“The Trump administration has been probably the most anti-environmental administration in history” — Will Toor

Denver’s Brown Cloud via the Denver Regional Council of Governments.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The state officials overseeing efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, conserve natural landscapes and beat rising heat in Colorado anticipate better opportunities for federal help under Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.

And they’re preparing for teamwork with the Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and the departments of energy, transportation and agriculture, among other federal agencies, to move beyond planning to aggressive action on challenges from saving dying forests to cutting vehicle emissions.

“It’s going to be a 180-degree shift,” Colorado Energy Office director Will Toor said in a video call with state agency chiefs. “The Trump administration has been probably the most anti-environmental administration in history. Certainly when it comes to addressing the challenges of climate change, they’ve done a surgical attack on virtually every federal policy that would support climate action… making it harder to act at the state level…

Biden’s pledge to rejoin the Paris climate agreement and an expected push to contain warming sync with efforts under Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to reduce heat-trapping pollution within Colorado by closing coal-fired power plants and increasing regulation of the fossil fuel industry.

Colorado ranks among the leading oil-and-gas producer states, exporting fossil fuels that when burned elsewhere accelerate climate warming. Biden has called for a $2 trillion stimulus investment to hasten a shift to clean energy and create jobs — funds that Colorado officials planned to tap.

Biden also has promised reversals of Trump rollbacks of environmental regulations for protecting air, land and water. If Congress doesn’t collaborate, Biden has indicated he’ll wield executive power where possible to act unilaterally, which may reduce oil and gas drilling on western public lands.

And Biden transition team officials are reviewing proposals that would advance climate action Colorado officials have begun to consider. For example, they’re mulling creation of a “carbon bank” run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would pay farmers who adopt no-till methods and store more carbon in soil — helping a draw-down of heat-trapping air pollution that causes climate warming…

At the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, state efforts dealing with air pollution, emerging water contaminants such as PFAS “forever” chemicals and degradation of waterways traditionally have hinged on cooperative support from federal agencies.

John Putnam, director of the state public health department’s environmental programs, anticipated a reinvigoration of agencies for better enforcement of national clean air and clean water regulations that under Trump were weakened…

State officials cited examples where they felt the Trump administration stymied Colorado environmental efforts, including legal action against California’s stricter fuel-efficiency standards, which Colorado recently decided to follow. Trump officials also pressed Colorado to take the lead on toxic mine cleanups, and assume liability if things went wrong. And the weakening of Clean Water Act protections removed safeguards for many streams across Colorado.

The increasing costs of dealing with climate change are falling largely on local communities where extreme weather and wildfires linked to warming hit home. In Boulder County, commissioners recently allocated $1.5 million to help deal with erosion and destruction of homes caused by the Calwood and Lefthand Canyon fires. A consultant hired by the county estimated costs for building resilience to climate warming will top $150 million a year for non-disaster impacts on infrastructure such as roads.

The shift from Trump to Biden “means the world — the future of our planet,” said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones, who also serves on Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission.

“We have to get on track on climate change in the next decade,” Jones said. “If we spent four more years under a climate change denier, we might have dug ourselves into a hole bigger than we can get out of.”

High Plains researchers to help protect Rocky Mountain National Park — Agrilife Today

From Texas A&M University (Kay Ledbetter):

A Texas A&M AgriLife-led team will work with the Colorado Livestock Association and a large team of Colorado stakeholders to refine and evaluate management practices to reduce agricultural ammonia emissions into Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

Dream Lake with Hallett Peak in the background, one of the Rocky Mountain National Park’s most distinctive summits. Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Agricultural operations along the northern Front Range of Colorado, including livestock operations, are believed to be a significant source of gaseous ammonia and other reactive nitrogen species in the atmosphere. Some of these may travel with air masses into Rocky Mountain National Park under so-called “upslope” conditions.

The Colorado Livestock Association, CLA, has been at the forefront of the nitrogen deposition issue for the last 15 years. Over that period of time, the association has acknowledged that animal agriculture is a source of ammonia and does contribute to ammonia deposition.

Last year, CLA conducted a survey of feedlot and dairy operations in Weld and Larimer counties to determine their use of best management practices recognized as effective in reducing ammonia emissions and the related barriers to adoption of those practices. Going forward, CLA is committed to communicating to the ag community and the public about the progress and results of the research.

Texas project outlined for Rocky Mountain work

Reducing ammonia emissions from livestock operations during upslope events will be the goal of the project led by Brent Auvermann, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research biological and agricultural engineer and Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center director, Amarillo.

This Trail Ridge Road view of the Colorado Front Range shows how the upslope conditions are created. Photo credit: Texas A&M University

“Upslope conditions bring rain and snow to the eastern side of the Continental Divide,” Auvermann said. Some of the reactive nitrogen in the atmosphere ends up dissolved in that precipitation and lands inside the national park, a process known as “wet deposition.”

Auvermann’s research team has operated a wet-deposition monitoring site on the rim of North Cita Canyon in Palo Duro Canyon State Park south of Amarillo since 2008.

“Our site is nearly identical to the monitoring sites in the (Rocky Mountain National) Park, where ecologists first discovered nitrogen enrichment changing the park’s vegetation and water chemistry,” he said.

Although not all of the atmospheric ammonia along the Front Range comes from agriculture, agriculture has an important role to play, he said.

“It doesn’t all come from Front Range sources either,” Auvermann said, noting that some of the nitrogen drifting into the national park comes from hundreds of miles away. “Still, we can make some good headway with the emitters nearby.”

Joining Auvermann on the research team are Ken Casey, Ph.D., AgriLife Research air quality engineer, Amarillo; and David Parker, Ph.D., research agricultural engineer and leader of the Livestock Nutrient Management Research Unit, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Bushland.

The research team has a lot of experience with ammonia from cattle feed yards and dairies, having developed the emissions-reporting mechanism that was adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2009 to 2019.

“EPA’s reporting instrument was based on research conducted right here in the Texas Panhandle,” Auvermann said. “Dr. Casey and Dr. Parker are widely known for their expertise in reactive nitrogen emissions.”

The new research project is funded by a Conservation Innovation Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, NRCS.

Colorado’s “glidepath” approach

Stakeholders, consultants, and state and federal agencies have been working on a strategy to reduce nitrogen enrichment in Rocky Mountain National Park for nearly 20 years, Auvermann said.

Rocky Mountain National Park entrance. Photo credit: Texas A&M University

Their ultimate goal is to return the national park’s nitrogen budget to where it was many years ago using a strategy called the “glidepath.” The glidepath’s goal is to reduce the rate of nitrogen wet deposition in the park to 1.5 kilograms per hectare, or 1.34 pounds per acre, per year by 2032, with milestones along the way.

“That’s a little less than half of what’s landing in the park right now,” Auvermann said.

The Colorado team designed an early warning system, EWS, to notify crop and livestock producers of weather events that are expected to move the atmospheric nitrogen from Colorado’s eastern plains toward the Continental Divide.

“With a little advance notice, we think producers can make short-term changes that will reduce nitrogen loads in the park,” said Auvermann. “Now we need to figure out how to optimize those changes and make them work cost-effectively.”

Auvermann said while the effectiveness of those practices is proven scientifically, their project will deal with timing, amount, frequency, mode and operational variations of those practices. These details have not been worked out within the specific context of the EWS and components such as the forecast timing, duration and intensity of the upslope conditions.

Details determine management practices success

“We plan to help develop a decision tool for the voluntary implementation of two key practices by livestock producers in northeastern Colorado, both of which are intended to reduce ammonia emissions,” Auvermann said.

The two tools are:

  • Applying water to open-lot pen surfaces via sprinklers or water trucks. Variations include timing, depth and frequency of application, plus injection of acidifying or enzyme-inhibiting agents.
  • Diluting irrigated wastewater with fresh water having a low concentration of dissolved nitrogen. Variations include the method of dilution – in-pipeline mixing, alternating effluent and freshwater applications – and injecting acidifying or other ammonia-suppressing agents.
  • Once the research is complete, the team will work with producers to optimize site-specific operational variables, and gain consensus for including those practices in cost-sharing programs, such as NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program, EQIP.

    Some practices may be part of routine agricultural management and can be delayed or rescheduled due to the upslope conditions with little additional cost or management effort. Others, however, may be more labor-intensive or costly, in which case producers may incur significant costs in increased expenses and/or foregone revenue.

    The team believes eligibility to receive EQIP cost-sharing funds to help defray the cost of implementation will increase the potential for voluntary adoption of those practices.

    “Rocky Mountain National Park is the crown jewel of the national park system as far as I am concerned,” Auvermann said. “It’s a real privilege to be invited to help protect her.”

    City of Sterling seeking public input on plan to curb water use — The #Sterling Journal-Advocate

    Photograph of Main Street in Sterling Colorado facing north taken in the 1920s.

    From The Sterling Journal-Advocate (Sara Waite):

    The Sterling City Council got its first look at the proposed 2021 Municipal Water Efficiency Plan put together by BBA Water Consultants of Englewood during their meeting Tuesday night. The city must have a new water efficiency plan in place in order to access the financing for the wastewater treatment plan; a previous water conservation plan was completed in 2010.

    BBA Water Resources Engineer Tara Meininger gave a short presentation on the plan that focused on the 30 “water efficiency activities” outlined for implementation in the 2021-2027 plan period. Ultimately, the goal of those activities is to reduce unbilled water consumption within the city system, as well as reduce average individual demand, thereby extending the city’s water supply and reducing infrastructure and water treatment costs.

    If adopted, the efficiency plan would call for Sterling to:

    1. Install AMR [AMI?] meters in Sterling parks that still have manual meters.

    2. Identify unmetered uses if they still exist.

    3. Identify metered taps that have been inadvertently excluded from the billing system (primarily municipal metered taps) and adding those taps into the system

    4. Consider adding a “Municipal” customer type to the water billing system

    5. Consider adding a “School” customer type to the water billing system

    6. Determine whether current billing software can enhance water bills with customer-specific water use information and comparisons to the use patterns of similar water users.

    7. After completion of the waste water treatment plant upgrades, Sterling will consider whether changes to its water rate structure (for example, transition back to an inclined tiered water rate structure) would be feasible and appropriate.

    8. Sterling water staff will attend training through the Colorado Water Loss Initiative.

    9. By 2023, Sterling will implement a year-long technology-assisted leak detection program for its potable distribution network. Mapping of Sterling’s potable distribution network will be included.

    10. Sterling will proactively repair small leaks identified by detection efforts, provided repairs are within Sterling’s budget after higher-priority leaks have been addressed.

    11. Hire a new Water/Wastewater Compliance staff member who will also contribute to water efficiency programs.

    12. Install irrigation controllers at Sterling parks.

    13. If municipal facilities are upgraded or plumbing fixtures are replaced, Sterling commits to replacing those fixtures with water-efficient models.

    14. Sterling water staff will research the possibility of equipping fire department hose trucks with water meters.

    15. Consider whether any areas (especially parks) currently served by potable water supplies could be transitioned to non-potable supplies.

    16. Inventory cooling towers in Sterling to better understand cooling water demands and potential water efficiency activities.

    17. Consider a technical assistance program to assist Riverview Golf Course and Riverside Cemetery in controlling their irrigation water use.

    18. Sterling staff will approach the Department of Corrections to propose a rainwater collection program to irrigate the approximately 8 acres of fields within the Sterling Correctional Facility compound. Depending on DOC’s responsiveness and program details, the city might consider an incentive such as project assistance or funding.

    19. Consider a rebate program for irrigation controllers, using local plumbers as the intermediary.

    20. Consider implementing overspray watering restrictions.

    21. Consider whether additional ordinances could be passed to regulate cemetery and golf course irrigation.

    22. Consider improving Sterling’s existing landscape requirements so that xeriscaping options are highlighted and so that properties that do not maintain existing turf are required to replace it with xeriscape.

    23. Consider whether point of sale ordinances could achieve both water efficiency goals and property maintenance goals.

    24. In 2021, send out at least two educational inserts with water billings: one on water softeners/in-home water treatment, with information related to both water waste and water quality, and a second insert on xeriscaping and rainwater collection.

    25. Sterling would also consider installing a xeriscape garden and rainwater collection at City Hall as an example of what can be done.

    26. Include information about water efficiency during water treatment plant tours and presentations to the public.

    27. Consider whether water staff could make informational presentations at local schools, including information on how Sterling’s water supply is treated and the importance of water efficiency.

    28. Consider sending Sterling water staff to participate in the annual Logan County Children’s Water Festival.

    29. Post monthly water-efficiency related information on the Public Works Facebook account, or similar social media platforms.

    30. As part of the permit approval materials Sterling provides building permit applicants, Sterling Planning staff will include an educational insert on rainwater collection.

    Meininger noted that Sterling’s potable water consumption has been declining since the 1990s, which is credited in part to the implementation of watering restrictions and increased water rates. But, she said, when comparing the usage rates to other, similar Colorado municipalities, there is still room to improve…

    The council voted 7-0 to put the plan out for a 60-day public comment period, after which time the council will review the comments and possibly incorporate those along with any other changes, then adopt the plan. It will then be forwarded to the Colorado Water Conservation Board for approval, which will allow the city to draw down the loan for the wastewater treatment plant improvements.

    “Apparently, they’ve [the administration] already lost their interest in taking care of our public lands” — Senator Michael Bennet

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    Funding details promised by the Great American Outdoors Act were due Nov. 2, but state and federal land managers are still waiting for specifics of what is supposed to be a record amount of money for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and deferred maintenance projects.

    The Great American Outdoors Act — brokered in part by Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and trumpeted by President Donald Trump as they both ran for re-election — directed the full $900 million a year to the LWCF, which uses royalties paid by energy companies to buy federal land for protection. And the legislation spread $9.5 billion over five years toward catching up on an estimated $21.6 billion in delayed upkeep on public lands. It also promised to more than double federal funding to several Western states that rely on LWCF support to acquire and protect public lands and access.

    But fear is growing that the promises of the Great American Outdoors Act — which had bipartisan support this election year — were more about politics than public lands.

    The deadline for the Department of Interior and Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to submit its project lists for deferred maintenance and LWCF projects was last week. The agencies submitted lists for maintenance projects on time. But the LWCF lists arrived a week after the Nov. 2 deadline, following a Nov. 9 memo from the Trump Administration that delegated authority to the Interior and Agriculture departments to release the LWCF funding lists.

    The broad-stroke lists have left state and federal land managers scratching their heads.

    The lists included no details on specific projects or costs, even though those details — like $116 million for 61 ready-to-go BLM, Fish and Wildlife and National Park Service projects — were circulated by federal land agencies earlier this year when lawmakers were studying the Great American Outdoors Act. (The act requires “a detailed description of each project, including the estimated expenditures from the fund for the project for applicable fiscal years.”)

    And perhaps most troubling is the Interior Department’s Nov. 9 plan for spending the LWCF’s $900 million. The note from Interior Sec. David Bernhardt to the U.S. Senate allocated only $2.5 million to the Bureau of Land Management for land acquisition. The Forest Service’s list of 36 LWCF projects totaling $100 million included a note that one project was in Colorado’s White River National Forest. The White River National Forest’s only request for LWCF funding for Fiscal 2021 was for $8.5 million to acquire and protect Garfield County’s 488-acre Sweetwater Lake property.

    Sweetwater Lake, Garfield County, Colorado. Photo credit: Todd Winslow Pierce with permission

    Calls and emails to state BLM and Park Service officials were directed to the Interior Department in Washington, D.C., which did not respond. White River officials said they had not received any information about LWCF funding for Sweetwater Lake, which was acquired by conservation groups this spring with a plan to transfer the property over to the Forest Service.

    “The monumental nature of the Great American Outdoors Act deserves more information so the private sector can engage and we know where these investments will be made,” said Jessica Turner with the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of 33 outdoor organizations representing more than 110,000 businesses…

    “Apparently they’ve already lost their interest in taking care of our public lands,” Colorado’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said in an emailed statement. “Coloradans worked for years to secure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fact that the Trump Administration is failing to follow through and meet LWCF deadlines, while not surprising, demonstrates a serious lack of commitment to conservation.”

    A spokeswoman with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the agency is waiting for information on project lists, official funding, timelines and whether the state grants the agency applied for have been approved…

    The U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee on Nov. 10 released funding recommendations for the Interior Department and Forest Service that provides specific details. The committee plan directs $54.1 million to the BLM and $120 million to the Forest Service for land acquisition. The committee’s list for LWCF acquisition projects includes $8.5 million for the Forest Service for Sweetwater Lake, $20.5 million for “recreational access” on BLM lands, $1 million for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s San Luis Valley Conservation Area and $850,000 for Dinosaur National Monument.

    The committee, in its allocation recommendations said it was “disappointed by the lack of specific bureau- and project-level information” offered by the Interior and Agriculture department secretaries and dismissed Bernhardt’s issues with precise price tags for repairs as “insufficient reason to withhold more specific costs by project.”

    The committee directed the two departments “to provide specific project information, including estimated costs by project, as soon as possible,” noting that it intended to fund LWCF through final appropriations — without or without the department lists.

    Aspinall Unit operations update November 12, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #GunnisonRiver