Sustainable Water Augmentation Group #water trial ends after group withdraws application — @AlamosaCitizen #RioGrande #SanLuisValley

In the San Luis Valley. Photo credit: Alamosa Citizen

Click the link to read the article on the Alamosa Citizen website (Chris Lopez):

WHEN the town of Del Norte terminated its agreement this week to lease water to the Sustainable Water Augmentation Group, it effectively killed the SWAG’s efforts to get an alternative augmentation plan through state District 3 Water Court. 

Sustainable Water Augmentation Group withdrew its application Thursday for its own augmentation plan separate from Subdistrict 1 of the Rio Grande Conservation District, whose rules SWAG operators have been following and now will continue to follow in the irrigation seasons ahead. The owners of SWAG irrigate 17,255 acres in Alamosa, Rio Grande and Saguache counties and had proposed fallowing 5,014 under the plan.

The withdrawal of SWAG’s application was a sudden end to a water court trial that had been scheduled to last five weeks by Chief District Water Court Judge Michael Gonzales due to the technical and complicated issues of managing the supply of water for irrigators in the San Luis Valley.

Gonzales’ ruling earlier in the day Thursday, in which he denied a motion by SWAG on how it wanted to address the loss of the Del Norte water in its application, convinced members of SWAG to withdraw.

Since it had lost the Del Norte water as a replacement source for groundwater pumping, SWAG attorneys had proposed that they be allowed to update their application with data from the 2023 water year to demonstrate how the SWAG plan never really needed the Del Norte water to begin with.

Gonzales ruled that wouldn’t be fair to water users and the state Division of Water Resources opposing the plan. Gonzales said SWAG knew going into the water trial that the Del Norte water may not be legally available to it and could have anticipated that before Del Norte actually took the water away.

“The Del Norte lease went away on the second day of trial through no fault of the applicant. I realize that,” Gonzales said. SWAG at that point, he said, had an option to “simply remove reference to the Del Norte water” from its application and provide updated numbers for the trial to move forward. 

Instead, said Gonzales, “the applicant made what may be a strategic decision … to amend their disclosures to not only reflect that they would no longer be relying on the Del Norte water, but in addition to that to incorporate the 2023 numbers from the subdistrict and to ultimately change their theory of the case. I think that’s the best way to summarize it.”

“That I find significant. That is significant and substantial,” Gonzales said.

The district court judge told applicants and opposers that it was unfortunate for the trial to come to such a sudden end given the important and complicated issues facing irrigators in Subdistrict 1 as they work to restore the unconfined aquifer of the Rio Grande Basin.

“I’m sorry we’re at this point … I think our issues that we as a community and we as a district number three have to address, those don’t end today. We know that full well. Whether we had good (water) year or not, we know there’s a lot to address and deal with … I encourage you to continue with your discussions and continue talking.”

Del Norte from the summit of Lookout Mountain with the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. By C caudill1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

United States Includes Dam Emissions in UN #Climate Reporting for the First Time: Better accounting can go a long way in establishing sound policy to tackle the #ClimateCrisis — The Revelator

New Bullards Bar Reservoir in Yuba County, Calif. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Click the link to read the article on The Revelator website (Tara Lohan):

February 3, 2023

The Environmental Protection Agency recently earned applause from environmental groups for a move that went largely unnoticed.

For the first time, the U.S. government in 2022 included methane emissions from dams and reservoirs in its annual report of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions to the Inventory of Greenhouse Gases and Sinks required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change…

While we’ve long known that coal and gas-fired power plants emit troubling amounts of greenhouse gases, research has found that reservoirs can emit significant amounts of methane, too — which has a global warming potential 85 times that of carbon dioxide over 20 years — along with smaller amounts of nitrous oxide and CO2.

Emissions from some reservoirs can even rival that of fossil fuel power plants. Yet, until now, there’s been no real accounting at the national or international level for these emissions, which fall under the category of “flooded lands.”

“To our knowledge, the U.S. is the first country to include estimates of methane emissions from flooded lands in their greenhouse gas inventory,” the EPA press office told The Revelator.

That may be in part because calculating reservoir emissions isn’t a simple task, as The Revelator reported last year:

“Tracking emissions from reservoirs is complicated and highly variable. Emissions can change at different times of the year or even day. They’re influenced by how the dam is managed, including fluctuations in the water level, as well as a host of environmental factors like water quality, depth, sediment, surface wind speed and temperature.”

Water rushes through 12 spillway gates at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Hartwell Dam in Georgia. Photo: Doug Young, (CC BY 2.0)

EPA researchers are working to improve how they calculate those emissions, and they’re also conducting a four-year study of COand methane emissions from 108 randomly selected U.S. reservoirs. This aims to “inform a greater understanding of the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from U.S. reservoirs, and the environmental factors that determine the rate of greenhouse gas emissions from reservoirs,” according to the agency’s website…

Last year [Save the Colorado], along with more than 100 other organizations, petitioned the EPA to begin a rulemaking to include dams and reservoirs under the United States’ Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which currently requires 8,000 facilities, including coal- and gas-burning power plants, to declare their greenhouse gas emissions. Hydroelectric plants and other reservoirs aren’t currently included in that list.

There are a few reasons why they should report their emissions, the petitioners explain. Hydropower is largely regarded as a clean, emissions-free energy source — although research suggests otherwise.

“As a result, the federal government, states and utilities frequently make decisions regarding climate policies and advancing toward a cleaner electric sector based on incomplete information and mistaken assumptions regarding dams and reservoirs’ greenhouse gas emissions,” the petition states.

If operators of hydroelectric dams are required to regularly report emissions, that would help agencies, nonprofits and the public better assess whether current dams should be relicensed or decommissioned — and whether new projects should be built.

The result, the petitioners say, would be “better-informed climate policies and better-informed permitting decisions.” A win-win.

The United States continuing to report dam emissions to the United Nations, and at home, would also send an important international signal.

A high desert thunderstorm lights up the sky behind Glen Canyon Dam — Photo USBR

Over half a million people call on Forest Service to protect mature, old-growth forests and trees: Public comment period concludes for pathway to rulemaking on how #USFS manages national forests — Natural Resources Defense Council #ActOnClimate

Old growth forest. Photo credit: Wild Earth Guardians

Click the link to read the release on the Natural Resources Defense Council website:

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Washington D.C.– More than 500,000 people are calling on the U.S. Forest Service to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging on federal land as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy.

In April the Forest Service issued a rulemaking proposal to improve the climate resilience of federally managed forests. The public comment period on the proposal closed today.

In addition to the hundreds of thousands of people who weighed in, dozens of environmental and grassroots organizations submitted comments, including the Climate Forests Campaign, a coalition of more than 120 organizations working to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests on federal land from logging.

Activists and environmental advocates gathered today at the D.C. offices of the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Forest Service, to celebrate the amount of public support.

“Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country have chimed in with enthusiastic support for President Biden’s order to protect mature and old-growth forests on federal land,” said Blaine Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative at Earthjustice. “Establishing a durable, nationwide, rule to protect these vital forests would be a historic climate achievement for the U.S.”

“The public wants the nation’s mature forests and trees to be protected from the chainsaw, and with good reason,” said Garett Rose, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “They store carbon. They protect imperiled species. They safeguard key waterways. It’s well past time for the federal land managers to adopt a rule that durably protects these climate-critical trees–and lets them be a key ally in the climate right.”

“Mature and old-growth forests are the only proven, cost-effective carbon capture and storage technology. We just have to let them grow,” said Randi Spivak, public lands policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s really frustrating that the Forest Service, in the midst of this proposal, is still planning to log even more of these old trees. Our climate can’t wait another year for a rule. The time to act is now.”

“Climate change isn’t off in the distant future; it’s here, now. My hometown of Montpelier, VT and others across the Northeast were ravaged by climate-driven floods on July 10th that could have been mitigated by the presence of old-growth forests,” said Zack Porter, executive director of Standing Trees. “As the single largest steward of forests in the nation, the US Forest Service has an obligation – not just an opportunity – to protect communities from natural disasters by managing national forests, often located in critical headwaters, to grow old.”

“We are urging President Biden to enact a clear rule protecting mature and old growth forests from the Forest Service chopping block,” said Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians’ ReWilding Manager. “Public support has never been higher for bold, effective solutions to keep carbon in the woods and in the ground.”

“I’m not surprised that so many people took the time to get involved in this comment period. We love our trees and forests so of course people spoke up, said Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director for Environment America Research & Policy Center. “Our forests clean our water, are home for wildlife and are an incredible ally in our work to stop climate change. Our mature and old-growth forests and trees are worth more standing than as lumber.”

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concluded a public comment period for its own proposed rulemaking, with hundreds of thousands of people calling on the federal government to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging. In March the BLM announced its wide-ranging “Conservation and Landscape Health” rule, with a goal to “promote ecosystem resilience on public lands” and included an acknowledgment of the importance of mature and old-growth trees and forests.

In addition to the two proposed rules, the Forest Service and the BLM released an inventory of mature and old-growth forests, the first of its kind, as required by the executive order President Biden signed on Earth Day 2022. The White House directed the Forest Service and the BLM to inventory and conserve mature and old-growth forests on federal land, and to implement policies to address threats facing forests.

The Climate Forests Campaign has been elevating calls from community members, scientists, and activists around the country about the necessity of protecting these mature and old-growth trees and forests, including from the ongoing threat of logging. The coalition has highlighted the threat to mature and old-growth forests and trees in two reports, citing 22 of the worst logging projects on Forest Service and BLM-managed forests.

Mature and old-growth forests are some of the most effective tools available for mitigating climate change and promoting biodiversity. They store huge amounts of carbon and keep it out of the atmosphere. They also provide essential wildlife habitat and are the most fire-resilient trees in the forest. As the world experiences record-shattering heat and widespread climate disasters, protecting these forests is critical for preventing the worst impacts of climate change.


Jackson Chiappinelli, Earthjustice, (585) 402-2005

Zack Porter, Standing Trees, (802) 552-0160,

Anne Hawke, NRDC, (646) 823-4518,

Randi Spivak, Center for Biological Diversity, (310) 779-4894,

Adam Rissien, WildEarth Guardians, (406) 370-3147,

Activists gather at the D.C. offices of the Department of Agriculture to deliver comments to the US Forest Service. Photo Credit: Environment America