George Sibley resigns from Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District — The Gunnison Country Times #GunnisonRiver

“My name is George, and I’m a recovering writer.”
Credit: George Sibley via his Facebook page.

From the Upper Gunnison Water Conservancy District (Sonja Chavez) via The Gunnison Country Times:

Board loses esteemed water leader

After 14 years of service at the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District, George Sibley stepped down from the district’s board earlier this month.

Sibley, 79, cited his health and age as the reasons for his decision. Upper Gunnison General Manager Sonja Chaves and Board President Michelle Piece received a letter from Sibley on Feb. 9 notifying them that his resignation was effective immediately.

“I’ve got some stress-related health issues, nothing very serious, but I’m also almost 80; it was just time to cut back on some of my involvements, and make sure I get some other personal things done I’m working on,” Sibley said Tuesday.

Chavez said Sibley and his persistence in asking difficult questions will be missed at the Upper Gunnison.

“George has so much historical and institutional knowledge of water issues on the Westerm Slope,” Chavez said. “I didn’t always agree with George, but I appreciate that he pushed those difficult conversations!’

Sibley was the Upper Gunnison’s board secretary and served on a handful of committees at the time of his resignation.

The Upper Gunnison’s Board of Directors formally thanked Sibley by passing a resolution acknowledging his service. The resolution notes Sibley’s decades of writing about water, including “Water Wranglers,” which was published in 2012 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Colorado River District, as well as his role in organizing the Colorado Water Workshop, one of the premiere meetings of water policymakers in the Western U.S.

“We will miss him dearly,” said Upper Gunnison board Vice President Stacy McPhail during the board’s meeting Tuesday.

Board member John Perusek fills Sibley’s role as secretary. The Upper Gunnison will advertise the vacancy for 45 days ahead of the Upper Gunnison’s June 28 annual meeting. Applicants will need to be residents of the City of Gunnison since Sibley represented the city’s district on the board. Applicant letters will be forwarded to Seventh Judicial District Judge Steven Patrick. In accordance with the Upper Gunnison’s founding statute, Patrick will make the appointment decision.

Iconic Venetucci Farm to be reborn — full of color — The #ColoradoSprings Gazette #PFAS

Ventucci Farm pumpkin harvest back in the day. Photo credit: Facebook.com

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Debbie Kelley):

By summer, fields of peonies, dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos and some 40 other varieties of flowers will shimmer in the sun and bend in the breeze.

A pergola will become a cut-flower processing center. An old tuberculosis hut will be transformed into a flower stand.

The renovated barn will host weddings and community events, the empty pig pen will be converted into bachelor’s quarters and the former chicken coop will serve as an outdoor reception area…

Children will be able to pick a Pueblo-grown pumpkin during a fall festival, with hayrides and activities planned for every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October.

“This is one of those places that people have good memories, and that’s one of the things that’s driving my desire to be involved — for people to be in the moment and make memories again,” said Nikki McComsey, owner of Gather Mountain Blooms.

McComsey is leasing a portion of the farm and managing the property, which in the 1930s was bought by the family of the late Nick and Bambi Venetucci and now is overseen by two local philanthropic foundations.

The aged fields, where thousands of pumpkins that were given away grew plump, beans and peas could be plucked from the vine and immediately savored, and grass-fed cows, pastured pigs and productive hens roamed, have lain barren for nearly five years.

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

Unforeseen contamination of the Widefield aquifer, which was saturated with perfluorinated compounds originating from firefighting foam used at Peterson Air Force Base, forced the farm to stop selling edible goods in 2016.

Revenue dried up along with the plants…

The farm’s primary source of income had been selling water from four of its seven wells to the Fountain Valley’s three water districts, said Samuel Clark, executive director of Pikes Peak Real Estate Foundation.

Water leasing netted the farm $260,000 in 2016, Clark said.

Lost revenue from produce and other consumables sold at farmers’ markets ranged from $30,000 to $190,000 annually, he said.

But the farm is poised to become bountiful once again.

After years of working with the Air Force and area water districts, Venetucci’s wells this week were connected to a new filtration system rendering water from the aquifer safe to use, according to Roy Heald, general manager of Security Water and Sanitation District.

Big questions loom after inspection of #GrizzlyCreekFire burn scar — The #Aspen Times

From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Grizzly Creek Fire covered 32,631 acres before it was officially deemed contained Dec. 18. It shut down Interstate 70 for two weeks after it ignited on Aug. 10. It threatened Glenwood Springs’ water supply and forced the closure of popular hiking trails and rafting put-ins.

The disruption likely isn’t finished.

“We’re going to learn a lot this summer,” said Steve Hunter, a former engineer with the White River National Forest and member of the Burn Area Emergency Response team, or BAER. That group of scientists and specialists started assessing the Grizzly Creek burn area for soil burn severity and potential problems areas for flooding and debris flows even before the fire was out.

Hunter discussed the role of the BAER team and the major issues facing the Grizzly Creek Fire burn scar during a videoconference Thursday night hosted by Roaring Fork Conservancy, a Basalt nonprofit that explores all issues related to water in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The BAER team’s work helped determined that 12% of the terrain within the perimeter of the fire suffered a high level of burn severity. That means all or nearly all of the pre-fire ground cover and surface organic matter was consumed. The soil became hardened and will shed water instead of absorb it.

Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) specialists recently completed their data gathering and verification field work of the Grizzly Creek Fire burn area. The Soil Burn Severity map has been finalized. Soil Burn Severity levels are Unburned, Low, Moderate, and High. The map shows that in the Grizzly Creek Fire area, approximately 45% of the 32,370 acres analyzed by the BAER team is either unburned (12%) or low (33%) soil burn severity, while 43% sustained a moderate soil burn severity, and 12% burned at high soil burn severity. Map credit: Inciweb

Firefighters did a remarkable job protecting two of the major drainages from the fire. No Name Creek, which drains down into a residential area, was only 8% burned. Grizzly Creek was 14% burned. Terrain in other catchments was up to 40% burned.

The areas that suffered the most fire damage may be most susceptible to flooding, debris flows and rock falls. The Glenwood Canyon walls are steep, Hunter said.

Many of the roots and vegetation that anchored rocks and dirt have disappeared. So a canyon that was susceptible to rock falls events even before the fire is even riper now…

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

Several steps have already been taken to try to gauge the risks and provide tools to warn about threats to Interstate 70, utilities in the Colorado River corridor and homes in populated parts of the canyon.

Numerous rain gauges were installed high up the canyon walls to help foresee flash flooding potential. The U.S. Geological Survey has run hydrologic modeling and runoff for major drainages within the burn area. (The website wasn’t operating properly Friday.) The U.S. Service assessed areas where culverts need to be cleared, repaired and even enlarged to handle expected debris flows…

At this point, the Forest Service does not plan to reseed significant acreage within the burn area. One hurdle is the terrain itself. Sending hand crews up the steep slopes is not practical or safe and it would be difficult to seed by airplane…

Where access isn’t as big of a challenge, the Forest Service will monitor conditions to determine if terrain can be managed for natural recovery. In other areas, such as the interstate right-of-way and at trailheads, the Forest Service is working on reseeding with the Colorado Department of Transportation…

Places where firebreaks were cut by bulldozers or hand crews, for example, need soil amendments at the least to help natural vegetation grow back. Some of those areas may also need to be seeded.

The Forest Service has also secured funding for trail and road stabilization. Some of the work started last fall and will continue when the snow melts out.