2019 #NMleg: Professor warns legislators: Get serious on climate — The Sante Fe New Mexican #ActOnClimate

Photo via the City of Santa Fe

From The Santa Fe New Mexican (Andrew Oxford):

“The world will be moving away from fossil fuel production,” David Gutzler, a professor at the University of New Mexico and member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told members of the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

Gutzler went on to paint a stark picture of New Mexico in a changing climate.

The mountains outside Albuquerque will look like the mountains outside El Paso by the end of the century if current trends continue, he said.

There will not be any snowpack in the mountains above Santa Fe by the end of the century, Gutzler added.

We have already seen more land burned by wildfires, partly because of changes in forest management and partly because of climate change, Gutzler said.

Water supply will be negatively affected in what is already an arid state, he said.

“It’s real. It’s happening. We see it in the data. … This is not hypothetical in any way. This is real and we would be foolish to ignore it,” Gutzler said.

The professor warned lawmakers that the state must get serious about greenhouse gas emissions now by expanding clean energy sources and mitigating the societal costs of moving away from fossil fuels.

That cost, though, will be a sticking point for Republicans. Many of them represent southeastern New Mexico and the Four Corners, where oil and mining are big industries.

Denver: Heron Pond redevelopment poses environmental challenges

Proposed Heron Pond Park via the City of Denver.

Click here to read the master plan.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The 2-foot-deep pond holds toxic sludge laced with lead, arsenic and cadmium. Contaminated stormwater runoff from surrounding work yards worsens the brew…

Denver’s willingness to embrace such a site for future parkland reflects the increasingly difficult challenge of establishing enough public green space to keep pace with population growth and development. Denver has fallen behind other U.S. cities in urban parks and open space. This is causing discomfort, hurting public health, exacerbating heat waves and risking costly problems with stormwater runoff.

City officials interviewed by The Denver Post said they see establishing new green space as essential but, perhaps, impossible given the rising price of land. Yet voters recently ordered a sales-tax hike that will raise $45 million a year for parks and open space. This has compelled planners to pore over thousands of acres that could be preserved as green space.

The problem, city officials said, is competing with private developers for land. Developers since 1998 have installed buildings, paved over natural terrain and otherwise overhauled vast tracts of the city — profiting from shopping plazas and upmarket apartments that eventually sell as condominiums. They’ve built higher, lot-line-to-lot-line in some areas, leaving less space to even plant trees.

Turning to marginal industrial land, city officials said, may be Denver’s best hope for stabilizing a decline in green space per capita.

Chief parks planner Mark Tabor said that, after establishing the new green space around Heron Pond, Denver officials could try to purchase the land around the Arapaho power plant south of downtown and in the rail yards northwest of downtown for preservation as large green space where natural ecosystems could be restored.

This approach hinges on cleanup.

It can be done, not just by excavating and hauling away contaminated soil but by using modern cleanup methods that remove acidity and toxic metals, said Fonda Apostopoulos, a Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment engineer who managed decontamination of the Asarco smelters and 862 residential properties near Heron Pond.

“The low-lying fruit of clean property in Denver is few and far between. ‘Brownfields’ are pretty much the only property people are developing,” Apostopoulos said.

“It is all about exposure pathways” — the ways contamination can reach people, he said.

Around Heron Pond, cleanup included excavation and replacement of soil around homes. Nine new monitoring wells will be installed between the smelter site and the South Platte River to make sure toxic metals no longer contaminate groundwater, Apostopoulos said, pronouncing the area safe for at least passive recreational activity.

While cleaning up industrial wasteland costs hundreds of millions of dollars, “there are a lot of private-public partnerships that could do that,” he said. “Denver could get extra federal funding. They could get cleanup grants.”

Proposed Heron Pond boundary via the City of Denver.

Cache la Poudre: Fish ladder coming to the Poudre River at Watson Lake — #Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Construction begins on Cache la Poudre River for fish ladder near Watson Lake. Photo credit: Jason Clay/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

CPW partners with noosa yoghurt, Northern Water and Morning Fresh Dairy on project

[In December 2018] a project [broke ground] that will help reconnect a fragmented Poudre River.

In a collaborative effort, Morning Fresh Dairy, Northern Water and noosa yoghurt are partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to put in a fish ladder at the Watson Lake Diversion. They hope this will be one of many ladders along the Poudre River that will allow fish to travel freely, improving the health of the fishery and the ecosystem.

This Watson Lake fish ladder will reconnect over two river miles. The stretch contains important spawning habitat and deep pools that provide refuge for aquatic life.

Watson Lake Diversion Structure is a channel spanning structure that represents a complete barrier to all upstream fish movement in the Poudre River. The structure delivers water to Watson State Fish Hatchery and is owned and operated by CPW.

“We appreciate the collaboration from the project partners on this important fishway that will reconnect over two miles of stream habitat for the aquatic species,” said Kyle Battige, aquatic biologist for CPW. “Supporting fish passage at Watson Lake aligns with CPW’s goal through improving several facets: ecosystem health, angler access, public safety and public education.”

Designed by OneFish Engineering, the fish ladder will provide upstream fish movement through the diversion structure for all species present within the river reach including longnose dace, longnose suckers, white suckers, brown trout and rainbow trout. The State Wildlife Area and Hatchery, where this project is located, receives a lot of visitors whether they are fishermen, birders, or families enjoying nature. Onsite educational material discussing fish passage will be an important component of the project providing a learning experience for school children and all other visitors.

“The Poudre River has been an integral part of our family farm for over 100 years. We would like to be part of the solution for fish passage along the Poudre River, starting at Watson Lake,” says Rob Graves, owner of Morning Fresh Dairy and co-founder of noosa yoghurt. “We would like to find additional community partners and reconnect the river from Fort Collins all the way up through the Poudre Canyon.”

The new fish ladder also fulfills one of the promises made by the participants of the Northern Integrated Supply Project to improve the Poudre River, outlined in the NISP Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan.

“This project shows the commitment of project participants to address the overall health of the Poudre River,” said spokesman Jeff Stahla. He noted that participants have committed to spending $50 million on a state of Colorado Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan that includes minimum daily flows on the Poudre River through downtown Fort Collins, the construction of fish bypasses and other measures throughout the area

The project started in December 2018 and will be completed in March 2019 before spring runoff begins on the Poudre River. One of the goals is to help move other fish passage projects forward on the Poudre River. Local ditch companies will be able to observe one of these projects first-hand and see that there is no negative impact to water delivery. This will be an important resource to move fish passage initiatives forward with other diversion structures.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Morning Fresh Dairy
Stephanie Giard
970.402.8982
Stephanie@ForwardComs.com

Northern Water
Brian Werner
970-622-2229
bwerner@northernwater.org

Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Jason Clay
303-829-7143
jason.clay@state.co.us

noosa yoghuer
Stephanie Giard
970.402.8982
Stephanie@ForwardComs.com

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

New septic system rules for Montezuma County

Septic system

From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

New septic system regulations under the Montezuma County Health Department kicked in Jan. 1.

Under the Transfer of Title program, when a residential or commercial property meets certain criteria, an inspection of its on-site wastewater septic system will take place when the property is being sold, and repairs or replacement may be required.

The new rules are intended to prevent pollution from failing septic systems and protect the public and water resources, said Melissa Mathews, environmental health specialist for the health department.

The criteria triggering a septic system inspection when a title is transfered include: Structures older than 1974 that do not have a on-site waste water permit; properties that had a permit issued 20 years ago or longer; properties that have a higher level treatment system; properties that have had a previous septic system failure; properties that have a valid septic permit but no structure.

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.

Developers stall Lower Basin #Drought Contingency Plan negotiations #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A canal delivers water to Phoenix. Photo credit: Allen Best

From The Arizona Republic (Ian James):

The outstanding issues, some of which are proving contentious, range from developers’ concerns about securing future water supplies to lining up funding for Pinal County farmers to drill wells and begin to pump more groundwater.

A disagreement has also flared up over the terms of an “offset” provision that involves leaving water in Lake Mead to boost the levels of the dwindling reservoir.

These complications will force more talks geared toward achieving a consensus as the state Legislature begins session Monday and starts working on legislation that would authorize Arizona’s participation in a Drought Contingency Plan, or DCP, with Nevada and California.

Gov. Doug Ducey has called for the parties to quickly wrap up a deal, saying that with a critical shortfall imminent on the river, “we cannot kick the can any further.”

But at a meeting of the state’s steering committee Tuesday, the to-do list still appeared long. And several members of the committee voiced pointed disagreements on provisions that have yet to be finalized.

Last month, federal Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman set a Jan. 31 deadline for Arizona and California to finish their agreements and sign on. She said if the states fail to meet that deadline, the federal government will get involved and step in to prevent reservoirs from falling to critically low levels…

[Tom Buschatzke] and other water managers began the meeting Tuesday with an overview of where water levels stand in the river’s main reservoirs. Lake Powell is now 41 percent full, while Lake Mead is 39 percent full, just above a level that would trigger a first-ever declaration of a shortage.

They also reviewed a list of issues that have yet to be resolved, some of which relate to concerns of farmers in Pinal County, who have the lowest priority and face the biggest cuts in water deliveries.

The farmers had expressed worries about taking especially large cuts in the scenario of a more serious “tier 2” shortage at Lake Mead, and Tucson city officials have proposed to help in that scenario by providing the farmers up to 35,000 acre-feet of water per year for two years. (An acre-foot is 325,851 gallons, enough to cover a football field with a foot of water.)

“We believe it’s a prudent thing to do to give the certainty to Pinal agriculture that they’re seeking on volume in the first three years,” said Timothy Thomure, director of Tucson Water. He said city officials will help finish the Colorado River deal while presenting no risks to the city.

To make the deal possible, the city would ask that water credits in the Tucson groundwater management area be transferred to the city in exchange for credits it would get in Pinal County.

He said Tucson is also asking for reforms affecting how treated sewage effluent figures in the state’s framework of water laws. One of the changes, Thomure said, would be to eliminate a 2025 “sunset” provision on water agencies’ ability to get storage credits for effluent. The city is also seeking more long-term storage credit when effluent is used to replenish groundwater.

Buschatzke called it a “very creative proposal” and said he expects more talks will be needed to work out the specifics…

Representatives of developers have been pressing for a provision conditionally granting them a certain amount of water — 7,000 acre-feet per year — for the first three years of a shortage. Ted Cooke, general manager of the Central Arizona Project, supported the idea and said this provision for an additional water supply would go away if the Drought Contingency Plan is signed.

As the developers have proposed it, the conditional water supply would be included to backstop a larger deal that’s already set to free up more water for future development — just in case the plan isn’t signed in the end.

In that larger $95 million deal, the council of the Gila River Indian Community agreed last month to sell up to 33,185 acre-feet annually to the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District for 25 years starting in 2020 — enough to supply more than 99,000 homes based on the average water use in the area. The transfer would take effect once Arizona signs the Colorado River deal.

That Gila River Indian Community’s water deal was welcomed by developers because it secures water supplies for more growth into the 2030s, said Spencer Kamps, vice president of legislative affairs for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona.

“But having said that, like everybody around the table, we’re seeking certainty. And there is uncertainty on the DCP plan going through the legislative process,” Kamps said. “My members are seeking certainty as it relates to investment from, you know, our corporate offices.”

He said developers want to be sure that when a shortage is triggered “that there is a reliable supply.”

“The concern from us is the uncertainty if anything were to happen, obviously, moving forward with the DCP plan, and it wasn’t satisfactory to either the governor or whomever,” Kamps said. “And I think that’s a reasonable request, to ensure that development can move forward regardless of the conditions on the lake during this 7-year program.”

The developers’ proposal was firmly opposed by Buschatzke, who said adding that amount of water for three years would upset the “delicate balance” that has been negotiated in the plan. Buschatzke also said: “I’m not sure where that water would come from.”

Cynthia Campbell, a water adviser for Phoenix, called the developers’ proposal “unthinkable” and said the city won’t support it.

“We don’t have enough water to go around for all the contract holders,” Campbell said. “Why would you start talking about adding new parties to the dole? That’s crazy.”

Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Indian Community said he thought the issue of future water supplies for development had been dealt with already. He said the council’s resolution approving the water deal is “self-executing” once Arizona signs the Drought Contingency Plan. He offered to consult with his council and send a letter clarifying the point.

Donald Pongrace, a lawyer for the Gila River Indian Community, said after the meeting that the developers’ proposal “would create a precedent of providing water out of priority that we and all other CAP contract holders would find objectionable.”

Lewis’ offer of sending a letter to clarify that the signing of the Colorado River agreement will trigger the water transfer should be sufficient to resolve the issue, Pongrace said, though he said it’s “unnecessary and somewhat insulting to the community’s integrity and overall participation in the process.”

[…]

Another issue that drew opposition from Lewis and Buschatzke was a proposal by CAP officials regarding the “offset” component of Arizona’s plan, which involves deducting some water supplies from a Lake Mead storage account and replacing those supplies on paper with water from other sources.

Originally the idea had been a water exchange between CAP and Salt River Project, but CAP officials have instead proposed an alternative in which their agency would keep the stored water in their account. Pongrace said that’s likely a nonstarter for the Gila River Indian Community because it would give the CAP board discretion to use the water as it sees fit, and potentially take the water out.

“It’s basically calling something conservation that isn’t,” Pongrace said. “It’s the equivalent of financial gimmickry, and we will not accept it.”

Despite the disagreements and the short timetable for drafting legislation, Cooke and Buschatzke both expressed optimism about finishing a deal.

“We’re going to work on things between now and when the legislature starts, and we’re going to work on things after the legislature starts,” Cooke said. “I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been, and I think we’re in closure range, definitely.”

Cooke said CAP and state water officials will work with legislative staffers to draft the package of legislation, and the idea is to keep it simple. The legislation is to include a resolution approving Arizona’s participation in the Drought Contingency Plan together with California and Arizona, as well as other measures outlining funding for the plan and several other changes that will be necessary to make it work.

From the Associated Press via KGUN9.com:

An Arizona committee looking for ways to divvy up cuts from the Colorado River water supply says it has about a handful of issues to settle…

Farmers, cities, tribes, home builders, state agencies and others on the committee met Tuesday. Their goal is to save up to 700,000 acre-feet of water over seven years.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that farmers in Pinal County want more water and certainty in funding for groundwater wells.

Homebuilders also want extra water until a deal with a tribe is finalized.

Two Arizona water utilities remain at odds over water stored in Lake Mead.

The Arizona Legislature must approve the complex plan.