One week after a pocket of exceptional drought emerged in Colorado, 91 percent of the state is in severe or extreme conditions according to the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.
This week’s conditions are a slight improvement for part of the state as portions of Custer, Fremont, Teller and El Paso counties shifted from severe to moderate drought.
In eastern Kit Carson County, an abnormally dry area that developed following a series of storms earlier in the summer returned to moderate drought. Burlington, the largest community in the county, saw an August average maximum temperature of 93 degrees – seven degrees higher than normal. At the same time the city saw less than half its usual rainfall for August. Just 1.15 inches of rain was recorded, compared to the average of 2.41 inches.
Burlington also set a record high of 100 degrees August 24.
While much of the remainder of the state is unchanged from the previous week’s report, severe drought did expand slightly in eastern Cheyenne County.
Hot, dry conditions have contributed to four costly fires in northern and western Colorado. At least $83 million has been spent to battle the blazes.
The outlook for September remains grim. Drought is expected to persist through the month, and the remaining abnormally dry areas in Weld and Yuma counties are expected to develop at least moderate drought over the coming month.
Temperatures across the western half of Colorado are expected to remain above normal for the month, while the eastern plains have equal chances of above, below or normal temperatures. Across the nation, temperatures are predicted to remain above normal through November.
Overall, abnormally dry conditions fell from two percent last week to one percent in the state. Areas of moderate drought increased from five percent to seven, while severe conditions dropped to 55 from 57 percent. Extreme drought was unchanged at 36 percent. Numbers do not total 100 percent due to rounding.
While Colorado does have a pocket of exceptional drought that developed in central Kiowa County last week, it represents just 0.38 percent of the state.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue designated six Wyoming counties as primary natural disaster areas.
Producers in Big Horn, Hot Springs, Johnson, Natrona, Sheridan and Washakie counties who suffered losses due to recent drought may be eligible for U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency emergency loans.
This natural disaster designation allows FSA to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters. Emergency loans can be used to meet various recovery needs including the replacement of essential items such as equipment or livestock, reorganization of a farming operation or the refinance of certain debts.
Producers in the contiguous Wyoming counties of Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Fremont and Park along with Big Horn, Carbon, and Powder River counties in Montana, are also eligible to apply for emergency loans.
The deadline to apply for these emergency loans is April 26, 2021.
FSA will review the loans based on the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability.
FSA has a variety of additional programs to help farmers recover from the impacts of this disaster. FSA programs that do not require a disaster declaration include: Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Emergency Conservation Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; Operating and Farm Ownership Loans; and the Tree Assistance Program.
Farmers may contact their local USDA service center for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online at http://farmers.gov/recover.
Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased from 1500 cfs to 1450 cfs on Thursday, September 3rd. Releases are being adjusted to bring flows closer to the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River. The actual April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir came in at 57% of average.
Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 890 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 890 cfs for September.
Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 500 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 450 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.
The Northern Integrated Supply Project achieved another important milestone on Wednesday, with the Larimer County Board of County Commissioners approving the 1041 Land Use Permit application on a 2-1 vote.
The permit will allow the construction of Glade Reservoir, its recreation components and the pipelines to convey water from the reservoir to participants throughout Northern Colorado.
Central to the permit is the framework for the development of Glade Reservoir as a future recreation area to be managed by Larimer County. Glade Reservoir, just north of Ted’s Place on U.S. Highway 287, will join Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake, Flatiron Reservoir, Pinewood Reservoir and the future Chimney Hollow Reservoir as a site for water recreation, fishing, hiking and more.
The participants of NISP have agreed to spend more than $16 million to develop the recreation site, and they have purchased the former KOA campground nearby to create camping opportunities.
Another part of the permit dictates the route and procedures for the placement of pipelines to deliver high-quality drinking water to communities in Northern Colorado. It reiterates the commitment of NISP to convey roughly one-third of its water deliveries via the Poudre River through downtown Fort Collins, increasing the overall number of days available for recreation at the new Fort Collins Whitewater Park.
NISP has now received its permit from Larimer County for land use and from the State of Colorado for Water Quality and for Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement. This fall, NISP anticipates receiving a Record of Decision from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Next year, NISP anticipates working with the City of Fort Collins to coordinate on a route for a pipeline to pick up the Glade Reservoir water that has been conveyed through Fort Collins via the Poudre River.
NISP is being built to address future water needs for 15 municipalities and water districts, including the Fort Collins-Loveland Water District, the Town of Windsor and others throughout the region. Northern Water is coordinating the effort through the NISP Water Activity Enterprise.
The vote came after lengthy hearings before the county board and the county’s planning commission. The majority of speakers at those meetings spoke about concerns over the project’s effects on the Poudre River, its main water source. The project would divert water from the river during its peak flows due to its relatively junior water rights.
Nearby residents in the Bonner Peak and Eagle Lake neighborhoods also voiced concerns about pipeline routes disrupting quiet, rural neighborhoods, and diminishing property values. Northern Water, the agency pushing for NISP’s construction, hasn’t ruled out using eminent domain to build those pipelines, if necessary…
In comments explaining his vote against the permit, Kefalas noted scientific papers show a warming trend across much of Colorado, with consequences for rivers fed by snowmelt, like the Poudre.
“Based on the modeling that has been done with the Upper Colorado River basin, I think there are serious implications to the Poudre River flow and how that affects the Glade Reservoir,” Kefalas said.
Kefalas said he was also uncomfortable with the project’s tradeoff in advocating for flatwater recreation on a reservoir a 20-minute drive outside of Fort Collins, instead of seeing high spring flows through the city as a recreational amenity…
In voting to approve, commissioner Johnson said a rejection of the permit would be an example of parochial self-interest. While much of NISP’s water would be used in communities outside of Larimer County, Johnson said Colorado is full of examples of projects where water is stored and transported from one region to another…
Commissioner Donnelly hewed closely to the county’s 1041 evaluation criteria, which assess projects based on how they fit into the county’s master plan and affect its residents. NISP’s proponents were able to satisfy all of the county’s criteria, Donnelly said…
The project is still awaiting a record of decision from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can move forward into construction.