@SenBennetCO, @SenCoryGardner Public Lands Bills Approved by Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today released the following statements after five Colorado-specific public lands bills were unanimously approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bennet and Gardner introduced the bipartisan bills earlier this year.

“Our public lands define Colorado and help drive our outdoor recreation economy,” Bennet said. “These bipartisan, commonsense bills will expand outdoor access and preserve and protect wildlife habitat for years to come. The Committee’s approval of these measures is a win for Colorado, and we’ll continue to work to advance these measures in the Senate.”

“Protecting and promoting Colorado’s public lands is not a partisan issue, and I’m proud to work across the aisle to move these priorities forward,” Gardner said. “Each piece of legislation is important to Colorado and I’ll continue to support efforts that will ensure future generations of Coloradans are able to enjoy our state’s natural treasurers.”

Mountains reflect off of Bolts Lake as seen from US 24 S in Colorado. Photo via
  • The Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act (S. 285) would authorize special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate and the segment of the Bolts Ditch within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, allowing the town of Minturn, Colorado to use its existing water right to fill Bolts Lake. This would solve a problem created in 1980 when Congress designated Holy Cross Wilderness area, but inadvertently left Bolts Ditch off of the list of existing water facilities.
The main entrance is about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs. Photo credit UncoverColorado.com.
  • The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (S. 287) legislation will allow for enhanced wildfire protection as well as additional habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for visitors. Established as a national monument in 1969, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is located west of Pikes Peak and less than 40 miles from Colorado Springs. The monument is home to diverse fossil deposits, maintaining a collection of over 12,000 specimens. It also provides recreational experiences and curriculum-based education programs for its visitors. A private landowner submitted a proposal to donate 280 acres of land adjacent to Florissant Fossil Beds Monument, but due to current law the land donation cannot take place. This commonsense legislation would permit a landowner to donate private land to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
  • The Wedge Act (H.R. 688) would aid the Forest Service in acquiring several parcels of land adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. This Act would help preserve critical wildlife habitat, Colorado River headwaters, and a highly visible view shed in the area commonly referred to as the Wedge.
  • The Crags are rock formations located south of Divide, facing the northwest slope of Pikes Peak. It’s a beautiful hike popular with families. Photo credit Colorado Springs Hikes.
  • The Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act (H.R. 618) is a federal land exchange where the Forest Service would acquire pristine land in the Pike National Forest allowing for more outdoor recreation near Pikes Peak.
  • The Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act (H.R. 698) would correct the discrepancy that took place from conflicting land surveys and require the Forest Service to convey acreage to private ownership that is rightfully private property, according to the Forest Service’s own conclusion and recommendation. For nearly 100 years, 148 acres of land has been used as private land even though it is included in Forest Service survey maps, and this legislation allows for the resolution between the Forest Service and the private landowner.

Busting the tree ring — @HighCountryNews

These bigleaf maples in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest were cut down during the course of an illegal timber harvesting operation. Photo credit the U.S. Department of Justice, via OPB.org.

Here’s a report about fighting illegal logging from Ben Goldfarb writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Cutting bigleaf maple is generally legal, with the right permits, on private and state land in Washington. In national forests, however, protections on old growth keep the tree strictly off-limits. But in Gifford Pinchot, the law’s arm didn’t reach too far. Malamphy, who’d served as an officer with the U.S. Forest Service since 2000, patrolled the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, a rough triangle formed by Mount Adams, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. His jurisdiction covered 575,000 acres — one cop, responsible for an area almost twice the size of Los Angeles. He cruised the woods alone in a Dodge pickup, inspecting meth paraphernalia dumps, checking hunting licenses, conducting traffic stops. In some ways, the job has changed little since the early 20th century, when Pinchot himself dispatched a ragged band of recruits to help a strange new agency called the Forest Service wrangle illegal loggers and miners. Everyone Malamphy met in the woods carried a gun or a knife, and usually both. Backup was hours away. In 2008, a Forest Service officer was murdered by a tree-trimmer down a remote road on the Olympic Peninsula. Malamphy was a tough customer — he had an offensive lineman’s physique, and hands that could crack walnuts. Still, he kept his Glock .40 close.

R.I.P Chuck Berry

During the video Mr. Berry says that “Sweet Little Sixteen” was dedicated to a young fan in Denver, Colorado.

From The Chicago Tribune (Greg Kot):

Chuck Berry, who died Saturday at 90, was one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. More than any artist of the ‘50s, his songs exploded with imagery that saw rock ‘n’ roll not just as a fad but as the future — a vision of freedom that transcended generation and race.

Berry’s opening solo on “Johnny B. Goode” blared reveille for subsequent generations of rockers. Every rock guitarist since is in his debt. In addition, Berry wrote and sang at least two dozen rock ‘n’ roll classics, including “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Back in the U.S.A.,” many of them recorded at Chicago’s Chess Studios in the 1950s and ’60s and later covered by countless artists, including the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones.

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry,’ “ John Lennon once said…

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis in 1926, Berry grew up singing in church and listening to blues and country music on the radio. An admirer of Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker and Nat “King” Cole, he began playing guitar in high school. As a teenager, he was sent to a reformatory after being convicted of attempted robbery. He moonlighted as a beautician in St. Louis and worked on a car assembly line to support his family. While in his twenties, he led a three-piece blues group during regular weekend gigs.

Berry developed a sound that synthesized genres and created the most popular template for rock ‘n’ roll: a small, guitar-led combo performing original songs. A half-century before, country guitarists borrowed riffs and runs from blues performers. Berry flipped the formula; he was essentially a country-music guitarist who added blues inflections and a faster rhythm-and-blues beat. Plus, he played electric guitar, and the amplification enabled him to simulate the sound of two or three guitars playing at once. He thickened the sound by employing a two-string technique, sliding along the frets and bending them to create enormous power and drive. His tone evoked a trumpet.

Berry’s staccato-laced rhythmic drive also derived from swing jazz and the ebullient boogie-woogie played by another St. Louis musician, pianist Johnnie Johnson, who would become his often unsung collaborator. Johnson would sue Brown in 2000 for songwriting credit on more than 50 songs, but the claim was dismissed because a judge determined too much time had passed since the songs were written. Together, they played counterpoint melodies and solos that raised the excitement level of countless classic songs, with Johnson’s strong left hand and Berry’s hard strumming beefing up the rhythmic pulse.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who acknowledged that his own rhythm-guitar style was based on Berry’s technique, said the guitarist “always was the epitome of rhythm and blues playing, rock and roll playing. It was beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection. He is rhythm supreme.”

The Berry-Johnson partnership was forged on New Year’s Eve 1952, when the guitarist was enlisted as a last-minute replacement for an ailing saxophone player in the Johnnie Johnson Trio in East St. Louis. Berry became a regular in the already well-established band, and soon became the star attraction with a style that included his signature “duck walk,” skipping across the stage in a half-crouch while playing his guitar.

“Every weekend, they’d be looking for Chuck,” Johnson told the Tribune in a 1992 interview. “When he’d play that guitar, the people would form a circle and square dance. Chuck did this song from the Grand Old Opry, ‘Ida Red,’ and the people loved it.”


Berry came to Chicago in spring 1955 determined to become the next Muddy Waters. On hearing Berry’s guitar playing, Waters was impressed enough to introduce him to Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, who encouraged the handsome, articulate stranger with the big hollow-body guitar to make a demo tape.

The tape included Berry’s bid for blues stardom, the slow, sensual “Wee Wee Hours,” with a lavish Johnson piano line. But Chess much preferred another song on the tape, “Ida Red,” an old country song that Berry juiced up with comically exuberant boy-chases-girl lyrics involving a Cadillac Coup Deville and a V-8 Ford.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Leonard Chess later said. “It was a trend and we jumped on it.”

Chess liked the song’s upbeat tempo and saw it as a way for his blues label to break into the teenage pop market. He was right. By Aug. 20 of that year, the song he retitled “Maybellene” was the No. 5 pop record in the country.

The song was as distinctive lyrically as it was musically. In the first line of his first hit, Berry coined the term “motorvatin’,” as if he were bent on reinventing the English language even as he invented rock ‘n’ roll. The longtime critic Robert Christgau called him “the greatest rock lyricist this side of Bob Dylan.” Narratives populated with images of cars, girls and school brimmed with humor and underdog charm. At a time when most grown-ups sneered at rock ‘n’ roll as mere juvenilia, Berry invested it with poetic power. Rock ‘n’ roll, in his telling, was more than just a passing fad, “kids music” that would be dismissed and forgotten in a year or two. In the vision laid out in Berry songs from “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Back in the U.S.A.,” rock ‘n’ roll was a world of endless possibility, a promised land where even a poor black kid could be a star.

His lyrics invariably identified with teenagers in their endless struggle with adult authority, and championed the idea that fun was just as much a part of growing up as preparing to be an adult. But he also infiltrated the charts with seemingly upbeat songs that painted subtle portraits of racism (“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”) and satirized the work-day runaround (“Too Much Monkey Business”).

He also celebrated his newborn sound and its break from the past. As an African-American who had his fill of the status quo, there was double-edged meaning when he sang, “Hail, hail rock ‘n’ roll/Deliver me from the days of old.”

The narrators and protagonists in his songs were inevitably thinly veiled alter-egos, never more so than “Johnny B. Goode,” the little country boy “who could play his guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell.” He also demonstrated a feel for Latin music in “Havana Moon,” doo-wop in “Almost Grown” and deep blues in “Childhood Sweetheart.” From 1955 to 1959 he had nine top-40 hits, an African-American in his thirties who embodied the yearning, joy and frustrations of a largely white, teenage audience.

Happy Pi Day

A Pi Day pie from Reilly’s Bakery in Biddeford at Biddeford High School in Biddeford, ME on Friday, March 13, 2015. (Photo by Whitney Hayward/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Governor’s Forum on Agriculture recap

Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs
Flood irrigation in the Arkansas Valley via Greg Hobbs

From The Greeley Tribune (Samantha Fox):

Farm operations can’t work alone. It takes collaboration to make them successful.

That was the main theme of Wednesday’s 26th annual Governor’s Forum on Colorado Agriculture, driven home by many of those who spoke at the forum, including Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper, Gardner and more than a dozen others spoke to a group of 425 farmers and ranchers from across the state at the Renaissance Denver Stapleton Hotel.

The speakers said with growth and the changing desires among consumers, the industry’s economic outlook and the unpredictable nature of agriculture, collaboration is key.

That rings true for all of agriculture, but especially in Colorado, where the industry is one of the largest in the state, said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Don Brown…

According to Hickenlooper, about 50 percent of Colorado’s agriculture exports are to Mexico, so collaboration through open communication with elected leaders is important when it comes to trade.

@NASAClimate Snowex project

SnowEx aircraft, February 17, 2016.
SnowEx aircraft, February 17, 2016.

From The Durango Herald (Jessica Pace):

NASA’s three-week field study of snow conditions in the Silverton and Grand Mesa areas ends Saturday, after which scientists will analyze the data in an effort to develop satellites to provide snow observation data critical to water management.

On Tuesday, NASA deployed three aircraft and had about 50 researchers on the ground for the last days of data collection.

“It takes some time after we get out of the field to fully analyze the data,” said Ed Kim, a physical scientist at NASA. “We don’t have any significant findings this early. We’re always at the mercy of whatever weather we happen to get, and we know warm, wet weather has impacted the project. We’ll find out what that impact is.”

People throughout the snow research community from Canada, Europe and the U.S. volunteered their time for the effort. Researchers on the ground spent the past three weeks taking measurements, including the variation of snow depth, and digging snow pits to study the vertical structure and composition of snow layers from the surface to the ground. The team also mounted sensors to snowmobiles. The data collected on the ground will be compared to the accuracy of measurements taken from aircraft.

“That’s really critical to understand what airborne sensors are seeing,” Kim said.

Researchers used a combination of instruments to collect data on the snow, including radar and LIDAR, which stands for light detection and ranging, to measure snow depth and density, thermal infrared sensors to gauge temperature, and a hyperspectral imager and multispectral imager to measure how much sunlight the snow reflects and how fast it consequently will melt. NASA also used a passive microwave, which can gauge how much natural microwave radiation is blocked by snow.

NASA’s goal is to use the research to develop a multi-sensor satellite to study snow and predict water content, which would be a watershed invention for science. Snow impacts drinking water, agriculture and industry across the globe, yet there is no comprehensive instrument to measure it. SnowEx is sponsored by the Terrestrial Hydrology Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA’s Colorado expedition marks the first of a five-year snow study called SnowEx. Kim said NASA will spend the second year analyzing the data collected this month in the Senator Beck Basin, just north of Red Mountain Pass, and Grand Mesa, east of Grand Junction, as well as making plans for the final three years of the study.

Kim said NASA’s conclusions over the next year from this winter’s study will determine the next steps…

NASA selected the Senator Beck Basin near Silverton and the Grand Mesa area to conduct research because the two areas offer varied terrain and snow conditions. Moreover, scientists want to develop an instrument that can observe snow hidden in forested areas.

#OrovilleDam: What caused the catastrophic spillway failure?

Oroville Dam spillway collapse. Photo credit Californian Department of Water Resources.
Oroville Dam spillway collapse. Photo credit Californian Department of Water Resources.

From The San Jose Mercury-News (Paul Rogers and Matthias Gafni):

How did a giant, gaping hole tear through the massive Oroville Dam’s main concrete spillway last week, setting in motion the chain of events that could have led to one of America’s deadliest dam failures?

Dam experts around the country are focusing on a leading suspect: Tiny bubbles.

The prospect is simple, yet terrifying and has been the culprit in a number of near disasters at dams across the globe since engineers discovered it about 50 years ago. In a process called “cavitation,” water flowing fast and in large volumes can rumble over small cracks, bumps or other imperfections in concrete dam spillways as they release water during wet years. The billions of gallons of water bumping off the surface at 50 miles an hour create enormous turbulence that can form tiny water vapor bubbles that collapse with powerful force, and like jackhammers, chisel apart concrete.

“It starts with small holes, but it can break off big chunks of concrete,” said Paul Tullis, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at Utah State University and cavitation expert. “It’s like a big grinder. It causes concrete to be torn apart.”

It’s still too early to investigate the cavity on the spillway while dam operators at the nation’s tallest dam desperately drain billions of gallons of water down the damaged chute ahead of coming storms.

Cavitation at the Glen Canyon Dam via Flow Science.
Cavitation at the Glen Canyon Dam via Flow Science.

But the same phenomenon nearly caused the collapse of one of America’s other largest dams, Glen Canyon, a 710-foot tall behemoth on the Colorado River, in 1983…

When engineers entered the Glen Canyon Dam’s damaged spillway, they found a crater 32 feet deep and 180 feet long, and tons of concrete, reinforced metal and rock that had simply washed away. The right spillway had similar, but less severe damage.

They didn’t simply reconstruct the spillways, they introduced new technology with aeration slots — essentially ramps at vulnerable spots in the spillway to create an air pocket where water vapor could be disrupted and weakened. The physics gambit worked. In 1984, the runoff was equally as challenging, but Glen Canyon’s spillways had no problems.

Those fixes led the federal agency to retrofit two other large dams — Hoover and Blue Mesa — with aerators.

“It was a defining moment in dam design,” Bureau of Reclamation hydraulic engineer Philip Burgi told a magazine years later. “The world was watching how we were going to solve this problem.”

Similar fixes were added to the Tarbela Dam in Pakistan and Infiernillo Dam in Mexico, and now are common in new dams.

It could be months before the cause of the collapse of Oroville Dam’s spillway is known. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week ordered the state Department of Water Resources to convene a panel of five dam engineering experts to oversee an investigation.

But despite the lessons from Glen Canyon, the Oroville Dam spillway apparently did not have aerators. The massive chute is 178 feet wide, as wide as 15 lanes of freeway, and just 15 inches thick in the middle. Sources at the Department of Water Resources say it hadn’t been retrofitted with aerators — likely one or two ramps, in the case of Oroville’s chute-style spillway, perhaps a foot high each, that would allow the water to flow over and reduce the risk of cavitation.

“Compared to the cost to repair that, it would be just a few million dollars,” said Tullis. “It’s not just a matter of money, it’s a matter of safety. It should have been a priority.”

When the main spillway failed, officials had to slow water releases. The lake, swollen from heavy storms, rose nearly 50 feet in five days and overtopped its emergency spillway for the first time ever, forcing the emergency evacuation of nearly 200,000 residents along the Feather River. The hillside below the emergency spillway eroded badly, leading to fears it would collapse, and send a wall of water into towns below. In recent days, dam operators have increased flows down the broken main spillway, dropping the lake level, and hoping it doesn’t further tear apart.

By Friday morning, state officials had lowered the water level at the 10-mile-long reservoir by 40 feet, especially important as three new storm systems were coming in.

“The threat level is lower. It’s much, much, much lower than what it was on Sunday,” said Bill Croyle, acting director of the State Department of Water Resources.

One concern that is certain to be a focus in the investigation are cracks in the main spillway in recent years. Records from the state Division of Safety of Dams show the cracks were seen in 2009. Also, crack repairs were done last in 2013, according to Kevin Dossey, a senior civil engineer with the Department of Water Resources.

“We made repairs and everything checked out,” Dossey said last Friday at a news conference. “It looked like it would hold, and be able to pass water.”

If the concrete patches came off, or the cracks worsened, however, that could have eroded the spillway, or it could have created enough of an uneven surface to start the domino-effect of cavitaton, experts said.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot of an imperfection when water velocities are very, very high,” said James Kells, a professor of civil and geological engineering at the University of Saskatchewan.

“When I first saw photos, the first thing that came to my mind was cavitation, just because of where the damage was,” Kells said. But he also began to think uneven concrete slabs or internal erosion below the concrete could be “viable causes.”


Another theory is that the drought dried the ground under the spillway enough that it shrank, creating a void of a few inches that cracked the spillway when huge volumes of water roared down this winter…

1967: Heavy snow melt in the Bighorn River basin raises the Yellowtail Dam reservoir to record levels, opening the spillway for 20 straight days. The Montana dam spillways suffers a hole the size of a semi-truck and trailer.

1977: The Karun Dam in Iran has more than 7,500 feet of concrete torn up on its concrete spillways.

1979: The Kebon Dam along the Euphrates River in Turkey suffers damage to two spillways; one had been running for 15 days, another just three.

1983: The Glen Canyon Dam takes on heavy snowmelt and rains leading to water coming perilously close to the top of the dam. Its two tunnel spillways open for the first time ever and both receive significant damage. Engineers create new aerator devices to fix the problem, a big turning point in spillway engineering.

1983: Hoover Dam, the nation’s most well-known, used its spillways in 1941 for initial testing and again in 1983 due to unanticipated high water levels, and both times a concrete elbow transition suffered cavitation damage.

Mid-1980s: Flaming Gorge Dam on the Green River in northeastern Utah and Blue Mesa Dam in Colorado suffer damage are both fixed with aeration devices.