Down ‘The River Of Lost Souls’ With Jonathan Thompson — Colorado Public Radio

From Colorado Public Radio (Nathan Heffel). Click through to listen to the interview:

A new book puts the Gold King Mine spill within the long history of mining and pollution in Southwest Colorado.

Jonathan Thompson will be at the Book Bar tonight. I wonder if Denver is a bit of a shock to his system even though he’s a sixth-generation Coloradan?

I am so happy to finally get to finally meet Jonathan. His new book, River of Lost Souls, is an important read. Understanding the industrialization of our state over the years will help us chart a less destructive course.

I loved the passages where Jonathan reminisces about spending time around the Four Corners and in the San Juans. He transports you to those times in your life spent next to the river or exploring what sights the land has to offer. He connects you to the Four Corners in a way that only a son of the San Juans could.

Cement Creek aerial photo — Jonathan Thompson via Twitter

Mississippi River flood control infrastructure worsens flooding

Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej , a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country – in particular, those which feed the Mississippi River, in pink.

From Wired (Adam Rogers):

Basically, the Mississippi meanders. Sometimes the river curves around so tightly that it just pinches off, cutting across the peninsula and leaving the bigger curve high, if not dry. That parenthesis of water alongside the main channel is an oxbow. In a flood, water churns up chunks of sediment and spreads into the oxbow. When the flood waters recede, the layer of coarse sediment sinks to the oxbow’s bottom, where it remains.

So Muñoz’s team humped their pontoon boat all the way from Woods Hole, Massachusetts to three oxbows whose birthdates they knew—one from about 1500, one from 1722, and one from 1776—and jammed pipe into the lakebed with a concrete mixer. “It vibrates so hard, your hands fall asleep,” Muñoz says. “And then you have 300 or 400 pounds of mud you’re trying to get back up.” But it worked.

The cores were a map of time, with today at the top and the oxbow’s birthday at the bottom. In between: A peak of the radioactive isotope cesium-137 marked 1963, when humans started testing nuclear bombs. Using technique called optically stimulated luminescence to date, roughly, when a layer was last exposed to sunlight, they spotted classic floods, like 2011, which caused $3.2 billion in damages, and 1937, which required the largest rescue deployment the US Coast Guard had ever undertaken.

The important part, though, was that the characteristics of the layers for floods they had numbers on could tell them about the magnitude of floods they didn’t. They got 1851, 1543, and on and on…

AFTER A PARTICULARLY devastating flood in 1927—637,000 people lost their homes, perhaps up to 1,000 killed, $14 billion in period-adjusted damage—human beings deployed the US Army Corps of Engineers to wage all-out war on nature to protect industry, farms, and trade. People tried to warn the government even as construction began on the Mississippi’s infrastructure—channelization, dredging, dams in the upper stretch, and along the middle and lower levees, concrete mats along the banks called revetments, and gates.

“All that increases the amount of water and the speed that water goes during a flood. What we’re saying is, we can’t explain the increase we’re seeing with climate alone,” Muñoz says. “But for the first time, we can go back further, to a state in which the river wasn’t dominated by human activities. We can really show that the way the river behaves today is not natural.”

Even that look at the prelapsarian Mississippi may not change much. Warnings that flood control would lead to uncontrolled floods date back to at least 1852, when a famous engineer named Charles Ellet warned in a report to Congress that the whole idea was going to lead to disaster. Yet the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River and Tributaries Project remains in full, multi-billion-dollar effect. (Representatives for the Corps of Engineers did not return multiple requests for comment.)

Now, Muñoz’s inferential datasets don’t convince every river researcher. Bob Criss, a hydrogeologist at Washington University at St. Louis, says he doesn’t completely buy Muñoz’s team’s particle-size correlations and tree-ring cell biology. “It’s just a bunch of voodoo and sound bites,” Criss says. “I certainly don’t object to his conclusion. But I don’t think it’s robust.”

Criss definitely does buy the idea that engineering has made flooding worse, though. He says straight-ahead numbers like stage measurement (the height of the river) are enough to tell you that. Levees upriver send more water downriver. Revetments move that water faster. What might have been slow-spreading floodwaters when they were unconstrained turn into neighborhood-destroying mini-tsunamis when they burst all at once from behind failing levees…

And [Victor] Baker buys what Muñoz has come up with. “Levees protect against little floods. If you have a super-big flood that exceeds the capacity of the levee, the levees make that worse.” he says. There have been bigger floods than people remember—but the landscape recorded them. And if humans learn to play those recordings back, maybe we can find a new way to get ready for the waters yet to come.

Platte to Park Hill Project Phase 1 update

Storm drain and open channel improvements between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and the South Platte River (Globeville Landing Outfall), Stormwater detention/conveyance between the East Rail Line (38th & Blake Station) and Colorado Blvd, (Montclair Basin)
Stormwater detention/ conveyance immediately east of Colorado Blvd. (Park Hill Basin).

From 9News.com (Cory Reppenhagen):

Denver Public Works refers to that problem area as the Montclair basin. It is the largest basin in Denver at 9.5 square miles, that does not have a path for stormwater to get to the South Platte River.

So they say that stormwater tends to pool in that area, and some of the worst flooding in the city steams from this spot. The solution, according to Denver Public Works, is to build the largest flood protection project that Denver has ever seen.

The Platte to Park Hill Project, or P2P, is extremely progressive in its use of open channels, water quality features, and inclusion of community and recreational assets.

A 9NEWS crew toured the nearly completed first phase of this plan, called the Globeville Landing Outfall Project, which Denver Public Works describes as a giant storm drain.

The centerpiece of this project is a massive pipe that’s actually a 500-yard-long, 12 foot by 15 foot – a concrete box culvert…

This project will protect those historic neighborhoods around the Denver Coliseum, like Elyria, Swansea, Cole, Whittier, Clayton, Skyland, and Five Points.

Denver Public Works said it will not only handle the routine stormwater, that often floods those areas, but also the big 100-year events.

“It’s those storms that are above an inch in an hour. Two inches, three inches in an hour, those are the ones we don’t have a system for, those are the ones that this system is really going to do a good job for us,” said Uhernik.

A thunderstorm that covers all 155 square miles of Denver, with just 1 inch of rain, puts down 2.7 billion gallons of water, which is enough to fill about 67 million bathtubs…

In this new project, the water will flow out of that culvert and into the open, where it will run through a new park and into the South Platte River, just along the west end of the Denver Coliseum parking lot.

It’s a natural path restored.

Denver Public Works says this drain will be ready to take on stormwater by this summer. The new city park will be completed in the spring of 2019.

They plan to build similar drains downstream in the years to come.

@UCLA: 100% local water possible for Los Angeles by 2050 #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Map of the Los Angeles River watershed via Wikimedia.

Here’s the abstract for the recently released study:

This report assesses the potential to improve water quality standards while integrating complementary One Water Management practices that can increase potential local water supplies for the City of Los Angeles (the City). This final report summarizes the current practices and future opportunities at the City-owned Water Reclamation Plants and underlying groundwater basins and highlights the importance of considering all aspects of integrated water management even when dealing with water quality or supply-focused projects.

Implementing watershed-scale best management practice programs to meet stormwater permit requirements will significantly improve water quality in all watersheds. However, additional mechanisms such as increasing Low Impact Development implementation and comprehensive source tracking and source control mechanisms will be required to potentially eliminate water quality exceedances. There are multiple efforts occurring in the City and the region to increase the recharge of recycled water into the ground and the volumes of remediated groundwater extracted.

This research further assessed the impacts of potential water supply portfolios, with greater volumes of locally-supplied water, on GHG emissions and energy needs of supplying LA’s water. Conservation will be another powerful tool to decrease our dependence on imported water. This research demonstrates the complex interrelationships between all aspects of urban water management, including, for example, stormwater management and local water supply.

Fountain Creek: CSU-Pueblo scores additional $32,000 for water quality study

The Fountain Creek Watershed is located along the central front range of Colorado. It is a 927-square mile watershed that drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo. The watershed is bordered by the Palmer Divide to the north, Pikes Peak to the west, and a minor divide 20 miles east of Colorado Springs. Map via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District.

From KRDO.com (Katie Spencer):

But now, with an additional $32,000 in research funding from the county, researchers are hoping to find out exactly what lurks below the water’s surface.

CSU-Pueblo staff and students have been collecting water samples, and they say there are large amounts of mercury and selenium in the water.

“Mercury can be a problem. It has a whole syndrome, a whole set of symptoms if you see mercury levels getting too high,” [Scott] Herrmann said.

County Commissioner Terry Hart said he just wants the Pueblo community to be able to enjoy the creek, as the people of Colorado Springs do.

“Citizens are invited down to play in and around the creek and it’s a beautiful thing. We can’t do that in Pueblo County and we have not been able to do it because of our pollution concerns,” Hart said.

He also wants to make sure the Pueblo commissioners and the city of Colorado Springs are keeping up their promises to clean up the creek.

The researchers are also looking at the fish in Fountain Creek to determine what issues they are facing and if contaminants are being passed on to people who catch and eat them.

Cañon City could see lawsuit from two ditch companies for routing stormwater to ditch easements

This graphic shows the estimated cost for upgrades, repairs and maintenance of each stormwater basin. (City of Cañon City)

From The Cañon City Daily Record ( Carie Canterbury):

A second local ditch company is making preparations to potentially sue the City of Cañon City for allegedly utilizing irrigation ditches as a stormwater utility.

During Monday’s city council meeting, former mayor George Turner, who also serves as the secretary/treasurer for the Cañon City & Oil Creek Ditch Company, said the city has been putting off stormwater improvements for the last 150 years and utilizing the irrigation ditches in the community as its stormwater utility…

He said the Hydraulic Ditch Company has increased its assessment by $2 a share and the Cañon City & Oil Creek Ditch Company has increased its assessment by $5 per share for the sole purpose to generate a fund to hire water attorneys to potentially sue the city.

Mannie Colon, the president of the Cañon City Hydraulic & Irrigating Ditch Company, initiated litigation last year against the city when he felt his solutions to the decades-long stormwater problems had been dismissed and not adequately implemented.

In response, a stormwater task force consisting of representatives from the City of Cañon City, Fremont County and local ditch companies was formed in March 2017 to look at solutions.

The city, county and the Hydraulic & Irrigating Ditch Company recently mutually have agreed to fund a $180,000 study to investigate and mitigate stormwater flooding of the ditch. The city council earlier this month approved a tolling agreement that preserves any legal right the ditch company believes it may have against the city and county for stormwater flooding while also maintaining the rights, claims or defenses of the city and county.

The city contends that the cost of stormwater mitigation has gone up, but fees haven’t.

The fee hasn’t increased in 10 years, and the city has an operating fund deficit in the stormwater fund that is compounded by a $75 million capital project backlog.

In order to get the utility back in the black, fees would need to double, which also would provide for about $4 million in capital improvements during the next 10 years. Second reading of an ordinance that would double stormwater fees was tabled during Monday’s meeting.

Some members of the public said they don’t mind increasing the fees, but they felt doubling them was much too excessive. However, City Administrator Tony O’Rourke said to meet the entire capital needs for the stormwater problem, the rate would have to increase in a rate in excess of 1,000 percent.

During Monday’s meeting, there was much discussion about an effort to get county officials to take more of an active role in the stormwater problem.

Stormwater is collected in eight drainage basins within the city and Fremont County. The city physically only represents 18 percent of the area within these eight drainage basins, the other 82 percent is in the unincorporated area of Fremont County, which does not impose a stormwater fee for those residents.

“The drainage basins are in the county, and that’s who should be helping us pay for this,” Mayor Preston Troutman said.

Councilman Mark Gill pointed out that on a $220,000 home, Cañon City receives about $46 in property taxes while the county receives about $197…

The city is looking to create a regional stormwater basin authority, where all the residents within the eight basins would share the cost of stormwater management. This requires the support and concurrence of the Fremont County Commissioners who would have to approve a service plan before it could go before voters for approval.

Former Councilman Dennis Wied said doubling the stormwater fee is particularly unfair to businesses. He said there are 1,000 business properties in town, and 5,000 residential properties, but the businesses pay 52 percent of the total stormwater fee. Additionally, he said a proposed stormwater impact fee would go from about $750 per acre to about $11,000 an acre…

Other citizens asked for an explanation on how money in the stormwater fund is spent, specifically a $620,600 transfer to other funds.

City Engineer Adam Lancaster said the majority of the money is spent on maintenance and a great deal is spent on compliance with the city’s MS-4 stormwater permit. Some funds are spent for a local contractor for maintenance and an inter-fund transfer also is used for the city’s street crews to do some maintenance…

Wied said when the stormwater fee was first instituted, it was for the purpose to build up funds to address stormwater problems, not day-to-day operations. He said 100 percent of the city’s street sweeper is being charged to the stormwater fund, which he alleges just started recently…

Wied also said that 20 percent of the time spent by 14 people in the street department is charged to the stormwater fund…

A study analysis being conducted by an independent consultant is looking into how inter-fund transfers have been calculated. O’Rourke said preliminary results indicate that the city has not been charging the stormwater fund sufficiently, and the general fund is continuing to subsidize that fund by about $180,000 in addition to what it currently transfers. It is in violation of TABOR for the city to supplement the stormwater fund with the general fund, he said.

Wied said the city, staff and the council the last 11 years have been fully aware of expenses that can and must be charged to a utility and those that don’t. He took exception to the comments made that certain fees have to be charged to the stormwater fund…

Finance Director Harry Patel said since 2006, cost allocations have been moved from the general fund into the stormwater fund, and he will provide documentation during an upcoming meeting. The fund transfers were in council-approved budgets and on audited statements, he said.

The council agreed to table the discussion to the next general government meeting that will be at 4 p.m. March 7 at City Hall.

Councilwoman Ashley Smith asked that city staff bring back an in-depth analysis of spending and allocation requirements, as well as a state of future plans and proposed projects.

Cañon City photo credit DowntownCañonCity.com

@UN_Water: Say hello to the IIWQ World Water Quality Portal

In central Wisconsin water moving into Lake Puckaway from the Fox River, collected on the right is relatively clear. As water moves through the lake it becomes more and more turbid. The main cause of this turbidity is algae followed by resuspension of sediment from wave action and the activities of Common Carp. Photo credit: Lake and wetland ecosystems.

Here’s the release from UN Water:

Water quality affects human health, as well as ecosystems, biodiversity, food production and economic growth.

The IIWQ World Water Quality Portal, which was developed in the framework of UNESCO-IHP’s International Initiative on Water Quality (IIWQ), is a pioneering tool to monitor water quality using Earth Observation. The Portal addresses an urgent need to enhance the knowledge base and access to information in order to better understand the impacts of climate- and human-induced change on water security.

It aims to provide water quality information, facilitate science-based, informed decision-making for water management and support Member States’ efforts in implementing the Sustainable Development Goal on water and sanitation (SDG 6), as well as several other Goals and Targets that are linked directly to water quality and water pollution.
Access the IIWQ World Water Quality Portal.