High Line Canal Conservancy receives grant for invasive species removal: $41,100 will enhance stewardship, youth employment, education — The Littleton Independent

Russian Olive

Click the link to read the article on the Littleton Independent website (Nina Joss). Here’s an excerpt:

Russian olive is an invasive species that spreads aggressively and deprives native species of important resources like water, according to Julia Clover Clark, natural resources manager at the High Line Canal Conservancy.

“We don’t want the canal to become a vector for Russian olive to spread throughout open spaces,” she said.

With a recent $41,100 grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the High Line Canal Conservancy will continue efforts to rid the canal of the invasive species. Working with the Mile High Youth Corps, they will spend four weeks eliminating Russian olive along the corridor in Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village.

“It’s just such an exciting opportunity because not only (does) it allow us to get out there and do this important work of mitigating Russian olive along the corridor, but it really aligns with our values to be able to have a partnership with (the youth corps),” Clark said.

The grant program is implemented in partnership with the Colorado Youth Corps Association, a coalition of eight accredited conservation service corps that employ and train people aged 14-25 in the natural resource sector…Last year, the High Line Canal Conservancy also received the grant, which it used to started Russian olive mitigation along 20 miles of the canal corridor. This pilot project covered parts of the corridor in Denver, unincorporated Arapahoe County, Centennial and Greenwood Village during the summer of 2022. At the end of that project, a 5.5 mile gap between the project areas remained. This year, their work will address the gap.

“After (the corps’) work is completed, there will be 27 continuous miles (with no Russian olive),” Clark said.

Old cottonwoods line the banks and trails of the historic Highline Canal, which is being converted into an ultra modern stormwater system even as its trail systems continue to serve metro area residents. July 21, 2020 Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

#PFAS from #Colorado military bases contribute to environmental injustice: Toxins from Peterson have contaminated the drinking #water of downstream communities — Colorado Newsline

FORT CARSON, Colo. – 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division receives first CH-47 Chinook helicopters at Butts Army Airfield on Fort Carson, Colo., Jan. 22, 2013. Crew members conduct their post flight checks. The Chinooks are the first CH-47s to arrive to the new combat aviation brigade. (Photo by Sgt. Jonathan C. Thibault, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division Public Affairs NCOIC/Released)

Click the link to read the article on the Colorado Newsline website (Jonathan Sharp):

For over a century, the U.S. Army has been plagued by the lasting consequences of its negligent use, storage and disposal of hazardous chemicals. As a result, countless troops and dependents residing on contaminated bases regularly came into contact with toxins known to trigger adverse health effects and deadly diseases.

In high-profile cases like North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, nearly 1 million service members and their families were exposed to deadly toxins for over 30 years (1953-1987), including health hazards like benzene, vinyl chloride, trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, and per/polyfluoroalkyl substances — PFAS.

Also known as “forever chemicals,” PFAS are a group of over 12,000 artificial compounds that represent a distinct environmental concern due to their resilient molecular structure, which prevents natural decomposition, allowing them to easily permeate the soil and contaminate drinking water sources. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to testicular cancer, organ damage (liver, kidneys), high cholesterol, decreased vaccine efficiency in children, and impaired reproduction.

On Camp Lejeune and more than 700 army bases across the US, PFAS contamination is directly linked to aqueous film-forming foam used since the early 1970s to extinguish difficult fuel blazes. In 2016, the EPA established a health advisory of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS, the main PFAS compounds.

Although service members and their relatives are the most burdened, contamination originating from military sources plays a larger role in an insidious pattern of discrimination that affects marginalized minority communities.

Due to discriminatory redlining policies, land in minority neighborhoods was significantly undervalued and became a cost-efficient solution to situate army bases, industrial facilities, landfills, traffic routes, and other sources of toxic pollution. The higher toxic burden that vulnerable minority communities experience due to systemic prejudice is better known as “environmental racism.”

2021 report notes that Colorado has the highest PFAS footprint in the country, with approximately 21,000 sites suspected of using or storing such compounds. Although industrial activities are the primary driver of PFAS’ prevalence, frontline communities also have to contend with contamination from several military sources.

(Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.)

Nine army bases in Colorado are known to have been affected by PFAS due to aqueous film-forming foam, with the most contaminated including Schriever Air Force Base (870,000 ppt), Buckley Space Force Base (formerly Buckley Air Force Base, 205,000 ppt), Fort Carson (156,000 ppt), U.S. Air Force Academy (72,000 ppt) and Peterson Space Force Base (formerly Peterson Air Force Base, 15,000 ppt). Significantly, PFAS from Peterson has previously contaminated the drinking water sources of downstream communities, with a CDC study finding PFAS compounds in the blood of residents in one exposed community registering concentrations 1.8 to 8.1 times the national average.

While the Air Force and Department of Defense have been involved in some remediation efforts, from distributing bottled water to installing filters and building treatment plants, their contributions are considered limited by Coloradans, given the lack of actual PFAS cleanup projects. Unlike Camp Lejeune, none of the contaminated Colorado bases are listed as Superfund sites.

Frontline communities exposed to higher health risks due to environmental racism’s lingering effects rely on state and federal authorities to establish a legal framework that keeps polluters accountable and protects vulnerable citizens. Since 2020, Colorado has enacted some of the country’s most stringent PFAS laws and adopted a PFAS narrative policy that closely follows the EPA’s 2016 advisories.

Federally, the National Defense Authorization Act will see aqueous film-forming foam phased out by 2024 and finance PFAS cleanup projects on contaminated installations, while the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide impacted communities with crucial investments to address pollution and other causes of environmental injustice. The Honoring Our PACT Act will provide improved health benefits and compensation for veterans and military families exposed to toxins in highly contaminated locations like Camp Lejeune.

Despite these encouraging developments, the DoD has yet to commence cleanup on any of the most affected bases in the country per NDAA’s provisions, and diseases resulting from exposure to PFAS aren’t recognized as presumptive conditions under HOPA. Moreover, while Colorado adopted the EPA’s 2016 guidelines, it falls behind other states that employ even stricter standards.

Still, Colorado has the opportunity to stay ahead of the game by implementing more effective PFAS standards that align with the EPA’s most current efforts to regulate these toxic compounds. With the goal of setting enforceable maximum contaminant levels in drinking water, the EPA has drastically reduced its non-binding advisories for PFOA and PFOS in June 2022 to a paltry 0.004 ppt and 0.02 ppt, respectively, illustrating the dangers these substances represent even at exceedingly low concentrations.

Products that contain PFAS. Graphic credit: Riverside (CA) Public Utilities

#ColoradoRiver #conservation program will pay for reduced #water use — Heart of the Rockies Radio #COriver #aridification

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project water from the headwaters of the Colorado River flows into Turquoise Lake in the Arkansas Basin via the Boustead Tunnel (photo by Klambpatten, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turquoise_Reservoir.JPG).

Click the link to read the article on the Heart of the Rockies website (Joe Stone):

As part of a new water conservation program, the Upper Colorado River Commission “is seeking proposals immediately for the voluntary, compensated, and temporary water conservation projects for 2023.”

Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming are Commission members, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is a partner in the new conservation program, according to a statement issued Wednesday, Dec. 14, at the Colorado River Water Users Association meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.

To be considered for funding, proposals for conservation projects will need to be submitted by Feb. 1, 2023. Details are available here.*

The Commission touts the new program as “a key component of the Upper Division States’ 5-Point Plan to address the impacts of the ongoing drought and depleted (water) storage in the Upper Colorado River Basin.”

The new conservation program is relevant here in the Arkansas River Basin because about 130,000 acre-feet of water per year, up to 23 percent of Arkansas River flows, are imported from the Colorado Basin according to Colorado Division of Water Resources data.

The Bureau of Reclamation operates the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which imports an average of 57,000 acre-feet of water per year. Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Pueblo West combine to import the other 73,000 acre-feet. Fry-Ark Project water supports local agriculture, cities, towns and industry.

Fry-Ark water and infrastructure also underpin the Voluntary Flow Management Program, which supports the multimillion-dollar recreation economies of Upper Ark communities as well as the Arkansas River’s Gold Medal fishery. 

Colorado Water Conservation Board Director Becky Mitchell expressed support for the new program in a statement Wednesday. She emphasized, “The most impactful thing that can be done to manage the Colorado River System is to reduce uses in dry years.”

Mitchell noted that Colorado’s “strict administration of water rights based on hydrology” effectively achieves drought-year water-use reductions. “In 2021, administration impacted water use on over 203,000 acres within the Colorado River Basin in Colorado.”

Mitchell cited preliminary data from the Upper Colorado River Commission showing that the four Upper Basin states used 25% less water in 2021 than in 2020” in response to limited water availability.

“We must continue to live within the means of what the river provides year to year,” Mitchell said, “and we ask others to do the same. This is the only way the system will continue as we know it into the future.”

In requesting that others “live within the means of what the river provides,” Mitchell implicates the three Lower Colorado River Basin states – California, Arizona and Nevada.

The 1922 Colorado River Compact divided Colorado River water between the four Upper Basin states and the three Lower Basin states. The Compact requires the Upper Basin states, where most of the precipitation falls, to deliver a 10-year rolling average of 7.5 million acre-feet (maf) of water to Lees Ferry, Arizona, just south of the Utah state line. Of that water, California is entitled to 4.4 maf, Arizona, 2.8 maf, and Nevada, 0.3 maf.

The Compact also established a benchmark of 16.5 million acre-feet (maf) of water per year for Colorado River flows. However, data from NOAA show that average flows from 2000 to 2021 have dropped to 12.3 maf per year.

To date, the Upper Basin states have consistently met the 7.5-maf Compact requirement. At a meeting of Colorado’s Interbasin Compact Committee earlier this year, Mitchell shared statistics showing that Upper Basin states have significantly reduced water usage while Lower Basin states have not.

Colorado River Consumptive use graphic credit: Heart of the Rockies Radio

As the numbers reveal, Lower Basin states’ water usage – more than 2 maf per year beyond the 7.5 maf delivered by the Upper Basin – has trended higher, even as the 10-year rolling average dropped to 11.78 maf for 2012-21.

Specifically, 2019 saw Colorado River flows of 17.75 maf, a rare yearly surplus of 3.8 maf. In 2020, flows dropped to 9.6 maf, 4.5 maf less than the water used that year.

In 2021, flows dropped further, to 7.1 maf. Even with Upper Basin states reducing their water use by more than a million acre-feet in 2021, total water use in the Basin exceeded Colorado River flows by 6.4 maf, dropping water levels in lakes Mead and Powell to record low levels.

* The Upper Colorado River Commission’s Dec. 14 statement notes that full implementation of the water conservation program “is contingent on the passage of pending legislation in Congress” and finalization of an funding agreement between the Commission and the Bureau of Reclamation.

The One Thing that Grows in the West Without #Water: Violence — Charles P. Pierce

Hayfield message to President Obama 2011 via Protect the Flows

Click the link to read the column on the Esquire website (Charles P. Pierce). Here’s an excerpt:

A lot of people are going to be unhappy as a dwindling Colorado River reshapes the U.S.

There is a very large portion of the 48 contiguous United States in which non-nomadic human beings were not meant to live. The reason for this is that there’s not enough water for them, and human beings need water to live. According to some estimates, 40 million human beings live there at the moment, and a lot of effort has been made over the centuries to bring water to them so that they can drink it, water 5 million acres of crops with it, and basically continue to live. Central to this has been the Colorado River. And now, due to extended drought, overuse, and the climate crisis, the Colorado River is dying, and if something isn’t done quickly, it’s going to have a lot of company…

The strange and violent political moment through which we are presently living does not fill me with optimism about the federal government’s ability to get seven states to agree on a breakfast menu, let alone agree to a cooperative strategy that might cause millions of suburban lawns to go brown. In fact, it could be argued that our current strange and violent political moment was born in the western deserts. For 40 years or so, that part of the nation has been central to all kinds of anti-government environmental activism, including actions that come very close to violating the sedition statutes. The “Wise Use Movement,” founded in Nevada in 1988, became an umbrella organization for anti-regulatory activities, many of them financed by corporate money derived from the extraction industries. A great deal of the twisted “freedom” rhetoric we heard from the Capitol steps on January 6, 2021, was beta-tested in what is now the increasingly thirsty West…

One of the most poignant parts of this crisis is that the Colorado River no longer reaches the sea. It peters out in the Sonoran Desert in Mexico. According to the U.S. Geological Survey:

“The river comes to an end just south of the multicolored patchwork of farmlands in the northwestern corner of the image and then fans out at the base of the Sierra de Juarez Mountains. Only about 10 percent of all the water that flows into the Colorado River makes it into Mexico and most of that is used by the Mexican people for farming.”

This is the way so many things die.

Colorado River Delta via 2012 State of the Rockies Report

The real causes for our dying planet — Jeffrey Levin #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

2022’s US #climate disasters, from storms and floods to heat waves and droughts — The Conversation #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Rain and fast snowmelt sent the Yellowstone River and nearby streams raging beyond their banks in June 2022. AP Photo/David Goldman

Shuang-Ye Wu, University of Dayton

The year 2022 will be remembered across the U.S. for its devastating flooding and storms – and also for its extreme heat waves and droughts.

By October, the U.S. had already seen 15 disasters causing more than US$1 billion in damage each, well above the average. The year started with widespread severe winter storms from Texas to Maine, affecting tens of million of people and causing significant damages. Then, March set the record for the most reported tornadoes in the month – 233.

During a period of five weeks over the summer, five 1,000-year rainfall events occurred in St. Louis, eastern Kentucky, southern Illinois, California’s Death Valley and Dallas, causing devastating and sometimes deadly flash floods. Severe flooding in Mississippi knocked out Jackson’s troubled water supply for weeks. A historic flood in Montana, brought on by heavy rain and melting snow, forced large areas of Yellowstone National Park to be evacuated.

In the fall, hurricanes Ian and Fiona deluged Florida and Puerto Rico with over 2 feet (6.6 meters) of rain in areas and deadly, destructive storm surge. Ian became one of the most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history. And a typhoon pounded 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of the Alaska coast.

A girl in rain boots walks through a mud-filled yard. Damaged mattresses and other belongings from a flooded house are piled nearby.
Flash flooding swept through mountain valleys in eastern Kentucky in July 2022, killing more than three dozen people. It was one of several destructive flash floods. Seth Herald/AFP via Getty Images

While too much rainfall threatened some regions, extreme heat and too little precipitation worsened risks elsewhere.

Persistent heat waves lingered over many parts of the country, setting temperature records. Wildfires raged in Arizona and New Mexico on the background of a megadrought in the Southwestern U.S. more severe than anything the region has experienced in at least 1,200 years.

Drought also left the Mississippi River so low near Memphis in the fall that barges couldn’t get through without additional dredging and upstream water releases. That snarled grain shipping during the critical harvest period. Along the Colorado River, officials discussed even tighter water use restrictions as water levels neared dangerously low levels in the major reservoirs.

Map showing 2022's major storms, droughts and hurricanes in various locations around the US
The U.S. had been hit with 15 climate and weather disasters costing over US$1 billion each by the end of September 2022. The map shows disasters from January through September. NCEI/NOAA

The United States was hardly alone in its climate disasters.

In Pakistan, record monsoon rains inundated more than one-third of the country, killing over 1,500 people. In India and China, prolonged heat waves and droughts dried up rivers, disrupted power grids and threatened food security for billions of people. Widespread flooding and mudslides brought on by torrential rains also killed hundreds of people in South Africa, Brazil and Nigeria.

In Europe, heat waves set record temperatures in Britain and other parts of the continent, leading to severe droughts, low river flows that slowed shipping, and wildfires in many parts of the continent. Much of East Africa is still in the grips of a multiyear drought – the worst in over 40 years, according to the United Nations – leaving millions of people vulnerable to food shortages and starvation.

This isn’t just a freak year: Such extreme events are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity.

Climate change is intensifying these disasters

The most recent global climate assessment from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found significant increases in both the frequency and intensity of extreme temperature and precipitation events, leading to more droughts and floods.

Extreme flooding and droughts are also getting deadlier and more expensive, despite an improving capacity to manage climate risks, a study published in 2022 found. Part of the reason is that today’s extreme events, enhanced by climate change, often exceed communities’ management capabilities.

A woman with her eyes closed holds a screaming 1-year-old boy in a National Guard helicopter, with a guard member standing in the open helicopter door.
A family had to be airlifted from their home in eastern Kentucky after it was surrounded by floodwater in July 2022. Michael Swensen/Getty Images

Extreme events, by definition, occur rarely. A 100-year flood has a 1% chance of happening in any given year. So when such events occur with increasing frequency and intensity, they are a clear indication of a changing climate state.

Climate models showed these risks were coming

Much of this is well understood and consistently reproduced by climate models.

As the climate warms, a shift in temperature distribution leads to more extremes. For example, globally, a 1 degree Celsius increase in annual average temperature is associated with a 1.2 C to 1.9 C (2.1 Fahrenheit to 3.4 F) increase in the annual maximum temperature.

A man works on a car with an older mechanic in overalls standing next to him under the shade of a large beach umbrealla.
Heat waves, like the heat dome over the South in July 2022, can hit outdoor workers especially hard. Brandon Bell/Getty Images

In addition, global warming leads to changes in how the atmosphere and ocean move. The temperature difference between the equator and the poles is the driving force for global wind. As the polar regions warm at much higher rates than the equator, the reduced temperature difference causes a weakening of global winds and leads to a more meandering jet stream.

Some of these changes can create conditions such as persistent high-pressure systems and atmospheric blocking that bring more intense heat waves. The heat domes over the Southern Plains and South in June and in the West in September were both examples.

Warming can be further amplified by positive feedbacks.

For example, higher temperatures tend to dry out the soil, and less soil moisture reduces the land’s heat capacity, making it easier to heat up. More frequent and persistent heat waves lead to excessive evaporation, combined with decreased precipitation in some regions, causing more severe droughts and more frequent wildfires.

Higher temperatures increase the atmosphere’s capacity to hold moisture at a rate of about 7% per degree Celsius. This increased humidity leads to heavier rainfall events.

In addition, storm systems are fueled by latent heat – the large amount of energy released when water vapor condenses to liquid water. Increased moisture content in the atmosphere also enhances latent heat in storm systems, increasing their intensity. Extreme heavy or persistent rainfall leads to increased flooding and landslides, with devastating social and economic consequences.

Even though it’s difficult to link specific extreme events directly to climate change, when these supposedly rare events occur with greater frequency in a warming world, it is hard to ignore the changing state of our climate.

The new abnormal

This year might provide a glimpse of our near future, as these extreme climate events become more frequent.

To say this is the “new normal,” though, is misleading. It suggests that we have reached a new stable state, and that is far from the truth. Without serious effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions, this trend toward more extreme events will continue.

This updates an article originally published on Sept. 21, 2022.

Shuang-Ye Wu, Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, University of Dayton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.