The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have released the initial results of exposure assessments conducted in communities near current or former military bases known to have had per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their drinking water.
Individuals who participated in the assessments provided blood and urine samples to CDC and ATSDR for analysis. The assessment focused on El Paso County near Peterson Air Force Base, in the Fountain Valley and Security-Widefield areas.
The assessments measured the levels of three specific PFAS chemicals in 346 residents’ bodies: PFOS, PFHxS, and PFOA, and found levels higher than in the general U.S. population, as measured by National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Most people in the United States have been exposed to PFAS and have PFAS in their blood…
While levels of PFOA and PFOS chemicals were only slightly higher than the general population, levels of PFHxS in El Paso County residents were higher than any other population surveyed, except the people who manufactured the chemicals in Alabama. “What we’ve been fighting for, for five years, is identifying how contaminated we are from the toxic firefighting foam, the PFHxS,” said Rosenbaum. “We are highly contaminated in El Paso County.”
The most recent results from the CDC and ATSDR were presented alongside results from the 2018 and 2019 PFAS Aware study conducted by the Colorado School of Public Health, and showed a slight decrease in PFAS levels overall. “[PFAS Aware] did a 200 person blood study and then a final 50,” said Rosenbaum. “I was in the 200 and the final 50, and my levels dropped from 19 [micrograms per liter, μg/L] to 12 [μg/L]. You can see just how high we are from 2019, and it’s dropping a little by 2020, because as we’re not drinking this water, it’s not bio-accumulating in our system. What’s been in our system is slowly filtering out as we go to the bathroom.”
Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):
Due to critically low water flow caused by dry conditions and minimal snowpack levels, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) will implement a mandatory fishing closure on a 0.6-mile stretch of the Yampa River between the dam at Stagecoach State Park downstream to the lowermost park boundary.
The closure begins May 25 and will continue until further notice.
“Should the flow rate increase substantially for a continuous period of time, CPW will re-evaluate the emergency fishing closure,” said CPW Senior Aquatic Biologist Lori Martin. “But because of the current conditions, we need to take this course of action now.”
CPW works closely with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District (UYWCD), who owns and operates Stagecoach Reservoir, to stay informed on reservoir releases and monitor drought conditions. UYWCD is finalizing a contract with the Colorado Water Trust for environmental releases later in the year.
“Timing (environmental releases) is critical to the health of the river system,” said UYWCD General Manager Andy Rossi. “We manage the reservoir and collaborate with our partners to ensure that water is available and legal mechanisms are in place to release water when the river needs it most. Unfortunately, flows are already low, but hot and dry summer months are still to come,” said Rossi.
Water releases are currently only at 20% of average, and will be dropping to less than 15% of average for this time period. When water flows are minimal, fish become concentrated in residual pool habitat and become stressed due to increased competition for food resources. The fish become much easier targets for anglers, an added stressor that can result in increased hooking mortality.
“We are trying to be as proactive as possible to protect the outstanding catch-and-release fishery we have downstream of Stagecoach Reservoir,” said CPW Area Aquatic Biologist Bill Atkinson. “This stretch of the river receives a tremendous amount of fishing pressure, especially in the spring when other resources might not be as accessible. This emergency closure is an effort to protect the resource by giving the fish a bit of a reprieve as they can become quite stressed during these extreme low-flow conditions. This spring we have not witnessed a spike in flows, which can offer fish protection and allow them to recoup energy following the spring spawn season.”
CPW advises anglers to find alternative areas to fish until the order is rescinded. Many other local areas will become more fishable soon as runoff tapers down. Several area lakes are also opening and should be fishing well.
CPW asks for cooperation from anglers, who should be aware the mandatory fishing closure will be enforced by law with citations issued for anyone violating the order.
Wildlife officials warn when a fish population is significantly affected by low stream flows or other unfavorable environmental conditions, it could take several years for it to fully recover if not protected. Given the extreme drought conditions we are currently faced with, other stretches of river in this area may be subject to additional closures this season.
Like many rivers and streams in western Colorado, the Yampa River offers world-class fishing and attracts thousands of anglers each year, providing a source of income to local businesses that depend on outdoor recreation.
“We ask for the public’s patience and cooperation,” said Stagecoach State Park Manager Craig Preston. “It is very important that we do what we can to protect this unique fishery, not only for anglers, but for the communities that depend on the tourism these resources support.”
For more information, contact Stagecoach State Park at 970-736-2436, or CPW’s Steamboat Springs office at 970-870-2197.
Upper Yampa River Water Commissioner, Scott Hummer, sent these photos via email this morning to show the conditions above Stagecoach Reservoir. He writes, “Not much water being produced in the Yampa headwaters in South Routt County. Photo of inflow at Stagecoach Inlet yesterday = 10 CFS / 9% of the historic iflow rate! This morning [May 25, 2021] Stagecoach inflow = 7.9 CFS! The photos depict the story in the upper Yampa…”
Yampa River below Oakton Ditch above Phippsburg May 2021. Photo credit: Scott Hummer
Yampa River at Stagecoach Res Inlet 10 CFS 5-24-21 May 2021. Photo credit: Scott Hummer
Yampa River at Phippsburg May 2021. Photo credit: Scott Hummer
Yampa River flows below Stafford Ditch May 2021. Photo credit: Scott Hummer
Stafford Ditch – Check Dam May 2021. Photo credit: Scott Hummer
The state water board is encouraging all nine basin roundtables to adopt a code of conduct requiring members to communicate in a professional, respectful, truthful and courteous way. But some Western Slope roundtables are pushing back.
Over roughly the last month, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Rebecca Mitchell has been visiting the remote roundtable meetings on Zoom, answering questions about the code of conduct and urging the roundtables to adopt it. The goal of the document is to make sure everyone feels comfortable speaking up in meetings.
Mitchell said that with important and potentially contentious discussions on the horizon for water-short Colorado, it’s important to have a set of conduct standards in place to guide those discussions.
Gunnison River Basin Roundtable member Bill Nesbitt said at the May meeting it was a “third-grade sandbox question.” Mitchell agreed.
“I think it is similar to a third-grade sandbox, but not every sandbox is fair and some kids throw sand in other kids’ eyes,” Mitchell said. “We need to make the message clear about the expectations as we move forward to some of those really difficult discussions.”
Some members of the Southwest Basin Roundtable welcomed the code of conduct.
“I support adopting a policy,” said Mely Whiting, environmental representative and legal counsel for Trout Unlimited. “I think that things do get more and more controversial as we move forward. In my experience on this roundtable, in recent times things have gotten a little bit out of hand and quite a bit more aggressive. I’ve been, myself, uncomfortable quite often.”
The Colorado legislature created the nine basin roundtables — South Platte, Metro, Arkansas, Rio Grande, San Juan/Dolores (collectively known as Southwest) Gunnison, Colorado, Yampa/White/Green and North Platte — in 2005 to encourage locally driven collaborative solutions on water issues. They represent each of the state’s eight major river basins, plus the Denver metro area, and are made up of volunteers from different water sectors like agriculture, environment, recreation and municipal.
In addition to asking members to promote an inclusive environment that treats everyone fairly, the code also lays out best practices for conducting business. According to the code, the roundtables have the responsibility for noticing meetings, adhering to federal and state laws and public health orders and performing job tasks promptly and effectively.
Members at both the Southwest and Gunnison roundtables had issues with the best practices section. Montezuma County representative Ed Millard said the best practices section seemed more relevant to employees of the Division of Water Resources, not a volunteer board.
“I just think it’s going to have to be tuned to a volunteer organization before we adopt it,” he said at the April Southwest Roundtable meeting. “We certainly do need to resolve the tension and friction, but I don’t think adoption of (an) employee code is the way to do that.”
Southwest adopted the rest of the code of conduct, minus this best practices part at its May meeting. In the Gunnison basin, a motion to adopt the code of conduct failed; the discussion has been tabled until the July meeting.
Roundtable member Michael Murphy, who represents Hinsdale County, said the group already holds their meetings with respect and that the code was unnecessary.
“We are western Colorado. We don’t like being told what to do,” he said at the May Gunnison Basin Roundtable meeting.
While the code of conduct will be the policy of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Mitchell admitted there was little the CWCB could do to enforce it on the roundtables, and the roundtables don’t have to adopt it.
“Being perfectly honest and transparent, enforcing a code of conduct on a volunteer roundtable is difficult,” she told the Southwest Roundtable. “(Enforcement) is as much a responsibility of me as a self-policing in the way we treat each other.”
Arkansas and Yampa/White/Green roundtables are aware of the code of conduct, but have not adopted it. The Rio Grande, South Platte and Metro basin roundtables have formally adopted it. The Colorado and North Platte basin roundtables have not discussed it yet.
This story ran in the May 24 editions of The Aspen Times and the Sky-Hi News.
The Arizona Legislature wants to look into the feasibility of pumping water from the Mississippi River to Arizona.
But the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has already studied the idea, and weighed in on the project in 2012.
The agency studied factors such as cost, legal issues, power use and the amount of time the project would take.
A report estimated the project could cost up to $14 billion; the timetable was around 30 years.
“This is not a new idea. The concept of a massive pipeline to transport water from the Midwest into the Colorado River Basin, has been proposed in the past and evaluated, and the feasibility really isn’t there,” said Kim Mitchell of Western Resource Advocates…
Arizona still owes the federal government about a billion dollars for the Central Arizona Project, which pumps water from the Colorado River to the Phoenix and Tucson areas.
Middle and high school students from around Colorado competed May 15 and 16 in the 2021 FIBArk RunOff, a series of slalom and downriver races.
“The weekend of racing was a huge success, although water levels were lower than normal,” Alli Gober, FIBArk river events coordinator, said. “It’s always exciting to see younger paddlers stepping into the competition mind-set. Some of these young paddlers may go on to race internationally in the future, and it all starts here.”