Summer flooding challenges the United States’ #ClimateChange readiness — @AmericanRivers #ActOnClimate

Photo courtesy of the National Weather Service

Click the link to read the article on the American Rivers website (Eileen Shader):

The flash flooding currently happening in Southern California and Nevada is the latest example of why we must transform the management and health of rivers and streams to strengthen communities in the face of climate change.  Tropical Storm Hilary was the first tropical storm to hit California since 1939 and it has dropped historic amounts of rainfall on parts of communities from southern California to Las Vegas and across the Southwest. This event follows just weeks after major floods caused widespread damage across Vermont and the Northeast.  

Climate change is fueling more frequent and intense storms, putting pressure on federal and state agencies to help communities manage the runoff and stormwater from these extreme events. This means adapting our existing infrastructure–elevating roads, expanding bridges, setting back levees- and it means making smart decisions about how we are developing along rivers and throughout watersheds.  

American Rivers is calling on federal, state, and local governments to protect communities from increasingly severe flooding. Decision-makers must:  

  1. Give rivers room to flood safely: Naturally functioning floodplains (the low-lying lands along a river) are a community’s natural defense against flooding. These areas soak up and store floodwaters and reduce downstream flooding. Keeping floodplains natural and undeveloped is the best way to avoid flood damage to begin with. Governments must prioritize protecting undeveloped floodplains and putting in place policies like the FEDERAL FLOOD RISK MANAGEMENT STANDARD that require development to be resilient to Increasingly severe floods. 

    The fact is, many communities have already developed in their floodplains and have channelized and leveed their rivers, disconnecting them from their floodplains. All of this puts people and property at risk. Wherever possible, communities must work with residents and landowners to find solutions that improve their resilience and leverage state and federal funding to restore damaged floodplains to give rivers room to flood safely.  
  1. Protect wetlands and small streams: The Supreme Court’s recent Sackett v. EPA ruling stripped federal Clean Water Act protections for small streams and 50% of the nation’s wetlands. These wetlands, along with perennial and ephemeral streams, are critical to public safety because they absorb and store floodwaters. By leaving streams and wetlands vulnerable to destruction and pollution, more communities are now at risk. State and federal decision-makers must shore up protections for wetlands to safeguard public health and safety.  

    This record Southwest flooding highlights the important connection between rivers and the ephemeral and intermittent headwater streams that lost protection under the Sackett case and are now at risk of unregulated development. Ephemeral and intermittent streams are dry for much of the year but fill with water during heavy rains. These headwater streams make up 81% of the arid and semi-arid Southwest and are the source of drinking water for people in the Southwest. Unchecked development on headwater streams could further increase future flood damage. 
  1. Remove unsafe, outdated dams and levees: More frequent extreme rain storms mean more risk of dams, levees, and other infrastructure being overtopped or failing resulting in catastrophic loss of life and property. We cannot wait until dams fail to take action. Poorly maintained and improperly designed dams and levees need to be removed to protect downstream communities and infrastructure before they fail. States need programs that work with dam and levee owners to provide technical and financial support to remove dams and levees that they no longer want or need.   

    In addition, many dams are outdated and unsafe. Hundreds of dams have breached or failed in recent years because of heavy rainfall and flooding, putting communities at risk. The Association of State Dam Safety Officials estimates that aging dams across the nation need more than $70 billion in repairs.   

Communities are not prepared for the increasingly frequent and severe flooding fueled by climate change. Our infrastructure was not built for this. We must help communities prepare, and that means protecting and restoring rivers. A healthy river is a community’s best and first line of defense against flooding and other climate impacts. When we pave over streams, disconnect floodplains, and destroy wetlands, we strip communities of these vital defenses. We must protect and restore rivers to make our communities stronger, safer, and more resilient. 

These wetlands, located on a 150-acre parcel in the Homestake Creek valley that Homestake Partners bought in 2018, would be inundated if Whitney Reservoir is constructed. The Forest Service received more than 500 comments, the majority in opposition to, test drilling associated with the project and the reservoir project itself. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Water Corner: Grand County’s Stream Management Plan undergoing an important update, includes stakeholder outreach — Sky-Hi News

Denver Water is one of 18 partners who signed the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement in 2013, ushering in a new era of cooperation between the utility and West Slope stakeholders, all with the vested interest in protecting watersheds in the Colorado River Basin. As part of that agreement, a process called “Learning by Doing” was created, which has helped the utility stay better connected on river conditions in Grand County. The partnership is a collection of East and West Slope water stakeholders who help identify and find solutions to water issues in Grand County. “Denver Water has been part of Grand County for over 100 years, and we understand the impact our diversions have on the rivers and streams,” said Rachel Badger, environmental planning manager at Denver Water. “Our goal is to manage our water resources as efficiently as possible and be good stewards of the water — and Learning By Doing helps us do that.”

Click the link to read the article from the Colorado Basin Roundtable (Anna Drexler-Dreis) via the Sky-Hi News website:

The Grand County Stream Management Plan was created in 2010 and was the first of its kind in Colorado. Since the inception of the plan, changes have occurred throughout that warrant a necessary reexamination of the technical aspects of the stream management plan to better reflect current river conditions.

In addition, a significant amount of new data (macroinvertebrates, fish, sediment, stream temperature, stream flow and water quality) has been collected that supports a robust watershed assessment to improve characterization and prioritization of areas of concern. The plan update is focused on river health and needs, and the goal is to make general improvements to support stream health for aquatic habitat. 

The Grand County Learning By Doing Cooperative Effort is a nonprofit made up of partner organizations from both sides of the Continental Divide in Colorado, and its overarching goal is to maintain, and when reasonable, possibly restore or enhance the aquatic environment in Grand County. For more information, check out the website at GrandCountyLearningByDoing.org

Learning By Doing’s focus is the Cooperative Effort Area, which includes over 100 river miles in Fraser and Williams Fork River basins upstream of the Colorado River’s confluence with the Blue River in Grand County. Since it was formed in 2013, it has made significant progress in establishing a long term scientific-based program to collaboratively monitor and address changes in the area.

Each year, it designs, funds and implements a plan for field data collection that achieves the goals of monitoring key aquatic metrics in Grand County streams and rivers consistent with the stream management plan. The intergovernmental agreements that founded Learning By Doing state that it is the task and responsibility of the cooperative to update the Grand County Stream Management Plan. 

Updating the plan includes a robust stakeholder outreach program that allows Learning By Doing to engage with a broad diversity of interest groups to inform and support the plan’s update. Peak Facilitation Group, a professional public outreach facilitator, is organizing the stakeholder outreach program. The stakeholder outreach process consists of three groups: a stakeholder group, which has open membership; an advisory board of representatives, a smaller subset of the stakeholder group selected by stakeholders to represent the diverse field of interests involved in the update; and Learning By Doing working with all the groups as the project manager.

The first open house meeting was held in early May. At this open house, Grand County’s Manager Ed Moyer and Grand County Water Quality Specialist Kayli Foulk presented the history and background of the stream management plan, an overview of Learning By Doing and its role in managing the update to the plan. Then, Peak Facilitation Group presented the overall purpose and scope of the update. The meeting concluded with Northern Water’s Jen Stephenson and Trout Unlimited’s Katie Schneider presenting a high-level summary of the objectives and methods for completing a comprehensive watershed assessment of data collected within the Cooperative Effort Area. 

The second open house meeting was held on July 18 at the Granby Library and was well attended by stakeholders. This meeting included a presentation by Seth Mason from Lotic Hydrological on the background chapter of the comprehensive watershed assessment. Samuel Wallace from Peak Facilitation presented an overview of the stakeholder survey results. The meeting ended with an exercise where the stakeholders were encouraged to share their vision on stream and aquatic health within the Cooperative Effort Area. 

The next chance for public engagement will be at an open house in September. Please email grandcountysmpupdate@gmail.com for general information or to be added to the email distribution list to be involved in this stakeholder process.

For additional ways to support waterways in the Colorado River Basin, consider getting involved with the programs of the Public Education, Participation and Outreach (PEPO) Committee of the Colorado Basin Roundtable (CBRT). The roundtable is a group of water managers, users and stakeholders who work to solve water-related issues within the Colorado River Basin in the state of Colorado from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to the Utah state line. Their goals are to protect, conserve and develop water supplies within the Colorado Basin and the Western Slope of Colorado for future needs. For more information visit ColoradoBasinRoundTable.org.

The confluence of the Fraser River and the Colorado River near Granby, Colorado. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50012193