Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Jason Clay):
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is seeking applications for wetland and riparian restoration, enhancement and creation projects to support its Wetlands Program Strategic Plan.
CPW will award up to approximately $1.25 million in funds from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and Colorado Waterfowl Stamps to projects in Colorado that support the Wetlands Program Strategic Plan’s two main goals:
Improve the distribution and abundance of ducks, and opportunities for public waterfowl hunting. Applications supporting this goal should seek to improve fall/winter habitat on property open for public hunting (or refuge areas within properties open for public hunting) or improve breeding habitat in important production areas (including North Park and the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and other areas contributing ducks to the fall flight in Colorado).
Improve the status of declining or at-risk species. Applications supporting this goal should seek to clearly address habitat needs of these species. See species list on the Wetlands Priority Species page.
The application deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 26. The Wetlands Funding Request for Applications (RFA) is available on our website, which can be accessed by clicking here.
A new Tier 1 priority species this year is beavers. Beavers are a keystone species and ecosystem engineer that create and maintain healthy wetland and riparian habitats. Many mountain ponds, willow thickets and meadows are the works of beavers over time. These habitats aid in controlling floods, providing refugia during wildfires, improving water quality and preventing soil erosion.
Tier 1 species are the highest priority for project funding.
The Colorado Wetlands for Wildlife Program is a voluntary, collaborative and incentive-based program to restore, enhance and create wetlands and riparian areas in Colorado. Funds are allocated annually to the program and projects are recommended for funding by a CPW committee with final approval by the Director.
“Wetlands are so important,” said CPW Wetlands Program Coordinator Brian Sullivan. “They comprise less than two percent of Colorado’s landscape, but provide benefits to over 75 percent of the species in the state, including waterfowl and several declining species. Since the beginning of major settlement activities, Colorado has lost half of its wetlands.”
Since its inception in 1997, the Colorado Wetlands Program and its partners has preserved, restored, enhanced or created more than 220,000 acres of wetlands and adjacent habitat and more than 200 miles of streams. The partnership is responsible for more than $40 million in total funding devoted to wetland and riparian preservation in Colorado.
FromColorado Public Radio (Michael Elizabeth Sakas):
Several factors are fueling the water problems in both communities. Firefighters used so much water trying to extinguish the Marshall and Middle Fork fires that pressure was lost in both water systems. Bacteria and other organisms can enter water lines that aren’t properly pressurized and contaminate water supplies.
The fires also carved a destructive path through Superior and Louisville that broke water mains and destroyed as many as 1,000 homes, damaging and exposing other pipes, leaving them open to other contaminants entering the water systems.
Greeley Water and Sewer customers can expect about 10% rate increases starting this month, as the department funds more than $200 million in investments over the next several years.
The Greeley Water and Sewer Board recently approved the new rates in a unanimous vote, according to a city news release. On average, residents can expect a utility rate increase of about $10 a month, or about 9.8%.
The increases take effect this month, but residents may not see the changes until their February utility bills.
The increases break down as follows, according to the release:
Water: An average increase of $4.16 per month will help cover the city’s participation in a new water storage reservoir to provide enough water for more than 4,500 new residents.
Sewer: An increase of $4.22 per month will cover the cost of state- and federally mandated sanitary sewer upgrades. The mandates reduce the amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous allowed in the city’s treated wastewater discharge to reduce algae growth.
Stormwater: An increase of $1.54 per month will help the city resolve downtown flooding issues. The city will upgrade its storm drainage to handle large rain events, such as the one in July that damaged businesses and homes.
In the release, Harold Evans, chairman of the water and sewer board, cited the regulatory changes and providing for the city’s rapidly growing population as drivers behind the rate increases.
Snowpack levels on the Western Slope continue to climb above normal for this time of the year and thanks to recent winter storms the Front Range is no longer terribly far behind.
That recent snowfall to the west even means that drought conditions are no longer as severe as they were in late December, according to the latest data from the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Climatologists expressed concern at lower snowpack levels earlier in the winter. Snowfall on the Western Slope feeds into the Colorado River, upon which tens of millions of people depend. And abnormally dry conditions to the east exacerbate wildfire risk, seen most recently in the devastating Marshall fire in Boulder County.
Over the last few weeks snowpack levels trended toward those above-average levels.
Data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows that as of Thursday snowpack around Gunnison and Ouray sits at 148% of normal levels. Snowpack around Durango also rose to 137% of normal levels.
Similarly levels around Aspen and Glenwood Springs are 124% of normal and the area around Steamboat Springs is at 115% of normal. Even the Front Range, where conditions were previously described as “bleak” is looking better. Snowpack from Denver to Fort Collins sits at 110% of normal. And from Colorado Springs to Pueblo levels are 88% of normal.
With the improving snowpack, some Western Slope areas in Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa and Pitkin counties are now considered to be “abnormally dry,” an improvement over the moderate and severe drought conditions previously noted by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
Scott Hummer sent two photographs via email showing how conditions have improved at Stagecoach Reservoir from December to January. From his email, “Thought you’d be interested to see the view of conditions outside my kitchen window…storm last night…quite a change over the past month! Think Snow!”
According to SNOTEL reports, most of western Colorado is experiencing above average snowpack with the upper Colorado River watershed, which includes Garfield County, clocking in at about 126% of typical snow water equivalent measurements, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported…
Sunlight Mountain Resort, on the other hand, measures snow daily, and reported about 60 inches fell from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1.
“Some of the locals have said they haven’t seen a storm cycle like that in decades,” said Troy Hawks, the resort’s sales and marketing manager.
Fresh snow is great for business, and Hawks said the resort set another record for season pass sales this season. Additionally, the resort experienced a record high sales day during the holidays, which includes all sales at the resort — lift tickets, rentals and food sales, he said.
A South Platte River Water Update will be held in Brush on Wednesday [January 12, 2022]. The half-day program includes updates on the Master Irrigator Program, the Northern Integrated Supply Project, salinity in the South Platte and the Platte Valley Water Partnership project.
The update will be held at the Riverview Event Center, 19201 County Road 24, near Brush. It will begin at 8:50 a.m. and run until noon. Lunch will be served.
The Colorado Master Irrigator program offers farmers and farm managers advanced training on conservation- and efficiency-oriented irrigation management practices and tools. The program is the product of efforts led by several producers, district management representatives, and others interested in conserving groundwater in eastern Colorado. The program is modeled on the award-winning Master Irrigator program created and run since 2016 by the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District in the Texas panhandle.
Greg Peterson of the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and Roxy McCormick, Master Irrigator in the Republican River Basin, will present the information.
[Brad] Wind, general manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, will provide an update on NISP. Construction has been under way for several month on the project, which will provide about 40,000 acre-feet of new, reliable water supply. The project consists of two reservoirs, Glade and Galeton, a forebay reservoir, three pump plants, pipelines to deliver water for exchange with two irrigation companies and for delivery to participants, and improvements to an existing canal to divert water off the Poudre River near the canyon mouth.
Grady O’Brien, CEO of Neirbo Hydrology, will present information on salinity in the lower reaches of the South Platte River. Salinity has been a growing problem as urban development and agricultural irrigation have added to the river’s saltiness. The water doesn’t taste salty – it contains only 0.12 percent salts compared with ocean water’s 3.5 percent – but the increasing salinity does have a negative impact on the soil. Salt in the soil suppresses the level of potassium, which is necessary for plants to take up nitrogen and create new plant material.
Old-fashioned flood irrigation used to leach the salts out of the soil, but more efficient irrigation methods don’t put enough water on the ground to do that. And, while the amount of salt in the river at Sterling seems miniscule, it is nearly twice the amount in the Denver area, just above Broomfield, and more than six time the salinity of the river above Denver.
Joe Frank, general manager of the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, will talk about the Platte Valley Water Partnership. It is a joint water supply project by the LSPWCD and the Parker Water and Sanitation District to use a new water right that the two entities are developing along the South Platte River near Sterling.
The project will use new and existing infrastructure to store and transport water for agricultural use in northeastern Colorado and municipal use along the Front Range. The partnership involves the phased development of the water right. The early phases would involve a pipeline from Prewitt Reservoir in Logan and Washington counties to Parker Reservoir, which supplies the City of Parker. Later developments would see a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir near Iliff on land owned by Parker, and a 72,000-acre-foot reservoir near Fremont Butte north of Akron. A pipeline, pump stations, and treatment facility will also be built as part of the project.
Anyone wanting to attend the update presentations can register by contacting Madeline Hagan, firstname.lastname@example.org (970) 427-3362 or Amber Beeson, email@example.com (970) 571-5296.
‘How are we helping the landscape, how are we helping the community and what’s our long-term vision?’
The mid-December day was balmy, normal for these times. James Fischer, forestry manager for the 172,000-acre Trinchera Ranch, was explaining and pointing out aspects of the Trinchera’s adaptive management forest plan as he gained elevation in the SUV, barely a trace of snow even in the higher reaches.
“We’re trying to adapt and go ‘OK, what is it going to look like in the future?’ That’s hard,” he said, explaining how one of the largest conservation easements and pieces of property in Colorado is learning to adapt to the changing climate conditions.
“I mean, we’re basing it on models so you’re going ‘OK, it’s going to warm up. It’s going to dry out.’ How do we manage for that? I don’t know. As a profession, we’re trying different things right now, hoping they’re going to work. I mean, this is a long-term process. We’re only here for just a short period of time.”
Spruces and mixed conifers 120 to 150 years old are thinned from the forest and hauled to the Blanca Forestry Products sawmill maybe 15 miles away – down the mountain to the Valley floor and on the outskirts of the town of Blanca.
Of Trinchera’s total acreage, 90,000 are timbered, said Fischer. “Then out of that, there’s 30,000 of spruce, 30,000 of mixed conifer and about 30,000, roughly, of aspen in there.” He can recite those numbers because the saw mill’s business model pushed him to update the Trinchera’s forest management plan and conduct a new inventory to give him precise numbers of what exists.
The saw mill itself was a stroke of genius. Like the Trinchera Ranch, it is owned by conservation philanthropist Louis Bacon. Operated by Blanca Forestry Products, it came online in 2017 and produces 8.5 million to 9 million board feet of timber a year out of the Trinchera.
“I think that evolution to get to the sawmill was really important because it helped not only the ranch understand, but it was an opportunity to work with the community and understand what fits those needs,” said Judy Lopez, conservation and sustainability manager for the Trinchera Ranch. “When we think about the sawmill, it’s just not a place for timber but it also created this pool of jobs for all local folks.”
“The same thing up here. As James continues to expand the logging operation, we’re seeing more and more folks in the area getting higher quality jobs and being able to do work here at home that’s meaningful. I think that is one of the key pieces of everything that goes on here and looking at it through that big, broad lens: how are we helping the landscape, how are we helping the community and what’s our long-term vision? Those are two really key pieces of that vision.”
Since July, crews have focused on an 8-mile stretch of the Trinchera Ranch. Operations are a mosaic across the different landscapes to help reduce fuels. Using some of the cleanest and most technologically-advanced equipment, logs are cut to the precise size for the saw mill.
“The big change is how we get this material out, the equipment that’s being used,” said Fischer. “There’s only two pieces of equipment doing all of this. One cuts and manufactures the logs out in the woods, the other piece goes behind, picks it up, brings it up here, puts it by the road or decks it.”
Decks of logs, guessing 25 feet high or higher, line the mountain roads over those eight miles. The cut timber is evidence of how the forest is actively managed. During the day, four semi-trucks will go back and forth to the saw mill, each hauling eight loads a day, 12 at best.
It’s not only the proactive and adaptive nature of the forest management plan, but the importance of it. Protecting the Trinchera Watershed which feeds into the Rio Grande Basin is critical to the Valley’s ecosystem.
“Everything is tied holistically because we all realize in the West, water is our limited resource,” said Aaron Swallow, environmental manager for the Trinchera and Tercio Ranches. “What James is trying to do here is protect this watershed, again, from that high-severity fire that’ll just essentially nuke it out. Then we don’t have water, and we don’t have fisheries for a couple of years. That’s very scary.”
The dryness of the Valley and the scenario of a forest fire hit close to home for the Trinchera most recently in 2018, during the Spring Creek fire. Since then, the severe drought over the past two years causes a variety of concerns for Fischer as he surveys the forest around him.
“The problem is, come summer, if we don’t get moisture, then these trees . . . they’re stressed going into the winter, then spring comes and we get little moisture, they’re just going to get more stressed so then they’re more susceptible for those beetles to bore in and kill those trees,” said Fischer.
“What happens when these beetles fly, they’ll start boring into the closest tree they can get to and, if one of them is, say, stressed and can’t produce enough sap to pitch that beetle out, it gets in and then they send a pheromone out or release a pheromone for all of their buddies to go “Hey, I got in, come join the party,” and they go attack that tree.”
An overstocked forest means the trees are competing for limited nutrients, water and sunlight. “Throw drought in there, and that’s kind of the final nail in the coffin,” Fischer said.
The Trinchera Ranch is part of a Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which is a certification program that examines the ranch’s harvesting practices. As the only certified forest in Colorado, Fischer’s forest management plan is scrutinized through on-site visits and data he provides on the inventory of the forest to road layouts.
“Our planning, our whole implementation, everything from start to finish, is gone over with a fine-tooth comb,” said Fischer. “They look at our forest management planner, our inventory, that all needs a check. Then, how are we doing with road layout? They look at that and ‘OK, you’re meeting it. Are you exceeding it? OK, you’re doing that.’”
The benefits are to the land itself and the protection of the natural environment of the San Luis Valley.
“I think it’s critical for the Sangre de Cristos and the wildlife corridors that are moving around here,” said Lopez. “Especially as we see dryings happening, we’re going to need places for animals to move, we need places for species to move. We need to have a place where there’s a protected area where all of these things can begin to happen. I think, in that way, what we’re doing is super important.”
From The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable via The Alamosa Citizen:
THE Rio Grande Basin Roundtable (RGBRT) began its water advocacy efforts in 2005 as a result of the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act. This act created nine Roundtables across the state to represent the eight major river basins and the Denver metro area.
Like all the state’s roundtables, the RGBRT is run by local stakeholders and is focused on local community values and water issues. Funding for roundtable project implementation comes from through the Colorado Water Conservation Board. With these state funds, each Roundtable can financially support local projects that further the goals laid out in the Colorado Water Plan and the respective Basin Implementation Plan.
Since its inception in 2005, the RGBRT has helped fund more than 50 projects, including Irrigation Infrastructure, Reservoir Improvements, River and Watershed Restoration, Conservation Easements, Water Education, Water Management and Water Research Projects. These projects addressed a variety of uses in every corner of the San Luis Valley.
This didn’t stop in 2021. Despite the pandemic, work continued – allowing five amazing projects to be completed. These projects demonstrate the power that can be garnered when groups come together and create projects that benefit many users, including irrigation, water administration, recreation, the environment, municipal needs and education. The projects and their purposes are listed below.
Del Norte Riverfront Project
The Del Norte Riverfront Project was a community-led effort to improve public access, create recreation infrastructure, and enhance aquatic and riparian habitat along the Rio Grande in Del Norte. The overall purpose of the project was to create connectivity between the communities and visitors of the SLV and the river that sustains it. The new Riverfront Park includes a whitewater playwave, boat ramp, fish habitat structures, pedestrian river access, parking area, an ADA accessible picnic shelter, and interpretive signage. The project has provided a significant positive benefit to the community of Del Norte and the San Luis Valley by creating a welcoming, safe space for community members, boaters, and anglers, while also improving river health. The Del Norte Riverfront Project was made possible through collaboration between the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project (RGHRP), Town of Del Norte, Del Norte Trails Organization, Riverbend Engineering, Trout Unlimited, San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), local businesses, and countless community members.
Rio Grande Cooperative Project
The Rio Grande Cooperative Project improved infrastructure and optimized management on the Rio Grande. Both Rio Grande and Beaver Creek Reservoirs were repaired to address seepage issues and improve outlet works. With upgraded infrastructure for the storage and release of water, stakeholders on these reservoirs came together to develop a management strategy that maximizes the benefits of timed reservoir releases, resulting in optimized flows that benefit aquatic habitat, irrigation supplies, augmentation demands, and Rio Grande Compact compliance. The project was a partnership between the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, CPW, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.
Conejos Meadows Resilient Habitat Project
The Conejos Meadows Resilient Habitat project, which was identified in the Conejos River Stream Management Plan (SMP), enhanced habitat on 9,200 linear feet of the Conejos River below Platoro Reservoir, greatly improving connectivity and habitat complexity. During low flow time periods such as winter months and during droughts, the improved instream habitat provides a low flow channel to maximize available habitat and water delivery conveyance. Additionally, the project added rocks and large wood to existing deep pool habitat features in the area, providing increased winter and refuge habitat for the high value recreational fishery. The project is a partnership between Trout Unlimited, the Conejos Water Conservancy District (CWCD), CPW, the Rio Grande National Forest, and Riverbend Engineering. The project complements the Winter Flow Program led by Trout Unlimited and the CWCD, which is an effort to increase stream flows on this section of the Conejos River during the non-irrigation season.
Conejos River Partnership Project
The Conejos River Partnership Project (CRPP) was born out of the Conejos River Stream Management Plan (SMP) and has brought together the CWCD, RGHRP, CPW, Division of Water Resources, Bureau of Land Management, private landowners, and water users to address irrigation infrastructure and riparian and aquatic habitat degradation on the Conejos River. This multi-phased project helps meet aquatic habitat needs on the Conejos River through the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructure, enhancement of aquatic habitat, and restoration of riparian and wetland habitats. The CRPP includes six sites along the Conejos River between Mogote and the confluence with the Rio Grande. In 2021, construction was completed at the Sabine Ditch to replace the diversion structure and headgate, revegetate and stabilize upstream streambanks, and reconnect the river with its floodplain. Construction will continue in 2022 at additional project sites.
Alamosa River Water Delivery Improvement Project
The Alamosa River Water Delivery Improvement Project was a collaborative effort between the Terrace Irrigation Company and the Alamosa-La Jara Water Conservancy District. Many diversions along the Alamosa River are manually diverted with headgates that are out-of-date and deteriorated. This project resulted in the replacement of the headgate on the Main Canal, installation of automatic controllers on the Main and Creek Canal, and installation of satellite recording devices on 5 of the larger upstream diversion structures. As a result of this project, the Alamosa River will be administered more accurately for the benefit of all stakeholders involved, including the Alamosa River Keepers, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Division of Water Resources, the Town of Jasper, Expo Inc., and other water users along the river.
The Rio Grande Basin Roundtable continues to work on collaborative and innovative solutions that will keep the Rio Grande Basin water here and working for our communities. We want to thank the Colorado Water Conservation Board and their incredibly dedicated staff, along with other project funders that include Foundations, Agencies, Organizations and contractors who all work passionately to help us create a sustainable water future. We wish you all a Happy New Year and invite you to join us at our monthly RGBRT meetings.