be satisfied in drier years…

Noon and others emphasized that Northern Water won’t have to meet its river flow requirements through Fort Collins until “full buildout conditions when NISP participants are consistently taking their full NISP yield,” according to the mitigation plan. The plan does commit to conveying at least 36% of total NISP deliveries through Fort Collins before buildout…

If it does happen, CSU biology professor and ecologist LeRoy Poff fears the river will buckle under the impact of degraded springtime flows that he predicts will fossilize the river channel, dry out wetlands and degrade riparian habitat. He said he found in research conducted for the city of Fort Collins that even the flows promised after buildout wouldn’t be enough to sustain the river and would result in damaged natural areas…

Fort Collins resident Joe Rowan said there’s “ample evidence” that Northern Water’s permit application meets or exceeds the standards laid out in Larimer County’s 1041 permitting process. He added that NISP “has been subjected to the most arduous, comprehensive and objective analysis any of us have ever witnessed” over the past few decades…

Residents near proposed pipelines speak up

Also present at Monday’s hearing were over 20 county residents whose property would be impacted by the four pipelines involved in the permit. Lisa Pewe, who recently moved to a Larimer County Road 56 property with plans to open an equine-assisted therapy nonprofit there, said the Northern Tier pipeline would be “devastating to my business, my dream and my property’s value.”

A 60-foot easement would run across the western and southern borders of her property, negatively affecting about 40% of her 5-acre property, she said. She asked commissioners to reject that portion of the pipeline or require Northern Water to use existing rights-of-way and easements in the area…

Loss was a key theme among the speakers. So was a reverential, almost familial connection to the Poudre. Will Walters said the Poudre River valley is home to four generations of his family since his granddaughter, Georgie, was born last winter. He described the way her birth renewed in the family “a sense of awe and wonder in our natural world” — and underlined a desire to protect it.

There’s no more water to wring from the river, Walters said, because what remains after generations of diversions does “crucial ecological work.”

#Colorado Water Congress Summer Meeting Day 1 recap #CWCVirtual2020

Part of the memorial to Wayne Aspinall in Palisade. Aspinall, a Democrat, is a legend in the water sector, and is the namesake of the annual award given by the Colorado Water Congress. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Colorado Politics (Joey Bunch):

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Colorado can’t conserve its way out of a deep drought and a decades-long struggle over the state’s water, as he spoke to the state’s water managers Tuesday…

He said he had passed more water legislation than the rest of the state’s congressional delegation combined during his six years in the Senate and four years in the U.S. House before that. Gardner also is a former state legislator.

“We have such diverse water needs in our state,” Gardner said, noting his Yuma County community depends on groundwater and that a canoe would dam up the nearest river 30 miles away. He also cited his work on the Arkansas Valley Conduit to deliver fresh water to the parched farm region east of Pueblo, a project on the books since 1983 that only this year got federal funding, as well as other funding for endangered species recovery on the Colorado River.

He spoke of the complexity of solutions given the diversity of users and suppliers, plus the Front Range’s dramatic and steady growth.

“No. 1, we have to have more water storage, that’s an absolute,” Gardner told the Water Congress. “We have to have conservation, No. 2. We cannot conserve our way out of our water shortfall, though.”

[…]

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper began his recorded statement by noting he’s spoken in-person to the Water Congress before. He then spoke of the challenges created by COVID-19 “made worse by the reckless action of the United States Senate,” before he pivoted to climate change and wildfires.

Hickenlooper spoke of his time building bridges with Denver and the rest of the state, recalling how he visited the Western Slope soon after he became mayor of Denver in 2003 and received a standing ovation for his remarks.

“Unfortunately today’s politics almost begs us to be partisan, assuming the worst in each other, raising suspicions between neighbors on either side of the Continental Divide,” Hickenlooper said. “At the federal level Washington is as dysfunctional as a broken septic system.”

He said water provided grounds to put partisanship aside.

Hickenlooper spoke of water often during his eight years as governor and adopted the Colorado’s first statewide water management plan. Hickenlooper did not acquire legislative or public support for funding the plan – an estimated $100 million a year – during one of the state’s strongest period of economic growth…

Pollster Floyd Ciruli interviewed Republican strategist Cinamon Watson and Democratic strategist Rick Ridder after the two candidates spoke.

Forests scorched by wildfire unlikely to recover, may convert to grasslands — CU Boulder Today

Slopes above Cheesman Reservoir after the Hayman fire photo credit Denver Water.

From the University of Colorado (Lisa Marshall):

With flames racing across hundreds of square miles throughout Colorado and California this summer and a warming climate projected to boost wildfire activity across the West, residents can’t help but wonder what our beloved forests will look like in a few decades.

A new University of Colorado Boulder-led study offers an unprecedented glimpse, suggesting that when forests burn across the Southern Rocky Mountains, many will not grow back and will instead convert to grasslands and shrublands.

“We project that post-fire recovery will be less likely in the future, with large percentages of the Southern Rocky Mountains becoming unsuitable for two important tree species—ponderosa pine and Douglas fir,” said lead author Kyle Rodman, who conducted the study while a PhD student in the Department of Geography.

Previous CU Boulder studies have looked at individual fire sites, including the site of the 2000 Walker Ranch fire in Boulder County, and found that forests recovered slowly or not at all. Even 15 years post-fire, as many as 80% of the plots the researchers surveyed still contained no new trees.

Rodman and his team of coauthors—including scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Arizona University, Colorado State University and the University of North Carolina Wilmington—wanted to build on those studies, projecting the future by looking at the past.To that end, they looked at 22 burned areas encompassing 710 square miles from southern Wyoming through central and western Colorado to northern New Mexico. The team focused on ponderosa pine and Douglas fir forests, which make up about half of the forested area in the region.

“For those of us who live along Colorado’s Front Range, these are the trees that we see, live near and recreate in on a daily basis,” said Rodman.

The study included regions that had burned as long ago as 1988, and land ravaged by the 2002 Hayman Fire near Colorado Springs; the 1996 Buffalo Creek Fire southwest of Denver; the 2000 Eldorado Springs and Walker Ranch fires near Boulder; and the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire outside of Durango.

Using satellite images and on-the-ground measurements, the scientists first reconstructed what the forests looked like prior to the fire. Then, by counting juvenile trees and looking at tree rings, they assessed how well the forests were recovering.

Cooler, wetter areas more resilient

Not surprisingly, those at higher-elevations with lower temperatures, and more precipitation fared better. Those with more surviving trees nearby (which can spread their seeds via wind and water) were also more likely to rebound.

Meanwhile, lower-elevation forests, like those south of Pueblo or in portions of the Front Range foothills, proved less resilient.

And compared to regions that burned in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the more recent burn areas failed to bounce back.

“This study and others clearly show that the resilience of our forests to fire has declined significantly under warmer, drier conditions,” said coauthor Tom Veblen, professor of geography at CU Boulder.

The team then used statistical modeling to project what might happen in the next 80 years if montane forests of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir were to burn under different scenarios. In one scenario, humans do nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change escalates unchecked. In another, considered a “moderate emissions scenario,” emissions begin to decline after 2040.

‘The future is not in set in stone’

Currently, the team estimates that about half of its study area is suitable for post-fire “recovery.” (Trees there may return to at least their lowest densities from the 1800s).

By 2051, under the moderate emissions scenario, less than 18% of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine forests will likely recover if burned. Under the higher emission scenario, that number dips to 6.3% for Douglas fir and 3.5% percent for pine forests.

Meanwhile, Veblen notes, the number and intensity of wildfires will continue its steady rise. The number of acres burned annually across the country has already doubled since the 1990s.

“The big takeaway here is that we can expect to have an increase in fire continue for the foreseeable future, and, at the same time, we are going to see much of our land convert from forest to non-forest,” said Veblen.

Rodman, now a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, hopes the database of post-fire recovery he and his team have created can help land managers better plan where to invest their resources, or not, after a fire.

For instance, they may be better off planting seedlings in regions more likely to bounce back, rather than plant them in dry sites no longer suitable for their survival.

He also hopes the projections spelled out in the paper give people one more reason to care about climate change.

“This was a hard study to write and can be a bit depressing to read, but there are some positive takeaways,” he said. “If we can get a handle on some of these trends and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, the outcomes may not look so dire. The future is not written in stone.”

A forest burns during the High Park Fire West of Fort Collins in 2012. Photo credit: University of Colorado

Agricultural Impact Task Force — #Colorado Ag Today #drought

Colorado Drought Monitor August 18, 2020.

From Colorado Ag Today (Maura Bennett):

Over 72% of Colorado is in severe or extreme drought conditions according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Extreme drought conditions exist across southern and western Colorado, as well as parts of the eastern plains.

In June Governor Polis activated the Agricultural Impact Task Force to survey the physical and economic impacts on agriculture and recommend opportunities for mitigation.

Agriculture Commissioner Kate Greenberg co-chairs the Ag Impact Task Force and recently spoke with Colorado Ag Today.

Greenberg: “This is really about reporting up from the field what’s going on, what are the impacts, what needs to change in the future. We know that this is becoming more regular. Drought is a part of our life. Water scarcity is becoming an increasing issue across the state whether we’re talking surface or groundwater we’ve got pressures from all sides. Increasing urban development increasing pressures from interstate compacts, developments out of state with states and entities that rely on water that starts here in Colorado.”

She says the drought impacts are clear. Then you add the increased risk of wildfire like what we’re seeing this summer with such aridity in the high country.

Greenberg: “So it’s a reality and part of the work of these task forces, the Ag Impact one in particular, in my mind is not just assessing the near- term impacts, but really thinking about how can we take what we learn from this year and make ag more resilient for the future knowing that we’re going to have more of this in the years ahead.”

#Aspen, Pitkin County in ‘extreme #drought’ — The Aspen Times #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

West Drought Monitor August 18, 2020.

From The Aspen Times (Carolyn Sackariason):

The city of Aspen is now under stage 2 water restrictions due to extreme drought conditions.

Aspen City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution to move from stage 1 restrictions to stage 2, acknowledging that as of Aug. 18, the U.S. Drought Monitor elevated Aspen and Pitkin County from severe drought to extreme drought conditions countywide…

The last time the city declared a stage 2 water shortage was in 2018.

“We haven’t received any sort of measurable rainfall in over a month and we’re already in stage 1,” he told council. “Current stream flows are around the lows that we had experienced in 2018 and forecasted precip and temperature projections are not looking favorable to ending this drought.”

Stage 2 necessitates a 15% to 20% reduction in water use citywide, along with some stricter rules that are mandatory rather than voluntary, which was part of stage 1 restrictions passed in July…

As such, watering of any lawn, garden, landscaped area, tree, shrub or other plant is prohibited from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Alternating odd-even water schedules for addresses ending in odd numbers and even numbers are now mandatory.

Swimming pools can’t be filled with city water, and washing sidewalks, driveways, parking areas, tennis courts, patios, or other paved areas are not allowed.

Also, privately owned cars, other motor vehicles, trailers or boats cannot be washed except from a bucket and from a hose equipped with a positive shutoff nozzle.

New public or private landscaping installations are not allowed, with the exception that they are required as a minimum for erosion control of disturbed surfaces as determined by the city.

Staff will enforce the restrictions first by education and then by fines, which range from $500 for the first offense to $1,500 for subsequent offenses, as well as a disconnection of water services by the city.

Temporary rate increases for large water users also will go into effect to encourage efficient use of the commodity.

Without a citywide reduction in normal water usage, agricultural and recreational activities and fish and wildlife habitat along the Maroon, Castle, Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers will be more negatively impacted, according to city officials.

While the US is reeling from #COVID19, the…administration is trying to take away health care — The Conversation #coronavirus #Election2020


People affected by the downturn in the economy caused by coronavirus at a food bank in Central Florida in April, 2020.
Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Paul Shafer, Boston University and Nicole Huberfeld, Boston University

The death toll from COVID-19 keeps rising, creating grief, fear, loss and confusion.

Unfortunately for us all, the pain only begins there. Other important health policy news that would ordinarily make headlines is buried under the crushing weight of the coronavirus. Many have not had time to notice or understand the Trump administration’s efforts to wreck health care coverage.

We are both professors at Boston University School of Public Health who study health insurance, one using economics and statistics and the other focusing on law and policy. We have researched the big picture of COVID-19’s impact on the safety net and the details of how our federalist system, with states having considerable control over policy, has made a coordinated response to the pandemic more difficult.

Here, we highlight two major actions by the Trump administration that should be receiving more attention – attempting to cap federal Medicaid funding, and arguing to the Supreme Court that the entire Affordable Care Act should be struck down.

Several patients on gurneys outside a hospital.
COVID-19 patients arrive to the Wakefield Campus of the Montefiore Medical Center on April 06, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images

Limits on Medicaid funding

Complicated language and political posturing make it hard to understand health care in the best of times. This is particularly true for proposals to change the funding for Medicaid, the health insurance program for low-income Americans that also covers many disabled and elderly people.

Medicaid has historically been funded like this: States pay a percentage of Medicaid costs, and the federal government covers the rest. The federal match ranges from 50% to as much as 83% of every dollar. It doesn’t matter whether a state has one thousand or one million Medicaid enrollees, that same cost sharing applies. Uncapped federal funding gives Medicaid flexibility to meet that need.

The Trump administration wants to change the promise of unlimited federal funding and instead use a payment method often called “block grants.”

Block grants are pre-set amounts of money that the federal government offers to states, which then have control over the money within broad guidelines. While that may sound harmless and even appealing to some, block granting reduces the amount of federal money available and shifts the risk of economic, health, and other emergencies to states. Medicaid block grants would set limits on how much money the federal government spends, either in total or per person.

President Johnson shaking hands with former President Harry Truman.
President Lyndon Johnson, left, shakes hands with former President Harry Truman when Medicare and Medicaid became law in 1965. Truman had tried to pass Medicare-like bill but failed. Vice president Hubert Humphrey is in the background.
LBJ Presidential Library

Medicaid has never been capped this way in its 55-year history, but block granting for Medicaid has long been an unfulfilled dream for conservatives, with Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and Paul Ryan trying but failing to make block grants a reality.

A work-around

When the GOP-dominated Congress tried in 2017 to repeal the ACA, many replacement bills featured Medicaid block grants. The bills failed in the Senate, with the late Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, casting a famous deciding vote.

The Trump administration decided to try a different road. In January 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a letter to state Medicaid directors describing a new Healthy Adult Opportunity policy that would fundamentally change the way Medicaid has always worked by implementing block grants.

Instead of the current partnership, in which the pie (Medicaid spending) can expand but the pieces (federal and state share of costs) stay the same size relatively, this new block grant policy would provide states either a set dollar amount for each enrollee (a per capita cap) or for their entire program (a fixed annual grant). Either way, the state would be responsible for any extra costs. To be clear, we and others believe this policy is illegal without a change in federal law.

So why would states pursue this? Political ideology and less federal oversight are big factors.

Giving states greater control over health policy could encourage states to find savings in their Medicaid programs. But unexpected spending on Medicaid, such as spikes in enrollment from natural disasters, could lead states to cut benefits, payments to providers, or other necessary services. This could make good quality care harder to get. It could also lead states to shift funding away from other essential services, like education, to meet medical needs.

We believe this is an especially bad time to pick this fight, while the nation tries to prevent spikes in COVID-19 and state budgets are in decline. Limiting the amount of money states have for Medicaid could not only limit health care access for the 65 million Americans already enrolled in Medicaid, but also potentially millions more who may need it as a result of the pandemic.

Killing the ACA

The ACA has faced near constant legal and political challenges since it became law a decade ago. Even enthusiastic supporters admit that it is far from perfect. But, some 20 million people gained insurance through the law.

The first challenge came when some states claimed that the law’s individual mandate, a requirement to have health insurance or pay a penalty, was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the mandate is constitutional, and the law was implemented.

In 2017, the Republicans controlling Congress tried but failed to repeal the ACA. Congress was only able to reduce the tax penalty to zero for the individual mandate, meaning the law still requires having health insurance coverage but the penalty is now $0.

Now, states argue once again that the mandate is unconstitutional because the penalty fails to “produce at least some revenue.” This new case is scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on Nov. 10. Texas v. California is the third major legal challenge to the ACA, but the first time that the federal government will not defend the law in court.

Texas leads 17 other states, with full support from the Trump administration, in arguing that the ACA cannot exist without the individual mandate penalty because the law is not “severable” – meaning that if one part of a law fails, then the entire law falls.

Of course, Congress did exactly that, severing the penalty from the rest of the ACA when it enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

And, the Supreme Court already decided that the ACA is severable when it made Medicaid expansion optional in 2012. This case has been called “balderdash” by legal scholars, yet the court could issue a decision in a few months that eliminates the ACA.

If the ACA is struck down, that means the loss of coverage for preexisting conditions, the return of annual or lifetime caps, or policies being revoked for cancer patients. Those who don’t earn much money still deserve good health care. Nearly everyone will feel it if the Trump administration and Texas are successful, regardless of whether your health insurance is through your work, HealthCare.gov, Medicaid or Medicare.

Staying healthy is first priority during this pandemic, but understanding that health insurance could be on the brink of evaporating for millions is a close second.The Conversation

Paul Shafer, Assistant Professor, Health Law, Policy, and Management, Boston University and Nicole Huberfeld, Professor of Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights and Professor of Law, Boston University

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

The #YampaRiver is under Administration for the 2nd time in its history #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Irrigated pasture at Mantle Ranch along the Yampa River. Ranchers in the Yampa River basin are grappling with the enforcement of state regulations that require them to monitor their water use. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Erin Light via Scott Hummer):

Right in step with the unprecedented year of 2020, the Yampa River is going on call for the second time in three years. And once again, the structures located at the bottom of the system do not have enough natural flow to meet their diversion demands.

We, the Division of Water Resources, are currently protecting reservoir water released from Elkhead Creek Reservoir for the protection of the endangered fish species. The amount of reservoir water currently being released for the Endangered Fish Recovery Program is 75 cfs. This in turn requires that there is 61 cfs at the Yampa River at Deerlodge Park gage station. The flow this morning is hovering around 50 cfs which means reservoir water is being diverted by water users upstream.

The entire Yampa River system is under administration for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that if the reservoir water was not in the system the structures at the bottom of the system would have no water and we would be instituting what one might consider a standard or more typical call that would encompass the entire Yampa River and its tributaries. Additionally, the water users on the mainstem of the Yampa River between Elkhead Creek and its confluence with the Green River should not have to bear the brunt of the entire Yampa River being short of water simply because their structure is located within the Critical Habitat Reach (the protected reach for the Endangered Fish).

Actions have already been put in place to institute the call and as of 12:00 PM today, the Yampa River and all of its tributaries are considered under administration. The Calling Priority right (or most junior water right that may divert at this time) is located at the Craig Station Power Plant with an administration number of 37149.00000 (this water right has an adjudication date 9/1/1960 and an appropriation date of 9/17/1951). This Calling Priority may change as the call progresses. In order to follow the call you may visit the following website:
https://dwr.state.co.us/Tools/AdministrativeCalls/Active?submitButton=Submit&SelectedWaterDivisionId=6

If you have a water right junior to the above listed priority and you are diverting water, please cease your diversions unless your diversion can operate under a decreed augmentation plan or substitute water supply plan approved by the State Engineer. Also, if you are the owner of a pond, you are required to bypass all out of priority inflows.

If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me or your water commissioner.

Erin Light, P.E.
Division Engineer, Water Division 6