Scouring soil, sowing seeds and spending millions for wildfire recovery in Glenwood Canyon — The #Colorado Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Grizzly Creek Fire August 11, 2020. Photo credit: Wildfire Today

From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

Glenwood Springs is spending more than $10 million on repairs and upgrades to water supply infrastructure following Grizzly Creek Fire.

The Grizzly Creek Fire was not even 10% contained. Jumbo jets still were dousing flames as firefighting teams from across the country scrambled to protect Glenwood Springs and a critical watershed above the Colorado River. And teams of scientists were in Glenwood Canyon, too, battling alongside firefighters.

Those hydrologists, biologists, geologists, archaeologists and recreation specialists are still there, even after the flames are gone, waging a behind-the-scenes battle to protect water and natural resources…

Burned Area Emergency Response — or BAER — teams typically come in when a fire is 50% contained to assess damage and create a multi-year restoration plan. Roberts and the Grizzly Creek Fire BAER crew were on the ground when less than 10% of the fire was contained as both forest and fire managers recognized threats to water supplies. In less than three weeks, they had a map detailing where the Grizzly Creek Fire burned hottest, which helped the Colorado Department of Transportation identify areas where rockfall hazards increased in the fire.

In a twist on the BAER assessment — which usually focuses on protecting resources after a fire — the team helped build an emergency communication plan that helped firefighters in the canyon, and identified areas where they could swiftly take cover in the event of rockfall or a sudden rainstorm that could sweep debris and rocks off canyon walls…

It was this early assessment that sparked an urgent plea for help from Glenwood Springs. As firefighters battled back flames on the western edge of the wildfire, the city’s leaders rallied politicians far and wide to acknowledge damage to the city’s water supply infrastructure. Barely three weeks after the wildfire sparked along Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, the city had a list of immediate work needed to protect the city’s watershed.

Sen. Michael Bennet prodded the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to unleash millions from the federal Emergency Watershed Protection program. Glenwood Springs was first in line, with a clear message that spring snowmelt, or even a rainstorm, could cripple the city’s water supply…

It didn’t take long for Glenwood Springs to identify immediate repairs and upgrades to protect water systems from expected sediment and debris flowing from scorched canyon walls. First on the list were intake systems on Glenwood Canyon’s Grizzly and No Name creeks. The city also needed an upgrade to a backup water intake on the Roaring Fork River, should the systems in the canyon go down. And finally, the city is eager to finish a long-planned bridge that could help residents flee a wildfire on the south end of town.

By early September, less than a month after the Grizzly Creek Fire started, the city had a list of $86 million in projects. And the money started flowing almost immediately.

The city secured more than $1 million from the NRCS’s Emergency Watershed Program for projects to protect intake infrastructure on No Name and Grizzly creeks, high above the Colorado River…

The Grizzly Creek Fire jumped Grizzly Creek north of Glenwood Canyon. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)

The city asked the NRCS for wiggle room on the requirement that municipalities pay 25% of the total grant. The service agreed to an 80-20 split, which meant the city needed a little less than $200,000 to protect the structures that funnel millions of gallons of water a day into the city’s water treatment plant.

Work on the Grizzly Creek intake started first, with helicopters ferrying workers 3.8 miles up the drainage. The workers put in steel plates to protect the diversion and valve systems from debris that could clog the intake during the next big rain or spring melt. They stabilized the banks upstream and downstream of the intake, which required flying 11 cubic yards of cement up the drainage.

New plating at the Glenwood Springs water intake on Grizzly Creek was installed by the city to protect the system’s valve controls and screen before next spring’s snowmelt scours the Grizzly Creek burn zone and potentially clogs the creek with debris. (Provided by the City of Glenwood Springs)

The team finished in October and then turned to No Name Creek, where intake diversions and valves are accessible by truck. That work included similar protections as Grizzly Creek, plus a concrete wall to keep debris from hitting a city structure on No Name Creek.

The No Name work also included upgrades to a 1962 tunnel near the bottom of the creek, with new strainers and filters designed to remove bulky sediment before water reaches the treatment plant. The No Name work is ongoing but will be completed before the spring melt.

In addition to the intake repairs and upgrades, Glenwood Springs this month secured an $8 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The money was among the first awarded through the board’s 2020 Wildfire Impact Loan program, which streamlines funding for municipalities racing to protect watersheds after a wildfire. The program offers 30-year loans with no payment necessary for the first three years.

The $8 million will help design and construct new pipelines from the city’s pump station on the Roaring Fork River, which delivers water uphill to the Red Mountain Water Treatment Plant. Glenwood Springs has two water sources: the intake systems on No Name and Grizzly creeks and the pumps on the Roaring Fork River. The Roaring Fork water is a backup in case either of the intakes on the creeks above the Colorado River go down. But the intakes in Glenwood Canyon and the pumps on the Roaring Fork cannot run at the same time, and the city is building a second pipeline into the Red Mountain Water Treatment Plant so the two sources can deliver water simultaneously, if needed.

“This will give us a lot of resiliency moving into the future. Not just fire resiliency, but it gives us a lot of water resource resiliency,” said Matt Langhorst, the public works director for Glenwood Springs. “Having one water source is not acceptable. We need two or three and this would give us three.”

Glenwood Springs is applying for a Department of Local Affairs grant for the pipeline running from the Roaring Fork River, which would reduce its loan amount from the CWCB.

A third project, still part of that $8 million from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, will plan and construct a concrete basin above the Red Mountain Water Treatment plant that will mix water coming from the Grizzly Creek and No Name intakes with the water from the Roaring Fork River. The mixing basin helps remove sediment and creates a consistent type of water so technicians do not need to overhaul various treatment processes to accommodate different sources of water.

A fourth project — and the biggest — would upgrade the entire Red Mountain Water Treatment Plant, which has not been updated since 1977. An upgraded plant, with new technology, would be able to more quickly and efficiently remove sediment from higher volumes of incoming water…

Sprinkling special-made seeds

The Colorado Water Conservation Board’s emergency loan program was developed in response to the 2013 floods. The idea was to get emergency funds approved by the board ahead of time so communities do not have to wait through a prolonged application and review process. The board’s emergency loan program distributed $23 million in emergency watershed protection funding following the devastating floods in September 2013…

With the fire climbing out the canyon by the middle of September and the risk to crews reduced through communication plans and safety maps, Roberts’ BAER team of specialists started their work on emergency stabilization and long-term restoration.

They created a second burn severity map along with a satellite-derived data map of vegetation in the burn zone. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Landslide Hazards Program also created a similar map identifying areas where debris flow could be heaviest during a rainstorm.

The BAER team started hiking into the canyon, sometimes driving up to the top of the canyon and dropping in from above, and sometimes hiking up. They scoured the soil in burn areas for organic, woody debris and intact roots, which raise the likelihood of natural recovery. Roberts said new plants already are pushing through the charred topsoil.

“What we have seen to date is there is a lot of that organic material and native seed left in the soil that is allowing a lot to come back,” Roberts said, describing a patchy burn in a “mosaic” pattern. “We see good potential for recovery.”


Roberts and her team assisted the natural recovery process, sprinkling seeds as soon as rain and snow dampened the soil. They walked all the fire suppression lines where bulldozers hastily cleared entire swaths of forest and yanked out non-native weeds that took root. And they threw seeds everywhere.

Roberts collected native grass seed from the nearby Flat Tops to create a seed mix for Glenwood Canyon. The mix will produce resilient grasses that help stabilize soil and combat invasive weeds. The team’s reseeding of suppression lines is nearing completion as the snow piles deeper. The stabilization work will continue into next summer.

Emergency trail and road stabilization will pick up in the spring, when Roberts will move into the restoration phase, which includes aggressive mitigation to prevent non-native weeds and monitoring vegetation growth.

Researchers with Utah State University also joined Roberts in the field and launched a year-long study of how the Grizzly Creek Fire impacts runoff and erosion. The researchers expect the data — gathered from USGS gauges upstream and downstream of the burn zone as well as monitoring equipment inside the canyon — will help better calibrate the models used to predict debris flow in areas burned by wildfire.

#Colorado Latino Voters Want #Climate Action to Fuel Economic Rebound — Public News Service #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

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

From The Public News Service (Eric Galatas):

Latino voters, regardless of partisan differences, support legislation that makes real and lasting climate progress while also growing the economy, according to a new poll from Latino Decisions and Environmental Defense Fund Action.

Scientists have warned time is running out to change course to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, but Esther Sosa, diverse partners project manager with Environmental Defense Action Fund, said too often the focus has been on saving starving polar bears on melting icebergs.

The group’s new poll finds Colorado’s Latino residents — from communities located disproportionately in the shadows of refineries and coal-fired power plants — support policies to reduce pollution by switching to clean energy sources.

“We don’t talk enough about the people whose health and quality of life are harmed,” Sosa said. “The poll found that Latino voters understand the connection between a clean environment and their health.”

The poll says across the political spectrum, more than 90% of Colorado Latino voters want drinking water to be protected from contamination, and 82% want environmental protections reinstated that were rolled back under the Trump administration.

While the administration took steps to prevent job loss in the fossil-fuel sector, nearly 8 in 10 Latino voters want the next president and Congress to jump-start the post-COVID economy through long-term investments in clean energy, including wind and solar.

Latinos earning less than $50,000 a year who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic are more likely to support investments in clean-energy jobs. Sosa said Latino voters understand communities that have long relied on the fossil-fuel sector for good-paying jobs need other options…

Sosa said the poll contradicts long-held assumptions that working-class communities of color aren’t interested in environmental issues. She said it also confirms that communities forced to live in areas subject to air and water pollution, through redlining and other policies, care deeply about the environment and are concerned about further exposure to the worst impacts of climate change.

Socialism is a trigger word on social media – but real discussion is going on amid the screaming — The Conversation

‘Tug-of-words’ posts debating the merits of socialism versus capitalism are all over social media platforms.

Robert Kozinets, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

The word “socialism” has become a trigger word in U.S. politics, with both positive and negative perceptions of it split along party lines.

But what does socialism actually mean to Americans? Although surveys can ask individuals for responses to questions, they don’t reveal what people are saying when they talk among themselves.

As a social media scholar, I study conversations “in the wild” in order to find out what people are actually saying to one another. The method I developed is called netnography and it treats online posts as discourse – a continuing dialogue between real people – rather than as quantifiable data.

As part of an ongoing study on technology and utopia, I read through more than 14,000 social media comments posted on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube in 2018 and 2019. They came from 9,155 uniquely named posters.

What I found was both shocking and heartening.

Loyalty and fear

Both support for socialism and attacks on it appear to be on the rise.

Socialism can mean different things to people. Some see it as a system that institutionalizes fairness and citizen rights, bringing higher levels of social solidarity; others focus on heavy-handed government control of free markets that work more effectively when left alone. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, emphasized the right to quality health care, education, a good job with a living wage, affordable housing and a clean environment in a 2019 speech.

A 2019 Gallup Poll found that 39% of Americans have a favorable opinion of socialism – up from about 20% in 2010; 57% view it negatively.

Prominent elected “democratic socialist” officials include six Chicago City Council members, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders.

These and other advocates point to a version of socialism called the “Nordic model,” seen in countries like Denmark, which provide high-quality social services such as health care and education while fostering a strong economy.

Critics call socialism anti-American and charge that it undermines free enterprise and leads to disaster, often using the unrealistically extreme example of Venezuela.

President Trump has portrayed socialists as radical, lazy, America-hating communists. His son, Donald Trump Jr., has posted tweets ridiculing socialism.

During the 2020 election season, Republican Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell advised that his party could win by being a firewall against socialism. He was on point: Fear of socialism may have been a reason why the Republicans gained seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020.

A ‘tug of words’

Although I wasn’t initially looking for posts on socialism or capitalism, I found plenty of them in my online investigation. Many were what I call a “tug of words” in which people asserted which system was better. People from opposite ends of the political spectrum made pithy observations, posted one-liners or launched strong, emotionally worded broadsides. There was often little dialogue – those who posted were shouting at each other as if using a megaphone.

A YouTube commenter uses a megaphone-like approach to preach about the perils of socialism.
Screen shot by Robert Kozinets

I also found a large number of short, nonconversational, megaphone-like posts on visual social media like Instagram and Pinterest.

Some commentary on socialism on Pinterest.
Screen shot by Robert Kozinets

But some people were more circumspect. While they were often reactive or one-sided, they raised questions. For example, people questioned whether business bailouts, grants, lobbying or special tax treatment showed that capitalism’s “free markets” weren’t actually all that free.

Making a historical economic argument against socialism and its slippery slope to totalitarianism.
Robert Kozinets’ data collection

And some considered what “socialism” actually means to people, linking that meaning to race, nationality and class.

The meaning of socialism discussed on Twitter.
Screen shot by Robert Kozinets

Overcoming primitive ‘isms’

Amid all the sound and fury of people shouting from their virtual soapboxes, there were also the calmer voices of those engaging in deeper discussions. These people debated socialism, capitalism and free markets in relation to health care, child care, minimum wage and other issues that affected their lives.

One YouTube discussion explored the notion that we should stop viewing everything “through the primitive lens of the nonsensical ‘isms’ – capitalism, socialism, communism – which have no relevance in a sustainable or socially just and peaceful world.”

Other discussions united both left and right by asserting that the real problem was corruption in the system, not the system itself. Some used social media to try to overcome the ideological blinders of partisan politics. For example, they argued that raising the minimum wage or improving education might be sensible management strategies that could help the economy and working Americans at the same time.

This Reddit post explores the benefits of changes that some might label as socialist.
Screen shot by Robert Kozinets.

New forum for discussions

As America’s post-election divisions fester, my work gives me reason for hope. It shows that some Americans – still a small minority, mind you – are thoughtfully using popular social media platforms to have meaningful discussions. What I have provided here is just a small sample of the many thoughtful conversations I encountered.

My analysis of social media doesn’t deny that many people are angry and polarized over social systems. But it has revealed that a significant number of people recognize that labels like socialism, free markets and capitalism have become emotional triggers, used by some journalists and politicians to manipulate, incite and divide.

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To unify and move forward together, we may need to better understand the sites and discussion formats that facilitate this kind of thoughtful discourse. If partisans retreat to echo chamber platforms like Parler and Rumble, will these kinds of intelligent conversations between people with diverse viewpoints cease?

As Americans confront the financial challenges of a pandemic, automation, precarious employment and globalization, providing forums where we can discuss divergent ideas in an open-minded rather than an ideological way may make a critical difference to the solutions we choose. Many Americans are already using digital platforms to discuss options, rather than being frightened away by – or attacking – the tired old socialist bogeyman.The Conversation

Robert Kozinets, Jayne and Hans Hufschmid Chair in Strategic Public Relations and Business Communication, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

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

Call this a mega-recycling project – News on TAP

A whopping 81% of construction waste was diverted from landfills and delivered to processors who specialize in finding a second life for the material.

Source: Call this a mega-recycling project – News on TAP