Aspinall unit operations update (March 30, 2022): 300 cfs through the #Gunnison Tunnel #GunnisonRiver

Black Canyon July 2020. Photo credit: Cari Bischoff

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased from 775 cfs to 700 cfs on Wednesday, March 30th. Releases are being decreased as flows in the lower Gunnison River are well above the baseflow target. Currently snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is 109% of normal and the forecasted April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir is 92% of average.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 790 cfs. River flows are expected to stay at levels above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 790 cfs for March and 1050 cfs for April.

Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 300 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 475 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 300 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be near 400 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Aspinall Unit

#LakePowell continues to disappear as #Colorado hits pause on plan to prop up levels — The Salt Lake Tribune #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Lake Powell boat ramp at Page, Arizona, December 17, 2021. Photo credit: Allen Best/Big Pivots

Click the link to read the article on the Salt Lake Tribune website (Zak Podmore). Here’s an excerpt:

The reservoir could drop below the level needed to generate power at the Glen Canyon Dam this year if other ways of increasing the elevation of the lake aren’t used

…water managers in Colorado announced last week that they will stop exploring one proposal to prop up the rapidly depleting levels in Lake Powell. The plan — known as demand management — would compensate farmers and ranchers for voluntarily stopping irrigation on a temporary basis, sending water that would have been used for agriculture to the reservoir. A drought contingency plan developed in 2019 by Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming identified demand management as one method that could be used to keep the water level in Lake Powell above 3,525 feet in elevation, around a quarter of its capacity, in order to protect electricity generation. The four-state demand management proposal was met with suspicion by agricultural interests, according to Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the University of Colorado Law School who previously worked on Colorado River issues under the Obama administration. Skeptics of the plan feared it could “wipe out irrigated agriculture” in parts of the river basin and fundamentally alter rural economies, Castle said at a recent University of Utah symposium hosted by the Wallace Stegner Center. She said those fears were “not unfounded” and “they would have to be dealt with in an equitable demand management program.”

[…]

Utah still supports a four-state demand management program, said Amy Haas, executive director of the Colorado River Authority of Utah, but it is also prepared to move forward with water conservation pilot projects and potentially pursue a smaller-scale demand management program on its own. She pointed to Utah’s investments in water measuring infrastructure, studies looking at switching to crops that require less water and other programs…

The Bureau of Reclamation recently announced that it is studying modifications to the Glen Canyon Dam that would allow for power generation at lower water levels. That could include installing turbines on bypass tubes that are located below the current hydropower intakes…

But Brad Udall said finding the political will and leadership at federal and state levels to permanently reduce demand is difficult.

“My biggest fear,” Udall said, “is that it’s easier to let the system crash than it is to find the painful solutions that are needed.”

He defined a system crash as letting the two largest reservoirs in the U.S. — Lake Mead and Lake Powell — empty because of an inability to respond to declining flows. Udall added there have been incremental, positive solutions implemented in the basin over the last two decades, but he said future solutions have to be “more than incremental” to deal with the crisis.

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
@GreatLakesPeck.

El Paso County opens #water and #wastewater infrastructure grant application — The #ColoradoSprings Business Journal #ArkansasRiver

Summer greenery of El Paso County. By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11331849

Click the link to read the announcement from El Paso County on the Colorado Springs Business Journal website:

El Paso County is accepting applications for its American Rescue Plan Act Water and Wastewater Infrastructure Grant funding opportunity. According to a news release, “[t]he county has allocated $20 million in ARPA funding for necessary investments in water and wastewater infrastructure, to include improvements to drinking water infrastructure, upgrading facilities, managing sewage and other eligible uses.”

“The community has expressed great interest in this particular grant, and it truly is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many communities and projects,” Commissioner Holly Williams said in the release. “This grant will have a monumental impact for decades to come, as it increases peoples’ access to clean drinking water, and replaces many aging infrastructures.”

According to the release, “[a]ll levels of infrastructure have seen increased demands during the pandemic, and our water and wastewater infrastructures are no exception. This $20 million allocation will help El Paso County preserve and be better stewards of our most precious and scarce resource, and is an investment directly allowed under ARPA guidance.”

The application opens Monday, March 28, 2022, and will remain open through 5 p.m. Friday, April 22.

Application Eligibility:

  • All projects must meet federal eligibility requirements, which include 17 project categories under guidelines published through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund.
  • Projects must be located in El Paso County.
  • The entire allocation for this funding is $20 million and the county expects to fund several projects, the release said, adding a portion of the funding will be reserved specifically for smaller communities and projects.

    El Paso County will be hosting a pre-application webinar at 11:30 a.m. on April 4 to answer specific application related questions. To participate in the webinar, join using this link. Participants are encouraged to send questions ahead of time to ARPArequests@elpasoco.com. If you require accommodations or need a translator, send an email to JyotsnaKhattri@elpasoco.com by March 30.

    The application is a fillable PDF available here and on El Paso County’s ARPA page. All completed applications and supporting documentation must be submitted electronically to ARPArequests@elpasoco.com. For more information, visit http://admin.elpasoco.com/arpa.

    #NewMexico seeks approval to store #RioGrande water at Abiquiú — The Albuquerque Journal

    El Vado Dam and Reservoir. Photo credit: USBR

    Click the link to read the article on the Albuquerque Journal website (Theresa Davis). Here’s an excerpt:

    New Mexico water agencies are slowly piecing together a regulatory puzzle in order to store Rio Grande water in Abiquiú Reservoir for middle valley irrigation this summer as El Vado Dam is repaired. But an objection from Texas water managers could interfere with the reservoir’s use for non-pueblo irrigators. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the northern New Mexico reservoir on the Rio Chama. Nabil Shafike, the Army Corps Albuquerque District’s water management chief, said Abiquiu was once authorized only to store Colorado River Basin water that is diverted into the Rio Grande Basin with a series of tunnels and dams for the San Juan-Chama Project.

    “All the Corps reservoirs – Abiquiú, Cochiti, Galisteo and Jemez Canyon – work as one unit to protect the middle valley from flood,” Shafike said. “Any storing of native (Rio Grande) water would require a deviation from the current operation.”

    The agency is weighing two potential changes at Abiquiu:

    • A request from the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to store up to 45,000 acre-feet, or 14.6 billion gallons, of Rio Grande water in Abiquiú each year for release later in the season to meet middle Rio Grande irrigation demand.

    • A request from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to store up to 20,000 acre-feet, or 6.5 billion gallons, of Rio Grande water in Abiquiú each year to meet direct flow right for the six middle Rio Grande pueblos of Isleta, Sandia, Santa Ana, San Felipe, Santo Domingo and Cochiti.

    The Army Corps could approve both storage plans or may choose only one.

    State of #YampaRiver: Current low #snowpack is similar to other dry years; rain will be key: Amount of water in the Yampa Valley’s snowpack may have already peaked — The #Craig Press #GreenRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Colorado snowpack sub-basin filled map March 29, 2022 via the NRCS.

    Click the link to read the article on the Craig Press website (Dylan Anderson):

    The amount of water in the snowpack blanketing the Yampa River Basin started declining on Friday, March 25, potentially marking the earliest peak since 2017…Erin Light, engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, has put the river under administration three of the last four years. At the Colorado River District’s State of the Yampa River event last week, she said 2022, so far, is tracking in line with other dry years over the last two decades.

    This year’s snowpack is rivaling that of 2002 and 2012 — two of the driest years during the current 22-year drought that is the worst ever recorded, Light said…Snowpack is important, but precipitation in the spring and late summer is also a key metric, and it seems harder to come by…

    The Yampa is one of most free flowing rivers in Colorado. Of the five main reservoirs feeding into the Yampa, Light estimated that at least two and maybe three of them won’t fill up this year. Stillwater Reservoir is the farthest upstream and was sitting at about 310 acre-feet when it was last measured in October. Light said there was water released last year for both agricultural purposes and for work on the dam. Farther downstream, Yamcolo Reservoir was about 45% full, and Stagecoach reservoir was 75% full as of late last week. Two reservoirs in the basin — Fish Creek Reservoir on Buffalo Pass, where Steamboat Springs gets much of its water, and Elkhead Reservoir near the Routt and Moffat county line — are both likely to fill, Light said.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 29, 2022 via the NRCS.

    #Climate misinformation still reigns in @GOP Senate primary amid #Colorado #drought, fires — Colorado Newsline #ActOnClimate

    Temperature changes around the world 1901 thru 2021. Credit: Hawkins

    Residents in Big Thompson Canyon east of Estes Park became the latest Coloradans to flee their homes in fear of a nearby wildfire on Monday, just hours after the NCAR Fire forced evacuations and closures 30 miles to the south in Boulder.

    It’s been three months since the Marshall Fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and left two people dead, and nearly two years since Colorado’s three largest wildfires on record burned in the summer and fall of 2020, razing mountainsides, choking the skies with haze and eventually causing mudslides that killed four people in Larimer County and left Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon shut down for weeks.

    The increasingly tangible impacts of the climate-driven “megadrought” that has affected much of Colorado since 2000 — stressed water supplies, more intense wildfires, losses in the agricultural and tourism sectors — have served as a rallying cry for Democrats who highlight the urgent need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. But the 2022 campaign season has brought little sign of a change in Colorado Republicans’ long-running pattern of denying or downplaying human-caused climate change.

    GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

    In the crowded GOP primary for U.S. Senate, misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories still dominate candidates’ rhetoric on climate and energy issues.

    State Rep. Ron Hanks of Cañon City, the race’s only sitting lawmaker, said earlier this month that climate change is a Chinese hoax designed to “emasculate” the American economy.

    Eli Bremer, a first-time candidate and former Olympic pentathlete, has spread debunked claims that wind power emits more greenhouse gases than fossil fuels.

    And Gino Campana, a former Fort Collins city councilman who once supported the city’s emissions-cutting programs and co-founded a clean-energy startup, has joined other Republicans in blasting Democrats for holding back domestic energy production — an assertion belied by the oil and gas industry’s own statements.

    Ahead of the state GOP assembly next month, climate change has rarely come up in debates and other campaign events featuring Republican Senate candidates. Several leading contenders ignored repeated requests from Newsline to comment on climate issues, and none have detailed a plan to achieve the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that an overwhelming scientific consensus says is necessary to avoid increasingly catastrophic effects. Other GOP candidates who filed to run for the Senate seat include Joe O’Dea, Deborah Flora and Peter Yu. Observers generally name Hanks, Bremer and Campana among the frontrunners.

    “Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability,” wrote 270 scientists in the latest report from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last month. “The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.”

    ‘It’s called weather’

    A Colorado College poll released last month found that 82% of Centennial State voters agreed that climate change is a serious problem, up from 60% in 2011. Nearly 7 in 10 Coloradans say they’re supportive of climate action, including efforts to transition to 100% clean energy within “the next ten to fifteen years,” the school’s annual State of the Rockies poll found.

    Republican voters, however, are much more evenly split on the issue, with about half declaring climate change “not a problem,” according to poll results across an eight-state Western region. And despite periodic predictions of a Republican shift on climate issues from pollsters and pundits, little about party leaders’ views has changed over the last decade.

    During his six-year U.S. Senate term, former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner acknowledged that “the climate is changing” but consistently cast doubt on the extent to which warming is human-caused. The same position is held by many Republicans in the state Legislature, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert of Parker, who said of “so-called climate change” during a floor debate last year: “I do not believe that it is man-made.”

    In fact, virtually all of the 1.07 degrees Celsius average global temperature increase observed since 1850 has been the result of rising atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations “unequivocally caused by human activities,” IPCC scientists wrote last year. Non-human drivers like solar and volcanic activity and natural variability have had no quantifiable long-term effect.

    Hanks, a first-term lawmaker who was present at the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol and a leading proponent of conspiracy theories relating to the 2020 election, staked out the primary’s most extreme position on climate change at a candidate forum earlier this month.

    Asked how he would respond to concerns about climate change in a general election matchup with incumbent Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, Hanks replied that Republicans need to “start marketing the truth.”

    “I don’t want to sit here and pretend climate change is a real issue. It’s called weather,” Hanks said to laughter and applause, according to video posted by his campaign.

    Echoing baseless claims made by former President Donald Trump, Hanks called climate change a “serious effort from China to emasculate us” by impeding domestic manufacturing and economic growth.

    Bremer, a onetime chair of the El Paso County Republican Party, is among the only candidates in the primary to have publicly addressed the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. “Our approach should be led by data, science, and common sense rather than tilting to the political winds of the day,” reads a section devoted to environmental policy on his website.

    But Bremer’s recent claims about emissions from renewable energy sources like wind turbines are contradicted by a vast body of existing research.

    “On the yardstick of greenhouse gas emissions, environmental policies fail … If you look at windmills, there’s a lot of greenhouse gas emission cost that we gloss over,” Bremer said in a March 23 Fox News interview, claiming that the emissions resulting from the manufacture and construction of wind farms offsets their lower operating emissions. “Virtually every expert that I’ve talked to believes that the overall return is negative.”

    In fact, a 2021 analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden concluded that even when “total life cycle” emissions are calculated wind energy projects produce only a tiny fraction of the emissions of fossil-fuel-powered electricity generation. Evaluating the results of hundreds of previous studies, researchers concluded that the 13 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilowatt-hour produced by wind generation — nearly all the result of one-time construction emissions — are 77 times smaller than the emissions from a typical coal plant and 37 times smaller than emissions from a natural gas plant.

    From smart-grid investor to ‘unleash Colorado energy’

    Campana, a wealthy real estate developer who served a term on the Fort Collins City Council between 2013 and 2017, has attracted establishment support for his Senate candidacy, including endorsements from former Trump administration figures like Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Kellyanne Conway, who joined Campana’s campaign as an advisor last month.

    During his city council term, Campana frequently aligned himself with Fort Collins’ ambitious emissions-cutting efforts. In 2014, he voted to approve an update to the city’s climate action plan, which aimed to reduce emissions 80% by 2030, and endorsed another resolution calling for the city to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. In 2016, he also expressed support for the “objectives” of a legal brief filed by city officials in support of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, though he didn’t vote in favor of it. The Trump administration later gutted the policy.

    Years earlier, Campana had been one of four founders of Windsor-based Ice Energy, a manufacturer of thermal energy storage systems. Experts say so-called “smart grid” technologies are a key part of the transition to a fully renewable electric grid, helping improve efficiency and offset the intermittency of wind and solar resources.

    In 2010, Ice Energy received millions in government funding in the form of tax credits authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — the same stimulus bill under which California-based solar panel manufacturer Solyndra received a $535 million federal loan guarantee that became notorious among conservatives after the firm went bankrupt a year later. Campana reported income from Ice Energy in a financial disclosure as late as 2013; the company later moved out of Colorado and declared bankruptcy in 2019.

    In a financial disclosure filed earlier this year, Campana estimated his net worth at between $44 million and $141 million, and detailed an extensive list of corporate stock holdings that include tens of thousands of dollars invested in both fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum and clean-energy firms like Tesla and Vestas Wind.

    As he looks to win support from the GOP base ahead of next month’s state assembly — and fight off attacks from opponents who say his city council record makes him a “tax-and-spend-liberal” — Campana has positioned himself as a champion of the oil and gas industry, calling on policymakers to “unleash Colorado energy.”

    “Biden and Bennet are stifling America’s energy production, costing us jobs and higher gas prices,” he wrote in a tweet earlier this month. That’s a widely repeated GOP attack line that’s contradicted by the thousands of approved drilling permits held by oil and gas producers in Colorado and beyond, and the repeated assurances companies have made to investors to limit production growth.

    On his website, Campana touts his “background in environmental engineering” and endorses an “all of the above energy strategy” that he says can lead to reduced emissions.

    Scientists, however, warn that plans for continued fossil fuel production by governments around the world are “dangerously out of sync” with the targets outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which called for limiting average global temperature rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius.

    “The research is clear: Global coal, oil, and gas production must start declining immediately and steeply to be consistent with limiting long-term warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” Ploy Achakulwisut, a lead author on the 2021 U.N. Production Gap report, said upon the report’s release last year. “However, governments continue to plan for and support levels of fossil fuel production that are vastly in excess of what we can safely burn.”

    SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

    Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.