FromThe Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):
The man who oversaw the construction of Interstate 70 through Glenwood Canyon has found himself amazed at the amount of debris coming down there during rainstorms this summer, and thinks climate change is the culprit for problems in the canyon of a size and scope never anticipated when the road was designed and built.
Glenwood Springs resident Ralph Trapani is a civil engineer and former Colorado Department of Transportation employee who was CDOT’s manager on the highway construction for 12 years, from the $490 million project’s groundbreaking in 1980 to its ribbon-cutting in 1992. Last year, his workplace of more than a decade was struck by the 32,631-acre Grizzly Creek Fire, closing I-70 in the canyon for two weeks, and this summer, rainstorms on burn scars have caused multiple closures of the highway.
It has been closed since July 29 as CDOT crews continue to clear out major debris flows, assess the damage and look to make repairs. Debris flows on July 29 stranded more than 100 motorists in the canyon overnight.
Trapani said he’s surprised and amazed by how much debris has come down onto the roadway…
‘NO HISTORY’ OF SUCH A FIRE
Then again, a fire like the Grizzly Creek blaze wasn’t on the minds of Trapani and others involved with the canyon project planning and construction decades ago.
“There was absolutely no history of this kind of fire in Glenwood Canyon. We did extensive studies of the ground around the canyon for debris flows and things. There was no evidence of any sort of burn or ancient fire to the extent of what we have up there now. It was never anticipated,” he said.
But he said western Colorado is now “in a climate change bubble” that never could have been anticipated back in the 1960s-80s, when the road was planned and built.
“To me that’s the bottom-line issue here, is the extreme climate change bubble we’re in in western Colorado, and that to me is the cause of all this,” he said.
Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Marielle Cowdin and Lindsay DeFrates):
Hotter temperatures and the long-running drought have dried soils and reduced runoff across the Western Slope, but certain river basins have taken harder hits. Last Thursday, July 29, the Colorado Division of Water Resources placed a call on the Yampa River, restricting water use for junior water rights holders.
“This is only the third time the Yampa has ever been on call,” said Hunter Causey, Director of Asset Management and Chief Engineer at the Colorado River District. “The previous call was last year, but this year’s is almost a month earlier, which highlights what an extraordinary drought we are in.”
The following weekend’s monsoonal rains, however, brought some relief and added opportunity; the call was taken off the Yampa at 11 a.m. on Monday, August 2. Working cooperatively with engineers at the Division of Water Resources, the Colorado River District will help to keep the call off the river to aid downstream farmers and ranchers with releases from Elkhead Reservoir. The 1,500 acre-feet designated for this effort will serve to postpone another call but is unlikely to do so indefinitely.
The Elkhead releases are part of the 2021 Yampa River Flow Pilot Project, a collaborative effort to better understand the need for additional water supplies in the Yampa River Basin for historical water users while enhancing river flows for endangered fish and recreational users. The Pilot Project was funded earlier this year by the River District’s Community Funding Partnership, a result of the voter-approved 7A ballot question last November.
“This demonstrates the positive and immediate impacts of the River District’s Community Funding Partnership, the funding program made possible by 7A,” said Amy Moyer, Director of Strategic Partnerships at the River District. “We worked quickly with multiple partners to secure these releases. This is how we are navigating extraordinary times and connecting with all our water users.”
Alongside these Pilot Project releases, a study is currently underway in partnership with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association and Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District. The Yampa Storage Modelling project is exploring options to more fully utilize water releases from reservoirs in the Yampa Basin to benefit agricultural water users.
Additionally, the Colorado River District is currently working on additional efforts to provide relief for farmers and ranchers at the end of the summer season.
“These partnerships highlight the importance of cooperative efforts to keep water flowing as we face an uncertain future regarding water supply,” said River District General Manager Andy Mueller. “The Colorado River District will continue to be an active voice for West Slope water users and the health of our rivers.”
Over the last year, it’s been clear that climate change is not something that will be happening in the future. It’s here today. Between wildfires, mudslides, highway closures, extreme heat, drought, and worsening air quality, we’re seeing the often dramatic effects of climate change nearly every day.
New research from Colorado Fiscal Institute environmental policy analyst Pegah Jalali shows that the recent challenges we’ve been facing could pale in comparison to what’s ahead. In Colorado 2050: Why We Need Climate Resiliency to Protect Our Communities and Way of Life, see new ways for policymakers and the public to identify which communities in Colorado will be facing the greatest risks from climate change by the mid-21st century.
How Will Climate Change Affect Colorado?
Be sure to read the full report and accompanying visual brief, where you can learn more about these top takeaways:
Geographic Areas of Risk
Many mountain communities face barriers to overcome in becoming resilient to wildfires, drought, and extreme heat due to their geography and systemic inequities.
While most of the attention on climate is focused on the mountains, the Metro Area, large sections of the eastern plains, and parts of Southern Colorado, are at a high risk of being severely affected by several of the risk areas in the report.
The People Most Affected
People who this research shows will be most affected include: Farmers and agricultural workers (and others who work outdoors), people with chronic health conditions, older adults, young children, people who live in the Urban-Wildlife Interface, communities whose economies rely on skiing and other wintertime outdoor recreation activities, and people who work and communities that rely on the agriculture industry.
Barriers to Statewide Resiliency
Many of the communities this report focuses on are more likely to have workers who earn low incomes, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color. This is fueled by systemic racism that creates added barriers to resiliency for these communities.
The Cost of Keeping the Status Quo
The costs of inaction are great: Billions of dollars in damage have already occurred due to the wildfires of the last decade, including the devastating 2020 fires, and those costs will only grow as drought and extreme heat combine to create a longer fire season.
The Value of Acting on Climate Change
By acting now to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels, investing more in clean energy and mitigation projects, investing in communities that face the greatest barriers to resilience, and ensuring a just transition for fossil-fuel dependent communities, we can avoid the very worst of what is coming.
Reducing Emissions, Reducing Risk
While every part of Colorado is projected to experience major consequences from climate change, reducing emissions to moderate levels will mean less dire increases in the four risk areas outlined in the report: extreme heat, ozone pollution, wildfires, and drought.
Registration is officially open for the 2021 Sustaining Colorado Watersheds Conference and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome you all back to Avon, Colorado, this fall.
As we’ve mentioned, this year’s conference will take place in a hybrid format, with the option to attend in person or virtually via the virtual conference platform. Whether you’ll join us in person or on screen, we’re thrilled to welcome you back as we convene Together Like Never Before.
2021 Conference Highlights & Details:
The conference structure this year is new and refreshed, with an in-depth (in-person) workshop day planned with experts for Tuesday, Oct. 5 that will include concurrent sessions
All conference attendees will gather (both in-person and virtually) on Wednesday, Oct. 6 as we hear from featured speakers and participate in interactive sessions as one group
Thursday, Oct. 7 will consist of off site field trips at various locations to be facilitated around the state
Oct. 5 workshop topics include: Funding, Fire & Resiliency, Water 22 Public Awareness, Watershed & Forest Health, Stream Health Evaluation Frameworks, Water Quality, Community Collaborations, Innovations, and Uncommon Partners
Oct. 6 topics include: Keynote and Featured Speakers, Colorado Water Plan 2.0, Adapting to Western Megafires, Including People for More Equitable Solutions, and closing remarks
Other elements of the conference will include favorite activities such as the Poster Social and Happy Hours as well as innovative ways to engage with each other with new events like guided Fireside Chats
An abbreviated conference agenda can be found HERE.
Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Rob Manning):
Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton today named Jacklynn (Jaci) L. Gould as regional director for the Lower Colorado Basin Region. Gould has more than 29 years of experience with Reclamation.
“Jaci brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this vital position. She will lead a dynamic team of experts in the region who will be tackling a variety of issues in the Colorado River Basin,” said Deputy Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton. “I am excited for her leadership.”
As regional director, Gould will lead over 800 employees in the region, which encompasses the last 700 miles of the Colorado River to the Mexican border, southern Nevada, southern California, and most of Arizona. She will oversee hydropower operations and maintenance for 15 facilities, including Hoover Dam, as well as the implementation of the Lower Colorado River Multi-Species Conservation Program, a multi-agency effort to conserve and work towards the recovery of endangered species and to protect and maintain wildlife habitat on the lower Colorado River.
“I am honored to be selected for this opportunity,” said Regional Director Gould. “The challenges we face as we address water, power, land and ecosystem resources throughout the Southwest in the interest of the American public are critical. I am committed to collaborative relationships and outcomes.”
Gould most recently served as deputy regional director, joining the region in May 2016. Prior to that she served in various management positions in Reclamation’s Great Plains Region, Eastern Colorado Area Office. As area manager, she was responsible for all aspects of the extensive Colorado-Big Thompson and Fryingpan-Arkansas projects. Additionally, Gould’s instrumental leadership in Reclamation’s Upper Colorado Region’s Albuquerque area office was instrumental in the development of the Middle Rio Grande Collaborative Program.
Gould’s career in water management began with Reclamation in 1992 after attending the University of Colorado, where she earned bachelor’s degrees in both biology and civil engineering, and a master’s degree in public administration. She is a licensed professional engineer in Colorado. Gould received the Superior Service Award, one of the Department of the Interior’s highest awards for career employees, as well as the Unit Award of Excellence for her outstanding leadership during the Big Thompson Canyon Flood in 2013.
Here’s the release from Northern Water (Jeff Stahla):
Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict celebrated the groundbreaking for Chimney Hollow Reservoir on Friday, culminating a 20-year permitting process to add resilience to the water supply for more than 500,000 northeastern Colorado residents.
The groundbreaking also triggers a host of environmental efforts that will occur in the headwaters of the Colorado River on the West Slope. Those include construction of the Colorado River Connectivity Channel to reconnect portions of the river located above and below Windy Gap Reservoir, wastewater treatment plant upgrades in the Fraser River Valley, environmental improvement projects through the Learning By Doing coalition, and other work providing water and storage that can be used for environmental purposes.
“Today marks a long-awaited milestone that required years of hard work and cooperation among many groups with diverse interests to achieve a project that has benefits for everyone in Colorado,” said Northern Water General Manager Brad Wind.
The addition of water storage is a key component of the Colorado Water Plan. Our population continues to grow as climate change brings higher temperatures and greater precipitation variability to the Colorado River headwaters. Construction of Chimney Hollow Reservoir gives the regional Windy Gap Firming Project participants a reliable water supply during dry years.
Since the Windy Gap Project was envisioned, water managers have recognized the need for additional storage specifically dedicated to storing Windy Gap water. Currently the Windy Gap Project depends on Lake Granby to store water when the project’s water rights are in priority. However, Lake Granby’s first priority is to store Colorado-Big Thompson Project water.
Chimney Hollow Reservoir is a key component for these Windy Gap Firming participants: Broomfield, Platte River Power Authority, Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Erie, Little Thompson Water District, Superior, Louisville, Fort Lupton, Lafayette and Central Weld County Water District. Each of the reservoir project participants that provide residential water service has committed to reduce per capita water supply through water conservation.
Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict and Larimer County cooperated to purchase the Chimney Hollow property in 2004 from Hewlett-Packard. Chimney Hollow Reservoir will provide a much-needed outdoor recreational opportunity that can be enjoyed by everyone in Northern Colorado.
In recent weeks crews have been preparing the site for construction by bringing water and power to temporary administrative offices. In addition, the Western Area Power Administration relocated a high voltage power line from the footprint of the reservoir to a location up the hillside to the west.
Full dam construction activities are planned to begin Aug. 16. Barnard Construction Co. Inc. of Bozeman, Montana, is the general contractor for the four-year project. The cost of dam construction is estimated at $500 million, with the complete project including West Slope improvements at $650 million. The 12 project participants are paying its cost.
When the dam is built, it will rise about 350 feet off the dry valley floor. The dam incorporates a technology common in Europe but less so in the United States. Its water-sealing core will consist of a ribbon of hydraulic asphalt instead of the clay that serves that purpose at the Carter Lake and Horsetooth Reservoir dams. Geologists discovered there wasn’t enough high-quality clay material within the footprint of Chimney Hollow Reservoir, and instead of bringing it in from elsewhere, the hydraulic asphalt core option was chosen. The dam’s rock-fill shoulders will use material mined from the reservoir footprint, which will reduce costs, pollution and increase storage capacity.
This new storage project allows us to supply clean water reliably, even in times of drought, to the people of northeastern Colorado from the existing Windy Gap Diversion. Starting construction on Chimney Hollow Reservoir is a major step to address water supply shortages for our growing population, much like our visionary predecessors did for us, while demonstrating that modern storage projects can also improve the environment.
More than 500,000 Coloradans across the Front Range can look forward to a more resilient water supply in the near future, after a groundbreaking Friday set in motion a $650 million project that will give water providers more reliable access to a vital resource that’s become increasingly scarce due to growing populations and climate change.
A crowd of about 200 gathered Friday morning for the groundbreaking of the Chimney Hollow Reservoir, a 90,000 acre-foot reservoir at least 20 years in the making. The reservoir will be located west of the Flatiron Reservoir in Larimer County.
A dozen municipalities, water providers and a power authority are participating in the Northern Water project, which boasts a price tag of $650 million, $500 million of which is for the dam construction. Other costs are going to environmental and water quality improvements in collaboration with affected communities. Adding in things like permitting costs, project manager Joe Donnelly said the total program costs were about $690 million.
Greeley is one of the participants, making up about 10% of the project. Other participants include Longmont, Fort Lupton, Central Weld County Water District, Broomfield and more. Greeley Water and Sewer director Sean Chambers said the city is putting about $57 million toward the construction…
The project had relied on Lake Granby to store water when the project’s water rights were in priority, but the lake’s first priority is to store Colorado-Big Thompson water. Over time, it became clear Front Range water providers would need a way to store Windy Gap water because the water wasn’t available when Front Range communities needed it the most…
Northern Water cooperated with Larimer County to purchase the Chimney Hollow property from Hewlett-Packard in 2004…
Drager and other speakers detailed numerous setbacks, including years of federal litigation after environmental groups filed a 2017 lawsuit. A judge in December dismissed the lawsuit, according to BizWest. The biggest setback, according to Drager, was needing to get a 1041 permit from Grand County. State officials also took issue when project officials hadn’t developed a mitigation plan with the state.
“We kind of argued a little bit, but we came to the conclusion that to really make this thing work, we would have to give something,” Drager said.
In a meeting with a Division of Wildlife official, they eventually settled on stream restoration for the Colorado River — one of many environmental considerations and concessions that helped pave the way for the partnerships that made the project possible…
Though some environmental work is being done at the site, most is at the headwaters of the Colorado River, according to Northern Water spokesman Jeff Stahla. The environmental mitigation and improvements will cost more than $90 million, including about $45 million to provide water for the river when it’s running low. Other improvements include helping the town of Fraser upgrade its wastewater treatment plant and stream restoration projects.
“These are things that wouldn’t have happened if this project doesn’t get built,” Stahla said. “By doing these things, it’s … mitigation and enhancement, because we’re not just mitigating for the effects of this project, but we’re enhancing what’s already there.”
The site will also serve as an outdoor recreational opportunity managed by Larimer County.
Todd Hennis claims the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has occupied part of his property near the Gold King Mine but hasn’t compensated him for doing so
The owner of an inactive southwestern Colorado mine that was the source of a disastrous 2015 spill…has filed a lawsuit seeking nearly $3.8 million in compensation for the federal government’s use of his land in its ongoing cleanup response…
Todd Hennis claims the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has occupied part of his property near the Gold King Mine but hasn’t compensated him for doing so since the August 2015 spill, The Durango Herald reports. He also claims the EPA contaminated his land by causing the spill, which fouled rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with a bright-yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.
Hennis is seeking nearly $3.8 million in compensation in the suit filed [August 3, 2021] in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. He contends EPA actions have violated his Fifth Amendment rights to just compensation for public use of private property.