GoPro Mountain Games recap

Steep Creek Championship 2016 1st Place Alec Voorhees. Photo Caleb Chicoine/Downriver Media

From The Vail Daily (John LaConte) via The Summit Daily:

Dane Jackson has been called the world’s best kayaker and, on Thursday, he bested boaters from all over the globe to prove the title true.

Jackson was the only American man in the top five at the Steep Creek Championship, a timed race down Homestake Creek that doubles as the kick off to the GoPro Mountain Games every year.

International competitors outnumbered Americans in the women’s event, with only four female competitors completing both of their preliminary round runs through the tight section of class-5 whitewater.

Adriene Levknecht, of Greenville, South Carolina, was the fastest woman on the day.

Colorado was well represented in the competition, with Glenwood Springs paddlers Kenny and Dally Kellogg, Peter Farmelo of Silverthorne and Alex Tansey of Kremmling holding it down as the most local kayakers in the 37-person field.

Tansey said if they had any “home water” advantage, it was the fact that they were already acclimated to the elevation and the cold water.

“Some of these folks aren’t used to true snowmelt water,” Tansey said. “As cold as cold can get.”

Traveling to Colorado for the first time from Costa Rica, Arnaldo Cespedes said the water nearly paralyzed him at first.

“Even though I was wearing a wet suit, I thought that I was going to get frozen,” he said.

Cespedes said as a result, he didn’t perform as well as he was expecting…

Paddlers from Chile, Argentina, Canada, France and Norway also competed.

Second-place Gerd Serrasoles, a native of Catalonia, now calls the Columbia River Gorge home in White Salmon, Washington…

The Ultimate Mountain Challenge tests competitors across six events of their choosing, with at least one biking and paddling event mandatory. It wraps up on Sunday with the Pepi’s Face Off, also mandatory, which sets a clock to 30 minutes and pits runners against each other in a challenge to see who can complete the most laps up the steep, 40% grade ski run at the base of Gondola One in Vail.

#Snowpack/#Runoff news: “Why does Eagle River Water & Sanitation District care so much about local streams?” — Diane Johnson

Here’s a column about snowpack and runoff from Diane Johnson that’s running in The Vail Daily. Click through and read the whole column to learn about the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District priorities during drought. Here’s an excerpt:

As the water provider for homes and businesses from Vail through Edwards, we welcome each snowfall. Specifically, we focus on the water content — or “snow water equivalent” (SWE) — of our local snowpack. Statewide SWE is currently about 140 percent of normal and local snow measuring sites are similarly high.

Above normal SWE generally bodes well for summer water supply. However, we need the snowpack to linger well into May. The federal snow measuring site on Vail Mountain normally peaks on April 25, then the melt starts. The Fremont Pass site near the headwaters of the Eagle River normally peaks on May 6, followed by a six-week melt. A slower melt lets water seep into soils — which were parched entering winter due to drought in 2018. While good winter snow should mean good summer river flows, some of that snowmelt will replenish soil moisture and not be part of spring runoff. Winter may be over, but the Eagle River valley needs April (snow) showers to bring May (river) scours.

Why does Eagle River Water & Sanitation District care so much about local streams? Because they serve as the supply for us to provide you with clean, safe drinking water, irrigation water, and fire protection. The amount of water used by our customers affects local stream levels. Since healthy waterways are critical to our natural environment and recreation-based economy, we strive to balance the water needs of our customers with the rivers’ needs.

In July 2018, as drought caused local waterways to drop to low levels, we prioritized river water over customers’ use of water for outdoor purposes. Outdoor areas use much more water than indoor areas and landscape irrigation has a greater impact on streamflows than indoor and fireflow use. Our staffcontacted hundreds of customers who were using excessive amounts of water that disproportionately impacted our community’s limited water resource. Nearly all customers who were contacted responded positively, which helped to preserve streamflows.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

…the moisture March has been delivering to Colorado has put an exclamation point on a stellar snowpack season. The state has experienced a remarkable turnaround from last year when poor snowpack and meager rainfall left the state deep in drought.

“There are lingering effects (of that drought) for sure, but as far as the snowpack goes, it’s really the best that we can hope for,” said Taryn Finnessey, climate change risk management specialist for the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

As of Wednesday, statewide snowpack averaged 140 percent of median.

“It’s been a very good water year,” Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said of the 12-month hydrological period that began last Oct. 1.

He said conditions have been particularly good in the southern mountains, where snowpack levels have been at 275 to 300 percent of where they were a year ago and already are well above their average seasonal peak amounts…

According to a March drought update produced by the board, since Feb. 1 the San Juan Mountains have received 15 inches of precipitation, nearly equal to the entire total they received during the 2018 water year that ended Sept. 30.

River basins in far-southwest Colorado on Tuesday had a combined median snowpack of 161 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The Gunnison Basin, which was water-starved last year, is at 154 percent of median, and the upper Colorado River Basin is at 136 percent.

The Weather Service is reporting that precipitation so far this month in Grand Junction has totaled 2.28 inches, just 0.08 inches behind the record of 2.36 set more than a century ago, in 1912. Local weather records date back to 1893.

The current water year got off to a wet start in Grand Junction in October, which was the fourth-wettest on record for the city, with 2.76 inches of precipitation…

Record-setting or not, such moisture in Colorado has gone far to alleviate drought conditions in the state. Three months ago two-thirds of the state was experiencing some level of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. That was down to just under a third of the state as of March 12, and about 7 percent as of the latest drought report last week, with drought conditions remaining in parts of southern Colorado.

Mesa County and much of western Colorado are now ranked as abnormally dry but not in drought. But officials are recommending removing that abnormally dry designation for Mesa County and much of the surrounding region in the next drought map, scheduled for release today…

Blue Mesa Reservoir

Erik Knight, a hydrologist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in Grand Junction, said the outlook at Blue Mesa Reservoir is “a lot better than a few months ago, that’s for sure.”

The massive, 940,700 acre-foot reservoir’s level has fallen to around 30 percent of capacity, and hasn’t been that low since 1977.

Now, Knight said, it’s looking like it may get to 85 percent of full this year…

Now Colorado snowpack levels are high enough that water officials are at least considering the potential for flooding this spring.

“Right now we’re not overly alarmed. We’re just going to see how it plays out,” Finnessey said.

She said streamflow forecasts are average to just above average at this point.

“Typically snowmelt is rather well behaved in Colorado,” she said.

She said most of the state’s flooding results from rain, not snowmelt runoff. In addition, it remains to be seen how much of the runoff goes toward refilling reservoirs versus swelling streams. But Finnessey said officials are looking forward to the ecosystem and reservoir benefits the snowmelt will provide.

But she said the drought’s impacts aren’t over, as in the case of ranchers who had to sell livestock last year. Poor hay-growing and range forage conditions took a heavy toll on many of them.

From 9News.com (Allison Levine):

Denver Water’s reservoirs are already in good shape with some, like Eleven Mile, over capacity…

What does that mean for Denver Water customers?

Hartman: It means we have a healthy water supply. It means, going into the summer, we’re going to be in our standard watering rules. We’ve seen, over the years, our customers become so good with their water use and we expect to see the same from them this summer…

There is still a lot of snow that has to melt. How will that impact reservoir capacity?

Hartman: We will be able to fill our reservoirs and we’ll be able to use that water throughout the summer. We’re in late March right now, it’s obviously always difficult to predict how things will unfold. We could, say for example, have a warm April. A warm April would melt that snow off more quickly.

Because of a number of dry years in the last 10 and 20 years, we have low soil moisture and Mother Nature gets dibs on that water. So, even with that great snowpack, some of that’s going to get eaten up by that very thirsty soil.

You can always get evaporation if the weather gets very hot, or we could have a cooler April, which we hope for. That slows the melt off and sort of sustains the reservoir that is the snow. We consider the snowpack one giant reservoir. We are optimistic that we will continue to see these weather patterns that keep the snowmelt happening in a slower, more predictable, and more manageable way.

#EagleRiver Watershed Council: Planning for our community’s water future

The Eagle River roils with spring runoff in June 2011 near Edwards, Colo. Photo/Allen Best

From the Eagle River Watershed Council (Lizzie Schoder) via The Vail Daily:

In low snow years like last year, the effects to our community can be felt immediately from the loss of revenue from ski tourism to low flows in our rivers in the following hot summer months leading to voluntary fishing closures and a lackluster whitewater season. Our angling, boating, recreation, wildlife and aquatic communities all feel the impact. While it seems Ullr has different plans this year, as we are in the midst of back-to-back storm cycles refreshing our snowpack and currently putting us at about 136 percent of normal, we aren’t nearly in the clear of the drought in the Colorado River Basin, or its long-term companion, aridification.

Research shows earlier runoff timing, higher ambient air temperatures, the dust-on-snow effect, and lower flows aren’t just periodic concerns, but more a representation of our new normal. The Eagle River and its tributaries support a wide array of uses inextricably tied to the wellbeing of our local economies and our high quality of life, not limited to: drinking water, agriculture, boating, angling, wildlife and biodiversity, aesthetics, lawns and gardens, snowmaking, and industry and power production. The effects of climate change, coupled with increasing demand from our ever-growing population, and the likelihood of future water storage projects, underline the need to plan for our community’s water future.

The Eagle River Watershed Council — with the help of its many community partners and stakeholders — has undertaken an exciting initiative to be on the forefront of water management planning and engage the community through the Eagle River Community Water Plan. While the council has undertaken successful planning and assessment initiatives in the past, including the Eagle River Watershed Plan and the Colorado River Inventory & Assessment, these completed plans have largely focused on water quality issues in our watershed. The Community Water Plan will place a greater focus on future water quantity issues and will address increasing demand shortage scenarios.

What is a community water plan?

Colorado’s Water Plan, adopted by the state in 2015, set a goal of communities implementing community water plans, also known as stream management plans, on 80 percent of Colorado’s locally prioritized streams by the year 2030. The plan seeks to identify the desired environmental and recreational flows in our watershed and will provide the opportunity to safeguard the environmental, recreational, agricultural, tourism, and municipal uses of the river. In other words, the plan will allow for the protection of river health as well as the other uses of water the community values.

Focusing on the entire length of the Eagle River, from its headwaters on Tennessee Pass to the confluence with the Colorado River in Dotsero, the plan will consider past, present, and future human and river health values to identify opportunities to correct historical degradation and mitigate against non-desirable future conditions due to stressors such as climate change and population growth.

The plan’s diverse stakeholder group includes: local governments, fishing and rafting guide companies, the Eagle County Conservation District, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, American Rivers, the National Forest Foundation, the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Colorado Division of Water Resources, and the Eagle River MOU partners, including Climax Molybdenum Company, Vail Resorts, the Colorado River District, the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, and the partners in Homestake Reservoir (the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora).

The plan will culminate in a set of recommendations for projects, policies or management actions that can be used to mitigate stressors and encourage land and water management actions that promote ecosystem health.

The stakeholder group is committed to striving for equitable outcomes through engaging and listening to a broad range of community members. Community meetings will be held throughout the planning process to provide an opportunity for the community to engage in the process. Although the first round of community meetings were held in late February with presentations about the plan and current river conditions, the opportunity to submit formal input through online surveys still exists.

To have a truly representative Community Water Plan, members of the community are encouraged to complete these surveys that inquire about how the community uses the river, and which degraded segments of and threats to the river are most concerning. A recording of the presentations, surveys (in English and Spanish) and more information are available online at http://www.erwc.org. The Watershed Council and its partners encourage the community to make their voice heard in this important planning process and to stay tuned for future community meetings planned for this summer.

Eagle River Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. To learn more, call (970) 827-5406 or visit http://www.erwc.org.

The Vail Town Council awards Glenn Porzak their 2019 Trailblazer Award

Rainbow trout release at Black Lakes via CPW.

From City of Vail via The Vail Daily:

Glenn Porzak, the water rights attorney who has worked tirelessly through the decades to advance and protect water rights for Vail and the Western Slope, has been selected as the recipient of the 2019 Vail Trailblazer Award.

Presented by the Vail Town Council, the award has been established as an annual civic recognition to honor those who contribute their time and talent to make Vail a great resort community.

Porzak will be formally recognized at the March 5 evening Vail Town Council meeting. A mayor’s proclamation honoring his vast contributions will be read into the public record. Recognition will also take place during the Vail Annual Community Meeting, to be held March 12 at Donovan Pavilion.

Porzak has been a fixture in the Vail community since the 1970s when he served as the water law counsel for Vail Associates (now Vail Resorts) and later for the current and predecessor entities of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Vail Water sub-district, which provides water and wastewater treatment services to the greater Vail community. His nomination for the Trailblazer Award carries the endorsement of five former mayors as well as past and present members of the board of directors of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District.

PIONEERING CONTRIBUTIONS

Nominators cited numerous examples of Porzak’s pioneering contributions in creating the water infrastructure essential for Vail’s successful growth as a resort community. For example, in the 1990s he led the effort to negotiate and secure approvals for construction of the Eagle Park Reservoir, located at the headwaters of the Eagle River. This in-basin water storage has been instrumental in supporting snowmaking capabilities on Vail Mountain as well as accommodating Vail’s growth through the decades while ensuring adequate 12-month streamflows in Gore Creek and the Eagle River. The complicated water and storage rights for Vail Mountain’s snowmaking water help to ensure quality skiing and snowboarding, even in the driest of years — such as last year.

Porzak helped continue the development of Black Lakes, which are located at the headwaters of Black Gore Creek near the Interstate 70 Vail Pass exit and are part of the district’s water supply system. The two cold-water reservoirs serve as in-basin water storage and reservoir releases enhance streamflows in Gore Creek. They also support fishing, wildlife habitat and recreation through a partnership with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Porzak was largely responsible for expanding Vail’s recreational amenities by making it possible to build Vail’s whitewater park, which serves as a major venue for the annual Mountain Games. Located at the Gore Creek promenade in Vail Village, the park opened in 2000 after Porzak authored a new recreational in-channel diversion category as a test case under Colorado water law.

The park withstood a series of legal challenges and the game-changing decree was eventually upheld in a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court. The 2003 judgment has since been used to create other whitewater parks throughout the state.

PROTECTING SUPPLIES

As the founding partner of Porzak Browning & Bushong LLP, a Boulder-based firm representing water and land use interests, Porzak is well-known for his expertise in the protection of existing water supplies. In an unprecedented move to protect the water interests of Vail and the upper Eagle Valley, Porzak led negotiations in 1998 that limited the amount of water the Front Range cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs could divert from the Eagle River basin, forever protecting local stream flows and fisheries from out-of-basin development interests.

He spearheaded the litigation and subsequent negotiations that resulted in the 2007 abandonment of the Eagle-Piney Water Project for which Denver Water owned extensive water rights. The agreement and abandonment forever protect local stream flows and fisheries from trans-basin development. That water project would have taken hundreds of thousands of acre feet of water each year from Gore Creek and the Upper Eagle River and transported that water through a planned tunnel below Vail Pass to Dillon Reservoir.

In announcing Porzak as the 2018 Trailblazer Award recipient, Vail Mayor Dave Chapin said Porzak’s underlying contributions are both vast and visible in almost everything we do.

“From the water that comes out of our tap, to the amazing recreational amenities we have in this valley, to the protection of our streams from massive transmountain diversions, we owe our gratitude to Glenn for having the courage and the wherewithal to challenge the status quo,” Chapin said.

Porzak said he was “speechless” when notified of the award. “It has truly been an honor to represent the greatest recreational-based community, Vail, for over four decades,” said Porzak.

Throughout his career, Porzak has participated in over 120 water court trials and over 30 Colorado Supreme Court appeals. He has been named a Colorado Super Lawyer by 5280 magazine every year from 2006 to 2019.

In his spare time, Porzak has been a world-class climber, having summited Mount Everest and three of the world’s other 8,000-meter peaks. He was one of the first people to climb the Seven Summits, the highest peak on each of the world’s seven continents. He is a past president of the American Alpine Club and the Colorado Mountain Club.

Porzak has also been the president of the Manor Vail Homeowners Association and led the effort to remodel the hotel and condominium complex at the base of Golden Peak.

The Vail Trailblazer Award was established during the town’s 50th birthday celebration in 2016. Porzak is the fourth recipient to be honored and was selected by a town council committee from among other deserving nominations.

For more information about the Vail Trailblazer Award and the nomination process, go to http://www.vailgov.com/trailblazeraward.

Eagle whitewater park ready for #runoff

From The Vaily Daily (Randy Wyrick) via The Aspen Times:

The river part of Eagle’s ambitious river park is done, and even the fish appear to be happy about it.

Hobbs Excavating crews recently finished the fourth of four in-river features.

S2O Design, one of the world’s premier river engineering and whitewater design companies, designed the in-river features.

“This setting matches the river’s natural morphology and utilizes the existing river channel really well,” said Scott Shipley, the founder and president of S2O Design. “It will surely be a new focal point for the town.”

[…]

The in-river part of the project took two years to build, but the process started long before that with a feasibility study, then design and a detailed hydraulic modeling. The first two features were built last winter and spring when the water was low.

Crews were back in the water last fall, and finished the other two river features in late December. The features create waves, eddies, chutes, and drops to play in for anything from tubes to surfing, standup-up paddling and kayaking.

The park was the first built with S2O’s RapidBlocs that allows the features to be fine-tuned depending on water flows. That will lengthen the boating season in the park…

S2O also designed the riverbank improvements, and included a bypass channel around the two upper features serving as a recreational safe route and a fish migration pathway, and mid-stream fish channels in the lower section so fish can migrate upstream.

After Colorado Parks and Wildlife expressed some concerns about fish migration, the two features built this winter were modified, with crews installing concrete half hemispheres to make it easier for the fish to move…

In 2016 Eagle voters approved a 0.5 percent sales tax to pay for the park and trail improvements. The entire park is scheduled for completion later this spring.

@USFSRockyMtns opposes Fry-Ark conditional water rights in Holy Cross Wilderness — @AspenJournalism

Pristine Halfmoon Lake, shown here under hazy skies in August 2018, is on Lime Creek within the Holy Cross Wilderness and is near the location for a potential diversion dam and tunnel back toward the existing Fry-Ark Project to the south. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The U.S. Forest Service is questioning whether the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District ever will be able to get approval to build six potential diversion dams and related tunnels and conduits in the Fryingpan River basin that are located on USFS land above 10,000 feet within the Holy Cross Wilderness.

In a statement of opposition filed last month in Division 5 water court in Glenwood Springs, attorneys for the USFS said it “cannot authorize development of these six conditional water rights … because they lie within a congressionally designated wilderness. Only the president has authority to approve water developments within the Holy Cross Wilderness.”

The USFS statement of opposition, which was the only one filed in the case (18CW3063), also said “as currently decreed, the subject water rights raise questions as to whether they can and will be perfected within a reasonable time.”

The opposition statement was submitted July 31 in response to a periodic diligence application filed with the water court by Southeastern on May 28.

Southeastern is seeking to maintain its conditional water rights that are part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The rights were decreed in 1958. Six of the rights are within the Holy Cross Wilderness, which was designated in 1980, but most are outside of it.

Southeastern, which is based in Pueblo, owns and manages the water rights for the Fry-Ark Project, which was built by the Bureau of Reclamation.

A detail of map of the Fry-Ark Project prepared by the Colorado River District, showing potential diversion points as purple circles. The map does not show the wilderness boundary.
A map prepared as part of a study by Wilson Water Group showing the locations of six potential diversion dams in the Holy Cross Wilderness, shown in light purple. The diversion points would be connected with tunnels and conduits and connected to the existing Fry-Ark Project system at Carter Creek, the most northern dam and tunnel in the existing system.
A map filed as part of Southeastern’s diligence application that shows the extent of the Fry-Ark Project. On its southern end, it diverts water from creeks near Aspen. The conditional rights within the Holy Cross Wilderness are on its northern end.

375 cfs

The six diversion dams inside the Holy Cross Wilderness would allow for the diversion of 10 cubic feet per second from an unnamed tributary of the North Fork of the Fryingpan River, for diversion of 135 cfs from Last Chance Creek and for 10 cfs from an unnamed tributary to Last Chance Creek, for 85 cfs from a creek called Slim’s Gulch and for 85 cfs from an unnamed tributary of Slim’s Gulch, and for 50 cfs from Lime Creek.

In all, the six conditional rights in the wilderness would allow for 375 cfs of additional diversions in the Fry-Ark Project.

The diversion structure on Lime Creek would be near pristine Halfmoon Lake, which is above Eagle Lake.

Chris Woodka, who is the issues management coordinator at Southeastern, said the conditional water rights in the wilderness “are like a bargaining chip that we really don’t want to give up.”

“If they could be developed at some point, we would still be interested in developing them, as far as getting the yield from there,” Woodka said. “But can we get more of a yield from the system using the mechanisms we have in place? Probably.”

The entrance to the Chapman Tunnel on the creek in Chapman Gulch, part of the existing Fry-Ark diversion system.

Maximizing limited yield

The Fry-Ark Project today includes 16 diversion dams and 26 miles of tunnels and conduits on the Western Slope that move water from the Hunter Creek and Fryingpan River basins to the centrally located Boustead Tunnel, which can divert as many as 945 cfs under the Continental Divide.

The water is sent to Turquoise Reservoir near Leadville and then farther into the Arkansas River basin for use by cities and irrigators.

The six potential dams and tunnels in the Holy Cross Wilderness would connect to the existing Fry-Ark Project at the Carter Creek dam and tunnel, which is the most northerly point of the system. It was completed in 1981.

James DuBois, an attorney in the environment and natural resources division at the Justice Department and who filed the USFS statement of opposition, said he could not discuss the case.

DuBois filed a similar statement of opposition in a 2009 diligence filing for Southeastern’s conditional rights.

In that case, the USFS eventually agreed, in a 2011 stipulation, that Southeastern would study “the potential for moving its conditional water rights off of wilderness lands” during the next six-year diligence period, which ended in May.

It also would look at other ways to increase the project’s “authorized yield.”

A view of the Slim’s Gulch area in the upper Fryingpan River basin. The Lime Creek basin is on the other side of the jagged ridge in the background, and a tunnel under the mountain would move water from Lime Creek to Slim’s Gulch.

Yield limits

Under the project’s operating principles, the authorized yield of the Fry-Ark Project is limited to diverting 120,000 acre-feet in any one year, and to diverting no more than 2.35 million acre-feet over a 34-year rolling average, or an annual average of 69,200 acre-feet.

From 2010 to 2015, the project diverted an average of 63,600 acre-feet, indicating there is more yield to be gained.

This year, a dry year, about 39,000 acre-feet was diverted. In 2011, the last really wet year, 98,900 acre-feet was diverted, according to an annual report on the Fry-Ark Project prepared by the Bureau of Reclamation.

A view of the Last Chance Creek basin in the upper Fryingpan River basin. The main stem of Last Chance Creek wraps around the forested mountain in the middle of the photo, and a tributary to the south is off to the right, just out of view in the photo. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism

Improving existing facilities

In accordance with the 2011 stipulation, a study on how to get more water out of the system was done by Wilson Water Group and presented to Southeastern in April.

In the presentation slides, Wilson Water told Southeastern’s board of directors that “analysis indicates contemplated project yield could be met through existing infrastructure and software upgrades.”

Another option studied was to move the six rights in the Holy Cross Wilderness downstream and out of the wilderness. However, Wilson Water said it would require pumping stations to lift the water back up to Fry-Ark system and the “cost per-acre feet is likely prohibitive.”

Despite the finding that improving the existing system would increase the yield on the project, Southeastern voted in April to file for diligence on the six conditional rights within the wilderness, along with other conditional rights, telling the court that “while the construction of certain conditionally decreed project features has not yet been started, there is no intent to abandon these features or any of the conditional water rights … .”

A sign marking the boundary of the Holy Cross Wilderness in the Last Chance Creek basin. The trail up the basin does not see a lot of hiking traffic. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism

‘Inappropriate location’

Upon learning of the diligence application this week, Will Roush, the executive director of Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale, said “the Holy Cross Wilderness is a completely inappropriate location” for the development of the conditional water rights.

“Lime Creek, Last Chance Creek and the surrounding lands and tributaries provide amazing opportunities for solitude and the rare opportunity to experience a landscape and alpine watershed free of human infrastructure and without the diversion of water,” Roush said.

An informational memo on the diligence case was presented to the Southeastern board of directors on Aug. 16, and there was no discussion of the case by the board.

An initial status conference in the diligence case has been set for Sept. 18.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering the Roaring Fork and Colorado river basins in collaboration with The Aspen Times. The Times published this story on Saturday, August 19, 2018. This version of the story corrected the date of the earlier stipulation between Southeastern and USFS, which was reached in 2011, not 2012, when the case was closed.

#Drought news: The Eagle River Water & Sanitation District is asking its customers to cut back on outdoor water use

West Drought Monitor July 17, 2018.

From The Vail Daily (Scott Miller):

In a memo to the district’s elected board, communications and public affairs manager Diane Johnson wrote that streamflows measured on Gore Creek, the Eagle River near Minturn and the Eagle River at Avon are all running significantly below seasonal norms.

As of July 22:

• Gore Creek was running at 36 cubic feet per second, 38 percent of the normal flow.

• The Eagle River near Minturn was running at 49 cfs, 43 percent of normal.

• The river at Avon was running at 108 cfs, 36 percent of normal.

Those readings are among the lowest on record. Only the drought years of 2002 and 2012 showed lower streamflows from April 1 to July 22. Even in those drought years, the graph lines show the occasional bump, when rainfall temporarily boosted streamflows.

This year, those bumps haven’t developed.

North American Monsoon graphic via Hunter College.

THE MISSING MONSOON

The short boosts to streamflow in those other years started coming in about mid-June, the result of the annual “monsoon” flow that generally brings some significant moisture to the area.

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center in late spring predicted a better-than-average change of precipitation into the summer. That hasn’t developed so far this year.

Tom Renwick, a forecaster at the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, said the monsoonal flow in Western Colorado usually develops when a high-pressure system sets up over Texas and Oklahoma and a low-pressure system develops over the desert Southwest United States. When that happens, moisture is sucked up from the south and ends up being deposited in Western Colorado.

Renwick said high pressure has been setting up in the wrong place so far this year.

That high pressure usually means dry conditions. At the moment, high pressure is farther west than it needs to be to bring rain.

“It’s basically on top of us,” Renwick said.

While Western Colorado hasn’t been getting its usual summer rainfall, Renwick said other areas are seeing seasonal precipitation. The monsoons have hit Mexico.

CONCERN FOR AQUATIC LIFE

Locally, the lack of the monsoon rains is starting to concern water providers.

In an email, Johnson wrote that the district and other water providers “are now back to a bit worried about how our streams will do during the normal low-flow months of August on.”

That said, there are adequate supplies for domestic use.

Aquatic life can be hard-hit by low streamflows, especially when those low flows are combined with warm temperatures.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife last week called for a voluntary fishing closure on portions of the Eagle, Colorado, Crystal and Roaring Fork rivers. Anglers are asked to stop fishing from 2 p.m. to midnight on stretches of those streams. Water temperatures near or above 70 degrees Fahrenheit can be damaging to fish that are caught and released back into the water.

Rainfall and cooler water temperatures are good for both aquatic life and landscaping. Until those rains come, though, district customers are being asked to let their landscaping dry out a bit.

When the monsoonal flow might develop remains an open question, but Renwick said he’s optimistic.

There’s a possible monsoonal pattern developing later this week for New Mexico, the Front Range and parts of Wyoming, but not Western Colorado.