2010 Colorado Elections: John Hickenlooper makes a stop in Carbondale

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From the Huffington Post (David Frey):

“Right now,” Hickenlooper said, “there’s been great suspicion between the West Slope and the Front Range. The only way I’m going to be able to help solve that and really resolve some of these issues around water and economic development is if I can build a relationship with the West Slope. I don’t know any other way to do that than to come out here day after day, week after week, and met with people and listen as hard as I can and say, “All right, how do we get from here where we’re kind of struggling to a place where we find agreement?”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Snowpack news

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From the Fairplay Flume (Debra Orecchio): “Measurements conducted in the South Platte basin, which includes Park County, show that the snowpack is 86 percent of average, a drop of 13 percentage points from measurements taken in January. At that time, the snowpack measured 99 percent of average. Statewide, the snowpack is about 96 percent of average. That’s the first statewide snowpack reading of this season to be below average, according to Allen Green, state conservationist with NRCS…”The press release also stated that statewide reservoir storage remains just slightly above average at 103 percent. In January, it was at 98 percent of average. Most of the reservoirs are storing at near-average volumes. The reservoir storage in the South Platte area is at 99 percent, compared to the 95 percent of average that was seen in January.”

Snowpack news

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From the Greeley Tribune (Bill Jackson): “The first measurement [Todd] Boldt and John Fusaro took at the 10,276-foot summit of Cameron Pass at the top of the Poudre Canyon revealed 19 inches of new snow, and as it turned out about an hour later, an average of 83 inches of snow. Even better was the water content, 108 percent of the 30-year average…

“The late March, early April measurements are always the most important because, on average, about 80 percent of the snow the state’s mountains get in a season has fallen by the end of March. Information from monthly surveys allows hydrologists to predict the amount of runoff when the snow melt occurs in the spring. Water users, including those involved in agriculture, industry and municipalities, use that information for planning. As much as 80 percent of the state’s surface water supplies originate from the mountain snowpack.”

Snowpack news

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From the Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka): “Readings from the Colorado Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network showed that the storm left anywhere from 0.25 to 1 inch of precipitation as of Friday morning, providing more moisture than most places have seen in months. The network includes spotters in most counties in the Arkansas River basin and is coordinated by Colorado State University. In Otero County, up to 1 inch of precipitation was recorded, the highest reading in the area. Readings in Prowers and Bent counties, where the storm was still centered Friday morning, were 0.3-0.9 inches. In the Upper Arkansas area, there were readings of anywhere from 0.5 to 0.75 inches of precipitation in Chaffee and Fremont counties. Lake County reports were less than 0.2 of an inch, however. Pueblo County received between 0.23 and 0.4 of an inch, which is double the amount recorded for the year to date prior to the storm. Readings in Las Animas and Huerfano counties were 0.4 to 0.75 inches.

“The storm deposited about 6 inches to 1 foot of new snow in the mountains, adding less than an inch of snow water equivalent at most sites that affect the Arkansas River, either in the basin or in the Roaring Fork basin, where water is imported to the Arkansas basin. Snowpack ranges from 2 feet at lower elevations to 5-6 feet above 10,000 feet. Snow water equivalent ranges are from 5 to 18 inches at the sites monitored by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.”

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide): “Preliminary snowfall statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center showed reports of 3-5 inches in parts of Alamosa County and as much as 7 inches in neighboring Rio Grande County. Colorado Ski Country USA’s 22 member resorts experienced double-digit accumulation, with many resorts reporting over one foot of new snow within a 24-hour period from Thursday to Friday. The snowstorm left 28 inches at Wolf Creek. The new snow at Wolf Creek brings that mountain up to nearly 400 inches of snow for the season. Wolf Creek hosts a fun race today, March 28. Monarch Ski Area reported 15 inches from this storm bringing its year to date total to 287.5 inches…

“The spring storm also bolstered the snowpack in the Rio Grande Basin. Previous to the snowstorm, the Upper Rio Grande Basin snowpack had dropped to 94 percent of average according to Colorado Division of Water Resources Acting Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten. The last few days brought the basinwide snowpack up to 99 percent of average, he added. The latest readings were between 12 and 6 a.m. on Friday, so the snowpack may have actually hit 100 percent of average. ‘It helped some,’ Cotten said. ‘Every little bit helps.'[…]

“Cotten said many of the SNOTEL sites dropped below 100 percent, but the sites farther south on the Conejos River are showing the highest readings with the highest at the Cumbres Trestle sitting at 125 percent of average. ‘So the Conejos is looking fairly good, and overall we are looking to be in decent shape,’ Cotten said.”

From TheDenverChannel.com: “Snow fell on the eastern plains, already socked with 8 to 12 inches, with the town of Yuma reporting 6 additional inches Friday. Winds pushed snow into drifts of more than 5 feet deep. By late Friday, the National Weather Service had dropped blizzard warnings for all but a portion of far southeastern Colorado, where total snowfall could reach 2 feet with wind gusts of 55 mph…

“The storm left about 20 inches of snow in the Rocky Mountains northwest of Denver and about 18 inches in the unincorporated community of Gothic, near Crested Butte, or about 120 miles southwest of Denver. Several Colorado ski resorts touted their bonanza of fresh snow.
The storm also brought Colorado’s snowpack to 98 percent of the 30-year average. The snowpack is a closely watched indicator of how much water will be available for cities, farms and ranches when spring runoff begins.”

Snowpack news

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What a beautiful snow yesterday. The view from my office at Denver Wastewater was limited to a few hundred feet for much of the morning and early afternoon by swirling blowing wet snowfall. The bicycle ride home took me over twice the normal time and my bike’s derailleurs froze up (I could not shift any longer) just as I started the climb out of the South Platte River bike path up through Highlands towards Berkeley Hill. The back wheel froze after I splashed through the slush in the gutter at the end of my alley. I had to drag the bike the last few steps to the garage. I was digging it.

Meanwhile, here’s some snowpack news from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Any function related to government and local schools, including sporting events, were canceled, and a few local businesses also closed early. After the storm’s initial shock, people were looking forward to its benefits.

“It’s a good start to this storm if all you’re worried about is water, which we are now,” said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which oversees water shares in the region for municipalities and farmers. The South Platte River Basin, where Loveland is located, was 15 percent less than normal for snowpack going into this storm, Werner said. The district still was calculating how much water came with the snowstorm, but Werner said it looked promising. One inch of water in the conservancy district’s service area is worth about 60,000 acre feet of water, which would fill up half of Carter Lake, Werner said.

The region has a diverse snowpack, with most of the local high country looking decent for snow-water content this year. The Colorado River Basin, which Northern Water depends on for Colorado Big Thompson water shares on the Western Slope, was slightly higher than average for snowpack Thursday, unlike the Eastern Slope in Northern Colorado…

No matter the winter snow totals, a wet March usually makes or breaks the area when it comes to possible drought conditions through the summer. Storms in Colorado throughout the week, both Tuesday and Thursday, were no exception, said Ron Brinkman, general manager at the Greeley-Loveland Irrigation Co. Greeley-Loveland Irrigation manages water flowing through Lake Loveland, Boyd Lake and Horseshoe Lake, as well as a network of canals that flow through Loveland. “The big thing about this storm is that we are getting it on the plains,” Brinkman said. “This storm in general, it’s all over the Eastern Slope. It’s going to be great.” Brinkman said most local farmers from here to the Nebraska state line had their fields open and ready for planting their summer crops. All they needed was some moisture to move forward because the top 6 inches of soil was bone dry. If significant moisture didn’t materialize, they would have put early calls on local rivers for irrigation water, which impacts the entire irrigation season, as well as water levels at local lakes and reservoirs, Brinkman said. “This is going to eliminate the need for really early water,” Brinkman said.

Early calls on the Big Thompson River mean less chance that Lake Loveland, Boyd Lake and Horseshoe Lake fill or stay full, which happened last year, Brinkman said. Early calls went out on river water and the lakes weren’t filled until August, two months late from normal years. Then, in late summer, Lake Loveland emptied out again as the needs for irrigation water went up, which closed the beach early.

More coverage from the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

The approximately 6 inches of snow that fell on Fort Collins contained about 6/10 of an inch of water, said state Climatologist Nolan Doesken of the CSU-based Colorado Climate Center. Doesken said the storm was the biggest, moisture-wise, of the winter season. “It buys a little time, takes the edge off for a week or so,” Doesken said Thursday. “This is a better-than-it-was snow. It isn’t making up for what we haven’t gotten.”

More coverage from the Denver Post:

Spring snow is as much as 25 percent water, and parts of the foothills recorded a foot and a half of snow. But the National Weather Service recorded just 0.12 inches of precipitation by 5 p.m. at Denver International Airport, leaving the area far under normal for the year.

More coverage from the Greeley Tribune:

“If we could get one of these once a week until the first of May, we’d be in pretty good shape,” said Nolan Doesken, the state climatologist at Colorado State University…

“The nice thing about late, spring snowstorms is that they melt right into the ground,” he added. And it not only brought moisture to the eastern plains, but dumped 1-2 feet of new snow in the mountains…

Jim Cooksey of Cooksey Farms in Roggen said there was a good 6 inches of snow in southeast Weld and it continued to snow by midafternoon. “It’s pretty nice,” Cooksey said, noting winter wheat “was starting to hurt pretty good and the mites were starting to move in.” He said if it stays cool and more storms come, the wheat will respond and while that might not kill the insects “it should certainly slow them down and let the wheat out-grow them.”

Thursday’s storm, and one earlier in the week that hammered Wyoming and points north and east, broke the warm and dry weather pattern that has dominated the region this winter, Doesken said. “There may be two or three more of these storms to come in the next few days and that will change us to a cool, unsettled weather pattern instead of what we’ve been having and that’s good,” Doesken said.

More coverage from the Erie Review:

Lafayette Public Works Director Doug Short said that while Boulder County residents have experienced unseasonably warm temperatures and dry conditions during the past two months, the mountain snowpack — responsible for the bulk of the spring and summer water supply — is only slightly below normal. And, particularly given the mountain snowfall forecast throughout the week, Short doesn’t expect any water shortages this summer. “We’re just continuing to monitor the mountain snowpack. We get reports and the beginning of every month,” Short said. “The March 1 snow data looks OK. It was somewhere around 90 percent of normal. “Just because there’s not a lot of snowfall down here, it’s not a big concern. We’re looking at the mountain snowpack to see what kind of spring runoff we can expect.”[…]

Even if Colorado had received a significantly low mountain snowpack this season, most communities still have adequate water supplies held over from last year’s heavy runoff to accommodate municipal, commercial and residential needs. “We have plenty of carry-over from last year, and we have 70 percent water rights at Baseline Reservoir,” Short said. “We’ve taken Waneka Lake down. It’s a backup reservoir. It’s not normally used.”

2009 Drought: Northeast Colorado farmers already running sprinklers

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From the Fort Morgan Times (Jesse Chaney): “As area onion farmers prepared for one of the driest planting seasons seen in years, irrigation sprinklers were running throughout Morgan County even before the first seed went into the ground. ‘We’ve had to run the sprinklers before we could even plant,’ said Larry Jensen of Jensen Farms Inc. ‘There’s good moisture down underneath, but on top with all this wind, it’s dried the top moisture out pretty bad.’ The ground required moisture because planting equipment does not work properly in powdery topsoil, Jensen said. ‘The planter units slip in the dirt, and then you don’t get a good population,’ he said.”