Volunteers Wanted to Restore Watershed in South Park, August 2, 2017

Upper South Platte Basin

From the Public News Service:

Volunteers and U.S. Forest Service staff are headed back into South Park’s Farnum Roadless area to restore critical watershed, native plants and wildlife habitat.

Misi Ballard, Wild Connections board member and broadband leader for the group “Great Old Broads for Wilderness,” led an effort earlier this month, checking on a project south of Tarryall Reservoir, and will be helping close off national forest lands damaged by illegal motorized recreation on Aug. 2, a week from today.

“The Pike-San Isabel is basically Denver’s backyard,” she said. “Within an hour of the metropolitan area, you can be in a wilderness – and as such, it gets pounded, every weekend.”

More than 2,000 square miles in the Pike and San Isabel national forests have been set aside exclusively for motorized off-road recreation, and Ballard said people often aren’t aware they’ve entered protected areas. Volunteers will be posting signs and fencing, and reseeding to help the land heal.

Ballard noted that unauthorized “bogging” – where jeeps and other all-terrain vehicles ride around in muddy areas – not only puts fish populations at risk but also pollutes drinking water. The Upper South Platte River watershed and South Park’s North Fork Valley supply water to 60 percent of communities along the Front Range.

“Our water is only as good as our headwaters,” she said. “There is no redundancy in Denver Water’s system. Things happen in the upper reaches of the South Platte watershed, and it impacts Denver’s water.”

Once people understand why closures are important, she said, they tend to follow the rules.

“There’s been a lot of positive comments on the closures,” she said, “especially from hunters, saying that they have had bad hunts for many years because of the presence of motorized recreation.”

Ballard said helping restore wilderness areas is fun and a way for her to give back for the many years she’s enjoyed Colorado’s outdoors.

Those who’d like to join her and other Great Old Broads for Wilderness in their efforts can call 817-939-4239.

Fort Collins takes a deep dive into @NorthernWater’s proposed NISP mitigation plan for Cache la Poudre through town

Poudre River Bike Path bridge over the river at Legacy Park photo via Fort Collins Photo Works.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

The plan proposed by Northern Water, proponent of Glade and the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project, or NISP, contains “new, useful and encouraging mitigation measures,” according to a staff memo to the Fort Collins City Council.

However, the effort falls short of addressing the city’s long-running concerns about how reducing flows on the Poudre to store water in Glade would affect the river’s ecological health and water quality.

More needs to be done in several areas addressed by the $59 million Fish and Wildlife Mitigation and Enhancement Plan to make it adequate as far as the city is concerned, John Stokes, director of Fort Collins Natural Areas, told City Council members Tuesday.

Areas of concern include ensuring flows on the river during the spring runoff are high enough to flush sediment and protect fish and wildlife habitat. High flows also are needed to protect water quality, city officials said.

City staff members recommend establishing an annual three-day period during peak flow on the river when no water would be taken for NISP in hopes of “cleaning” the river and boosting its health.

Another issue is the amount of funding in the plan that would be set aside for mitigation and channel improvements. The $7.8 million in the plan for restoration and enhancement should be increased by $14.2 million, city staff said.

City Council members were divided on the staff’s comments and recommendations for the mitigation plan, with council member Ken Summers saying they seemed “extreme” while others said they weren’t strong enough…

Northern Water has listened to the city’s concerns and changed its plans to address them, said agency spokesman Brian Werner in a telephone interview.

Operational plans include “flushing flows” when river conditions and water rights allow, he said. Northern also has agreed to minimum flows through Fort Collins of 25 cubic feet per second, or cfs, in the summer and 18 cfs in winter to support habitat.

The mitigation plan could be changed as NISP continues through the permitting process, he said.

“We think this a great opportunity to make that river better,” Werner said.

The city’s comments on the NISP wildlife mitigation plan will be sent to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission, which must approve the plan as part of the lengthy permitting process for project. So even if the wildlife mitigation plan gets approved, other agencies would still have to approve permits for NISP to become a reality.

In 2008 and 2015, the council adopted resolutions stating the city could not support NISP as described in draft environmental impact statements…

While not supporting NISP, the city’s comments and recommendations on how it might operate are based on the scenario that “if” the project is built, “then” certain steps should be taken to protect the city’s interests, Stokes said.

If the mitigation plan is approved by the Parks and Wildlife Commission, it will be submitted to the Colorado Water Conservation Board and then the Governor’s Office for approval.

Federal agencies that ultimately would permit NISP are likely to defer to the state’s position on mitigation plans, Stokes said, so communicating the city’s views on the project to the state is a critical step in the process…

What’s next

The Fort Collins City Council on Aug. 8 is scheduled to consider the city’s comments on the fish and wildlife mitigation plan for the Northern Integrated Supply Project that has been submitted to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.

The commission is scheduled to discuss the plan during its Aug. 10-11 meeting in Trinidad and its Sept. 7-8 meeting in Steamboat Springs.

Comments on the city’s proposed comments may be made at http://www.fcgov.com/nispreview through July 30.

Comments may be emailed directly to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission at dnr_cpwcommission@state.co.us.

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

A look back at the Spring Creek flood

Fort Collins, Spring Creek flood July 28, 1997

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

It was a Monday. The day felt sodden and clammy after heavy rain in the foothills and around town the night before. The ground, which had been baked hard by weeks of hot, dry weather, was saturated.

There were rain showers of varying intensity throughout the day, especially on the west side of the city and around Laporte, but the rain really started to come down around 5 p.m.

It continued for hours, coming in pounding waves. Water ran fast and deep in the streets while lakes formed in unexpected places in the darkness…

If you didn’t live near the creek or the CSU campus, you might not have realized anything happened.

Spring Creek Flood retrospective

Fort Collins flood July 28, 1997

Here’s a retrospective about the July 28, 1997 flood from Erin Udall running in the The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Click through to read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

The water reached over heads, its strong current carried cars from roads and pulled people from their doorsteps or out of the grasp of loved ones.

Witnesses could hear yells for help, see trailers wash off their foundations and smell the propane that streaked the debris-filled floodwaters.

“It was emergency sensory overload,” retired Poudre Fire Authority Captain Steve Fleming said, as he recalled the night Fort Collins’ ankle-deep Spring Creek turned the small city into a scene of tragic flooding, fires and fatalities.

As July 28, 1997 ended and a new day began, Fort Collins was faced with a new city — one full of twisted debris, totaled cars and forever-changed families.

Twenty years later, walk through the events of that night with this timeline of the Spring Creek Flood. See how heavy rain turned a creek into a deadly river. Watch as a festival-like atmosphere — with people kayaking in the streets — gave way to a somber city the next morning. And revisit the places that were washed away and rebuilt.

How it started — Heavy rainfall pounded parts of Fort Collins, with isolated storms wetting the city on July 27, 1997. The following day, it was about to get worse.

Nolan Doesken — Colorado Water Foundation for Water Education President’s Award Presentation 2011

The flood moved Nolan Doesken to create CoCoRaHS. Here’s a report from Kevin Duggan from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. Here’s an excerpt:

In the wake of the flash flood, which killed five women, injured 54 people and caused $200 million in damage, Doesken wanted to understand the storm and how events played out as they did.

Through the Coloradoan and other media outlets, he asked community members to report as accurately as possible rainfall amounts at their homes and businesses. High school students went door to door looking for reliable measurements.

About 300 reports were collected.

While the official weather station at Colorado State University measured about 6 inches of rainfall, data collected from the community revealed that 10 to 14.5 inches of rain fell on the west side of the city during a 30-hour period.

During the same period, the city’s east side received about 2 inches.

The heaviest rainfall centered on the area near Drake Road and Overland Trail and the foothills. The deluge set a record for rainfall over an urban area in Colorado that still stands.

The variance in rainfall totals across the city inspired Doesken to find ways to correlate weather radar estimates of rainfall amounts with what happens on the ground. And the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow, or CoCoRaHS, network, began.

Volunteers use rain gauges, aluminum-wrapped hail pads and rulers to measure precipitation. Daily results are reported through the program’s website, maintained by the Colorado Climate Center at CSU.

Since its start in Larimer County in 1998, CoCoRaHS has spread across the country to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada and the Bahamas.

Data from reports are used in a variety of areas, including weather forecasting, water management, transportation planning and mosquito control.

CoCoRaHS and other observation networks provide important information for weather forecasters, said Thomas Trunk, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Office of Observations in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Inaugural Evergreen Lake paddleboard race recap

Photo credit Dave Scadden Paddlesports.

From The Canyon Courier (Corinne Westeman):

People commented how exciting it was to have taken part in the inaugural race and how they hoped to see it grow in the coming years.

I found the participants’ paddleboarding expertise was wide-ranging: some seemed to be experts and others, like me, had only done it a few times.

Justin and Kelly Beard of Golden, who won the 18-35 and 36-59 age divisions, respectively, told me that they enjoy paddleboarding on their travels across the country. The couple said they paddleboard every few weeks and were very happy to see the sport gaining popularity, describing it as very easy to pick up and family friendly.

Similarly, Marian Schwabauer of Evergreen, who won the senior division, learned to paddleboard while in Hawaii.

Herman Gulch greenback reintroduction

Herman Gulch via TheDenverChannel.com

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The biologists have purged this gulch of all other fish competitors.

But the first pure greenback cutthroat trout dropped into chilly streams Monday morning simply quivered at edges of eddies.

These captive-bred 1-year-olds — 960 of them — are thought to be hardier than the 4,000 hatchlings that Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists put in Herman Gulch last year. State crews conducted a survey last week and found no evidence any of the hatchlings survived the hard winter.

A whole lot of people really want the greenback cutthroats to make it in their ancestral home.

So on Monday morning, an expanding cutthroats recovery team coordinated by CPW mobilized, with more than 50 volunteers from Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups hauling 20-pound bags of the 5-inch fish into the high-country basin…

Most understood this is something of an ecological longshot because greenback cutthroats — listed as threatened on the nation’s endangered species roster — have all but disappeared. After all, evolution is all about change, and species come and go.

Greenback cutthroats originated in the South Platte River Basin headwaters. They disappeared as humans settled the region, mining for gold that turned water toxic, stocking streams with nonnative fish in hopes of promoting tourism.

State wildlife managers declared greenback cutthroats extinct in the 1930s. But they rediscovered them in 1953 and celebrated them in 1994 as Colorado’s official state fish. However, the fish that Colorado wildlife officials touted as the state fish was a different species of cutthroat trout.

In 2012, University of Colorado genetics scientists determined that only a few greenback cutthroats survived in the wild, by a fluke, southwest of Colorado Springs, in the Arkansas River Basin. Back in the 1870s, aspiring hotel resort operator Joseph Jones had captured some greenbacks from South Platte headwaters and plopped them into Bear Creek near his property. CU scientists verified that only the descendants of those fish carried the true greenback cutthroat genes.

CPW officials now are working intensely, gathering genetic material from Bear Creek fish and breeding tens of thousands of greenback cutthroats in hatcheries created to stock Colorado streams with trout that compete with native species.

CPW crews already have transplanted some greenback cutthroats successfully into Zimmerman Lake, west of Fort Collins.

“This would be the first steam,” CPW aquatic biologist Boyd Wright said Monday, directing the transplanting operation along 3 miles of streams. “And this is a fish that evolved in streams.”

[…]

If this second attempt at getting greenback cutthroats to survive in Herman Gulch fails, CPW officials said they’ll try once more next year. State crews this year also are planning to drop cutthroats into Dry Gulch, to the west of this site, and into Rock Creek in South Park.

But much depends on how the fish respond in this ideal habitat, a basin considered ecologically healthy.

Cutthroat trout historic range via Western Trout