#SteamboatSprings new #water resources manager excited to take on challenging, crucial role — The Steamboat Pilot & Today

Julie Baxter. Photo credit: The City of Steamboat Springs

From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Alison Berg):

Julie Baxter, a senior planner with the city of Steamboat Springs, has accepted a new position just across the way from the planning department.

Baxter has been tapped as the new water resources manager following Kelly Romero-Heaney’s departure from the role.

“I wanted to get back into the water world, into water resources, planning for climate change, drought and wildfires and those types of issues,” Baxter said. “Those are the things that I’m more passionate about.”

Before joining the city as a senior planner, Baxter worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency based in Denver, managing six states in the Rocky Mountain region.

While in that position, Baxter worked on long-range planning to help communities reduce their risk of wildfires, earthquakes and other disasters in the region. After the 2013 floods that devastated Colorado’s Front Range, leaving nine dead and $4 billion in damages, Baxter worked closely with state and municipal governments in long-term flood recovery.

“Climate change and those impacts with drought and wildfires are really pushing us into more uncharted territory in the water resources management,” Baxter said, who noted the city has been doing long-range planning for those issues over the past few years.

The main job of the city’s water resources manager is to manage the city’s water rights portfolio and protect the city’s stretch of the Yampa River, which fuels several aspects of Routt County’s economy, including, tourism, recreation and agriculture.

Yampa River at the mouth of Cross Mountain Canyon July 24, 2021.

This week’s topsoil moisture short/very short by @usda_oce

It’s been a tough weather week but here’s a bit of good news. Big improvements for drought-stricken ND, SD, MN, and IA after much rain. More coming too.

The Northwest and CA still look rough, especially WA.

Photograph of Hoover (Boulder) Dam construction, August 31, 1933 — UNLV

Looking upstream at the Boulder Dam (now called Hoover Dam) under construction. “Boulder Dam, looking upstream August 31, 1933 2345” is written at the bottom of the photo. Via UNLV

Sweetwater Lake is now permanently protected, thanks to its new owner, the White River National Forest — The #Colorado Sun

From The Colorado Sun (Olivia Prentzel):

The lake and the 488 acres around it, adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness, will now be protected from residential developers and saved for public access.

Historic Sweetwater Lake, above the Colorado River in Garfield County, just got new owners — and they’re here to protect it.

The White River National Forest completed its acquisition Tuesday [August 31, 2021] of the lake and the 488 acres surrounding it adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness, marking a victory in conservationists’ efforts to protect the pristine oasis from residential developers and save the area for the public to fish, boat, swim and camp.

The deal will protect wildlife habitat and create new recreational access, a spokesman for the White River National Forest said in a news release. The Conservation Fund bought the lake and surrounding land last year to stop potential development while the Forest Service waited for funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund to make a purchase…

While the land is largely open to the public, some ranch buildings and cabins will be off-limits until the Forest Service completes its evaluation and long-term management plan for the area, Fitzwilliams said.

Tuesday’s acquisition was years in the making. Two years ago, the Conservation Fund and the Eagle Valley Land Trust linked up in an effort to buy the property from a Denver investment group and deed it to the White River National Forest, which has long pined for the Sweetwater Lake Ranch…

Last summer, the land trust organized a fundraising campaign to raise $3.5 million to bolster the Land and Water Conservation Fund application — which asked for $8.5 million in funding.

The White River National Forest’s request for funding to permanently protect Sweetwater Lake was granted in November 2020.

#Hayden officials keep careful watch on water level, algae impact this summer — The Steamboat Pilot & Today #YampaRiver #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Jefferson Avenue (U.S. Route 40) in Hayden. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32346845

From The Steamboat Pilot & Today (Suzie Romig):

With lower, warmer water levels in the Yampa River during this extreme drought year, town of Hayden employees are carefully watching operations at the water plant this summer to continue to alleviate taste or odor issues for the town’s 1,100 water taps…

[Bryan] Richards said the usual time of heightened summer concern for low water levels and thus increased algae is lasting longer this year, starting about one month earlier than usual in early July rather than the normal early August. Water levels have dropped at the intake on the Yampa River at the water plant north of town, and water temperatures at the intake have increased by 3 to 5 degrees above normal, rising as high as 75 degrees. Lower, slower, warmer water leads to more algae production…

Fortunately, major improvements to the Hayden water treatment plant during the past three years are working to help mitigate the algae increases, said Town Manager Mathew Mendisco. He said the town spent a total of $2.3 million in water system and plant upgrades with half of the funding coming from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs and other funding from a citizen-approved bond measure. The plant was first built in 1978…

Town of Hayden water users have been under outdoor water restrictions this summer that mimic city of Steamboat Springs restrictions and resulted in a 3% decrease in overall water use compared to the past three years, even though the watering season started earlier this dry year, Richards said. Hayden water users will need to continue water conservation efforts when the town’s 1 million gallon water tank on hospital hill goes offline for a planned refurbishment starting with the tank drained by the end of August through project completion Oct. 20, Richards said.

Mendisco said the town secured $989,000 in low-interest financing to upgrade the tank through a state revolving loan fund managed by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. The town qualified for a 1.5% interest rate based on its status as a “disadvantaged community” dealing with the impacts of the transition from coal.

The town has a 500,000-gallon water tank near Yampa Valley Regional Airport, so officials do not anticipate impacts to water customers when the larger water tank is off line.

#ColoradoSprings voters to decide whether to dedicate $20M for #wildfire mitigation — The Colorado Springs Gazette Cheyenne Edition

Black Forest Fire June 2013 via CBS Denver

From The Colorado Springs Gazette Cheyenne Edition (Mary Shinn):

Colorado Springs residents will decide in November whether to allow the city to keep up to $20 million in tax revenue to create a wildfire mitigation fund.

The Colorado Springs City Council voted unanimously to place on the ballot a question asking voters to retain the money and spend no more than 5% of the funding annually. The city needs voter approval to keep the funds because they are in excess of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights cap, a limit on how much tax revenues can grow each year.

Any additional funding over $20 million will be refunded to voters through their city utility bills, Mayor John Suthers said.

Colorado Springs Fire Chief Randy Royal said the new funds would help protect the 35,000 homes in the wildland urban interface, where homes are adjacent to wooded areas where fire danger is highest…

The city could use the funds to pay crews to do direct fire mitigation such as trimming back trees, shrubs and other vegetation. It could also use the funds for evacuation planning and community wildfire education.

Waldo Canyon Fire. Photo credit The Pueblo chieftain.

Mitigation could help prevent the level of catastrophe the city saw during the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires, Councilman Richard Skorman said…

The ballot question does not list all the ways the money could be used to mitigate fire to ensure the city can use the money as it’s needed, Suthers said. He expects the money to be used throughout the community, including areas such as Palmer Park and Corral Bluffs Open Space on the east side. The money can also be used outside the city’s boundaries if necessary.

If the question passes, the city expects to invest the money and use interest from the funds for mitigation and a portion of the main funds, he said.

The city could also replenish the fund with future TABOR retention questions, he added.

Skorman said he didn’t want to see the 5% limit on spending placed in the ballot question in case the city had an important opportunity for wildfire mitigation funding come up.

However, Suthers supported the limit to help show the community the money wouldn’t be spent all at once. The council as a whole supported the limitation as well in its vote.

USBR awards $5.5 million to 82 water improvement projects in 16 western states

The Cimarron River, a tributary of the Gunnison River as seen flowing in late summer. Colorado River Storage Project

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

The Bureau of Reclamation selected 82 projects to share $5.5 million in WaterSMART Small Scale Water Efficiency Grants. These grants will help local communities make water efficiency improvements such as installing flow measurement, automating a water delivery system, or lining a canal section to reduce seepage.

“Through a relatively small investment, Reclamation can support western communities with grant funding to improve water conservation and reliability,” said Chief Engineer David Raff. “These small, community-driven projects help improve water resiliency in these communities as they seek to meet future water needs.”

The program supports the Biden-Harris administration’s Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad as it increases a community’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.

Selected projects range from $7,000 to the maximum of $75,000. The City of Fountain in Colorado is receiving $7,053 to upgrade 210 sprinkler heads at Fountain Mesa Park with more efficient ones. The City of Long Beach is receiving $75,000 to replace 50,000 square feet of turf with drought-tolerant landscaping. All projects selected must provide at least a 50% cost-share.

To view a list of all the projects selected today or learn more about the program, please visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/swep.

For more than 100 years, Reclamation and its partners have developed sustainable water and power future for the West. This program is part of the Department of the Interior’s WaterSMART Program, which focuses on improving water conservation and reliability while helping water resource managers make sound decisions about water use. To find out more information about Reclamation’s WaterSMART program, visit https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart.