Upper #SanJuanRiver #drought #snowpack #runoff conditions (May 22, 2022) — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

A May 16 press release from Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) District Manager Justin Ramsey urges residents to reduce water consumption due to worsening drought conditions.

It states, “The NRCS SnoTel station reached a Snow Water Equivalency (SWE) of 0” on May 10th a full three weeks quicker than the median. The median date for reaching a SWE of 0” is May 31st.

“Per the Districts Drought Management Plan we would have triggered the Voluntary Drought Stage had the SWE occurred 2 days earlier on the 8th of May.

“Although we are not in a Voluntary Drought Stage, the unseasonably high temperatures and winds will make for a high water use season. Our weekly water use has increased by 2 million gallons over last years weekly usage.

“The District is requesting everyone conserve water and use outside irrigation sparingly. Please do not water between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm. Watering during the hottest part of the day wastes water as a significant portion of the irrigation water evaporates prior to percolating into the soil, wasting not only water but your money.

Drought outlook

Stream flow for the San Juan River on May 18 at approximately 9 a.m. was 1,120 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geologi- cal Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard, down from a nighttime peak of 1,320 cfs at 2 a.m.

These numbers are down from May 11, when the river flow was at 1,390 cfs at 9:15 a.m. with a nighttime peak of 1,830 cfs at 12:15 a.m.
As referenced in Ramsey’s press release, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report at the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had zero inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, May 18. The report also notes that the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 4 percent of the May 18 median in terms of snowpack.

Colorado Drought Monitor map May 17, 2022.

Upper #SanJuan River #snowpack, #runoff, and #drought report: The Upper San Juan is pretty much melted-out — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

Stream flow for the San Juan River peaked on May 8 at approximately midnight at 1,970 cubic feet per second (cfs), according to the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) National Water Dashboard. This peak matches almost exactly the timing of last year’s peak flow of 1,280 cfs, which occurred on May 8 at approximately 1 a.m. As of 10:45 a.m. on May 11, the river flow was at 1,360 cfs, down from a nighttime peak of 1,830 cfs at 12:15 a.m.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 9.9 inches of snow water equivalent as of noon on Wednesday, May 11. The Wolf Creek summit is at 30 percent of the May 11 snowpack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 19 percent of the May 11 median in terms of snowpack.

Colorado Drought Monitor map May 10, 2022.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) reports that 100 percent of the county is experiencing drought, with April 2022 being the eighth driest April in 128 years, with 1.22 fewer inches of precipitation than normal, and with 2022 being the 11th driest year in the last 128 years, with 4.15 inches of precipitation below normal. The NIDIS places the entire county in a moderate drought, which the website notes may cause rangeland growth to be stunted, very little hay to be available, dryland crops to suf fer and wildfires to increase. The NIDIS also shows 18.8 percent of the county, primarily on the southern edge, in a severe drought, which may cause farmers to reduce planting, producers to sell cattle and the wildfire season to be ex tended. The NIDIS also notes that a severe drought is associated with low snowpack and surface-water levels and reduced river flow.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map May 14, 2022 via the NRCS.

#Aridification Watch: May edition As the snow season wraps up, how are things looking? — @Land_Desk #snowpack #runoff

Click the link to read the article on The Land Desk website (Jonathan Thompson) and to drop some dough in the tip jar:

It’s that time of the year, again, folks. Yep, you guessed it, it’s … Yukigata Time! Okay, maybe you didn’t guess it. Maybe you have no idea what the word even means. But I’m willing to bet you are familiar with the concept and, if you are a farmer or a gardener, you probably use a yukigata.

A yukigata is a pattern formed by melting snow on a mountain slope or hillside in the spring. They often serve as agricultural calendars, letting farmers know when to plant certain crops, or when the danger of a tomato-killing freeze has passed. The calendars can be simple: over in the Montezuma Valley gardeners wait until Ute Mountain is free of snow to plant. Or more elaborate: In the Grand Valley of Colorado, it would be foolish to plant before the Swan’s Neck has melted. And in the North Fork Valley of Western Colorado, gardeners wait for the Devil’s Neck on Mt. Lamborn to “break.”

But the yukigatas have been doing their thing, or disappearing, sooner than in the past, tricking people into planting too early and making their crops vulnerable to the inevitable spring freeze. In Durango, Colorado, for example, gardeners once planted according to when the snow melted off the north face of Smelter Mountain. Now that can happen as soon as March—if there’s snow on the mountain at all—which is just too early.

This also messes with plants’ internal calendars, tricking fruit trees into blossoming too early. A study published this spring found wildflowers in the sagebrush ecosystem now bloom weeks earlier than they did in the 1970s. And here’s a cool map from the National Phenology Network showing where trees leafed out earlier (or later) than usual this year.

Clearly the premature melting of the yukigata is caused by less snow to begin with combined with warming temperatures. Dust on the snow causes it to melt faster, too. As does, wait for it, atmospheric thirst! That’s right, the increasing temperatures are making the atmosphere thirstier, and it’s guzzling up snow, drying out plants, sucking up reservoirs, and so on. Last month, scientists from the Desert Research Institute published a study tracking changes in evaporative demand and found it is increasing everywhere, especially in the Southwest.

As evaporative demand increases, it pulls more water from the land into the air via evaporation and transpiration from plants (and snow and reservoirs), leaving less in the streams and soil. In the Rio Grande Basin, the authors say, that means crops need 8% to 15% more irrigation now than they did in 1980. They go on to note, “These increases in crop water requirements are coincident with declining runoff ratios on the Rio Grande due to warming temperatures and increased evaporative losses, representing a compounding stress on water supplies.”

The authors conclude:

“These higher evaporative demands mean that, for every drop of precipitation that falls, less water is likely to drain into streams, wetlands, and aquifers across the region. Soils and vegetation spend more time in drier conditions, increasing potential for forest fire, tree mortality, and tree regeneration failure.”

So the thirsty atmosphere is likely a factor in the catastrophic fires currently burning in New Mexico. The Hermits Peak Fire—in the Pecos River watershed, east of the Rio Grande—has grown to a monstrous 166,000 acres and is threatening Las Vegas, Mora, and Montezuma.

This year neither the Rio Grande nor the Pecos watershed has done all that well, snowpack-wise. Not many watersheds have, although Southwest Colorado is in better shape than it was last year. Snow season is pretty much over. That doesn’t mean it won’t snow any more in the high country. It’s just that the snowpack peak has almost certainly passed, runoff is underway, and many lower elevation SNOTEL stations are registering zero, which can throw off basin-wide graphs. So, below we offer the snowpack season finale with May 1 readings at our three go-to high country SNOTEL , plus the current graph for the Rio Grande Basin.

The bright spot is definitely Columbus Basin, high in the La Plata Mountains. It’s below the average level for the period of record, but still doing far better than 2021. The La Platas feed the Animas, La Plata, Mancos, and Dolores Rivers. Last year the Dolores had an awful year. Things are looking up this time around—relatively speaking. The Dolores River through its namesake town shot up to 1,800 cfs at one point, dropped, then shot back up again, pushing up levels at McPhee significantly. Still, don’t goo excited. McPhee’s only at 59% of capacity and water managers are releasing virtually nothing from the dam.

River runners better get out on the water now, while they still can.

Native American tribes assert #water rights on #ColoradoRiver Basin: 1922 compact that divided the water between states left out tribes, which own 25% rights — The #Cortez Journal #COriver #aridification

Lake Nighthorse in the Ridges Basin in La Plata County, Colorado. The view is from the overlook on County Road 210. By Jeffrey Beall – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81402953

Click the link to read the article on The Cortez Journal website (Jim Mimiaga). Here’s an excerpt:

Ute Mountain Chairman Manuel Heart and Southern Ute Council member Lorelei Cloud presented their perspectives and plans for water management during a session of the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s annual meeting Friday [April 22, 2022] in Durango. The tribes were not invited to the discussions when the states and federal government divided water rights in the West during the early 20th century. Native Americans did not gain U.S. citizenship until two years after the 1922 Colorado River Compact divided Colorado River water between upper and lower basins.

Cloud said the Southern Ute Tribe has 129,000 acre-feet per year of federally reserved water rights on seven rivers that run through its reservation, but they only have the capacity to divert 40,600 acre-feet per year. The tribe stores water in Vallecito, Lemon and Lake Nighthorse Reservoirs.

The tribe recently built a reservoir to store water for its water treatment plant, which serves 500 households, many of which are nontribal homes in the checkerboard area of the reservation that includes private and tribal lands. The new reservoir allows for a 30-day reserve, up from one-day reserve. Water storage at the treatment plant is critical because it is served by the tribe’s junior water rights on the Pine River, which are vulnerable to calls from senior right holders…

In a historic meeting on March 28 in Albuquerque, 20 tribes, including Utes, met with U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to discuss their involvement with Colorado River Basin water negotiations. Haaland is the first Native American appointed to the post. Cloud said tribes are now at the table to provide input on the Drought Response Operation Agreement set by the Bureau of Reclamation. The guidelines determine how water is released from Colorado River storage reservoirs.

San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

Latest settlement involving 2015 #GoldKingMine spill to send $90 million for cleanup: Federal officials say they’ll drop their cases against mining companies with the settlement — The #Denver Post

Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

The Sunnyside Gold Corporation and its corporate owner will pay about $45 million under yet another settlement connected to the 2015 Gold King Mine spill, which dumped a yellow plume of heavy metals into the Animas River, federal officials announced Friday [April 29, 2022]. The federal government will kick in another $45 million as well. Under the finalized settlement, the company and its Canadian owner, Kinross Gold Corporation, will pay the United States $40.1 million and another $4 million to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for cleanup efforts, Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Rich Mylott said in a release.

Cleanup is needed in the broader Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site, in southwest Colorado’s San Juan County. That site includes dozens of abandoned mines, which are polluting the area’s waterways but it’s also the location of the 3-million-gallon spill at the Gold King Mine, which EPA officials triggered…

Already, cleanup efforts have cost more than $70 million, The Denver Post previously reported. Sunnyside also agreed to a $1.6 million settlement in December and agreed last year to pay $10 million to the Navajo Nation and $11 million to New Mexico, downstream of the mines and spill site.

The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors declines to extend lease for Dry Gulch site — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike):

…as [Justin] Ramsey explained at the meeting, the Webers had recently approached PAWSD again, hoping to reopen negotiations to extend the lease under terms that were similar to the PAWSD counter offer with some minor changes…

PAWSD treasurer Glenn Walsh then raised concerns that he had not seen the terms of the proposed lease and that he would be “ex- tremely concerned” if any lease was approved before its terms had been distributed to the PAWSD board…

[Al] Pfister also mentioned that his priority in considering extending or not extending the lease was its impact on SJWCD’s state park nomination for the site…

He also mentioned that an ex- tension of the mining lease would likely delay reclamation before stating that he would prefer to not extend the Weber lease so reclama- tion could start immediately…

After discussion surrounding the motion’s language, the SJWCD board then unanimously voted for a follow-up motion commanding Pfister to work with Ramsey on de- termining the Weber’s responsibili- ties for reclamation and clarifying the meaning of SJWCD’s potential responsibility for long-term man- agement in the IGA.

#Water managers see runoff as positive sign (April 29, 2022): Heading into summer, forecasts aren’t great, but they are slightly better than last year — The #Durango Herald

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Aedan Hannon). Here’s an excerpt:

Water forecasts remain below average, but above last year’s troubling lows – a positive sign for water managers adapting to sustained drought in the region. Yet, much will depend on the impact of recent dust events and summer monsoons.

According to SNOTEL data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service, a little more than half of the snowpack in the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins has melted so far. Snowpack is measured using the metric of snow water equivalent, or the water content of the snow.

The Animas River was flowing at 669 cubic feet per second in Durango on Wednesday afternoon, the Dolores River at 556 cfs in Dolores and the San Juan River at 895 cfs, according to Colorado Basin River Forecast Center data. Southwest Colorado’s rivers have slowed since Friday, but the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center predicts that flows will again increase over the next week and a half. Forecasts show the Animas River will peak at 3,100 cfs in late May or early June, slightly above last year’s peak of 2,910 cfs on June 7. Forecasts project peaks of 1,500 cfs for the Dolores River and 1,600 cfs for the San Juan River also in late May and early June…

Snow is melting earlier than average this year, according to the SNOTEL data, a trend that Wolff and other water managers have noted. Typically, snowpack would peak around April 1 and runoff would last from April through May and even into June, Wolff said…While runoff is happening earlier this year, water supply forecasts suggest more optimism. The Animas, Dolores and San Juan rivers are hovering just above 70% of average, according to Colorado Basin River Forecast Center forecasts…

Ken Curtis, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District, told Wolff the district was hoping to get at least 70% of its average water.

Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District update — The #PagosaSprings Sun

The springs for which Pagosa Springs was named, photographed in 1874. By Timothy H. O. Sullivan – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17428006

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike):

At the April 14 Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) board of directors meeting, District Manager Justin Ramsey updated the board on the situation concerning the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District (PSSGID).

Ramsey highlighted that he had met with the Town of Pagosa Springs and PSSGID and that they had together developed an emergency plan if the pumps moving sewage from downtown to the PAWSD Vista Treatment Plant fail. Ramsey also explained that the town is “really frustrated” by the current pumping arrangement and is considering developing a new wastewater treatment facility near the proposed Yamaguchi South Park, which he estimated might cost the town $10 million to $20 million. Meanwhile, Ramsey added, PAWSD is planning state-mandated improvements to the Vista Wastewater Treatment Plant at the cost of $20 million to $30 million.
Ramsey then suggested the possibility of the town and PAWSD cooperating on developing a plant by Yamaguchi South and reversing the current pipeline from that area to Vista to transport sewage downhill from Vista to the new plant. However, he added that, even if this plan is approved, it would likely be at least eight years before the project would be completed.

#Colorado, #Utah tribe worries nation’s last uranium mill is contaminating water, causing uptick in illness — The #Denver Post #nuclear

Energy Fuels’ White Mesa Mill from inside Bears Ears National Monument. Photo credit: Jonathan Thompson

Click the link to read the article on The Denver Post website (Conrad Swanson). Here’s an excerpt:

The White Mesa Mill produces refined uranium, vanadium and rare earth compounds used for nuclear fuels, the creation of steel, batteries and electric cars. Toxic compounds left over from the process, called tailings, are poured into massive ponds on site. White Mesa residents take note when smoke rises from the mill and keep close watch over the tailing ponds, Badback said. They cough painfully when the wind blows. Children suffer from respiratory problems and adults worry about cancer. Little information is shared with those in White Mesa, part of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe’s territory that extends into Colorado and New Mexico, Badback said. Residents are mostly on their own.

Documents obtained and analyzed by The Denver Post show that Utah regulators have cited the mill at least 40 times since 1999 for violations ranging from administrative issues and failures to adequately collect and report data to “discharging pollutants” into the state’s waterways. For all those violations the mill has paid a total of $176,874.91 in penalties. For context, in the third quarter of 2021, Energy Fuels, the company that owns and operates the mill, reported that it had more than $100 million in cash. Monitoring wells at the site show concentrations of uranium, nitrates, cadmium, nickel and more regularly testing above state limits. Uranium levels at one well spiked over 600% higher than acceptable federal limits for drinking water, data collected by the mill shows.

Tribal officials say recent protests and official appeals against contamination in the ground water only resulted in state regulators raising the thresholds for acceptable limits. Experts hired by the tribe caught leaks at the tailing ponds and say other leaks are likely. Ultimately tribal officials and residents in the area say they’re concerned the toxins will seep deeper into the ground and contaminate the Burro Canyon Aquifer — which is already showing signs of contamination — and then into the Navajo Aquifer underneath, on which some 50,000 Native Americans depend.

The Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District Board of Directors authorizes more emergency expenditures — The #PagosaSprings Sun

Wastewater lift station

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Dorothy Elder). Here’s an excerpt:

At its April 6 meeting, the Pagosa Springs Sanitation General Improvement District Board of Directors authorized up to $120,000 to be spent out of the sanitation fund reserve for additional emergency expenditures, most of which are meant to safeguard the system from an emergency as the sanitation system’s issues continue to worsen. The system has two pump stations. Each pump station is meant to have two pump trains and four pumps, and each is down to a single pump train with two pumps, Manager Andrea Phillips reminded the board on Wednesday.

#Durango dodges problems with low reservoirs, but is subject to rivers’ whim: City can’t be proactive about #drought without significant water storage — The Durango Herald

Lemon Dam, Florida River. The Florida River is Durango’s main water source, but the city can pull from the Animas River when needed. Because of water shortages and a prolonged drought, city officials are looking at using water stored in Lake Nighthorse

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Christian Burney). Here’s an excerpt:

Durango faces a different scenario than many other municipalities that rely on large water reservoirs for their supplies, he said. When a municipality saves a gallon of water, for example, that water stays right there in its reservoir until it is needed. But Durango “lives on the flow” of the Animas and Florida rivers, Biggs said. On one hand, the city isn’t reliant on reservoirs that may be in short supply of water. But on the other, if the rivers are short on supply because there isn’t enough runoff, the city’s only choice is to clamp down on restrictions and wait out the shortage, he said…

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

The city is looking into installing a pipeline that would connect Lake Nighthorse to the College Mesa water-treatment facility, Mayor Kim Baxter said, which would allow Durango to take a more proactive approach to drought management and mitigation.

The full drought management plan can be viewed at https://www.durangogov.org/DocumentCenter/View/16674/City-of-Durango-Drought-Plan-Feb-2020?bidId=.

Tribes assert #water rights on #ColoradoRiver Basin: 1922 Colorado River Compact that divided resources between states left out Native Americans — The #Durango Herald #COriver #aridifcation

Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Jim Mimiaga). Here’s an excerpt:

The Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute tribes of Southwest Colorado are fighting for water, including an effort to reclaim rights flowing downstream to other users. Ute Mountain Chairman Manuel Heart and Southern Ute Council member Lorelei Cloud presented their perspectives and plans for water management during a session of the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s annual meeting last week in Durango…

Native Americans did not gain U.S. citizenship until two years after the 1922 Colorado River Compact divided Colorado River water between upper and lower basins. Now, the 1922 compact is under review for water management changes in the mega-drought era and has a 2026 deadline for new interim guidelines. This time, tribes are asserting their water rights and demanding to be included in negotiations about how Colorado River Basin water is divided…

From the 2018 Tribal Water Study, this graphic shows the location of the 29 federally-recognized tribes in the Colorado River Basin. Map credit: USBR

Thirty tribes within the Colorado River Basin hold 25% of the water rights, but some of the water has not been available for use or has not been recognized as tribe-owned.

“When the laws were made, we were not included; we were an afterthought. We know (tribes) have 25% or more of that water,” Cloud said. “If tribes were to put that water to use, it will be a major impact for those downstream who have been using it for free. As tribes put our water to use, there will be less water down river.”

Cloud said the Southern Ute Tribe has 129,000 acre-feet per year of federally reserved water rights on seven rivers that run through its reservation, but it only has the capacity to divert 40,600 acre-feet per year. The tribe stores water in Vallecito, Lemon and Lake Nighthorse reservoirs…

Ute Mountain Ute Chairman Manuel Heart said his tribe is also continuing its fight for water rights. He is chairman of the 10 Tribe Partnership, a coalition of tribes working to protect their water rights and provide input on Colorado River Basin water management.

Navajo Dam operations update: Bumping down to 300 cfs April 5, 2022 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamationk (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 300 cfs for Tuesday, April 5th, at 4:00 AM.

Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Bulkheads caused the Gold King Mine spill. Could they also be part of the solution? Remediation tool can limit acidic drainage, but experts must also understand the complicated hydrology — The #Durango Herald

Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald website (Aedan Hannon). Here’s an excerpt:

Bulkheads remain relatively obscure except to those involved in mine remediation, but their purpose is to plug mines and limit the release of mine waste while reversing the chemical processes that contribute to acid mine drainage. They can be simple fixes for extraordinarily complex mining systems and produce unintended consequences. But they are also a critical tool for the EPA and those working to improve water quality and reduce the lingering effects of more than a century of mining in the Bonita Peak Mining District…

The role of bulkheads in the Gold King Mine Spill

In its October 2015 technical assessment of the incident, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation argued that bulkheads were at least partially responsible for the Gold King Mine spill. The Gold King Mine is a maze of tunnels, faults and fissures located at different elevations inside Bonita Peak and the surrounding mountains in Gladstone. The mine opening that drained when the EPA crews struck a plug holding back water was actually what’s known as the “Upper Gold King Mine,” or Gold King Mine Level 7. A short distance away lies the “Gold King Mine,” which refers to a mine adit called American Tunnel…

With oversight from the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, Sunnyside Gold Corp. first installed a bulkhead in American Tunnel in 1995 to stop mine drainage from entering Cement Creek. The company closed the valve on the first bulkhead in October 1996 and would go on to install two other bulkheads in American Tunnel. With the installation of the bulkheads, the flow of toxic mine waste into Cement Creek decreased from 1,700 gallons per minute to about 100 gallons per minute. But as the impounded water rose behind the bulkheads, the water rose elsewhere, including in Gold King Mine Level 7, which sits about 750 feet above American Tunnel, according to the Bureau of Reclamation’s assessment…The EPA has yet to determine if it was faults and fractures in the rock or other internal mine workings that carried water from American Tunnel to Gold King Mine Level 7, but the EPA and the Bureau of Reclamation have both said the spill was in part the result of this buildup from the bulkheads in American Tunnel. Bulkheads have been used in mine remediation efforts in Colorado for more than three decades, and there are about 40 installed across the state, said Jeff Graves, director of Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety’s Inactive Mine Reclamation Program…Bulkheads back up water and fill mine tunnels. When they do so, they limit the air rocks can come into contact with, preventing the chemical reaction that creates acid mine drainage…

Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

Acid mine drainage can also still make its way into river systems. Water naturally moves through rock and can turn into acid mine drainage when exposed to oxygen, though in smaller volumes.

The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

Upper #SanJuanRiver #snowpack report (April 3, 2022) — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike):

Snowpack report

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 34.0 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 a.m. on Wednes- day, March 30. That amount is up 0.2 inches from the snow water equivalent depth of 33.8 inches reported Wednesday, March 23. The Wolf Creek summit is at 121 percent of the March 30 snowpack median.

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 93 percent of the March 30 median in terms of snowpack.

San Juan Water Conservancy District and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District discuss future of Dry Gulch Reservoir — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

At their March 10 joint meeting, the boards of the San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) and Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) discussed the future of the Dry Gulch reservoir.

The meeting opened with SJWCD board president Al Pfister providing an update on the organization’s activities related to Dry Gulch.

“We haven’t really … done a lot of work in the past two years,” Pfister said.

He continued to explain that SJWCD had unanimously voted to hire Wilson Water Group to perform a water needs assessment study at its meeting earlier in the day. This study will cost $15,000 and will be completed over a three- month period. The study will examine the mu- nicipal, agricultural, industrial, environmental and recreational water needs of the community and assess how these needs are likely to change in the future given the population increases the county has recently experienced…

Secrist provided an update on SJWCD’s work with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to potentially nominate the Dry Gulch site to be a state park site. According to Secrist, this process began in the summer of 2021 when Secrist was approached by CPW representatives about the possibility of locating a state park at the Dry Gulch site…He explained that the state park application would need to be submitted by June 1 and that CPW is interested in creating the park whether or not the site contains a reservoir.

#NewMexico seeks approval to store #RioGrande water at Abiquiú — The Albuquerque Journal

El Vado Dam and Reservoir. Photo credit: USBR

Click the link to read the article on the Albuquerque Journal website (Theresa Davis). Here’s an excerpt:

New Mexico water agencies are slowly piecing together a regulatory puzzle in order to store Rio Grande water in Abiquiú Reservoir for middle valley irrigation this summer as El Vado Dam is repaired. But an objection from Texas water managers could interfere with the reservoir’s use for non-pueblo irrigators. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates the northern New Mexico reservoir on the Rio Chama. Nabil Shafike, the Army Corps Albuquerque District’s water management chief, said Abiquiu was once authorized only to store Colorado River Basin water that is diverted into the Rio Grande Basin with a series of tunnels and dams for the San Juan-Chama Project.

“All the Corps reservoirs – Abiquiú, Cochiti, Galisteo and Jemez Canyon – work as one unit to protect the middle valley from flood,” Shafike said. “Any storing of native (Rio Grande) water would require a deviation from the current operation.”

The agency is weighing two potential changes at Abiquiu:

• A request from the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission to store up to 45,000 acre-feet, or 14.6 billion gallons, of Rio Grande water in Abiquiú each year for release later in the season to meet middle Rio Grande irrigation demand.

• A request from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to store up to 20,000 acre-feet, or 6.5 billion gallons, of Rio Grande water in Abiquiú each year to meet direct flow right for the six middle Rio Grande pueblos of Isleta, Sandia, Santa Ana, San Felipe, Santo Domingo and Cochiti.

The Army Corps could approve both storage plans or may choose only one.

#NewMexico finalizes $1 million in restoration projects from #GoldKingMine spill — The Sante Fe New Mexican #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver

Click the link to read the article on the Sante Fe New Mexican website (Scott Weyland). Here’s an excerpt:

The $1 million in restoration work is part of the $11 million settlement New Mexico reached last year with Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its two parent companies…

The plan calls for:

  • San Juan County to build the Cedar Hill Boat Ramp on the Animas River.
  • The city of Farmington to build the Festival and Farmers Market Pavilion at Gateway Park.
  • The San Juan County Soil and Water Conservation District to implement a soil restoration project in San Juan Valley.
  • The Tse Daa Kaan Chapter of Navajo Nation to upgrade its irrigation system.
  • The other $10 million in the settlement covers environmental response costs and lost tax revenue, among other things.

    Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

    Sunnyside Gold oversaw construction of the bulkheads that led to mines filling with acidic water…

    Some money from the EPA settlement will go to northwestern New Mexico communities for agriculture and outdoor recreation, partly to ease the stigma the spill caused in that region, state officials said in a news release. It will cover some of New Mexico’s costs responding to the spill. And it will pay the state to restore and conserve river and land habitats, monitor water quality, and clean up pollution to protect drinking water.

    Archuleta County discusses river enhancement grant funding — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

    Yamaguchi South Planning Project site layout via the City of Pagosa Springs.

    Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike):

    At its March 15 work session, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) heard an update and funds request from Al Pfister, project manager for Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership (WEP). Pfister gave a brief overview of WEP’s Yamaguchi South Project, which will include river restoration, the creation of a new whitewater feature and a new boat put in ad- jacent to the planned Yamaguchi Park South.

    Navajo Dam operations update (March 17, 2022): Bumping down to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridfication

    Aerial image of entrenched meanders of the San Juan River within Goosenecks State Park. Located in San Juan County, southeastern Utah (U.S.). Credits Constructed from county topographic map DRG mosaic for San Juan County from USDA/NRCS – National Cartography & Geospatial Center using Global Mapper 12.0 and Adobe Illustrator. Latitude 33° 31′ 49.52″ N., Longitude 111° 37′ 48.02″ W. USDA/FSA, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for Thursday, March 17th, at 4:00 AM.

    Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    The Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District cancels May, 2022 election — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    A ballot box used in France. By Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2067181

    Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

    At a special meeting of the Pagosa Area Water and Sanita- tion District (PAWSD) Board of Directors on March 3, the board unanimously voted to cancel the upcoming district election.
    According to District Manager and Engineer Justin Ramsey, the board had three openings and three candidates for board posi- tions after a fourth candidate withdrew…

    The three candidates declared elected after the cancellation of the election are Drew Mackey and current board member Blake Brueckner for three-year terms and Bill Hudson for a one-year term.

    Proposed Archuleta County Flood Map reflects changes to local flood risk, insurance rates — FEMA #PiedraRiver

    Map credit: FEMA

    Click the link to read the release on the FEMA website:

    Updates to Archuleta County’s flood insurance rate maps are nearing completion. The new maps will provide Archuleta County with more accurate flood risk information that can help local officials and residents make informed decisions about reducing flood risks and purchasing flood insurance.

    The mapping project is a joint effort between Archuleta County, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and FEMA. It is part of a nationwide effort led by FEMA to increase local knowledge of flood risks and support actions to address and reduce those risks.

    Before new flood insurance rate maps become effective, there is a 90-day appeal period during which local residents and business owners can provide additional data for consideration before the maps are final. This appeal period starts on March 10, 2022.

    Officials encourage residents and business owners to review the proposed flood insurance rate maps to learn about local flood risks, potential future flood insurance requirements, and any concerns or questions about the information provided.

    Appeal packages may be submitted during the 90-day appeal period. The sole basis of the appeal must include the possession of knowledge or information indicating that the proposed flood hazard determinations are scientifically and/or technically incorrect.

    For further details on this process, visit https://www.floodmaps.fema.gov/fhm/BFE_Status/bfe_main.asp.

    To view preliminary mapping, visit the Colorado Hazard Mapping Website (https://coloradohazardmapping.com), or contact your local floodplain administrator. Preliminary mapping also may be viewed on FEMA’s Map Service Center (https://hazards.fema.gov/femaportal/prelimdownload/).

    #SanJuanRiver #snowpack conditions March 13, 2022 — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 31.8 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March. 2. That amount is up 2 inches from the snow water equivalent depth of 29.8 inches reported Wednesday, March 9. The Wolf Creek summit is at 126
    percent of the March 9 snowpack median.

    The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 101 percent of the March 9 median in terms of snowpack.

    Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership: Years-long effort aims to balance health, use of #water — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

    Swim class on the San Juan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Click the link to read the article on the Pagosa Springs Sun website (Josh Pike). Here’s an excerpt:

    Current projects

    WEP’s work to leverage the knowledge it has accumulated is reflected in the organization’s two ongoing stream enhancement projects.

    [Al] Pfister explained that stream enhancement involves “enhancing channel stability [and] doing some reworking of the river so that you have a low stream channel instead of flat stream bed.”

    WEP’s current stream enhancement projects focus on enhancements to the San Juan River both near the proposed Yamaguchi Park South and upstream from Pagosa for 2.5 miles from near Bob’s LP. Pfister stated that both of these projects build off of prior work undertaken by the Town of Pagosa Springs and its partners to enhance the section of the San Juan River that flows through downtown Pagosa.

    Yamaguchi South Planning Project site layout via the City of Pagosa Springs.

    Yamaguchi South project

    The planned stream enhancements in Yamaguchi Park South involve both modifications to the river itself and enhancements to the recreational resources along its banks. Pfister explained that, in terms of river modifications, “There’s going to be one whitewater feature in there, but then also enhancing the stream morphology. Pfister stated that these changes are aimed at providing healthier fish habitat and promoting the health of the riparian corridor for all its users, including birds, mammals and insects. He also suggested that the stream modifications required for conservation synergize with the needs of recreational users by promoting healthy fish populations for fisher people. They also provide deep stream channels and shallow bank pools that benefit boating and riverside recreation. On the banks, the project will involve the creation of a new boat put in and take out in Yamaguchi Park South to replace the current put in at the south end of Yamaguchi Park.

    Pfister commented that this will improve “access for people so there’s not the conflict that currently exists down there at the end of Yamaguchi Park now.”

    Pfister elaborated, saying, “The county and town both use that as a location to fill their water trucks. So … it can create some challenges.”

    Pfister explained that the new boat take out will include a gravel road to the new take out location, in contrast to the dirt road currently used to access the take out, and a larger area for taking out and launch- ing boats. Pfister said that the goal was “to have more of a permanent thing, whereas now it’s a dirt road, and having the put in or take out such that it doesn’t have negative impacts on the stream morphology/hydrology.”

    Pagosa gateway project

    WEP’s second major stream enhancement project is the Pagosa gateway project, which involves enhancements to the San Juan River for approximately 2.5 miles north of Bob’s LP. This project will involve similar stream improvements to the Yamaguchi South project as well as the removal of several car bodies that are currently deposited in the river upstream from Pagosa. Pfister highlighted that the removal of these car bodies is “a big issue as far as river recreationists are concerned, and it’s not healthy for the river.”

    Both the Pagosa gateway and South Yamaguchi projects are await- ing the completion of final steps, including pieces of grant funding and private landowner permissions. However, Pfister expressed optimism that both projects would begin to break ground in the “next couple years.”

    Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project receives funding from federal infrastructure law — The Farmington #NewMexico Daily Times

    Installing pipe along the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project. Photo credit: USBR

    Click the link to read the article from The Farmington Daily Times website (Noel Lyn Smith). Here’s an excerpt:

    The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project is receiving $123 million from the recent federal infrastructure law to help complete the regional water system.

    U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced this week that $1.7 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will be used to fulfill settlements for several tribal water rights claims, in addition to funding for the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project…

    Components of the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project remain under construction in northwest New Mexico. When completed, it will deliver San Juan River water to communities on the Navajo Nation and the Jicarilla Apache Nation as well as the city of Gallup…

    The $123 million will fully fund four existing construction projects and two new construction contracts that the bureau plans to award this fiscal year…

    According to the bureau, the current construction projects are pumping plants in Sheep Springs and in the area of Bahatl’ah and Coyote Canyon chapters, a pipeline from Yah-ta-hey to Tsé Bonito and the segment that will serve Church Rock, Iyanbito, Bááháálí, Chichiltah and Tsé Lichíí chapters.

    The amount will also pay for the project’s portion on a new electrical transmission line being built by Western Area Power Authority and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority…

    That settlement will bring a regional water system to the Pueblos of Nambe, Pojoaque, San Ildefonso and Tesuque.

    Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Say hello to the new newsletter “Nine Basins Bulletin”

    Click the link to read the newsletter at Nine Basins Bulletin. Here’s an excerpt:

    This is your new water newsletter.

    The Nine Basins Bulletin is the new newsletter from the Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Water Information Program, a summary of the latest updates from southwest Colorado. In this email forum, we want to raise awareness, engagement, and coordination among our nine distinct watersheds—and share our successes with the state. It’s for you.

    Send your updates, jobs, and events to lauras@swwcd.org.

    What would you like your newsletter to be called? Submit the best newsletter name and win free admission to the seminar and kudos in the next edition…

    Southwestern Water Conservation District Awards $197,500 to Local Water Projects

    At their February meeting, the Southwestern Water Conservation District Board of Directors approved grants to support the following local water projects:

    $60,000 for the Eaklor Ditch Company’s emergency piping project in the Navajo river basin

    $28,500 to repair Lone Cone Reservoir’s outlet and intake in the San Miguel river basin

    $25,000 toward the Mancos Conservation District’s remote metering program for three historic irrigation ditches

    $16,500 to support the Dolores River Restoration Partnership’s ongoing monitoring and stewardship of their tamarisk removal project

    $30,000 for the Town of Pagosa Springs’ Yamaguchi South river restoration project on the San Juan river

    $16,000 to help Animas Watershed Partnership launch a basin-wide stream management planning process

    $5,000 for the Mancos Conservation District’s urban water quality and conservation plan

    $16,500 for Science on the Fly’s innovative partnership with anglers to collect water quality data in the San Miguel, Animas and La Plata basins

    Snow falls around Pagosa Country, multiple feet in the mountains — The #PagosaSpringsSun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Clayton Chaney). Here’s an excerpt:

    Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 17 inches of fresh snowfall on Tuesday afternoon and 25 inches from the storm as of 6 a.m. Wednesday…According to the U.S. Depart- ment of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of eleva- tion, had 25.9 inches of snow water equivalent as of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The Wolf Creek summit was at 113 percent of the Feb. 22 snow- pack median. The San Miguel, Dolores, Ani- mas and San Juan river basins were at 88 percent of the Feb. 22 median in terms of snow pack.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 26, 2022 via the NRCS.

    Future water supplies…discussed by San Juan Water Conservancy District — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver

    Pagosa Springs. Photo credit: Colorado.com

    Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun (Josh Pike):

    The San Juan Water Conservancy District (SJWCD) Board of Directors discussed future water supplies and housing in Archuleta County at its February 21, 2022 meeting. During a discussion on hiring a consultant for water demand analysis, the board considered the broader question of the future water needs of Archuleta County. This discussion focused on the construction and design of SJWCD’s Dry Gulch Reservoir project, a proposed reservoir to provide additional water to the area.

    Questions emerged, however, about what size of reservoir would be needed to satisfy Archuleta County’s demands for water and when such a reservoir might be needed. The directors agreed that COVID has caused a large spike in population growth over the last two years. However, there were differing opinions on whether this growth would continue and how rapidly it would occur. According to the directors, the statistics on growth, in turn, would impact the water demands of the county. If these water demands were sufficiently large, they would necessitate the construction of the Dry Gulch Reservoir, which the board agreed is currently unnec- essary to meet Archuleta County’s present water needs.

    Navajo Dam operations update (February 26, 2022): Bumping releases from Navajo Dam to 400 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 400 cfs for tomorrow, Saturday, February 26th, at 4:00 AM.

    Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    This scheduled release change is subject to changes in river flows and weather conditions. If you have any questions, please contact Susan Behery (sbehery@usbr.gov or 970-385-6560), or visit Reclamation’s Navajo Dam website at https://www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html

    Pretty good #snowpack comeback for the #AnimasRiver basin from the current storm. Still need more, but it’s a good start. (And is likely to create very hazardous avalanche conditions, with new snow atop faceted, rotted depth hoar — @LandDesk

    Colorado Snowpack basin-filled map February 23, 2022 via the NRCS.
    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 24, 2022 via the NRCS.

    Winter storm hits Southwest #Colorado, dumps a foot of snow in mountains — The #Cortez Journal #snowpack

    Colorado snowpack basin-filled map February 22, 2022 via the NRCS.

    Click the link to read the article on The Cortez Journal:

    Winter storms on Tuesday blanketed Southwest Colorado, dropping 6 inches of snow in Dolores and Mancos, and more than a foot on mountain passes. A winter storm that began Monday afternoon and evening stretched into Tuesday largely followed predictions from the National Weather Service. A second storm Tuesday evening is expected to more than double snow totals and leave travelers facing blizzard conditions in places…Dolores received about 6 inches of snow, and Mancos, 5 to 7 inches, depending on elevation. Durango received 2 to 4 inches of snow, and Pagosa Springs, 1 to 3 inches…[Jim] Andrus reported that snowfall for Cortez was 67% of normal, with 16.7 inches by Feb. 22. Cortez received 10.6 inches in January. Andrus measured Tuesday morning’s snow water equivalent to be 0.27 inch of precipitation, and predicted that it would rise to 0.5 to 0.6 inch of precipitation by the end of the storm. He described the storm as a strong jet stream parked over the Four Corners…Telluride received 11 inches of new snow from the storm, and Purgatory received 14 inches.

    As of Tuesday, combined totals for five SNOTELS that measure snowpack in the Dolores River Basin showed 90% of normal, up from 89% on Monday. The Animas River Basin snowpack is at 87% of normal. The SNOTEL stations for the Dolores Basin are located at El Diente Peak, Lizard Head Pass, Lone Cone, Scotch Creek, and Sharkstooth. Winter season snowpack statewide was 90% of normal as of Feb. 22, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 22, 2022 via the NRCS.

    The Pagosa Areas Water & Sanitation District board approves resolution for #TABOR ballot measure — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    The springs for which Pagosa Springs was named, photographed in 1874. By Timothy H. O. Sullivan – U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17428006

    Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun website (Clayton Chaney). Here’s an excerpt:

    During its regular meeting on Feb. 10, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve Resolution 2022-03, which authorizes the submittal of a ballot issue in regard to the district’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights ( TABOR) restrictions. District voters will be able to vote on the ballot issue during this year’s special district election slated for May 3.

    PAWSD district voters approved a ballot issue on May 3, 2016, sub- jecting the district to TABOR laws…

    PAWSD District Manager Justin Ramsey explained in a previous interview that the TABOR ballot resolution, if approved by voters, will allow the district to receive an unrestricted amount of grant funding.

    @SenatorHick and @SenatorRomney introduce a bill to extend the Upper #ColoradoRiver Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs funding for 1 year — The #Durango Herald #COriver #endangeredspecies

    Ron Rogers biologist with Bio-West Inc., holds a large razorback sucker captured in Lake Mead near the Colorado River inflow area

    Click the link to read the article on The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon). Here’s an excerpt:

    Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, introduced the Upper Colorado and San Juan River Basins Recovery Act in the Senate on Thursday to bolster the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs. The legislation would extend the two programs by one year and give communities more time to develop long-term management plans for the fish species they protect…

    The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs aim to recover and protect four threatened and endangered fish species: humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker…

    The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery and San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation programs were established in the late 1980s and early 1990s with cooperative agreements between public land agencies, states, tribes and other stakeholders…

    The decadeslong conservation efforts have largely been successful with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommending the downlisting of the razorback sucker and humpback chub from endangered to threatened in 2018.

    But the added threat of climate change could affect these fish populations, with the razorback sucker, Colorado pikeminnow and bonytail still reliant on active management from the agencies and their partners.

    Dry week across Pagosa Country — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Click the link to read the article on The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney). Here’s an excerpt:

    As of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 9, Wolf Creek Ski Area is reporting a total of 251 inches of snowfall for the season so far.

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 25.1 inches of snow water equivalent as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 9. That amount is 121 percent of that date’s median snow water equivalent and is up from last week’s reading on Feb. 2 of 24.1 inches of snow water equivalent. The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 95 percent of the Feb. 9 median in terms of snow pack.

    River report

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 48.4 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9. Based on 86 years of water records at this site, the average flow rate for this date is 61 cfs. The highest recorded rate for this date was in 2015 at 116 cfs. The lowest recorded rate was 27 cfs, recorded in 1964.

    Feds, 4 #ColoradoRiver states unveil draft #drought operations plan as 2022 forecast shifts — @WaterEdCO #COriver #aridification

    Glen Canyon Dam August 2021. The white on the sandstone reflects where the water level once was. Dropping levels at Lake Powell are forcing a reduction in outflows from the Glen Canyon Dam. Photo credit: USBR

    From Water Education Colorado (Allen Best):

    As the crisis on the Colorado River continues, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the four Upper Basin states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming—have drawn up a proposed framework called the Upper Basin Drought Response Operations Plan. The framework would be used by water managers to create plans each year, as necessary, to maintain Lake Powell water levels.

    The effort to keep Lake Powell healthy is critical to ensuring hydropower production from its turbines is maintained and to protect the Upper Basin states from violating their legal obligation to send Colorado River water to Arizona, California and Nevada, the Lower Basin states.

    Whether the new plan will be activated this year is uncertain. During a webinar about the working draft on Jan. 28, Rod Smith, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Interior, described this year’s early winter weather as a yo-yo. “December was excellent,” he said, “but January was kind of blah.”

    Public comments on the proposed plan are being accepted through Thursday, Feb. 17.

    Lake Powell’s water levels were successfully stabilized last year after a series of major emergency water releases from reservoirs in Utah and Colorado. Lower Basin states also cut water use.

    Graphic credit: Chas Chamberlin

    Modeling last year had found a nearly 90% probability that Powell levels in 2022 would fall below the elevation of 3,525, triggering more emergency releases. But as of Feb. 3, water levels in Powell were almost 6 feet above that elevation.

    Much can change between now and April, when Reclamation and the states hope to complete the framework.

    Last year’s disastrous runoff — the snowpack was roughly 85% of average but the runoff was 32% of average — surprised everyone, and ultimately forced the emergency releases from Blue Mesa and Flaming Gorge, two of three federal dams operated by the agency upstream of Powell. Reclamation also operates Navajo, the reservoir located primarily in New Mexico, whose waters can also be used to boost levels in Powell, subject to other limitations.

    The proposed framework identifies how much water from the three reservoirs is available for release to prop up levels in Powell, but only after operations at Powell itself have been managed to best maintain levels of 3,525 feet or above. To slow the decline, Reclamation is holding back 350,000 acre-feet of water in Powell that it would normally release during January-April.

    The agency plans this year to release 7.48 million acre-feet from Powell to flow down the Grand Canyon to Lake Mead.

    Smith emphasized that the releases from Blue Mesa and other Upper Basin reservoirs will be subordinate to the many preexisting governance mechanisms on the Colorado River, including treaties, compacts, statutes, reserve rights, contracts, records of decision and so forth. “All that stays,” said Smith.

    Taylor Park Reservoir

    This can get complicated. For example, some water from Taylor Park Reservoir, near Crested Butte, can be stored in Blue Mesa but is really meant for farmers and other users in the Montrose-Olathe area. That water is off-limits in this planning.

    Navajo Reservoir, New Mexico, back in the day.. View looking north toward marina. The Navajo Dam can be seen on the left of the image. By Timthefinn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4040102

    Navajo Reservoir releases can get even more complicated. Water was initially identified last summer for release from the reservoir to help replenish Powell, but then delayed. Reasons were identified, including temperatures of the San Juan River downstream in Utah. But feathers were ruffled, as was revealed during the Colorado River Water Users Association meeting, held in Las Vegas in December. Tribes were consulted only belatedly.

    Now, the draft framework language specifies the need for consultation with tribes. Water in Navajo Reservoir is owned by both the Jicarilla Apache and Navajo. To be considered are diversions to farmers but also to Gallup. “Getting this right, particularly in the operational phase, will be critical,” said Smith.

    How might this affect ditch systems in Colorado? “There will be timing issues of when the extra water comes down, but in terms of whether there are any direct impacts to a ditch authority operating under its own decree, there should not be,” said Michelle Garrison, senior water resource specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, during the webinar. “We don’t expect any disruption to other water users because of this.”

    […]

    “You can help make the best of a bad situation by having any drought operation releases benefit other things on the river, including benefits to threatened and endangered fish species while potentially producing more hydropower revenue [used in part to support endangered fish recovery programs],” said Bart Miller, water program manager for Western Resource Advocates.

    But Miller and others also note that Reclamation’s draft framework represents a short-term solution to a festering long-term problem.

    Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2021 of the Colorado River big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data (PRISM) goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
    @GreatLakesPeck.

    The word drought is found everywhere in the planning documents. Colorado State University climate scientist Brad Udall insists that another word, aridification, better describes the hydrology that has left the Colorado River with nearly 20% less water in the 21st century as compared to the 20th century. Trying to reconcile 21st century hydrology with 20th century infrastructure and governance is like walking on a rail that gets ever more narrow.

    “I think it’s totally appropriate to use this tool but not as a substitute for dealing with the overall imbalance between supply and demand,” says Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado Law School.

    Long-time Colorado journalist Allen Best publishes Big Pivots, an e-magazine that covers energy and other transitions in Colorado. He can be reached at allen@bigpivots.com and allen.best@comcast.net.

    Navajo Dam operations update: Releases to decrease to 350 cfs January 8, 2023 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    San Juan Mountains December 19, 2016. Photo credit: Allen Best

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for Wednesday, February 9th, at 4:00 AM.

    Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    New [federal] legislation would address abandoned mine pollution in Southwest #Colorado: Conservation groups, nonprofits and local governments could finally join remediation efforts — The #Durango Herald

    Bonita Mine acid mine drainage. Photo via the Animas River Stakeholders Group.

    From The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon):

    The Good Samaritan Remediation of Abandoned Hardrock Mines Act introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday would allow “Good Samaritan” groups to assist in the cleanup of abandoned mines by limiting their legal and financial liability for mine pollution. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., co-sponsored the bill, which would drastically expand the capacity for communities to address toxic mine waste from hundreds of thousands of abandoned mines in the U.S…

    The bill establishes a pilot program of 15 sites in which Good Samaritans – anyone from state mine reclamation agencies to local conservation groups – receive permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to carry out cleanups at abandoned mine sites.

    The legislation has a seven-year sunset and is meant to test a more constructive approach to limiting the pollution from the hundreds of thousands of mines that don’t qualify for the EPA’s Superfund status.

    For years, conservation groups and local governments have argued that the Clean Water Act, though critical for protecting water, limits their involvement in mine cleanups.

    The Clean Water Act characterizes the pollution from abandoned mines in two different ways. One is “nonpoint source,” which means there is no single identifiable source actively emitting pollution. Solid waste rock at an abandoned mine would qualify as a nonpoint source because it releases toxic materials only when rain and snow wear down the rock.

    Nonprofits and other Good Samaritans have been able to clean up nonpoint source abandoned mine pollution since at least 2007 after the EPA issued a policy that protected these groups from any liability for the pollution.

    The Clean Water Act also identifies “point source” pollution, which is actively emitted by a single source such as a pipe. Under the Clean Water Act, any entity that wants to clean up the infrastructure of an abandoned mine that discharges pollution, such as a tunnel, must assume liability for that pollution permanently.

    To comply with the Clean Water Act, these entities would have to undertake costly efforts to ensure that any water released by the mines during their work meets stringent standards.

    This issue of liability prevented state agencies, local governments and conservation organizations from cleaning up tens of thousands of abandoned mine sites that spew toxic chemicals.

    Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

    The Pagosa Area Water & Sanitation District board to vote on #TABOR ballot resolution — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    View to the south into the snaking West Fork of the San Juan River as seen from US 160, halfway up to the summit of Wolf Creek Pass. By User:Erikvoss, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61976794

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    At its next regular meeting, the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Direc- tors will be voting on a new Tax- payer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) ballot resolution, which, if approved by voters, will allow the district to receive an unrestricted amount in grant funding, according to District Manager Justin Ramsey.

    Ramsey explained in an interview that under TABOR, the district
    is limited to the amount of grant money it can receive, which is a percentage based on the district’s annual budget. He estimated that to be at 10 percent.

    “The only thing it changes is our availability to receive grants,” he added. “It will have zero effect on mill levies.”

    He explained that the resolution would remove any restriction on the district’s ability to receive grant funding…

    If the board votes to approve the ballot issue, district voters will be able to vote on the issue during the district’s regular election slated for May 3…

    Smith indicates in his responses, also published in the Jan. 27 edition of The SUN, that the district’s Water Enterprise Fund is expected to have an increase in expenditures of 31 percent in 2022.

    Smith also notes that engineering costs for rebuilding the Snowball water plant, new state and federal mandates, along with inflation and costs of materials will cause expenditures to rise.

    Ramsey indicates in his response that the Snowball water
    plant will be rebuilt and up and running in 2024.

    Smith also notes in his response that the district’s Wastewater Enterprise Fund is projected to increase by 29 percent, also due to state and federal regulations.

    “Due to some state and federally mandated regulations PAWSD will need to spend several million dol- lars on capital improvements. To take advantage of some of the cur- rent grant opportunities PAWSD will be asking voters to rescind a portion of the TABOR require- ments.” Ramsey wrote.

    He also explains that the district will hold in place the property tax limitations but ask to rescind the limitations on grants…

    The next regular PAWSD board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 10, at 5 p.m. The meeting will be held both in person at the district office located at 100 Lyn Ave. and virtually via Zoom. Login information for the meeting can be found online at: https://www.pawsd.org/district-business/public-meetings/.

    #SanJuanRiver headwaters #snowpack report — The #PagosaSprings Sun #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    More snow fell over Pagosa Coun- try this week as a winter storm warn- ing was issued for the area by the National Weather Service (NWS) on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and lasted through Wednesday until midnight today, Thursday, Feb. 3…

    As of 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2, Wolf Creek Ski Area reported 14 inches of new snow since 4 p.m. on Tuesday. This snowfall brings the season total at the ski area to 238 inches…

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snowpack report, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 24.1 inches of snow water equivalent as of 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2. That amount is 125 percent of that date’s median snow water equivalent.

    The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 103 percent of the Feb. 2 median in terms of snowpack.

    San Juan River Basin. Graphic credit Wikipedia.

    Wonkfest: Sunnyside #GoldKingMine Settlement, explained: Why has a mining company forked out millions for an accident in a mine it didn’t own? — @Land_Desk #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Gold King Mine Entrance after blow out on August 5, 2015. Photo via EPA.

    From The Land Desk (Jonathan P. Thompson):

    Last week’s $90 million settlement relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine Blowout that turned the Animas and San Juan Rivers TANG-orange for over 100 miles downstream did not bring an end to the legal saga that has dragged on for more than six years (lawsuits against the federal government are still pending). But when the agreement is finalized, Sunnyside Gold Corp—the owner of the nearby, now-shuttered Sunnyside Mine—will finally be free of the mess. Extricating themselves from any further liabilities has cost them about $67.6 million: $40.5 million to the feds; $6.1 million to the State of Colorado; $11 million to the State of New Mexico; and $10 million to the Navajo Nation, not to mention the tens of millions they’d already spent cleaning up a century’s worth of mining mess.

    In agreeing to the payments, Sunnyside and its parent company, Canada-based global mining giant Kinross, have made it clear that they are not admitting wrongdoing or liability. They don’t own the Gold King Mine and never did. So why did the company fork out so much money?

    The simple answer is that the bulkheads Sunnyside installed in the American Tunnel in the 1990s and early 2000s caused water to back up inside Bonita Peak and make its way into the Gold King Mine, resulting in the 3 million-gallon blowout. The truth is a bit more complicated.

    Get 20% off for one year

    Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

    The real question is not whether Sunnyside’s bulkheads backed up water into the Gold King Mine. That’s pretty much a given. More important is exactly where the water came from in the first place. And to get at that answer, we need to go back in time a century and some to the days when the Gold King Mine was one of the most profitable operations in Colorado.

    To see the photos in full resolution, please view this at http://LandDesk.org.

    A Timeline of the American Tunnel

    1887 Olaf Arvid Nelson, while working at the nearby Sampson Mine, surreptitiously locates the original Gold King claim on the slopes of Bonita Peak, and goes to work on it immediately. He eventually digs a 50-foot shaft and a 50-foot drift, but never makes money from it.

    1891 Nelson dies, perhaps from pneumonia, silicosis or just overwork. A year later his widow, Louisa, patents the Gold King claim, taking title to it. And in 1894 Louisa sells the Gold King claim to Northeastern capitalists Cyrus W. Davis and Henry Soule, for a mere $15,000. They hire local Willis Z. Kinney to run the mine.

    1897 About 40 employees pull ore from the Gold King mine’s 2,000 feet or so of underground workings and ships it down a 5,600-foot long tramway from the mine opening’s lofty perch on Bonita Peak’s slope to a new mill at Gladstone for processing.

    1898 The Gold King owners form the American Mining and Tunnel Co. and begin construction on a lower-elevation, safer access to the Gold King Mine several hundred feet below the current access adit (Gold King Level #1). They originally name the lower access point the American Tunnel, but after it is completed in 1903 and becomes the mine’s primary portal, it will be renamed the #7 Level of the Gold King Mine. This is level that will blowout in 2015 and is not the same American Tunnel in which Sunnyside placed its bulkheads many years later.

    1900 USGS geologist Frederick Ransome visits the Gold King Mine, noticing that the main adit—or opening to the mine—is not draining any water, which is highly unusual for the area. He hypothesizes that the American Tunnel #1 (aka Gold King Level #7)—which at the time was under construction—is “deep draining” the water from the Gold King’s upper operations.

    1900 The Gold King Mine owners begin construction on another American Tunnel (still known by that name today) at Gladstone. They plan to burrow into Bonita Peak until they are directly below the Gold King workings, then connect the two via a 1,000+ foot shaft. This will enable them to bring ore directly to the Gladstone mill, obviating the need to move it by tram across avalanche-prone terrain. But the project is abandoned after only 700 feet of tunneling (they need to go more than a mile underground before they will be in position to link with the Gold King).

    1906 (or thereabouts) A photo of the Gold King Mine #7 Level appears to show about 200 to 300 gallons of water draining from the mine adit.

    Gold King Mine drainage. Photo via The Land Desk

    1908 The structures at the mouth of the Gold King #7 Level catch fire, destroying the tram terminal, boardinghouse, compressor house, carpenter shop, and stables, killing six. The mine rebuilds, but it will never be the same. In 1909 the new boardinghouse burns, killing a waiter, and in 1911 an avalanche hits the boardinghouse, killing four people. After that operations are on-again, off-again and profits hard to come by.

    1921 The Gold King miners are working again to open the Gladstone tunnel, aka. the American Tunnel, that goes from the Gold King mill at Gladstone into Bonita Peak and under the Gold King Mine, about 860 feet below the Gold King #7 Level. The intent is to provide a long haulage tunnel for Gold King ore, thereby rendering the treacherous trams obsolete, but the connection to the upper mine is never made. A later report indicates that the American Tunnel is 6,233 feet deep when work is finally halted. The tunnel “deep drains” the groundwater of Bonita Peak, leaving the Gold King mine virtually dry.

    This shows the relative elevations of different levels of the Gold King and the American Tunnel. The Gold King was accessed via adits (mine openings) on Level 1 and Level 7. The other levels were mined, but did not have their own adits. Gold King Level 7 was called the American Tunnel when it was first built in the late 1890s, but the name was transferred to the far lower and longer American Tunnel that was originally built to link Gladstone with the Gold King Mine workings. The link was never completed and Standard Metals later took over the American Tunnel to access the Sunnyside Mine. Credit: The Land Desk

    1922 The Gold King Mine’s parent company goes bankrupt, leaving the Sunnyside Mine, on the opposite side of Bonita Peak, as one of the region’s biggest mines. But it struggles because the mine opening is above the workings, meaning water and ore must be pulled up and out of the mine, against gravity, which increases operational expenses.

    Text from a 1918 proposal to extend the Gold King Mine to meet up with the Sunnyside Mine workings. Credit: The Land Desk

    1960 Standard Metals takes over the dormant Sunnyside Mine and plans to revive it by extending the unused, partially complete American Tunnel to access it. The tunnel will provide gravity-assisted ore-haulage and water drainage for the Sunnyside by way of Gladstone. When it’s finished, the tunnel is 11,000 feet long, and brings mining, and prosperity, back to Silverton.

    General view of the Sunnyside Mine and Lake Emma, southwestern Colorado photo via the Denver Public Library

    1978 On a Sunday, when no miners are working, the floor of Lake Emma collapses into the Sunnyside Mine, sending tens of millions of gallons of water shooting out the American Tunnel at Gladstone and shutting the mine down for months. To this day some folks remain suspicious of the collapse, theorizing that it was planned by a beleaguered company looking for an insurance payout: Miners had warned management about increasing amounts of water pouring into the mine and worried that they were getting too close to the lake’s floor. Ultimately, Standard Metals received $9 million, but they had to drag the insurance company to court to get it. The company will go bankrupt in the early 1980s and sell the Sunnyside Mine to Echo Bay, a Canadian company, doing business as Sunnyside Gold Corp.

    1986 Meanwhile, a company called Gerber Minerals takes over the Gold King and sets about to re-open it. They apply for a mining permit for the Gold King, but not a discharge permit, because: “No drainage occurs from any of the portals—the district is deep-drained by the American Tunnel located at Gladstone.” As a result, the American Tunnel flows with about 1,600 gallons per minute of acidic, heavy-metal laden water draining into Cement Creek and, ultimately, the Animas River. Note: The first mile and some of the American Tunnel runs through Gold King Mine patented claims, meaning it belongs to the owners of the Gold King.

    1987 Donald “Donnie” Goode killed when a 100-pound rock falls from the ceiling of Gold King #7 Level, about 2,500 feet underground, striking him in the head.

    1988 Sunnyside overhauls the old American Tunnel water treatment plant. It uses one ton of lime per day to raise pH levels, causing toxic metals to precipitate out of solution and settle into ponds, cleaning the 1,600 gallons per minute of discharge to a level that can support sensitive fathead minnows. The process costs approximately $500,000 per year, and results in 365 tons per year of metal-laden sludge.

    1991 The Sunnyside Mine closes for good. A year later the re-born Gold King suspends operations, as well, but holds onto its permits. In preparation for plugging, or bulkheading, the American Tunnel, Sunnyside Gold and Washington Mining Co. commission an exhaustive hydrological study of the Sunnyside, which concludes that bulkheads in the American Tunnel should not cause flooding of the Gold King, and that it would take 150 years for mine pool water to reach Cement Creek.

    Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

    1994 Animas River Stakeholders Group is formed as a citizen-led effort to study and address mining pollution in the watershed and propose realistic water quality standards. It’s seen as a collaborative alternative to Superfund. Bill Simon is chosen as coordinator. Other notable members include Peter Butler, who had just received his Ph.D. in natural resource management, Larry Perino of Sunnyside Gold, and Steve Fearn.

    1996 Sunnyside enters into a consent decree with the state, a sort of pollution trading scheme. Sunnyside will install three bulkheads in the American Tunnel, one on its property to back up water into the Sunnyside’s workings, and two more on Gold King property nearer to the surface. They will also clean up a list of abandoned mines in the watershed in order to offset the increased heavy metal loading that will result when Sunnyside turns off its American Tunnel water treatment plant. At about the same time, the state division of minerals and geology inspects the Gold King and finds that it’s draining just one to two gallons of acidic, metal-laden water per minute, a mere trickle.

    1996 The valve is shut on the first bulkhead over 6,000 feet into the American Tunnel, beyond the Gold King property line. Water backed up behind this will inundate the Sunnyside Mine workings and create what’s known as the Sunnyside mine pool. By robbing the system of oxygen, it should slow acid mine drainage reactions. Sunnyside also dumped 625 tons of lime in from the top of the mine to raise pH levels.

    1991 The Sunnyside Mine closes for good. A year later the re-born Gold King suspends operations, as well, but holds onto its permits. In preparation for plugging, or bulkheading, the American Tunnel, Sunnyside Gold and Washington Mining Co. commission an exhaustive hydrological study of the Sunnyside, which concludes that bulkheads in the American Tunnel should not cause flooding of the Gold King, and that it would take 150 years for mine pool water to reach Cement Creek.

    1997 A Gold King Mines environmental protection plan notes that the mine is discharging between 4 gpm and 30 gpm, with a pH as low as 2.25. However, the authors of the report theorize that it’s groundwater, not Sunnyside mine pool water, based on the 1992 hydrology report. A 1998 inspection finds that the Gold King #7 level portal had collapsed, just inside the portal, and is impassible. It does not say how much water is draining from the mine.

    An aerial view of the Gold King Mine days after the 2015 blowout showing the approximate path of the American Tunnel, which runs beneath the Gold King. The Sunnyside Mine is beneath Lake Emma. Jonathan P. Thompson photo enabled by EcoFlight.org.

    1999 A water analysis report of the Gold King Mine finds that the mine is discharging between 11 gpm and 30 gpm with a very low pH and very high concentrations of dissolved metals. The following year Steve Fearn buys the Gold King mine from CCTC, trustee for Pitchfork “M” Corp. The state inspection later that year notes: “Though this year has been abnormally dry, the No. 7 level discharge appears to have increased significantly … from around 30 gpm to around 45 gpm.”

    2001 The Sunnyside Mine Pool is thought to have reached equilibrium, based on the findings of the 1992 hydrological study. The mine pool, some 1,200 feet deep, exerts nearly 500 psi on bulkhead #1. Sunnyside then installs bulkhead #2, which is closer to the surface and, in 2002, bulkhead #3, which is right at the surface, in preparation for its exit from the area. By now Sunnyside Gold has spent upwards of $25 million on cleanup and reclamation. Discharges from both the Gold King and the nearby Mogul Mine—which was also mostly dry prior to the first bulkhead installation—continue to increase.

    2003 A byzantine agreement transfers ownership of the Sunnyside water treatment plant to Gold King owner Fearn, allowing Fearn to treat Gold King water, and allowing Sunnyside to leave—in theory. Also involved in the deal is Todd Hennis, owner of the Mogul Mine in the Cement Creek drainage, who acquires most of the Gladstone townsite. The deal will go bad a year later when Hennis evicts Fearn, and thus the water treatment plant, from his property at Gladstone, shutting down water treatment for good (proving detrimental to downstream fish populations). Meanwhile, Fearn’s mining ventures have gone broke. Hennis will acquire the Gold King and in coming years set about to mine it, first with a new company called Colorado Goldfields, and then on his own.

    When treatment of water draining from the Gold King Mine ceased in 2004, downstream water quality—and fish populations—were negatively affected. Credit: The Land Desk

    2005 Gold King mine discharges have increased to 200 gallons per minute or more. Animas River Stakeholders Group calls in the Environmental Protection Agency to help figure out the cause and potentially fund a solution. In its annual report to the Security Exchange Commission, Colorado Goldfields says it intends to re-open Gold King #7 Level, and that it hopes to enter into an agreement with the EPA allowing it to deal with increasing flows of acid mine drainage, which the company believes are coming from the “2150 vein workings of the Sunnyside Mine.” The report also notes the danger for a “blow out of potentially impounded mine waters.”

    2009 The State Division of Mining Reclamation and Safety calls the Gold King, now dumping nearly 200,000 pounds of metals into the watershed per year, “one of the worst high quantity, poor water quality draining mines in the State of Colorado.” It backfills the mine portal, or opening, because it had collapsed, and installs drainage pipe.

    2014 Sunnyside Gold Corp. offers $10 million towards water treatment and other upper Cement Creek cleanup—as long as Superfund isn’t declared.

    2015 EPA contractors begin excavating dirt piled up at the opening of Gold King Mine #7 Level until the operator notices a “spring” spurting from the dirt. Within minutes, the tiny fountain has grown to a 3-million gallon torrent of electric-orange, acidic, heavy metal-laden water pouring into the North Fork of Cement Creek far below.

    Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

    So, yeah, I know: That made it about as clear as the Animas River was in the days following the blowout. This puzzle will never be solved definitively. Bonita Peak’s hydrology is all a tangled maze of fractures and faults and veins, a sort of lithic Swiss cheese comprised of hundreds of miles of drifts, shafts, crosscuts, and tunnels, creating innumerable potential paths the water could follow.

    But from what we can glean from the history we can conclude:

    • The Gold King Mine had water flowing through it early on. When the first American Tunnel, aka #7 Level, was dug, it deep drained the upper levels, making them appear to be dry.
    • About 200 to 300 gallons of water per minute flowed out of the #7 Level adit until the new American Tunnel was drilled under the Gold King in the 1920s, deep draining the entirety of Bonita Peak.
    • It wasn’t until after Sunnyside installed bulkheads in the American Tunnel that drainage returned to the Gold King #7 level (as well as to the Mogul Mine). It’s safe to conclude in this case that correlation is causation: The installation of the bulkheads caused drainage to return to the Gold King.

    Not clear, though, is precisely where the water was coming from: Did the Sunnyside mine pool water back up, then find a pathway through to the Gold King Mine? If so, then it would seem that Sunnyside is at least partially responsible for the resulting 2015 blowout, since that nasty orange water originated on its subterranean property. Or did the lower two bulkheads—which are on Gold King property—simply return Bonita Peak’s hydrology to a pre-American Tunnel state of affairs, or a “natural flow regime,” as one Sunnyside employee put it in the early 2000s? In that case it is not Sunnyside Gold’s water, it’s the Gold King’s, which would absolve Sunnyside of responsibility.

    While conclusive answers to those questions aren’t exactly forthcoming, a look at the timeline suggests that the water that spewed from Gold King #7 Level on Aug. 5, 2015, may have come from both sources. Drainage from the Gold King first started increasing—albeit only marginally—in 1997, after bulkhead #1 had been installed but before the next two were sealed. But flows remained pretty low until after the valves on bulkheads #2 and #3 were closed. It was only then that the Gold King became a major source of acid mine drainage and conditions established that would lead to the blowout.

    But at this point maybe it doesn’t matter: Even if Sunnyside could prove that it’s not liable for what happened in 2015, it still would have been the last and only viable mining concern in the vicinity when it happened. Whether it’s culpable or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time is probably irrelevant. In either case, the company would have had to take responsibility or else risk damaging its corporate image. That’s the price one pays for playing the mining game.

    #Water rates increase — The #PagosaSprings Sun

    Water infrastructure as sidewalk art

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    The Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) Board of Directors recently approved increases in the district’s monthly service and volume charges. The board voted unanimously to approve the increases at its regular meeting held last week on Thursday, Jan. 13.

    The board initially discussed the increases at its regular meeting held on Dec. 9, 2021.
    District Manager Justin Ramsey explained during that meeting that the increases approved were the result of a water rate study that was performed in 2018. That study suggested a 6 percent increase in rates annually through 2022…

    According to documentation attached in the meeting’s agenda, the approved increases included an increase in the monthly service charge from $27.98 to $29.66. Also approved were increases in the volume charges for 2,001 to 8,000 gallons used from $5.02 to $5.32, 8,001 to 20,000 gallons used from $10.05 to $10.65, and over 20,001 gallons used from $12.61 to $13.37. Additionally, the water fill station charge per 1,000 gallons increased from $10.84 to $11.49. Also noted in the agenda documentation is that the wastewater service charge will increase at an annual rate of 2.5 percent beginning in 2024 and ending in 2027…

    Treasurer Glenn Walsh men- tioned the board may consider ad- ditional changes in the water and wastewater fees for next year…

    Accessory dwelling unit fee discussion

    During the same meeting, the board held a discussion on the topic of accessory dwelling units (ADU) and if the district should be charging additional monthly service fees for properties with an ADU that uses the district’s infrastructure. Walsh indicated that the board has held previous discussion on the topic and the consensus was that it would not impose any additional fees.

    #GoldKingMine settlement — @Land_Desk #AnimasRiver #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    This image was taken during the peak outflow from the Gold King Mine spill at 10:57 a.m. Aug. 5, 2015. The waste-rock dump can be seen eroding on the right. Federal investigators placed blame for the blowout squarely on engineering errors made by the Environmental Protection Agency’s-contracted company in a 132-page report released Thursday [October 22, 2015]

    From The Land Desk (Jonathan Thompson):

    We have just received word that the federal government and the owner of the Sunnyside Mine have agreed to pay a total of $90 million to settle claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine blowout. The proposed consent decree will be posted in the Federal Register and opened to public comment for 30 days prior to being finalized.

    That consent decree will “resolve all claims, cross-claims, and counterclaims between the United States and Sunnyside Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold Corporation (the “Mining Defendants”) in this multidistrict litigation,” according to the U.S. District Court of New Mexico filing.

    The Land Desk will have more details—along with a wonkfest explaining why Sunnyside is even involved with an incident that occurred at a mine it doesn’t own—next week.

    The settlement by the numbers:

    The “Bonita Peak Mining District” superfund site. Map via the Environmental Protection Agency

    $40.95 million

    Amount Sunnyside Gold Corp., a subsidiary of Canada-based Kinross Gold, will pay to the federal government under the settlement, all of which will be used to finance cleanup relating to the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site.

    $4.05 million

    Amount Sunnyside Gold will pay to the Colorado Dept. of Health and Environment.

    $45 million

    Amount the U.S. government, on behalf of federal settling agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service—will pay to “appropriate federal accounts” under the settlement.

    Prior to mining, snowmelt and rain seep into natural cracks and fractures, eventually emerging as a freshwater spring (usually). Graphic credit: Jonathan Thompson

    From The Durango Herald (Aedan Hannon):

    The Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Department, Department of the Interior, Department Agriculture and state of Colorado announced Friday they have reached a settlement with Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company Kinross Gold Corp. to fund remediation in the Bonita Peak Mining District near Silverton.

    In the case of an old-fashioned standoff, the federal government will drop its claims against Sunnyside Gold Corp. and Canadian mining company Kinross Gold Corp. and the two companies will drop their claims against the federal government after the settlement.

    Sunnyside Gold Corp. will pay $40.95 million to the federal government and the EPA and another $4.05 million to Colorado, while the United States will contribute $45 million to the cleanup of mining contamination in the area…

    The agreement marks the end of Sunnyside Gold Corp.’s remediation work in the Bonita Peak Mining District. The EPA previously ordered the company to undertake a costly investigation of groundwater in the area in March 2018.

    The state of Colorado has also released Sunnyside from its reclamation permit obligations, which require the company to clean up its past mining operations and meet the conditions of a reclamation plan approved by the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, a branch of the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

    In addition, the settlement limits the future liability of both Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent company…

    The settlement was made as a matter of practicality with no admission of wrongdoing or liability, Myers said in an email to The Durango Herald.

    Myers noted the federal government’s matching $45 million was a result of the federal government’s own liability for the Gold King Mine spill and damage to the surrounding area…

    The Colorado and the federal governments have argued that Sunnyside Gold Corp. is partly at fault and responsible for funding remediation in the Bonita Peak Mining District after placing bulkheads in the 1990s to prevent the drainage of contaminated water.

    Bulkheads, like this one at the Red and Bonita Mine, help stop mine water discharges and allow engineers to monitor the mine pool. Credit: EPA.

    In legal filings, the state has said the bulkheads backed up waste in surrounding mines, including the Gold King Mine, which was released when EPA contractors accidentally caused a blowout…

    The EPA has already spent more than $75 million to remediate the site.

    The Bonita Peak Mining District Community Advisory Group is working to define water-quality targets and other environmental standards that will need to be met for the area to be considered decontaminated. Those targets will help guide the work of the EPA…

    [Ty Churchwell] said a full cleanup of the site will likely take at least another decade. He pointed to similar Superfund sites near Leadville and Idaho Springs that each took about two decades.

    The settlement is a step in that direction.

    Silverton, Colo., lies an at elevation of 9,300 feet in San Juan County, and the Gold King Mine is more than 1,000 feet higher in the valley at the left side of the photo. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Associated Press (James Anderson) via The Colorado Sun:

    The agreement must be approved by the U.S. District Court in the District of New Mexico after a 30-day public comment period…

    An EPA-led contractor crew was doing excavation work at the entrance to the Gold King Mine, another site in the district not owned by Sunnyside, in August 2015 when it inadvertently breached a debris pile that was holding back wastewater inside the mine.

    Settling ponds used to precipitate iron oxide and other suspended materials at the Red and Bonita mine drainage near Gold King mine, shown Aug. 14, 2015. (Photo by Eric Vance/EPA)

    An estimated 3 million gallons of wastewater poured out, carrying nearly 540 U.S. tons of metals, mostly iron and aluminum. Rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah were polluted…

    Monies will be used for water and soil sampling and to build more waste repositories. The EPA said in a statement Friday it has spent more than $75 million on cleanup work “and expects to continue significant work at the site in the coming years.”

    The orange plume flows through the Animas across the Colorado/New Mexico state line the afternoon of Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo by Melissa May, San Juan Soil and Conservation District)

    The proposed consent decree follows Sunnyside settlements with New Mexico and the Navajo Nation earlier this year. Sunnyside admits no fault in the agreement.

    Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

    #Durango sewer rates to increase $2.22 per month, on average: City Council approves 3% hike to address inflation — The Durango Herald

    Lake Nighthorse and Durango March 2016 photo via Greg Hobbs.

    From The Durango Herald (Nicholas A. Johnson):

    Durango City Council on Tuesday approved a 3% rate increase for all customers who use the city’s sewer infrastructure.

    The ordinance passed with a vote of 4 to 1…

    [Jarrod] Biggs said that although there is a surplus in the sewer fund, it won’t last with rising costs outpacing sewer revenues…

    According to Biggs, inflation in the past year has driven up sewer operations considerably. He said the cost of chemicals used to operate the city’s water treatment facility went up 35% in 2021…

    City Manager José Madrigal said the 3% increase will, on average, translate to a $2.22 increase for sewer ratepayers.

    Sewer increases are tied to the base rate charges for residential and commercial customers. Those who go over the base rate of usage will not be charged anything more than they normally would for going over.

    Base rates are determined by the size of a person’s water meter. Most residential homes have a water meter size of five-eights of an inch; the new base rate for homes with that meter size inside Durango city limits will be $23.71 per month…

    Revenue from sewer rates in Durango is about $7.9 million per year, while the operating budget of the city’s sewage infrastructure is $3.6 million. Another $3.4 million is diverted from sewer rate revenue to pay off debt from large projects, such as construction on the Santa Rita Water Reclamation Facility.

    Over the past three years, sewage revenues left over to pay for capital expenses have been around $900,000 annually. However, the annual cost of capital expenses for the sewer system has been around $2 million. Capital expenses include projects such as sewer line rehabilitation and manhole replacements, Biggs said.

    “If we don’t have adjustments to bring in more revenue, we will have to watch and limit capital improvement projects, and defer maintenance,” he said.

    #NewMexico #Snowpack improving, but study projects ‘low-to-no’ snow future — The #Taos News

    New Mexico snowpack basin-filled map January 21, 2022 via the NRCS.

    From The Taos News:

    The first major snowstorm of the 2021-22 winter season came late this year, but when it finally rolled into Northern New Mexico on New Year’s Eve, dropping several inches to a couple of feet, depending on elevation, it dramatically changed the picture of what snowpack levels could look like this year.

    According to data recorded by the Natural Resources Conservation Service National Water and Climate Center, precipitation levels in Taos County more than doubled from mid-December through Tuesday (Jan. 18), rising from approximately 5.1 inches on Dec. 19 to 11.6 inches as of Jan. 18.

    Data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that the Sangre de Cristos currently have between 65-82 percent of expected snowpack for a typical winter season. That varies depending on location, of course, with the lower spine of the mountain range near Santa Fe seeing about 69 percent, the area near Cimarron at 65 percent and Taos with the highest at 82 percent.

    On Jan. 18, Taos Ski Valley reported 38 inches of snow at its base and 54 inches of “packed powder.” Nearly all of its lifts are open, except for two and 76 of its 110 runs are open.

    Despite the sudden shift from unusually dry to snowy, historical studies of snowpack levels don’t bode well for the future of snow in the Western United States or for the ski resorts that rely on it to keep their businesses thriving.

    A November 2021 study, “A low-to-no snow future and its impacts on water resources in the western United States,” estimated that snow water equivalents are expected to decline by 25 percent by 2050, largely due to persistent greenhouse gas emissions. The study drew its conclusions from what is already known: since the 1950s, snowpack in the Western U.S. has fallen by 20 percent.

    The implications of this decline, and the continued reduction in snowpack for the future, predict more serious consequences than resorts suffering or recreationalists missing out on their favorite winter activities.

    “Diminished and more ephemeral snowpacks that melt earlier will alter groundwater and streamflow dynamics,” the study reads. “The direction of these changes are difficult to constrain given competing factors such as higher evapotranspiration, altered vegetation composition and changes in wildfire behavior in a warmer world.”

    New Mexico has been under varying levels of drought for roughly 20 years, which was part of the motivation behind a cloud seeding operation that was introduced last year by the Roosevelt Soil and Water Conservation District in Southeast New Mexico. Despite evidence that shows cloud seeding can enhance precipitation levels significantly, the application, submitted by Western Weather Consultants of Durango, Colorado, was retracted in November following strong public pushback from opponents who believe cloud seeding can be harmful to the environment and public health.

    #Water Agreement Reached Between the Jicarilla Apache Nation, New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission, and The Nature Conservancy

    SAN JUAN RIVER The San Juan River at the hwy 64 bridge in Shiprock, NM. June 18, 2021. © Jason Houston

    Here’s the release from The Nature Conservancy (Lindsay Schlageter):

    Will help address water security in the face of climate change

    The Jicarilla Apache Nation, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (NMISC), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced today a new agreement to lease water from the Nation to the NMISC. As the western US is facing critical drought and water shortages are occurring throughout the Colorado River Basin, the Nation has worked with the NMISC and TNC to develop and implement this project.

    This innovative agreement between a sovereign Tribal Nation, a Colorado River Basin state government, and a conservation organization will allow the NMISC to lease up to 20,000 acre-feet of water per year. This amount will benefit threatened, endangered, and sensitive fish and will increase water security for New Mexico.

    “This first-of-its-kind project demonstrates how meaningful sovereign-to-sovereign cooperation, with support from environmental organizations, can lead to creative solutions,” said Daryl Vigil, water administrator for the Jicarilla Apache Nation. “This project should serve as a model for effective tribal collaboration and arms-length negotiations among sovereigns throughout the Colorado River Basin.”

    The Jicarilla Apache Nation’s water rights provide access to water for the Nation to conduct cultural practices, provide drinking water to its community, and support economic development. The Nation subcontracts some of its water to users outside the Reservation. Subcontracts can be a source of income to help build the Nation’s economic self-sufficiency while providing water to others that need it.

    For the last several decades, the Nation leased water to coal-fired power plants that are now facing closure. This transition presented a new opportunity for the Nation, the NMISC and TNC to work together.

    “The Colorado River Basin’s tribal nations are among the most important leaders and partners in efforts to find lasting solutions to the pressing water scarcity and ecological challenges that face the millions of people who rely on this incredible river,” said Celene Hawkins, Colorado and Colorado River tribal engagement program director for The Nature Conservancy.

    As many across the Colorado River Basin work to develop projects and solutions to address climate change and drought, the Nation, the NMISC, and TNC hope this innovative water sharing project can serve as a model for water sustainability within the basin. This project demonstrates that the Colorado River Basin’s tribal nations are important leaders and partners in crafting transformative water solutions across the West.

    “This agreement is unique for New Mexico as it creates a framework for sovereign-to-sovereign contractual agreements that support and benefit both sovereigns,” said Rolf Schmidt-Petersen, director of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission. “It may serve as an example for other Colorado River Basin states and tribal nations that have settled water rights to find collaborative solutions that benefit multiple interests and users of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers.”

    THE ANIMAS RIVER IN FLORA VISTA, NM. The Animas River in Flora Vista, NM as seen from the New Mexico County Road 350 bridge. June 18, 2021. © Jason Houston

    Navajo Dam operations update (January 13, 2022): Bumping up releases to 400 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #aridification

    The Navajo Dam on the San Juan River.Photo credit Mike Robinson via the University of Washington.

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 350 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 400 cfs for Thursday, January 13th, at 4:00 AM.

    Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

    Navajo Unit Coordination Meeting – January 18, 2022 #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    Link to Teams Meeting

    #Snowpack levels up more than 100 percent compared to last month — The #PagosaSprings Sun #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Colorado snowpack basin-filled map January 9, 2022 via the NRCS.

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    Less than a month ago, on Dec. 8, 2021, the snowpack level for the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins was at 31 percent of that date’s median, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Water and Climate Center’s snow pack report.

    As of 11 a.m. on Jan. 5, the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were at 136 per- cent of the Jan. 5 median.

    According to the USDA, as of 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 5, the Wolf Creek summit, at 11,000 feet of elevation, had 22.6 inches in snow water equivalent.
    That amount is 149 percent of that date’s median snow water equivalent…

    River report

    According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the San Juan River was flowing at a rate of 53.7 cfs in Pagosa Springs as of noon on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Based on 86 years of water records at this site, the lowest recorded flow rate for this date is 26 cfs, recorded in 1990. The highest recorded rate for this date was in 1987 at 116 cfs. The average flow rate for this date is 59 cfs.

    An instantaneous reading was unavailable for the Piedra River near Arboles.

    Colorado Drought Monitor map January 4, 2022.

    Drought report

    The National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) was last updated on Dec. 28, 2021. The NIDIS website indicates 100 percent of Archuleta County is abnormally dry and also in a moderate drought. The NIDIS website also notes that 47.66 percent of the county is in a severe drought stage. Additionally, the NIDIS website notes that 10.33 percent of the county remains in an extreme drought. No portion of the county is in exceptional drought.

    For more information and maps, visit: https://www.drought.gov/states/Colorado/county/Archuleta.

    Archuleta County Board of County Comissioners grants river enhancement funds The #Pagosa Springs Sun #SanJuanRiver

    Yamaguchi South Planning Project site layout via the City of Pagosa Springs.

    From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Clayton Chaney):

    On Dec. 21, 2021, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) committed $10,000 through a letter of commitment to be used as part of the cash match for the Town of Pagosa Springs and the Upper San Juan Watershed Enhancement Partnership’s ( WEP) grant application for the south Yamaguchi Park project.

    The funds will be taken from the county’s Conservation Trust Fund, which can only be used for outdoor recreation purposes.

    The grant being applied for will be dispersed by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) next March.

    WEP representative Al Pfister first approached the BoCC in regard to the matching fund request on Dec. 7, 2021.

    Pfister previously explained that the total cost of the project is just over $664,000, with more than $500,000 coming from the grant.

    The WEP needs a 25 percent cash match, or just over $166,000, to be awarded the grant. Six other entities have been asked to com-mit funds including the Town of Pagosa Springs, San Juan Water Conservancy District, Trout Unlimited, Friends of the Upper San Juan, The Nature Conservancy and Weminuche Audubon.

    County Attorney Todd Weaver noted that “it’s a community col- laborative effort.”

    The letter of commitment sent to the CWCB reads, “This project is part of the Upper San Juan Basin Integrated Water Management Plan and would create various new and/or improved river access points and channel features for the San Juan River, thereby enhancing recreation options at various river flows, reducing access conflicts, create diverse aquatic habitat to support fisheries, and develop a more resilient river facing changing hydrology and temperatures in the future.”

    Commissioner Warren Brown mentioned he felt it was a “worthwhile” project to support, noting it will likely have a positive impact on tourism in the community.

    Commissioner Ronnie Maez mentioned the project will be a “huge improvement.”

    Commissioner Alvin Schaaf noted it will serve as a benefit “to all of the community.”

    The letter of commitment of funds was approved unanimously.

    Navajo Dam operations update (January 4, 2022): Releases to increase to 350 cfs #SanJuanRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

    Fly fishers on the San Juan River below the Navajo Dam.U.S. Bureau of Reclamation

    From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

    In response to decreasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an increase in the release from Navajo Dam from 300 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 350 cfs for Tuesday, January 4th, at 4:00 AM.

    Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell). This release change is calculated as the minimum required to maintain the target baseflow.

    The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program recommends a target base flow of between 500 cfs and 1,000 cfs through the critical habitat area. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell. Note that due to low storage and forecast inflows in WY 2022, the minimum release of 250 cfs, as documented in the Navajo Record of Decision (2006), may be implemented this winter or spring as long as that release can satisfy the target baseflow.