With nearly two-thirds of the United States abnormally dry or worse, the government’s spring forecast offers little hope for relief, especially in the West where a devastating megadrought has taken root and worsened.
Weather service and agriculture officials warned of possible water use cutbacks in California and the Southwest, increased wildfires, low levels in key reservoirs such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell and damage to wheat crops.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s official spring outlook Thursday sees an expanding drought with a drier than normal April, May and June for a large swath of the country from Louisiana to Oregon. including some areas hardest hit by the most severe drought. And nearly all of the continental United States is looking at warmer than normal spring, except for tiny parts of the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska, which makes drought worse…
NOAA expects the spring drought to hit 74 million people…
Thursday’s national Drought Monitor shows almost 66% of the nation is in an abnormally dry condition, the highest mid-March level since 2002. And forecasters predict that will worsen, expanding in parts of Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota, with small islands of relief in parts of the Great Lakes and New England.
More than 44% of the nation is in moderate or worse drought, and nearly 18% is in extreme or exceptional drought — all of it west of the Mississippi River. Climate scientists are calling what’s happening in the West a “megadrought” that started in 1999…
With the Sierra Nevada snowpack only 60% of normal levels, U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist Brad Rippey said “there will be some water cutbacks and allocation cutbacks in California and perhaps other areas of the Southwest” for agriculture and other uses. It will probably hit nut crops in the Golden State.
Winter and spring wheat crops also have been hit hard by the western drought with 78% of the spring wheat production area in drought conditions, Rippey said.
The dry, warm conditions the upcoming months likely will bring “an enhanced wildfire season,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief of NOAA’s prediction branch.
Swain of UCLA said the wildfires probably will not be as bad as 2020 because so much vegetation already has burned and drought conditions retarded regrowth. Last year, he said, wildfire was so massive it will be hard to exceed, though this fire season likely will be above average.
Drought and heat breed a vicious cycle. When it’s this dry, less of the sun’s energy goes to evaporating soil moisture because it’s not as wet, Swain said. That leaves more of the energy to heat up the air, and the heat makes the drought worse by boosting evaporation…
In the next week or two, parts of the central United States may get pockets of heavy rain, but the question is whether that will be enough to make up for large rain deficits in the High Plains from the past year, Nebraska state climatologist Martha Shulski said.
The drought’s flip side is that for the first time in three years, NOAA is projecting zero major spring flooding, with smaller amounts of minor and moderate flooding.
FromThe High Country News [March 18, 2021] (Graham Lee Brewer):
On her first official day in office, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland met briefly with a group of 10 Indigenous journalists from national, local and tribal publications, including High Country News. The press conference, which was organized by the Interior Department and the Native American Journalists Association, appears to be a sign of the kind of increased access Haaland is willing to offer tribal media. As Haaland, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna, has noted many times, both in her capacity as a member of Congress and a Cabinet nominee, she intends to make tribal concerns and regular consultation a significant part of her agenda. Here are some highlights from the half-hour session:
• Haaland spoke directly about her desire to involve tribes in federal decision-making in a new and unprecedented way. Tribal governments have long felt overlooked when it comes to consultation on federal contracts and land-management decisions, and their opinions have often been outright dismissed. Haaland said that she is determined to end that cycle. “So often everyone thinks that the BIA is the only location where Indian issues should be addressed, and we know that’s not true. Indian issues need to be addressed across the entire government.” She added that it’s important to consult with tribes early in any process, before decisions are made, and to give them proper access — no longer restricting public comments to online forums, for example, particularly when the tribal community in question might have limited broadband access. “I want the era when tribes were on the back burner to be over.”
• Tribal consultation also came up concerning the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting 30% of the country’s lands and water by the year 2030. Haaland touched on the necessity to revisit the boundaries of Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears national monuments, as well as of New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon National Historical Park, an area that is part of some important ancestral homelands, including her own. Haaland said that management decisions have to be made between all the parties involved, including the public and tribes. “I know that a lot of people rely on pristine environment for the outdoor economy industry that is all over this country, so I think taking a balanced approach is absolutely something that we would like to do.”
• Assistant Secretary to the Interior Brian Newland, a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community (Ojibwe), also participated in the press briefing, and he indicated that the tribal recognition process — through which tribes seek federal recognition and access to federal funding and cultural protections — could evolve under Haaland’s tenure as well. “The department is consulting right now on a remand from two federal courts to look at whether tribes can petition again after they’ve been denied federal recognition from the department. We’ve gotten some feedback from the tribal consultation process and is something we are actively working on.” He added that the Biden administration is making it a priority to examine how lands are moved into federal trust, which is the process by which tribes turn private land into tribal-held land within their jurisdiction.
• Haaland shared an interesting anecdote from her early discussion with U.S. Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican and citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, regarding the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to restore the reservation of the Muskogee (Creek) Nation. The decision has rippled across eastern Oklahoma and will likely lead to the restoration of four other reservations. Haaland said that, after the decision, she called Cole to ask for his advice; an Oklahoma court decision this month reaffirmed the Chickasaw Nation’s reservation boundaries. “He said, ‘Let the tribes talk it out, let the tribes come to their own decision, they should not have any interference from Congress at this point. They need to be able to make their own decision.’ So, I want to respect tribes in every possible way.” Oklahoma’s attorney general, members of its congressional delegation, and some tribes, including the Chickasaw Nation, believe that Congress should play a role in resolving the lingering issues created when the state of Oklahoma, for over a century, illegally assumed criminal jurisdiction over the land in question.
• Haaland also made what appeared to be her first public comments about the citizenship of Freedmen, the descendants of those formerly held in the bondage of slavery by tribes; she has been criticized for co-sponsoring the reauthorization of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act in 2019, which excluded Freedmen descendants from housing assistance. Haaland acknowledged the complicated nature of the issue, noting that even some of her immediate family members cannot enroll in her tribe due to the Pueblo of Laguna’s citizenship requirements. Haaland said the housing bill must be reauthorized constantly to assist tribes. “Largely, for me, it is seen as a positive thing, helping tribes to navigate those issues so that they can provide.” She said she’s open to speaking with tribal governments that want to discuss the issue and is eager to “respect the tribes’ sovereignty and authority to determine membership.”
• In her opening remarks, Haaland spoke of the devastating effects COVID-19 has had on Indigenous communities, noting that more than 80% of the Interior employees who died from the disease had worked in offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A spokesperson for Interior later confirmed that 26 of the agency’s employees had died from the virus, and that 22 of them had been working in Indian Affairs.
Graham Lee Brewer is an associate editor at High Country News and a member of the Cherokee Nation. Email him at email@example.com.
In an odd way, Boulder and Kremmling have a common bond. The school districts headquartered in the two places are the first in Colorado to have electric school buses.
First was the electric bus for the Boulder Valley School District, which rolled out in early March. The bus for the West Grand School District arrived in Kremmling on Wednesday afternoon and will be placed in service in early April.
Many more will be following across Colorado, as state aid has been approved for 14 buses. The grant program taps Colorado’s $67.5 million share of the Volkswagen settlement.
As for these first two districts, they’re very different. Boulder Valley has 30,000, West Grand 408 students drawn from Kremmling and outlying routes up the various valleys: the Muddy, Troublesome, Williams Fork, and Blue, as well as along the Colorado River to Parshall.
Darrin M. Peppard, the superintendent of schools at West Grand, credits activism by both Mountain Parks Electric, the local electrical cooperative, and the Boulder school district.
“We were notified by Mountain Parks Electric about the Volkswagen settlement funds grant. We weren’t entirely sure—an electric bus, our high altitude, the cold temperature. How is that really going to function?”
What sold West Grand was a trip to Boulder. The school district there had arranged to have an electric bus hauled from a school district in North Dakota. “It was a cold, cold, snowy day in Boulder—which was perfect,” says Peppard. “They fired up the bus, and the cabin temperature warmed much more rapidly than a diesel bus would in December.”
Making the electric bus even more attractive was the cost: nothing. West Grand got a grant for $301,000 from the state program. Mountain Parks Electric contributed $70,000 and Tri-State Generation and Transmission, the wholesale supplier for Mountain Parks, added $50,000. This includes the cost of the bus but also the electrical infrastructure at the bus barn for charging.
Chris Michalowski, the power use advisor at Mountain Parks, says the co-op’s capital funds—unclaimed credits of members who died or have left—were tapped to fund the bus. But the bus fits in with a broader goal of Mountain Parks to encourage transportation electrification.
“This is a great way to do that. It’s highly visible, easily recognizable, on the road twice a day,” he says. And that influence of the electric bus will encourage the parents of the bus riders to buy electric.
West Grand has changed little since the 1970s when this writer lived there. It is ranch country, but the largest employer is the molybdenum mill near the head of the Williams Fork Valley.
This new 78-passenger electric bus will have a route that runs 20 to 25 miles twice a day “up” the Blue River Valley, not quite to Green Mountain Reservoir.
The buses officially have a range of 120 miles. That said, when it was driven to Kremmling on Wednesday it was charged in Golden and again in Frisco.
Community reaction has been one of intrigue, Peppard says. “Is it going to work? Is it going to be OK? People are eagerly anticipating answers to those questions, and we are confident that it will be great.”
He expects the first surprise to be when people board the bus. “It’s extremely quiet.”
In Boulder County, the school district will study operation of its electric bus with an eye on cost savings. The district has 255 buses
ALT Fuels Colorado has been delivering grants for several years for electric and other vehicles that replace diesel vehicles 2009 or older. To be eligible, there must be a one-to-one trade-out.
The Vail Valley Foundation also was given $209,000 for an electric shuttle bus at the same time. Other school districts were given money for propane-burning buses.
Arriving as governor in January 2019, Jared Polis shifted funding, steering all Colorado’s $67.5 million share of the Volkswagen settlement into electric and renewable natural gas.
For example, both Waste Management and Western Disposal Services got grants for garbage trucks that will burn renewable natural gas, the latter from a sewage treatment plant in Boulder.
Grants have also been approved for electric buses: Steamboat Springs, Denver, Aspen (Country Day), and Durango. Aurora Public Schools have gotten funding for 7.
The city of Fort Collins has also received funding for an electric bus.
Matt Goble, program coordinator for ALT Fuels Colorado, says there’s a significant lag time between when a bus is ordered and when it is delivered. “Right now, there is a 6 to 8 month best-scenario,” he says.
Durango’s award may be unique in that the school district is partnering with La Plata Electric to do bus-to-grid charging. (A story coming in another issue of Big Pivots).
FromColorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas):
Aurora and Colorado Springs want to bring more of that water to their growing cities, which are the state’s largest after Denver. To do that, they want to dam up Whitney Creek in Eagle County south of Minturn and create a reservoir that could supply water for thousands of new homes…
There are a few different spots along the creek that could be the home to the proposed Whitney Reservoir. The largest of the potential sites would hold about 20,000 acre-feet of water…
Tension between protecting wetlands and securing more water for growing cities
[Jerry] Mallett’s group works to restore and protect areas like this one — a wetland with fox and moose tracks in the snow.
Mallett has fought Aurora and Colorado Springs before. After these cities teamed up and built Homestake Reservoir in the 1960s, they tried to build the reservoir Homestake II. That project was shut down in the 1990s.
“We’re not saying you shouldn’t grow or that you’ve got to control the population, that’s your issue,” Mallett said. “Ours is protecting the natural resources for other values.”
Aurora and Colorado Springs are working together because they have the same problem: Planners don’t think they have enough water where they are to support the cities’ expected growth. If the cities get their way and dam up Homestake Creek, it would reduce the amount of water that ends up in the Colorado River — which the Front Range and some 40 million people have come to rely on over the decades…
That’s changed, Mallett said. West Slope communities now see water as a crucial part of keeping their economies alive and now fight for it to stay. Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan represents seven counties that include communities like Aspen and Crested Butte. In a letter opposing the project, Donovan wrote that, “she can’t express how sternly the people in her district dislike water diversion projects to the front range.
“West Slope is not in a position I think today where they’re going to roll over and say, ‘Fine, we’ll lose that water,’” Mallett said. “I think they’ve got the political clout now, it’s a new game.”
If Colorado Springs and Aurora secure permits to build the Whitney Reservoir, it would be the first major trans-mountain water diversion project in decades…
Environmentalists are concerned about losing these wetlands, which are threatened by climate change. Delia Malone, an ecologist and wildlife chair of the Colorado Chapter of the Sierra Club, said most animals rely on wetlands…
Malone said the proposed reservoir locations could include areas that are home to fens, a type of wetland that is rare in the arid West and supports plant biodiversity. Fens have layers of peat, require thousands of years to develop and are replenished by groundwater. Fens also trap environmental carbon, improve water quality and store water…
Colorado and other states are obligated to send a certain amount of water downstream to states like California because of a century-old agreement. As the Colorado River dries with climate change, and more demand is put on the river, Udall said there’s higher risk for what’s called a “compact call,” a provision that gives downstream states like California authority to demand water from upstream states like Colorado for not sending enough water down the Colorado River.
If that happens, Udall said newer Colorado water projects — including the proposed Whitney Reservoir — could have to cut their usage to make sure enough water is sent downstream.
[Brad] Udall said the best available science is needed to answer the question: Is this water better left in the river or sent to Aurora and Colorado Springs?
“The science really does need to be heard here,” Udall said. “It’s somewhat disturbing and is very different from the science that we used in the 20th century to assess the value and benefits of these kinds of projects.”
Officials in Colorado Springs and Aurora declined CPR News’ interview requests.
Before the cities can move towards building the reservoir, the U.S. Forest Service has to sign off on structural testing and surveying which requires drilling test holes in the wetlands. A decision is expected later this month on that permit, which has received more than 500 public comments, with most arguing against the drilling and the project as a whole.
From the Water Education Colorado Blog (Willow Cozzens, Samantha Grant, Amelia Nill, and Andrew Primo):
This is the second blog post in a series on diversity, equity and inclusion in Colorado agricultural water planning. Find the first post here.
As discussed in our previous post, Colorado has an exciting opportunity to create a truly sustainable future for residents by making its water plan update process more inclusive. There are at least three groups that have been historically excluded from Colorado statewide agricultural water planning: the Colorado Ute tribes, those who operate under acequia management systems, and urban agriculture producers. While these groups have been included at an interstate level and at the local level through the Basin Roundtables, intrastate coordination and statewide inclusion of these folks is in need of improvement.
The 2015 Colorado Water Plan (CWP) acknowledges federally recognized tribes within Colorado and their federally reserved water rights, these important topics are only covered at a high level without in-depth examination of more local nuances. Additionally, the term acequia is mentioned only once in the entire 2015 CWP, in a footnote of a farmer profile.
Colorado should thoughtfully integrate more explicit inclusion for these groups not only in the Colorado Water Plan 2022 update, but also within the Interbasin Compact Committee, the Colorado Water Congress, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The CWCB has made efforts to initiate more inclusion in the CWP update process through the newly announced Equity Committee. This Committee will constitute two representatives from each of the nine river basins, plus one representative from each of the two Colorado Ute tribes. The true purposes and outcomes from this committee, however, remain to be seen. To create a more thoughtful and equitable Colorado water planning process, the equity committee must focus on creating robust measures for water justice in each element of the Colorado Water Plan Update.
This post will focus particularly on agricultural stakeholders who have been excluded from Colorado water planning. The following sections will provide background and discussion for the three groups identified. While these groups are related in that they were not adequately included in the 2015 CWP, each community is quite distinct. Both acequia water management systems and tribal water users have a rich history in Colorado that must not be ignored in planning discussions. Separately, urban agriculture, while not entirely novel, is a rapidly emerging practice in Colorado’s cities and may serve as an important tool not only to preserve agricultural viability but also to facilitate water stewardship and education. These three communities each have uniquely valuable and important perspectives on regional water issues in the state and should be given specific consideration in the planning process.
Acequias in Colorado
For communities in Colorado and northern New Mexico, an acequia is a physical system, an irrigation ditch, but it is also a deeply embedded philosophy of community and governance. The philosophy revolves around loyalty to the community and a common understanding that water is both a shared resource and a shared responsibility. This ideology has shaped relationships between humans and the environment for centuries in Colorado, creating a resilient natural and cultural system that supports families, communities, and the food system.
Acequia water management systems have been largely excluded in Colorado’s state water planning process, despite the fact that there are thousands of acres of acequias between Colorado’s Rio Grande and Arkansas River Basins. Among the Statewide Water Supply Initiatives, the 2015 Colorado Water Plan, the 2017 Technical Update, and the 2019 Ripple Effects Report, the word acequia is mentioned only once一in a footnote in the 2015 Plan. Acequias are briefly discussed in the 2015 Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan, and they are not mentioned in the 2015 Arkansas Basin Implementation Plan.
Acequia stakeholders are often absent from statewide planning process meetings and forums. The newly established Colorado Water Equity Task Force does not include any representation for acequia stakeholders. Excluding acequias from the Colorado water planning process shuns an entire population of Coloradans一primarily farmers of color一from statewide water planning and funding. Farmers and others who operate under acequia management must be recognized and included in the statewide planning process for the 2022 CWP update.
Colorado water planners may look to acequia management in New Mexico to model pathways for inclusion. Despite the similarities in culture and natural resource demands in the San Luis Valley, Colorado’s and New Mexico’s governance approaches to acequias are starkly different. Acequia recognition has been written into New Mexico law since the mid-19th century. Furthermore, throughout New Mexico’s statewide water plan, almost every time that agriculture or irrigation is discussed, so are acequias. For example, as mentioned above, the culture of shared scarcity that underlies acequias is crucial to farmers in times of drought. New Mexico’s Water Plan explicitly acknowledges this strength, illustrating that this type of water sharing should be encouraged to support holistic agricultural viability. Colorado water planning could benefit from a similar outlook on the resilience of acequias.
Though the 2009 Colorado Acequia Recognition Statute codified that acequias hold unique powers and rights under Colorado water law, the statute only allows acequias with written bylaws to have the special powers and unique rights recognized under Colorado law. This can be a barrier for acequia communities, as some producers may not have the means to hire a lawyer to draft legally acceptable bylaws. New Mexico’s Water Plan also discusses how the state supports acequia bylaw creation. Such programs are absent in Colorado, where acequia users rely on non-governmental organizations and academic institutions, such as the Getches-Wilkinson Center Acequia Assistance Project and the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, rather than on funds directly from the state.
Colorado water planners should consult with stakeholders within Colorado’s acequia communities on how to best include planning and funding for acequias in statewide water management. Historically, the relationship between acequia managers in the San Luis Valley and in the Arkansas Basin with the Colorado Water Conservation Board has not been the strongest. CWCB should be inclined to add another seat to the equity committee specifically for acequia representation to try to remedy this historic exclusion.
Colorado Ute Tribes
The Ute peoples are the oldest continuous inhabitants of the land now called Colorado. They have been intimately tied to the waters of the region for many centuries, long before incursion by European colonizers and settlers. However, beginning in the mid-19th century, the United States federal and Colorado state governments began systematically dispossessing the Ute people of their land and separating them from their sources of water.
By the end of the 19th century, the only three bands of Ute peoples remaining in the state had been relegated to its southwest corner, in what are now the Southern Ute Indian and Ute Mountain Ute reservations. Although the Ute people had been gradually pressured to adopt a settled agricultural lifestyle, they were removed to some of the least suitable lands for agriculture in the state.
Despite these setbacks, both tribes have fostered successful agricultural communities on their reservations; the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s Farm and Ranch Enterprise, for instance, has been repeatedly recognized at both state and national levels for its products.
Much has been done in the last 30 years to address some of the historical inequities created by the separation of the Colorado Ute Tribes from their ancestral lands and traditional water sources. The 1988 Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act and subsequent 2000 Amendments clarified and quantified the Tribes’ reserved rights and authorized a reduced Animas-La Plata Project as well as deliveries from McPhee Reservoir to provide a reliable source of water to the tribes. Both tribes are active members of the Southwest Basin Roundtable and are represented on the Colorado Water Equity Task Force, and the importance of Tribal reserved rights is addressed in the 2015 Water Plan.
Both tribes, however, still face significant supply and infrastructure challenges, as detailed in the 2018 Colorado River Basin Ten Tribes Partnership Tribal Water Study. Some of these infrastructure projects, such as the Pine River Indian Irrigation Project, are nominally maintained by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs, although that agency’s budget and staffing challenges make adequate upkeep difficult.
As holders of federal reserved water rights, the Southern Ute Indian and the Ute Mountain Ute tribes are invaluable partners to the State of Colorado and the Southwest Basin in addressing water management challenges, particularly issues of interstate compact compliance. Much of the groundwork for this partnership has been laid in the Ten Tribes Partnership Study, which provides detailed data on the challenges faced by the Colorado Ute Tribes, as well as opportunities that working closely with the tribes can provide state and regional water planners. The study provides an excellent starting point for addressing the challenges faced by the tribes and highlights their importance in addressing the water challenges faced by the State and the region.
Given the challenges and opportunities posed by the tribes’ unique water rights and the long history of oppression and exclusion of Indigenous peoples by both the federal and state governments, particular considerations of equity and justice must be extended to the Colorado Ute Tribes in regards to water issues. This is particularly important because tribes’ vital cultural, spiritual, and ceremonial uses are often not adequately addressed in Western legal and economic structures.
Careful, intentional, and respectful consultation with the tribes一as well as inclusion in statewide deliberative water planning processes一is essential to developing a robust understanding of their needs, as well as the cultural significance and intended uses of water.
Urban agriculture (UA) is most simply defined as “all forms of agricultural production occurring within or around cities.” In any given urban area, this may include quite a variety of operations and projects, including ground-based outdoor gardens and farms, indoor hydroponic or aquaponic growing, rooftop gardens and farms, landscaping and nurseries, urban livestock, and more. The sector is growing as cities become home to more UA-focused organizations, citizens get more creative with urban landscapes, and policies incentivize green infrastructure. Such programs or policies are often intended to promote public health, economic development, and enhance socio-ecological relationships.
Over time, UA has taken on a new form and meaning. With connections now to social justice and environmental sustainability, urban farming has taken root in countless large and small city centers across the nation, oftentimes appearing in the form of community gardens, rooftop gardens, and greenhouses. UA is not recognized in the Colorado Water Plan, or many other western state water plans, despite its growing popularity across the nation. UA offers a multitude of exciting opportunities to foster resilience within western water planning and our food systems.
Regardless of the form it takes, all UA operations require water. Water resources may be utilized on a wide spectrum of UA irrigation tactics一from traditional flood irrigation in peri-urban fields to precision application in a vertical farm. The increasing prevalence of UA operations in Colorado cities requires more attention from water planners, especially as food production technology advances and local food becomes more popular among citizens. The CWP update should not only provide support for both existing operations, but also recognize the potential water-efficient food production in the future of UA. This will be especially important as Colorado could see a shifting food system in the face of climate change and urbanization. The current trajectory of UA could provide a significant contribution to water resilience planning and food production for Colorado.
Though this growth may represent an exciting shift in the food system, it is crucial to recognize UA’s capacity for exacerbating environmental injustices. Often, initiatives led by non-residents may be detrimental to local communities. This is especially prevalent when mostly young, white non-residents have led initiatives in predominantly Black and/or Latinx neighborhoods, “unintentionally excluding people of color from participating in or reaping the benefits of such efforts.” Furthermore, residents of lower-income communities and/or people of color are more likely to experience difficulty accessing land, funding, and political support for UA projects than white and middle class individuals or organizations. Therefore, in order to avoid perpetuating injustice, UA implementation must be nuanced and place-based. A successful and anti-racist CWP update will recognize possible inequities and provide support for urban residents to facilitate UA projects within their own neighborhoods.
This overview intends to provide the background and ethics necessary to integrate the Colorado Ute Tribes, acequias, and urban agriculture considerations into the Colorado Water Plan update. In an effort to begin the process of elevating voices of underrepresented communities, this research team hosted a virtual listening session and working meeting for water planning professionals and UA stakeholders. This event was meant to serve as a platform for stakeholder and administrator collaboration with the goal of creating a more equitable and inclusive CWP update. Our next post will detail the process and results of this meeting.