#PalmerLake’s major financial issues likely leading to #water rate increases — The Tri-Lakes Tribune

Palmer Lake via Wikipedia Commons

Click the link to read the article on The Tri-Lakes Tribune website (Breeanna Jent). Here’s an excerpt:

Palmer Lake water customers will likely see their bills increase in the near future as the town looks to boost revenues to its self-sustaining water enterprise, which is projected to have inadequate funding in 2023. “Inadvertent” incorrect billing of 15 water accounts and the town’s failure to increase water rates by 3% annually starting in January 2020, as stipulated by a 2019 town resolution, have caused the budget shortfall, according to administrative and financial documents. Staff are now “working on the issues” and will “bring options to the (Board of Trustees) to consider,” Deputy Town Clerk Julia Stambaugh said by email this week…

Stambaugh reported in a Sept. 29 town memo the water account billing issues had been resolved. It was unclear how long the town had incorrectly billed the water accounts in question. But now, ballooning loan repayments upcoming in 2024 and the “significant rise” in the cost of materials for infrastructure mean the town’s water fund won’t have enough money in its projected 2023 budget, finance documents show.

Aspinall Unit operations update (October 31, 2022): The #Gunnison Tunnel is turning off

Official opening of the Gunnison Tunnel by President Taft at the west portal

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased from 950 cfs to 370 cfs on Monday, October 31st. Releases are being decreased in coordination with the shutdown of the Gunnison Tunnel on Monday, October 31st.   

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 790 cfs. River flows are expected to remain 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 October and November. 

Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 570 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 340 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will be zero and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will still be near 340 cfs.  Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review. 

Local watershed group tests hydro-mulching technique to treat burn scars — The Sky-Hi News

Aerial mulching. Photo credit: Colorado State Forest Service

Click the link to read the article on the Sky-Hi News website (Andrew Miller). Here’s an excerpt:

The Grand County-based Upper Colorado River Watershed Group continues to search for landscape scale solutions to address immense environmental problems at least partially created by a combination of global climate change and increasing levels of water diversion. On Oct. 13, the group tested one possible large-scale solution to restoring the more than 300 square mile East Troublesome Fire burn scar on a small scale on the west side of the Grand Lake Golf Course.

Hydro mulch is a green-colored coating applied by fire hose-type sprayers, it’s often used on ground that has been exposed after road construction. This same technique, applied from the same air tankers and helicopters used to fight wildfires, might offer a scaled approach to restore blackened fire scars all over the West. As a test of this concept, the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group hydro mulched test plots on a burned area near the course. The group used funds from a Colorado Department of Health and Environment grant for the experimental treatment. Grand Environmental Services employee Adam Roth also helped concoct a hydro mulch mix including mycelium supplied by Boulder Mushroom. Mycelium is the below-ground “root” structure of a fungus, and it can help tie the soil together to prevent erosion. This mixture might help reduce the number of landslides which continue to bedevil the Colorado Department of Transportation, regularly closing Willow Creek Pass and Interstate 70 through the Glenwood Canyon.

Don’t expect #Colorado to have a good snow year. Here’s why — The #Denver Post #CRWUA2022

ENSO plume September 2022.

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

Only twice before have La Niñas struck for three straight years, according to Becky Bollinger, of the Colorado State University’s Colorado Climate Center.

La Niña intensifies the average atmospheric circulation—surface and high-altitude winds, rainfall, pressure patterns—in the tropical Pacific. Over the contiguous United States, the average location of the jet stream shifts northward. The southern tier of the country is often drier and warmer than average. NOAA Climate.gov illustration.

Historically speaking La Niñas split the state in half, Bollinger said. The northern portion can expect an average or above-average snowy season while the southern section will likely be warmer and drier…Think of the jetstream as a sort of “storm highway” that crosses North America from west to east, [Tom] DiLiberto said. So when cold winds push the entire highway further north, the storms that bring rain and snow move with it. Typically that means more winter rain and snow for the Pacific Northwest and the northern portions of the Rocky Mountains, DiLiberto said. The American Southwest tends to be warmer and drier for the winter.

The #Colorado Department of Agriculture Finalizes Historic USDA Grant to Fund Up To $25M of Soil Health Projects

Click the link to read the release on the Colorado Department of Agriculture website:

The Colorado Department of Agriculture has finalized the grant agreement to significantly invest in Colorado’s STAR program for soil health. CDA’s STAR program was one of the 70 projects selected for funding by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project. This marks an historic investment in Colorado agriculture that will advance farmer- and rancher-led soil and climate solutions. 

CDA will receive $25 million to more than double participation in the STAR (Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources) program across Colorado, expand research on the benefits of regenerative agriculture across eight Intermountain West states, scale the model nationwide, and continue building markets for producers deploying climate-smart agricultural practices. 

This historic investment for Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and agricultural communities means a significant influx of funds to help producers absorb the financial risks of adopting new cropping and rangeland practices that advance soil health and climate resilience. This program has always been, and will remain, completely voluntary. The funds will expand the STAR Plus program to work with Colorado’s diverse producers, from small farms to large production scale operations. In addition to expanding the capacity to offer financial and technical support to STAR participants, Colorado’s ambitious soil health pilot program will be scaled up nationwide to establish a trusted market signal that will offer producers new and diverse market opportunities that pay them for their stewardship.

“This unprecedented funding for Colorado agriculture will allow CDA and our partners to put its full force behind the soil health initiatives we’ve been piloting for the past two years,” said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg. “This major investment from the USDA will allow us to show consumers the strides Colorado farmers and ranchers are making in deploying climate-smart agricultural practices by developing market signals that assure customers of our commitment to combating climate change. This funding will show the nation and the world that Colorado agriculture is on the leading edge of innovative production and stewardship in a changing world.”

Farmers and ranchers are experiencing first hand the impacts of climate change and healthy soils are key to mitigating these effects in agricultural landscapes. Improving soil health can increase carbon sequestration, reduce agricultural runoff, decrease erosion, and support more productive, higher-yielding crops. 

The USDA and CDA have been working in partnership to advance agricultural solutions to climate change and the funding of STAR is a direct testament to that. 

“This funding illustrates USDA’s commitment to natural resource conservation partnerships,” said Clint Evans, Colorado State Conservationist for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The STAR program leverages federal dollars, with state and local planning and action to directly benefit soil and other natural resources, as well as agricultural climate-smart efforts.” 

STAR was shaped from the ground up by farmers, ranchers, conservation districts, and other partners who helped CDA tailor it to work for different crops, range, and different ways of farming and ranching across the state. 

“Our community might be behind the times in terms of some farming measures, but we are on the cutting edge in terms of sustainability and it’s all because our traditional practices have been preserved for hundreds of years,” said Steven Romero, a rancher and Costilla County Commissioner who is a board member of the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, a key partner in this grant. “It’s amazing to see a program like this come to fruition. We as a society are finally putting a dollar amount on sustainability and on the way that people have been practicing for ages.”

The STAR program was built to serve everyone from the smallest producer to the largest, across all production types. This commitment to soil health has also been a key priority for a number of commodity groups across Colorado. 

“Farmers have been ahead of the curve when it comes to sustainability, as evidenced by the incredible environmental improvements in many areas since 1980. This grant is a great opportunity that will help producers find innovative practices to build our soil’s health, which is the very foundation of what we do, and build resiliency into our agricultural systems,” said Nick Colglazier, Executive Director of Colorado Corn Administrative Committee. “It will continue agriculture’s journey of sustainability, so consumers can continue to be confident that the food, fiber, and fuel they buy is ensuring a sustainable future for all.”

The Saving Tomorrow’s Agriculture Resources (STAR) program is an innovative and simple framework that allows farmers and ranchers to evaluate their current production system, identify areas for improved management, document their progress, and share their successes. In Colorado, STAR evaluates 11 different cropping systems and grazing lands for soil health and serves as a complementary tool to the more robust STAR Plus program. STAR Plus is a three year program that provides financial and technical assistance to producers and is implemented in partnership with local experts from conservation districts. 

“We believe that the expansion of this soil health program is an important step to creating a better future for our industry,” said Jim Erlich, Executive DIrector of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee in a support letter submitted with the CSC grant application. “Recent struggles with a prolonged drought have put tremendous pressure on our groundwater aquifer. Our growers believe this program may help them continue their adoption of cover crop strategies to save water and soil, and build organic matter on their farms.”

The grant funding will also help develop new markets for items produced using regenerative agricultural practices. CDA will work to develop and implement a strategy to establish the STAR rating as a market signal for buyers and consumers who care about supporting climate-smart ag practices. CDA will also work to directly connect Colorado STAR participants with supply chain partners and to incorporate STAR with the Colorado Proud program, CDA’s highly successful marketing program that Colorado consumers already associate with high quality, locally produced food.

The 2022 growing season was the first year operating the STAR+ pilot program. There are currently 16 conservation districts, three eligible entities, and 130 farmers and ranchers shaping this program with us as we grow. The program is expected to more than double in the next application period which will cover the 2024 growing season.

CDA’s proposal received 60 letters of support, including from conservation districts, local and national nonprofits, agricultural commodity groups, and food buyers and processors. CDA will work closely with project partners to increase participation in STAR and conduct research that quantifies the benefits of soil health. The program will include research sites in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Washington in order to understand the carbon, water, and economic benefits of healthy soil practices. Incentive payments through STAR will be targeted toward historically underserved farmer populations. 

List of Project Partners & their Roles:

  • Colorado Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) continues its long standing conservation partnership with CDA  and will locally administer the CSC Agreement.
  • Colorado State University (CSU) Department of Soil & Crop Sciences will quantify and verify climate outcomes across the program and study the soil heath, soil moisture, and carbon impacts of new practices. This will include use of COMET tools, soil sampling, soil moisture probes, economic analysis, and sociological analysis. Subcontractors include Montana State University, New Mexico State University, Utah State University, University of Idaho, and University of Wyoming. 
  • CSU Agricultural Experiment Station (AES) and CSU Extension will provide technical assistance to producers enrolled in STAR Plus. 
  • CSU Dept of Sociology will study the impacts of variation in STAR program participation on the adoption of soil health practices.
  • Champaign County Soil & Water Conservation District (Illinois), which originated the STAR program, will create STAR National, set up a uniform market signal for STAR, and support expansion of STAR into other western states. 
  • Conservation Districts and other eligible entities will enroll farmers and support the adoption of climate-smart practices across Colorado. 
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) will facilitate peer-to-peer learning meetings in which farmers and ranchers can share lessons learned and best practices as they implement soil health practices. 
  • Colorado Open Lands and the Sangre de Cristo Association of Acequias will facilitate peer-to-peer learning within the Acequia community, and enroll STAR Plus participants.

Additional resources: 

San Juan Water Conservancy District indicates support to pursue Dry Gulch Reservoir — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) Board of Directors discussed, at length, potential future actions for pursuing the creation of the Dry Gulch reservoir at its Oct. 24 meeting. The discussion stemmed from the board’s continued efforts to reevaluate its strategic objectives, especially in light of the results of the recently commissioned Wilson Water Group supply and demand study. While these new objectives have not been formalized, the board did make a motion assigning the task to board members Candace Jones and Rachel Suh…

As the conversation about strategy unfolded, there was clear consensus about the need to determine SJWCD’s official stance on support for a reservoir.

“We really need to determine as a board where we stand on the reservoir. That really needs to happen before we move forward on the strategic plan in general,” Suh said. “If we don’t have cohesion as a board, what are we really working on?”

Board member Rod Proffitt ex- plained that, technically, that decision has already been made. In 2011, the SJWCD Board of Di- rectors passed a resolution to build the reservoir, and then entered a three-way contractual agreement that SJWCD would head the effort to build the reservoir with the state of Colorado and with Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District, Proffitt explained.

“PAWSD has made it clear that they do not want to be a part of this, and every effort I’ve made to make amends with PAWSD to move them in a direction to support this reservoir has been met with disdain,” Proffitt said, adding, “The sooner we get rid of PAWSD as a potential partner in this, the better off we’re going to be.”

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Lower #ColoradoRiver reservoir evaporation the focus of new analysis from the Southern #Nevada Water Authority — KUNC #COriver #aridification #CRWUA2022

The drought’s bathtub ring of Lake Mead at Hoover Dam May 2022. Photo: Don Barrett CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0

Click the link to read the article on the KUNC website (Luke Runyon). Here’s an excerpt:

An analysis compiled by the Southern Nevada Water Authority estimates the total amount of water lost in the river’s lower reaches. If implemented in its current form, the proposal would translate to significant cutbacks for users in Nevada, Arizona and California. The agency’s staff presented the analysis to representatives from the seven U.S. states that rely on the beleaguered Colorado River for drinking and irrigation water supply. Federal officials were also present at the Manhattan Beach, California meeting held in the third week of October. Farmers and cities in the river’s Lower Basin states of California, Arizona, and Nevada have never had to fully account for the amount of water lost to evaporation, or to leaky infrastructure, also called transit losses. About 1.5 million acre-feet of water is lost to evaporation and other losses each year, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority analysis. That’s more water than the state of Utah uses from the river annually…

September 21, 1923, 9:00 a.m. — Colorado River at Lees Ferry. From right bank on line with Klohr’s house and gage house. Old “Dugway” or inclined gage shows to left of gage house. Gage height 11.05′, discharge 27,000 cfs. Lens 16, time =1/25, camera supported. Photo by G.C. Stevens of the USGS. Source: 1921-1937 Surface Water Records File, Colorado R. @ Lees Ferry, Laguna Niguel Federal Records Center, Accession No. 57-78-0006, Box 2 of 2 , Location No. MB053635.

The analysis examines where water loss occurs downstream of Lee’s Ferry in northern Arizona to the northern boundary of the U.S.-Mexico border. Both the U.S. and Mexico rely on the river. The analysis divides the river into five reaches, and includes the large reservoirs in the Lower Basin — Lake Mead, Lake Mohave and Lake Havasu. The analysis then calculates which states and which users within each state could be cut back to account for the overall basin-wide loss. Users upstream, like the Southern Nevada Water Authority, carry a lesser burden than those downstream, as users upstream are not reliant on downstream infrastructure and reservoirs to deliver their water supplies. Those users further downstream on the river, like California’s Imperial Irrigation District, would face the highest volume of potential cutbacks, factoring in their placement on the river and their volume of overall use, according to this analysis. There is no set standard to account for these losses, [Colby] Pellegrino said, and this initial analysis is meant to get the conversation started as a potential model for how to divvy up the cuts among users…

Using the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s methods, the river’s big users could be staring down significant cuts to their supplies to account for evaporative and transit loss. To achieve the total savings of 1.5 million acre-feet per year, the analysis assigns cutbacks of 509,508 acre-feet on the Imperial Irrigation District, 190,474 acre-feet on the Central Arizona Project system, and 110,464 acre-feet to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, with the rest being contributed by dozens of other smaller users. Mexico, which is able to store some of its river water in American reservoirs because of binational agreements, is by treaty not required to share in transit losses. But if the country were to share in additional reductions related to evaporation and transit loss, the country’s total could be 333,040 acre-feet per year when considering its total uses and its placement as the river’s final user, according to the analysis.

Upper Colorado River basins. (The border of Wyoming and Colorado is mislabeled.) (U.S. BOR)

Accounting for evaporation has become a rallying cry from users in the river’s Upper Basin states of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico and a tension point in ongoing negotiations. Those states already use a system to track losses and are charged for them in their basin-wide accounting. Upper Basin water managers say the current system is unfair.