Mesa “State of the River” meeting recap

Colorado River Trail near Fruita September 2014

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The Colorado River is a still largely unrecognized asset that could flood the Grand Valley with economic opportunities, speakers said at a State of the River conference Monday.

“We’re not maximizing use of the river from a commercial perspective,” Sam Williams, general manager of Powderhorn Mountain Resort, told about 50 people at the conference at the Avalon Theatre in downtown Grand Junction.

Williams spoke on a panel with Palisade-area fruitgrower Bruce Talbott, Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Kristi Pollard, Alpine Bank Senior Vice President David Miller and Sarah Shrader, owner of Bonsai Design in Grand Junction and a founder of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition.

“We sell lifestyle” when trying to attract businesses to the Grand Valley, and a large part of that is the presence of “this amazing asset we have,” the Colorado River, Pollard said.

Shrader, whose company is developing an outdoor-recreation business park along the river, noted that other cities that have taken advantage of the river through town to use as an attraction have seen a turnaround in the business climate to one of optimism and activity.

“This community is poised to do something really fantastic,” Shrader said.

Involving businesses and people in the river can aid with the recovery of the four endangered fish species in the Colorado River Basin, as well as others, such as the Western yellow-billed cuckoo, by encouraging an ethic of stewardship, Shrader said.

All of Alpine Bank’s branches sit on or near the banks of the Colorado or one of its many tributaries, Miller said.

That has served as a reminder that the health of the river is directly tied to the health of the businesses along it, Miller said.

Alpine Bank has moved to reduce its water use by 40 percent and has saved $12,000 annually in doing so, he noted.

Agriculture in the east end of the Grand Valley — peaches and grapes specifically — has served to make his family business “the darling of the valley,” Talbott said.

It’s been successful on the financial score, as the 2,500 acres of fruit lands generate some $60 million in ultimate retail sales, Talbott noted.

Nonetheless, it’s clear that fruitgrowers and others are well served to look out for their water supplies because, “We farm at the consent of the public,” Talbott said.

“We have to grow (crops) as inexpensively as possible” while looking to assure long-term water supplies, Talbott said.

The meeting was sponsored by The Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University and the Business for Water Stewardship. Alpine Bank, the Tamarisk Coalition and Club 20 also supported the conference.

From NBC11News.com (Carly Moore):

There were many speakers at the ‘State of the River’ event, taking a critical look at the resource flowing through the valley. They explained the challenges the water supply faces…

Experts are concerned because they believe the river is operating at a long-term deficit, meaning more water is used than the amount we gain from rain or snow.

“Water is really important in Colorado because we are an arid state,” said Aaron Clay, a Delta water law attorney. “It takes water to make any economy run, whether it’s agriculture, manufacturing or municipal.”

“So between people and industry asking more of the river system — and this is all states states on the river — and warming temperatures, that has put a burden on supply,” said Jim Pokrandt, the community affairs director of the Colorado River District.

Gigi Richard, faculty director of the CMU’s Water Center, said the only source of water is precipitation. With a third of the Colorado River Basin getting fewer than 10 inches of rain each year on average, the Colorado River relies on melted snow pack.

“In a sense we’re snow farmers,” Pokrandt said. “While some people may paying attention to commodity prices, our commodity is snow pack.”

Richard said more than 80 percent of Mesa County’s water is used for agricultural irrigation.

Though it’s valuable for family homes to conserve water as much as possible, Clay said that doesn’t put a dent in it.

Mesa State of the River, May 15, 2017 #ColoradoRiver #COriver

From the Colorado River District via The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Learn more about the Colorado River

The public is invited to a free day of learning about the Colorado River at the annual Mesa County State of the River meeting from 3:30 to 8 p.m. on May 15 at the Avalon Theatre.

The event is organized by the Colorado River District, Business for Water Stewardship and the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center at Colorado Mesa University. The event is supported by Alpine Bank, Club 20 and the Tamarisk Coalition.

For more information, contact Jim Pokrandt at the Colorado River District at 970-945-8522 x236, or edinfo@crwcd.org; or Molly Mugglestone of the Business for Water Stewardship, molly@businessforwater.org.

The Hutchins Water Center’s latest newsletter is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

DOUBLE PEAK SNOWPACK MELTING

The amount of water in the Upper Colorado Basinwide snowpack peaked early, started to melt and then bumped back up, before dropping steeply again. Similar stories unfolded in the sub-basins, with the Upper Green and Duchesne groups showing the most impressive peaks and the Yampa/ White group the only one to post lower than average numbers. To see how the total accumulations by month add up in Colorado’s basins, choose the stacked bar option on this page.

@WaterCenterCMU report: “Conservation Planning for the #ColoradoRiver in Utah”

Click here to read the report. Here’s an excerpt (Christine G. Rasmussen and Patrick B. Shafroth):

Strategic planning is increasingly recognized as necessary for providing the greatest possible conservation benefits for restoration efforts. Rigorous, science-based resource assessment, combined with acknowledgement of broader basin trends, provides a solid foundation for determining effective projects. It is equally important that methods used to prioritize conservation investments are simple and practical enough that they can be implemented in a timely manner and by a variety of resource managers. With the help of local and regional natural resource professionals, we have developed a broad-scale, spatially-explicit assessment of 146 miles (~20,000 acres) of the Colorado River mainstem in Grand and San Juan Counties, Utah that will function as the basis for a systematic, practical approach to conservation planning and riparian restoration prioritization. For the assessment we have:

1) acquired, modified or created spatial datasets of Colorado River bottomland conditions; 2) synthesized those datasets into habitat suitability models and estimates of natural recovery potential, fire risk and relative cost; 3) investigated and described dominant ecosystem trends and human uses; and 4) suggested site selection and prioritization approaches. Partner organizations (The Nature Conservancy, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and Utah Forestry Fire and State Lands) are using the assessment and datasets to identify and prioritize a suite of restoration actions to increase ecosystem resilience and improve habitat for bottomland species. Primary datasets include maps of bottomland cover types, bottomland extent, maps of areas inundated during high and low flow events, as well as locations of campgrounds, roads, fires, invasive vegetation treatment areas and other features.

Assessment of conditions and trends in the project area entailed: 1) assemblage of existing data on geology, changes in stream flow, and predictions of future conditions; 2) identification of fish and wildlife species present and grouping species into Conservation Elements (CEs) based on habitat needs; and 3) acquisition, review and creation of spatial datasets characterizing vegetation, fluvial geomorphic and human features within the bottomland. Interpretation of aerial imagery and assimilation of pre-existing spatial data were central to our efforts in characterizing resource conditions. Detailed maps of vegetation and channel habitat features in the project area were generated from true color, high resolution (0.3 m) imagery flown September 16, 2010. We also mapped channel habitat features at high flow on 1.0-m resolution, publicly available, true color imagery. We obtained additional layers such as land ownership, roads, fire history, non-native vegetation treatment areas, and recreational use features from public sources and project partners.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

A new report published by Colorado Mesa University aims to help in planning and prioritizing river restoration projects along 146 miles of the Colorado River from the Colorado-Utah border to the upper reaches of Lake Powell.

“Conservation Planning for the Colorado River in Utah” is the third in a series of scientific and technical reports issued through CMU’s Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center.

Gigi Richard, a geology professor and faculty director for the center, said the report is available to anyone who’s interested, at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/water-center/scientific-technical-reports.html…

The river restoration report was written by Patrick Shafroth of the USGS and Christine Rasmussen of EcoMainstream Contracting in Durango.

It’s expected that federal and state agencies, conservation groups and others will be able to use the assessment and datasets to identify and prioritize projects to improve wildlife habitat and make the river’s ecosystems more resilient. Already, such entities have been involved in an effort called the Colorado River Conservation Planning Project…

The datasets include maps of existing habitats, areas inundated during high and low flows, and locations of campgrounds, roads, invasive vegetation treatment areas and other features.

The report says that “detailed resource maps can be used in project planning to help maximize the benefits of restoration dollars and minimize overlap of restoration efforts.” The report can identify where conservation efforts could address multiple habitat needs and prioritize projects with the potential to recover without intervention.

rasmussen_shaftroth_2016_watercenter_cmu

@WaterCenterCMU webinar: “River Health and Riparian Resilience” January 25, 2017

Click here to register. From the website:

The rivers that roll past our cities, towns, homes, and highways are reflections of all things that happen upstream and uphill. In this lecture, we will learn to see rivers as a sum of their parts, learning the roles, forms and functions of water, sediment, and vegetation. Blue, the role of water, mobilizing and shaping; Brown, the role of sediment, filling, re-routing and building; and Green, growing, holding and slowing all things mobile. From this context, we will launch into discussions of river health, riparian resilience in the face of climate change, and what we can do to protect habitats critical to fish and wildlife and our riverside communities. We’ll see river cameos of the hard-working Dolores, the now-famous Animas, and the unfettered wildness of the Yampa.

Presented by Dr. Chris Rasmussen of EcoMainstream Contracting, and hosted by Abby Burk of Audubon Rockies.

@WaterCenterCMU: The latest E-Newsletter is hot off the presses

January 17, 2017 forecast for unregulated water year inflows to Lake Powell via USBR.
January 17, 2017 forecast for unregulated water year inflows to Lake Powell via USBR.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

The snowpack graphs in the latest National Integrated Drought Information System/ Colorado Climate Center water supply and drought briefing show near-vertical lines in sub-basins across the Upper Colorado Basin as snowpack levels vauted from way below to way above average. Read the briefing here. As a result, the Bureau of Reclamation’s Jan 17 forecast for unregulated water year inflows to Lake Powell rose to over 12 million acre feet (maf), according to its weekly Lower Colorado Water Supply Report. That’s up from the Bureau’s 9.5 maf forecast on Jan 4 and 7.83 maf forecast on Dec 1, as reported in its monthly 24-Month Studies.

Hutchins Water Center: 2016 highlights newsletter is hot off the presses

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

This year has been an exciting one, and the Hutchins Water Center is looking forward to continued progress in 2017 in pursuing our mission to perform and facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative research, education, outreach, and dialogue to address the water issues facing the Upper Colorado River Basin.

We got a tremendous response to our spring screening of the documentary River of Sorrows: Inheriting Today’s Dolores River. The reception, screening and panel discussion created the kind of convivial, entertaining and thoughtful atmosphere we seek to create as we enlarge the community of informed water thinkers in the region.