@ColoradoStateU partners with state of #Colorado on #wastewater surveillance project to track spread of #COVID19 #coronavirus

Samples will be taken at the Drake Water Reclamation Facility in Fort Collins and 19 other sites. Credit: City of Fort Collins

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jayme DeLoss):

As COVID-19 cases start to climb again in Colorado, public health officials are seeking a scientific gauge to determine public policies and safety measures. Colorado State University researchers Susan De Long and Carol Wilusz will provide the indicator they need through a $520,000 project funded by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The CSU team will study a readily available source that will give them valuable insights into the infection rate of specific communities: human feces.

Sampling wastewater is a cost-effective way to test entire communities. By studying the wastewater of communities including Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder, Estes Park and Colorado Springs, the scientists and engineers can track trends in infection rates over time.

The proof is in the poop

Those infected with coronavirus often don’t exhibit symptoms for 10 to 14 days, and some remain asymptomatic. Regardless of their symptoms, or lack of symptoms, within two days, they start shedding the virus in their feces. Detecting the amount of virus in a community’s waste stream can warn of an impending outbreak four days to two weeks in advance.

“We believe this could be a promising supplemental tool for helping predict an outbreak in a community, possibly a couple of days before, so we can shift additional resources to that area,” said Nicole Rowan, clean water program manager with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

So far, 16 wastewater districts have signed on to the project, constituting up to 65 percent of the state’s population. The districts will take samples twice a week and send them to CSU. All of the testing will be done at CSU’s Molecular Quantification Core facility, with the ambitious goal of delivering data to the state in three days or less.

“It’s going to be a really important dataset for our community that will help make decisions regarding public health recommendations for distancing status and shutdown status,” said De Long, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Wilusz, a professor and RNA biologist in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, pointed out how cost-effective this method will be, with tests costing only a few cents per person.

“We can test everyone in Fort Collins and it will cost pennies for each person,” she said.

In the lab at CSU, a technician will filter the samples to remove solids, concentrate the viral particles that are dilute in wastewater, and extract nucleic acids from the viral particles. COVID-19 is an RNA virus, so researchers will extract the RNA and use enzymes to make DNA copies of the target specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Civil and Environmental Engineering Associate Professor Susan De Long works in the lab on a past project. Credit: Karen Rossmassler via Colorado State University

“Isolating RNA from sewage is something I never thought I’d be doing,” Wilusz said. “I’ve learned a lot more about sewage than I probably ever needed to know.”

CSU had the specialized technology in place to perform this testing, thanks to purchase of a digital PCR machine in 2015 by the Office of the Vice President for Research and other CSU units, including the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“The technology we are using – digital droplet PCR – is ideal for this particular application because it is resistant to the types of inhibitors found in wastewater,” Wilusz said.

Public health agencies across the state will provide current case data for the project. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment will interpret all the data and convey what they’ve found to public health professionals working on the ongoing response.

The collaborative aims to make this information accessible with the help of Professor Mazdak Arabi, director of the One Water Solutions Institute at CSU. Arabi will create a GIS-based, interactive online map for displaying the data, incorporating socioeconomic insights to give deeper context to the results.

A grassroots effort

Wastewater epidemiology is not a novel concept. This method has been used to monitor polio and illegal drug use. In Colorado earlier this spring, some wastewater districts sent samples to an East Coast-based company for coronavirus testing, but it took several weeks to get results, negating any benefit from the data.

Jason Graham, Fort Collins director of plant operations, water reclamation and biosolids, instead contacted CSU to see if the testing and analysis could be done here. “My interest in bringing CSU in was to have a local partner, reduced costs and quicker turnaround time,” he said. “I always try to partner with CSU if possible.”

De Long saw an opportunity to expand the scope of the project beyond Fort Collins. If they were going to test local wastewater, why not also do this for the state? She reached out to Jim McQuarrie, director of strategy and innovation at Denver’s Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, and Liz Werth, laboratory support supervisor with Metro Wastewater, who already had organized a group of wastewater districts involved in COVID-19 testing. The CSU team was the solution to the high cost and long turnaround time that came with sending their samples out of state for analysis.

“This is the kind of thing we should be doing at CSU because we’re a land-grant university and we serve our community,” De Long said. Initially, she didn’t know whether she would be paid for the work or if she would be able to publish findings, but it didn’t matter.

“There’s a need here that we have the capacity to fill, we’re just going to do it,” she and her colleagues decided.

De Long and her colleagues put their summer plans on hold and got to work, thanks to $20,000 in seed funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research and donation of a $12,000 ultrafiltration device from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District.

De Long and Wilusz developed the protocol for this project with GT Molecular, a Fort Collins biotechnology company. GT Molecular will offer this testing service on their own to entities outside Colorado that are not covered by the project, and they are available to back up the CSU team, should the need arise.

Of the overall $520,000 contract, $490,000 will go to CSU. The rest will go to collaborator Metro State, which will support analyses and process some of the samples.

The light at the end of the sewage

Along with being a harbinger of rising COVID-19 cases, this detection method also will inform officials if there is a downward trend in infections.

“Not only is this an early warning signal for when things are getting worse, it’s a nice signal for when things are getting better,” De Long said.

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

Tracking the coronavirus pandemic could soon be a bit easier because of one simple fact: everyone poops.

Around the world , wastewater plants have become unlikely sentinels in the fight against the virus, allowing scientists to track the disease’s spread at the community level. The practice of testing sewage samples is spreading across Western U.S. states as well, with programs currently running in Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California.

Seeing success in large-scale wastewater testing, Colorado public health officials are finalizing the details of a program that will cover upwards of 65% of the state’s population and include more than a dozen utilities, two research universities and private biotech companies…

People infected with the virus shed it in their stool, often days before they start feeling sick, studies show . That is, if they develop symptoms at all…

Graham is one of the original partners in a statewide wastewater monitoring program that includes the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado State and Metro State Universities, and wastewater utilities in Fort Collins, Denver, Aurora, Colorado Springs and Estes Park, among others…

Because the Colorado program is still in the initial phases, it’s unclear how the collected data will be used. Officials in Utah and in Tempe, Arizona, have set up public dashboards where wastewater testing data is uploaded regularly. How it will inform decision-making at the state and local level is an open question…

Once Colorado’s program is officially up and running, tests for all the participating wastewater utilities will take place twice a week over the next year.

Navajo Dam operations update: Decrease to 500 CFS July 28, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

A kayaker makes her way down the San Juan River, which delivers water from Colorado, New Mexico and Utah to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing flows in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 700 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs on Tuesday, July 28th, starting 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).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

Fishing is Fun grants awarded for 8 Colorado angling projects — @COParksWildlife

In-stream habitat improvements for brown trout on this section of the Conejos River in the San Luis Valley will occur thanks to this year’s Fishing is Fun grants. This is one of eight projects providing funds to improve angling opportunities in Colorado. Photo via Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks & Wildlife (Travis Duncan):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has awarded $650,000 to eight Fishing is Fun (FIF) projects, all geared to improve angling opportunities in the state of Colorado. The approved projects include improved angling access, habitat improvement, and trail and boat access. Funding recipients include projects in the San Luis Valley, on the Yampa and Crystal rivers, and in the northern Front Range in Denver and Mead.

“The angling opportunities that Colorado waters provide are part of what makes this state so special,” said Dan Prenzlow, Director of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Not only does the Fishing is Fun program help revitalize aquatic ecosystems across the state, it also ensures that residents and visitors will continue to have improved angling access for years to come.”

Among the projects approved for funding are:

Wolf Lake in El Paso County
Angling access will be significantly improved with the construction of two fishing piers on a newly constructed reservoir in a rapidly growing area on the northeastern side of Colorado Springs. The project will increase angling access on a 12-acre reservoir in a part of El Paso County that currently has limited angling options. “It is great to have a project like this that local kids can use to get introduced to the sport and that experienced anglers can use to stay engaged,” said Jim Guthrie, CPW’s Fishing Is Fun Program Coordinator.

Conejos Meadows in the San Luis Valley
In-stream habitat improvements will occur on 1.75 miles of the Conejos River downstream from Platoro Reservoir in the San Luis Valley. The project will address low-flow conditions during droughts and winter reservoir operations and will protect conditions for the existing self-sustaining brown trout population.

“The Conejos Meadows Resilient Habitat project is a model for projects that benefit fish habitat and wild self-maintaining trout populations, while also providing benefits to irrigation water users below a working reservoir,” said Kevin Terry, Rio Grande Basin Project Manager for Trout Unlimited. “Partnerships on the Conejos River between Trout Unlimited, CPW, and the Conejos Water Conservancy District ensure that each project identifies and maximizes benefits for the entire water community and the environment at the same time.”

River Bottom Park Uncompahgre River. Photo credit: PhilipScheetzPhoto via the City of Montrose

Uncompaghre River in Montrose
This grant will restore quality angling conditions along a 0.65-mile section of the Uncompaghre River in the heart of Montrose. The multi-year project will cover 1.6 miles of river and develop in-channel habitat, stabilize river banks and connect to a major new GOCO-funded trail system.

“This project delivers on the Montrose community’s desire to see stewardship of the city’s natural resources, which was identified as a top priority during the city’s comprehensive planning process,” said City of Montrose Grant Coordinator Kendall Cramer. “The restoration of our river enhances aquatic and wildlife habitat, provides new opportunities for anglers and other recreationists, and will serve as a catalyst for economic growth, particularly in the outdoor industry sector in Montrose.”

Fishing alone contributes $2.4 billion dollars in economic output per year, supporting over 17,000 jobs in Colorado according to CPW’s 2017 economic study.

For over 30 years, FIF has supported more than 375 projects in nearly every county in the state, improving stream and river habitats, easing public access to angling waters, developing new angling opportunities for youth and seniors and more.

The program typically provides up to $400,000 annually from the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program (SFR). This year the program awarded an additional $250,000 from revenue generated through the wildlife sporting license plate. “Sportsmen and women who have signed up for the license plate have helped make more projects possible. That is a big boost to making angling accessible to many more people,” said Guthrie. The $650,000 total was met with more than $2 million in local support for the eight projects approved in 2020 (matching funds are required for the program).

Additional Fishing is Fun program details and requirements can be found on CPW’s website.

Fishing is Fun 2020 grants include:

Denver Parks and Recreation
Lily Pond bank stabilization and habitat improvement
$40,000

Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust
Planning for 0.8 mile of in-stream habitat improvement at Pleasant Valley
$30,000

San Luis Valley Trout Unlimited
1.75 miles of in-stream habitat and low-flow improvement at Conejos Meadows
$110,600

City of Montrose
In-channel habitat improvement and realignment on Uncompaghre River
$284,588

Nor’wood Development Group, El Paso County
Fishing piers and angler platform at Wolf Lake
$38,075

Town of Mead
Fishing pier and boat ramp at Highland Lake
$89,625

Town of Carbondale
In-stream habitat and angler access at Crystal River Riverfront Park
$30,000

Town of Parachute
2 vault toilets near boat ramps on Colorado River
$27,112

The road to electric vehicles with lower sticker prices than gas cars – battery costs explained — The Conversation #ActOnClimate


Replacing carbon-emitting gas-powered cars with EVs requires whittling away EVs’ price premium, and that comes down to one thing: battery cost.
Westend61 via Getty Images

Venkat Viswanathan, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexander Bills, Carnegie Mellon University, and Shashank Sripad, Carnegie Mellon University

Electric vehicle sales have grown exponentially in recent years, accompanied by dropping prices. However, adoption of EVs remains limited by their higher sticker price relative to comparable gas vehicles, even though overall cost of ownership for EVs is lower.

EVs and internal combustion engine vehicles are likely to reach sticker price parity sometime in the next decade. The timing hinges on one crucial factor: battery cost. An EV’s battery pack accounts for about a quarter of total vehicle cost, making it the most important factor in the sales price.

Battery pack prices have been falling fast. A typical EV battery pack stores 10-100 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. For example, the Mitsubishi i-MIEV has a battery capacity of 16 kWh and a range of 62 miles, and the Tesla model S has a battery capacity of 100 kWh and a range of 400 miles. In 2010, the price of an EV battery pack was over $1,000 per kWh. That fell to $150 per kWh in 2019. The challenge for the automotive industry is figuring out how to drive the cost down further.

The Department of Energy goal for the industry is to reduce the price of battery packs to less than $100/kWh and ultimately to about $80/kWh. At these battery price points, the sticker price of an EV is likely to be lower than that of a comparable combustion engine vehicle.

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Forecasting when that price crossover will occur requires models that account for the cost variables: design, materials, labor, manufacturing capacity and demand. These models also show where researchers and manufacturers are focusing their efforts to reduce battery costs. Our group at Carnegie Mellon University has developed a model of battery costs that accounts for all aspects of EV battery manufacturing.

From the bottom up

Models used for analyzing battery costs are classified either as “top down” or “bottom up.” Top-down models predict cost based primarily on demand and time. One popular top-down model that can forecast battery cost is Wright’s law, which predicts that costs go down as more units are produced. Economies of scale and the experience an industry acquires over time drive down costs.

Wright’s law is generic. It works across all technologies, which makes it possible to predict battery cost declines based on solar panel cost declines. However, Wright’s law – like other top-down models – doesn’t allow for the analysis of the sources of the cost declines. For that, a bottom-up model is required.

The battery pack, the large gray block filling the chassis in this diagram of an electric car, contributes the most of any component to the price of an EV.
Sven Loeffler/iStock via Getty Images

To build a bottom-up cost model, it’s important to understand what goes into making a battery. Lithium-ion batteries consist of a positive electrode, the cathode, a negative electrode, the anode and an electrolyte, as well as auxiliary components such as terminals and casing.

Each component has a cost associated with its materials, manufacturing, assembly, expenses related to factory maintenance, and overhead costs. For EVs, batteries also need to be integrated into small groups of cells, or modules, which are then combined into packs.

Our open source, bottom-up battery cost model follows the same structure as the battery manufacturing process itself. The model uses inputs to the battery manufacturing process as inputs to the model, including battery design specifications, commodity and labor prices, capital investment requirements like manufacturing plants and equipment, overhead rates and manufacturing volume to account for economies of scale. It uses these inputs to calculate manufacturing costs, material costs and overhead costs, and those costs are summed to arrive at the final cost.

Cost-cutting opportunities

Using our bottom-up cost model, we can break down the contributions of each part of the battery to the total battery cost and use those insights to analyze the impact of battery innovations on EV cost. Materials make up the largest portion of the total battery cost, around 50%. The cathode accounts for around 43% of the materials cost, and other cell materials account for around 36%.

Improvements in cathode materials are the most important innovations, because the cathode is the largest component of battery cost. This drives strong interest in commodity prices.

The most common cathode materials for electric vehicles are nickel cobalt aluminum oxide used in Tesla vehicles, nickel manganese cobalt oxide used in most other electric vehicles, and lithium iron phosphate used in most electric buses.

Nickel cobalt aluminum oxide has the lowest cost-per-energy-content and highest energy-per-unit-mass, or specific energy, of these three materials. A low cost per unit of energy results from a high specific energy because fewer cells are needed to build a battery pack. This results in a lower cost for other cell materials. Cobalt is the most expensive material within the cathode, so formulations of these materials with less cobalt typically lead to cheaper batteries.

Inactive cell materials such as tabs and containers account for roughly 36% of the total cell materials cost. These other cell materials do not add energy content to the battery. Therefore, reducing inactive materials reduces the weight and size of battery cells without reducing energy content. This drives interest in improving cell design with innovations such as tabless batteries like those being teased by Tesla.

The battery pack cost also decreases significantly with an increase in the number of cells manufacturers produce annually. As more EV battery factories come on-line, economies of scale and further improvement in battery manufacturing and design should lead to further cost declines.

Road to price-parity

Predicting a timeline for price parity with ICE vehicles requires forecasting a future trajectory of battery costs. We estimate that reduction in raw material costs, improvements in performance and learning by manufacturing together are likely to lead to batteries with pack costs below $80/kWh by 2025.

Assuming batteries represent a quarter of the EV cost, a 100 kWh battery pack at $75 per kilowatt hour yields a cost of about $30,000. This should result in EV sticker prices that are lower than the sticker prices for comparable models of gas-powered cars.

Abhinav Misalkar contributed to this article while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University.The Conversation

Venkat Viswanathan, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; Alexander Bills, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University, and Shashank Sripad, Ph.D. Candidate in Mechanical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Aurora seeks to buy Whitney Ditch water at Windsor — The Loveland Reporter-Herald

Cache la Poudre River May 2018. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

From The Loveland Reporter-Herald (Ken Amundson):

The water running through the Whitney Ditch is from the Cache La Poudre River. Seller of the water shares, which have an average yield of 1,629 acre feet of water — or about 531 million gallons, is BCI Waterco LLC, a company at 252 Clayton St. in Denver. The address is shared by The Broe Group and Great Western Railway, owners of the industrial park.

The purchase is part of an effort that began in 2003 to buy water rights in the South Platte basin, dry up the land that had been irrigated by the water and bring the water to the thirsty urban developments within Aurora, Colorado’s third largest city behind Denver and Colorado Springs.

While the proposed purchase agreement includes a pipeline easement for land within the industrial park, getting the water to the Denver metro region is not included in the deal, nor is the required amendment of water court decrees to specify where the water will be used.

“We have had high level concept discussions” about getting the water to Aurora, but the city does not have a specific plan, [Dawn] Jewell said.

Jewell said Aurora has purchased other water shares in Northern Colorado, but none from the Poudre. It has water rights from the South Platte main stem and some in the Greeley area, she said.

The city may choose to place the water in a reservoir in the region — it has one already west of Platteville — and seek an opportunity to exchange shares with someone else.

The deal is expected to close Aug. 31, according to city council documents.

Yangtze Dams Spill Water — @NASAEarth

Here’s the release from the NASA Earth Observatory:

Since the start of Asia’s summer monsoon season on June 1, 2020, excessive rainfall has pushed lakes and rivers to record high levels in China. Flooding within the Yangtze River Basin, in particular, has displaced millions of people.

The Yangtze River is Asia’s longest, winding 6300 kilometers (3,900 miles) through China. Together with its network of tributaries and lakes, the river system has undergone significant development as a means to generate power, store water for drinking and irrigation, and control flooding. Today the watershed is dotted with tens of thousands of reservoirs, and its rivers are spanned by numerous dams.

During the 2020 summer monsoon, floodwater was being held, or “absorbed,” by 2,297 reservoirs in the region, including the one behind Three Gorges Dam. In an attempt to regulate the flow of floodwater, dam operators can discharge water through spillway gates.

Those gates were open when these images were acquired on June 30, 2020, with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. The images are composites of natural color and shortwave infrared to better distinguish the water. Note how the torrent flowing through the spillways changes how the water downstream reflects light, making it appear whiter.

The image at the top of this page shows water moving through the gates of Three Gorges Dam. Spanning a segment of the Yangtze River in central China’s Hubei Province, the dam is 2300 meters long and stands 185 meters high. The second image shows the smaller Gezhouba Dam, located about 26 kilometers (16 miles) southeast from Three Gorges. This dam also appeared to have its spillway gates open.

When these images were acquired in June, the waterways were trying to handle the first major flooding of the monsoon season. A second wave of severe flooding, referred to by local media as the “No. 2 flood,” hit the region in July. Between and during these flood events, continuous adjustments are made to the amount of reservoir outflow flowing through the gates.

According to the Three Gorges Corporation, the water level in the reservoir reached a record high flood season level of 164.18 meters on July 19. The previous high level reached during the flood season since the dam became fully operational in 2012 was 163.11 meters. The reservoir is designed to hold a maximum water level of 175 meters.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

Two dams on the Yangtze River spilling June 30, 2020 (Three Gorges and Gezhouba dams). [Click on the image to enlarge.]

Patriot militia groups mobilize during a deadly pandemic and massive protests — @HighCountryNews #COVID19 #coronavirus #BlackLivesMatter

Washington Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, speaks at the March for our Rights 3 in Olympia in June. Photo credit: Jason Redmond / The High Country News

From The High Country News [July 27, 2020] (Anna V. Smith):

“That has a real chilling effect on democratic practice.”

In the first weeks of June, as protests against police brutality spread across the country, a group of people who were neither demonstrators nor law enforcement began to appear in the streets. These members of the Patriot militia movement — an assortment of groups defined by antigovernment, pro-gun and conspiracy-driven ideologies — watched from the sidelines, kitted out in bulletproof vests and camouflage and armed with semi-automatic rifles.

By mid-June, there had been 136 instances of paramilitary, far-right and armed militia groups or individuals attending anti-police violence protests nationwide, according to Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank. In Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, militia groups and motorcycle clubs gathered in hopes of confronting antifascists who never materialized. In Oakdale, California, rumors of a Black Lives Matter protest drew members of the California State Militia but few others. In Olympia, Washington, members of the Washington State Three Percent guarded businesses, at, they said, the owners’ request, posing for a photo with a police officer. (The police department later launched an investigation into the incident.)

The protests and concurrent pandemic have proven a boon to extremist groups looking to increase their visibility. During the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, Patriot militia members — particularly those in the Three Percent — mobilized around food drives and “reopen” rallies. Then, as protests against police violence spread, Three Percenters and other Patriot militia groups positioned themselves as guardians of private property and free speech. The leadership vacuum left by state and federal authorities in recent months offered the groups an opening, allowing them to accrue clout, provide services in lieu of government action and build political influence.

Source: Political Research Associates with the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights; research support Alexander Reid Ross
Luna Anna Archey / High Country News

“We’ve certainly seen a clear pivot from militia groups active in the so-called reopen protests to, now, armed security in local communities,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, deputy director of Western States Center, a politically progressive organization that promotes inclusive democracy. “That has a real chilling effect on democratic practice. We see a throughline from militia groups mobilizing to exploit the pandemic to their military presence in small towns across the West — another opening for them to try and posture as providing a service that we’d normally look to government to provide.”

The Three Percent has been particularly visible in the Western U.S. Founded in 2008, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s administration and its perceived threat to gun rights, the movement takes its name from settler-colonial mythology: the belief that just 3% of people in the 13 British colonies took up arms to fight in the Revolutionary War (a statistic that historians dispute). Members generally describe themselves as defending individual liberty from a tyrannical government. The sprawling and decentralized movement is without a national leadership structure: Some Three Percent groups operate statewide, while others are county-based. And while some have disavowed racism, others are virulently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant. Because anyone can claim the movement, a variety of activities, from violence to paramilitary training to nonprofit food drives, have been carried out beneath its banner.

Still, several ideological tenets bind Three Percenters together. One is a refusal to obey “unjustified martial law” or a “state of emergency.” So when the novel coronavirus arrived in the United States earlier this year, some members were primed to oppose the policies enacted to curb it. As schools and businesses closed and governors issued stay-at-home orders, rumors of “medical martial law” circulated. Three Percenter Facebook pages roiled, comparing stay-at-home orders to the Holocaust, questioning the legitimacy of local and state public health decisions, predicting civil war and spreading misinformation about COVID-19.

Threats, real or perceived, provided an opportunity for a show of strength by various Patriot militia groups. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Washington State Three Percent — which rejects the antigovernment, militia and extremist labels — delivered truckloads of goods to food banks, coordinated a dozen food drives and organized reopen rallies to address the twin problems of food insecurity and economic fallout, according to Matt Marshall, the group’s founder. Meanwhile, its Facebook posts included threats to contact tracers. As a registered nonprofit, the group is required to “be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.” Marshall — a Republican currently running for the Washington House of Representatives — is on a school board; other members are on city councils and run food banks. “The purpose (of the group) is to prepare, and support the community. And, if the time ever came, defend the community,” said Marshall. “Not taking a militia-type role, but a truly grassroots support role.” Marshall is also a supporter of Washington state Rep. Matt Shea, who, last year, was found to have participated in domestic terrorism by an investigation commissioned by the Legislature.

Patriot militia groups, who generally see themselves as good community members, often use civic engagement to gain local support and new members. After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Oath Keepers mobilized to provide boats, search and rescue operations and medical care. In the Pacific Northwest, there are at least 20 instances of Three Percent and other Patriot militia groups signing up for Adopt-a-Highway, a nationwide program that promises “positive impressions when consumers know that you are doing good for the community.” In May, the Real 3%ers Idaho coordinated the distribution of 15,000 pounds of surplus potatoes donated by a farm in Reardan, Washington, according to The Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press. Armed members of the group later showed up in Coeur d’Alene during a protest against police violence.

Washington State Three Percenters also intertwined their pandemic efforts with a political push. In May, the group posted on Facebook asking for volunteers to help with the next food drive, while also collecting signatures for a ballot initiative to repeal Washington’s comprehensive sex education law. (In June, the petition, which was backed by anti-LGBTQ+ groups, gathered enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.) Tying ideological aims to the distribution of essential goods is problematic, Herzfeld-Copple said. “Often, part of their ideology is to replace civil infrastructure. And if they have opportunities to step in and build shadow government infrastructure, it’s not going to serve the interests of the whole community.”

THAT CONCERN IS REFLECTED in Patriot militia groups’ presence at protests as an extrajudicial authority, which they point to as another example of fulfilling a civic duty. At a Black Lives Matter protest in Sandpoint, Idaho, organizers denounced the armed presence of militia members as nothing but intimidation, saying they neither needed nor wanted their protection, according to The Sandpoint Reader.

The mayor of Sandpoint echoed this in a statement: “Civilians have legal authority to use firearms for self-protection, not vigilante justice. It is the job and responsibility of the police to enforce the laws and protect the city from looting or violence.”

In the past, militia groups have directed their ire and conspiracy theories primarily at the federal government, said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism, who has been studying the groups since the 1990s. Now, for the first time, they have someone in office to stand behind. President Donald Trump has broad support within the militia movement, so groups have turned to state-level issues, focusing especially on laws limiting access to guns. In 2018, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers campaigned for an ordinance that would allow county sheriffs to disregard gun laws they deemed unconstitutional. (It passed in eight Oregon counties.) This year, Three Percenters in Oregon, Idaho and Washington are running for county commissioner, state representative and sheriff.

Members of the Patriot militia movement watched the March for our Rights 3 in Olympia, Washington, in June.
Jason Redmond / High Country News

Researchers say Patriot militia group leaders are political extremists, who operate as such. “They contribute to a conflictual understanding of politics,” said Sam Jackson, who researches antigovernment extremism at the University at Albany and is the author of an upcoming book on the Oath Keepers, “where there are enemies across the political divide, and we’re in a battle against those enemies, and we need to be prepared to use whatever means necessary against those enemies.”

Watchdogs expect Patriot militia groups to mobilize around this year’s election. It has happened before: In 2016, after candidate Donald Trump falsely claimed voter fraud, Oath Keepers showed up at polling stations. In Portland, Oregon, in 2017, the local Republican Party voted to hire Three Percenters and Oath Keepers to provide event security. This year, amid ongoing waves of the pandemic and with some states halting their reopening, “there is going to be so much distraction and calls for voter suppression by the White House between now and November,” Herzfeld-Copple said. “There are going to be lots of openings for antidemocratic groups to seize.”

Anna V. Smith is an assistant editor for High Country News. Email her at annasmith@hcn.org.

Will monsoons be enough to save farmers in Southwest Colorado? — The Durango Herald #Monsoon2020

Storm over the La Garita Hills. Photo via advrider.com

From The Durango Herald (Emily Hayes):

Megan Holcomb, senior climate specialist for the Colorado Conservation Board, said “everyone has been wringing their hands and waiting” for the monsoon to come. It is always hard to predict when the rains will start, but last fall they were absent, she said.

La Plata County and Montezuma County have not seen a lot of moisture either, said Cortez agriculture expert Bob Bragg. The Mancos area is running out of water, as well as La Plata County, he said. Lemon Reservoir never reached 100% capacity in the spring, with a high point of 81% capacity in early June…

The Dolores Water Conservancy District allocates a certain amount of water per year to producers in the county, who grow mostly alfalfa – a high-quality hay, hard red spring wheat and pinto beans. Last year, the water budget for farmers was 22 inches. But the conservancy cut it back to 19 or 20 inches this year because of the dry spring.

Mark Williams, a hay farmer along the Pine River, said the last rainstorm brought close to an inch of water, which helps because it puts nitrogen in the soil and increases how long farmers can run irrigation. And grass in the pastures jumped an inch, Williams said…

During dry years like this, it can be more difficult to parse out water rights between different users upstream and downstream because there is less of it, Rein said.

And even though reservoirs were 100% full across the state in the spring, “we rely on these reservoirs through the summer months,” Holcomb said.

Up to 12″ of rain falls in #Colorado county overnight — OutThereColorado.com #Monsoon2020

From OutThereColorado.com (Breanna Sneeringer):

Several rounds of overnight thunderstorms soaked parts of northeastern Colorado with up to a foot of heavy rains, prompting new flash flood warnings throughout the weekend.

Six to 12 inches of rain fell over portions of Yuma County on Thursday evening extending over the border into several counties in Kansas, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Yuma Colorado circa 1925

Ogallala Aquifer’s shallowness has meant growers have to adjust — High Plains Ag Journal

The Ogallala aquifer, also referred to as the High Plains aquifer. Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminstration

From The High Plains Ag Journal (Bob Kjelland):

The vast Ogallala Aquifer has been on the minds of growers in many states but it certainly has been on the minds of growers in Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska who share the crucial resource with differing regulations. We all share a common bond to try to preserve it for future generations.

Timothy Pautler became involved with water conservation district matters with the settlement of the Arkansas River Compact dispute between Colorado and Kansas. The state of Colorado was in litigation with Kansas and Nebraska on the Republican River Compact. The state decided to approach the defense of this conflict differently than the Arkansas River Compact, so through legislation, Colorado created an entity to assist the state in achieving compact compliance and in August 2004 the Republican River Water Conservation District was formed.

The board members represented, at the time, seven counties, seven Ground Water Management Districts and one member from the Colorado Ground Water Commission. Pautler was appointed by the Kit Carson County Commission.

“My understanding of what was happening to the Ogallala Aquifer in my area of the basin was the driving force behind my desire to participate in the decision to assist the state,” he said. “The economy that was created by the state, in its determination to allow the mining of the Aquifer, and the resulting decline, was a concern.”

In 2019, the boundary for the RRWCD was expanded, to include all the irrigated acres that are actually contributing to the compact issue. This change affected folks in the southeast part of Kit Carson County and the northern part of Cheyenne County and in the East Cheyenne Ground Water Management District. This change created two more board member positions, representing those two new entities. This expansion added approximately 45,000 new irrigated acres to the RRWCD fee assessment.

The RRWCD assists the state in reaching compact compliance on the Republican River Compact that was signed in 1942. In the beginning, the state told growers that if they retired 30,000 acres from irrigation the state would be in compliance. To fund the required budget that was going to be needed, the RRWCD assessed all irrigated acres a fee of $5.50 per irrigated acre. At that point in time, the basin did not have meters on any of the wells, so a per acre charge was really the only option and was easy to do, using county assessors’ records. The RRWCD worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency, to create programs that would financially compensate producers for voluntarily retiring some of their irrigated lands.

Over time the district has been actively involved with purchasing surface water rights on the Arikaree and the North and South Forks of the Republican. It was involved with the Pioneer and Laird ditch rights. When they were purchased by the Yuma County Water Authority, the RRWCD leased those rights from the YCWA for $5 million for 20 years. This transaction leaves water in the North Fork of the Republican, and is accounted for at the gauging station located just east of Wray, Colorado

“We are continually working with surface water folks, in order to acquire their rights, this practice is ongoing,” he said. “Because of the way surface water irrigation is accounted for under the compact the retirement of these water rights is very helpful in achieving compliance.

He noted the 15-member board showed tremendous leadership in helping stakeholders understand what was at stake.

“As we moved through time, the collective efforts started to bring results for the basin. We were well on our way to retiring the 30,000 acres of irrigated land. The programs were working rather smoothly, and the process was a success,” Paulter said. “But then our general manager, Stan Murphy, and our engineer, Jim Slattery, started to look at the numbers and realized that the retirement of acres alone, was not going to get us where we needed to be, in order to be in compliance.”

The acreage retirements were coming so far from the three streams—the North Fork, the Arikaree, and the South Fork—to achieve the goal. The retirements were still a good concept and leaving water in the hole is always a positive, the producer and board member said. But the lagged depletion effect that existed in the aquifer was not allowing the impact of acreage retirement to result in immediate stream flow. The lagged depletion, describes the impacts that distant well pumping has on stream flow. As a result of the lag effect, the impact of present day pumping will have negative effects for 30 to 50 years, according to the engineers, even though a well has been retired. The effects that those distant retired wells created, prior to retirement, continued to haunt the long-term goals of the RRWCD.

In 2002, the Republican River settlement had been signed. The final settlement stipulation agreed that Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado would not fight about water use that was in the past, but only work toward achieving future compliance with the compact that allocates how much water each state is entitled to use, he said. As part of the stipulation between the states, the accounting for all three states started at zero, it also allowed that any one of the states could use a pipeline to get additional water to the river in order to get into compliance.

So that became the next challenge for the board. Where do we get enough water to make a difference?

“We started looking at an exhausting list of possibilities, including The Dakota formation below the Ogallala, areas of the basin that were under appropriated, and imports from the South Platte at the time we left no stone unturned. Every idea had issues that came along with it,” Pautler said.

The Dakota was going to be too salty and too costly to bring to the surface and not enough water. The unappropriated area was going to require too many easements and a pipeline of extreme length. The South Platte was too expensive.

“In the end we were able to make a deal with one family. Their water rights were located northeast of Wray. This area of the basin has absolutely the greatest amount of saturated thickness.”

It was far enough away from the North Fork to minimize effect on stream flow, but yet close enough that the pipeline length was a doable deal, approximately 13 miles, he said. About 13,500 acre feet of historical consumptive use, from 62 permits, were acquired.

The Colorado Ground Water Commission then approved the RRWCD application, allowing it to consolidate the 62 existing wells into 15 wells to be used for compact compliance, without any injury to surrounding water rights. Along with the water purchase, the district negotiated easements from the landowners for the pipeline route. The cost of the water and easements was $50 million. The engineers designed a pipeline system that cost $20 million.

Informational meetings were key because a $70 million project was not an easy sell, especially when budgets were compiled. The $5.50 per acre assessment needed to go to $14.50. This created a budget of $7 million. A loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for the $60 million, at an interest rate of 2% was secured and the 20-year note will be paid off in 2028. “The public acceptance of the concept, came with a lot of questions,” Pautler said. “As their understanding of the entire compact issue increased, so did their support.”

Not so fast

Even with the pipeline it did not mean going back to old practices, Paulter said. Wells in every county and management district that once pumped 800 to 1,000 gallons per minute had diminished to 200 to 500 gpm.

When the pipeline was completed and functioning, the board started to hear comments like, “now we can pump it till it is dry.”

“The pipeline did give us all a false sense of security that nothing else has to change; the perception was the economies of the communities can now continue as always; the threat of shut downs is taken care of,” he said. “But in reality, our small communities are changing so slow we don’t even see it happening, especially in areas of the basin that never did have sufficient saturate thickness, to expect life to go on as usual, or forever.”

A safe statement would be, “most wells in the basin, do not have the yield they originally had.” Conservation has always been an underlying effort, but the urgency to get into compact compliance was paramount and trumped conservation.

The fee assessment has been a problem for the basin, in terms of conservation. For $14.50 per acre, a producer can pump all he wants, up to his permitted amount. Paulter said a per acre foot charge would have been better formula to achieve conservation. The meters did not come into existence until about 2010. Meters alone will not create conservation, although the irrigators, today, do pay more attention to the amount pumped. They are required to stay within their annual appropriation.

What has worked

Conservation has been attained in the areas where irrigated acres were retired. That unused volume assures more water for domestic and livestock use. That is vital for those areas long term. Travel west of the RRWCD boundary and there are large ranches with very limited water resources. Pipelines have been installed with USDA cost share dollars to move the water for miles. And now, even those pipelines are in jeopardy of not having enough water for livestock numbers to adequately make an economic enterprise work.

When the pipeline was completed, the RRWCD’s Conservation Committee started looking at ways to encourage meaningful conservation. They formed a subcommittee made up of members from all the Ground Water Management Districts.

Different soils

The basin is very different north to south and east to west. Saturated thicknesses vary from having very little left to those areas that still have a 40-year supply left. Soil types very vastly as well.

“We have good heavy soils that will support dry land farming, to sugar sand that without water becomes rangeland. It is a classic case of the ‘haves and the have nots,’ depending on where you are located,” Pautler said. “We are all human, and no one wants to limit their neighbor’s ability to have an economic gain. Admittedly, a tough issue to struggle with.”

Another problem is the fact that the RRWCD has no statutory authority to impose water use restrictions on the basin. That is under the authority of the GWMD. By design, when the RRWCD was given statutory authority to help the state get into compact compliance, GWMDs were very outspoken and insisted that the RRWCD should not be allowed to take over the authority that the management districts already had. These are some of the challenges in trying to achieve meaningful and measureable conservation.

“I would hope that we in the Republican basin can come up with a fair and equitable solution that fits the needs of all water users in the basin. The list of water users has to include discussion with the municipalities, domestic users, commercial interests, and livestock folks. Finding agreement affects everyone, not just the ag irrigators,” he said. “We all have economic interests that are effected by the discussions moving forward. The emotional part of the discussion, kind of stems from the fact that, if we do nothing, ever so slowly, the water passes by our neighbors and we don’t care until it is our turn. A restriction that imposes conservation on all water users happens immediately. The economic impact is immediate.”

This was edited by Dave Bergmeier who can be reached at 620-227-1822 or dbergmeier@hpj.com.

Kansas River Basin including the Republican River watershed. Map credit: By Kmusser – Self-made, based on USGS data., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4390886

How Did #Colorado’s #Drought Get So Bad So Quick? — 5280 Magazine #flashdrought

US Drought Monitor 8 week change map ending July 21, 2020.

From 5280.com (Andy Stein):

It’s called flash drought, and the Eastern Plains of Colorado is discovering just how quickly it comes on.

late May to mid July of 2019) when no drought has been desiccating the earth here. Other than that, at least one part of the state has been in a perpetual state of crisp.

Flash drought, though—that’s special. As you might have surmised, it’s the rapid onset of drought conditions, a dastardly combination of not only a lack of rainfall, but also hot temperatures, winds, and ground water evaporation. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 84 percent of Colorado residents are living in drought conditions right now, and the situation is worsening from south to north. But a few areas across the state have seen their drought exacerbate faster.

Take, for example, the Eastern Plains. The mass of land east of I-25 has no significant water source, is downwind of the Rocky Mountains, relies on summer and winter weather patterns for moisture, and is typically warmer and prone to strong winds. The combinations of these elements usually work out well enough to keep the area satiated. But when they are off balance…well, you can get flash drought.

There is no definitive measurement of a flash drought, but it has become understood that if you see drought conditions worsen by a category or two within a two-month period, that’s a flash drought. (There are five categories of drought, from D-0, or abnormally dry, to D-4, exceptional drought.) During the past three months, most areas in Colorado have seen droughts worsen by one to two categories. But places on the Eastern Plains have experienced a three- or four-category increase.

Abnormal wind patterns have been particularly unkind to the eastern part of Colorado. Most ground moisture resides within the first six-and-a-half feet of earth, and that shallow layer is affected by the sun, the wind, and other evaporation processes. Between May and June, winds across the Eastern Colorado blew 6-10 mph faster than usual—which is a large anomaly—and caused the rapid loss of groundwater. On top of that, it’s been pretty warm this year. This blend of no rain, high heat, and stronger wind can amplify drying, increasing the pace of drought by about twice the normal rate (i.e., just having a lack of rain).

Essentially, life on the Eastern Plains has been like living underneath a blow dryer: When you blow dry hair, it dries faster than it would if you didn’t. The combination of warm air and wind is creating the same effect.

Leprino Foods Greeley, Colo., plant recognized for its focus on sustainability — The Fence Post

Leprino Foods headquarters in North Denver.

From The Fence Post (Amy G. Hadechek):

Leprino Foods Company in Greeley, Colo., has earned a 2020 sustainability award for its outstanding dairy processing and manufacturing, and has been recognized (as one of six dairy businesses across the U.S.) as a “technologically advanced and environmentally friendly dairy manufacturing facility improving the well-being of people, animals and the planet.”

Leprino, headquartered in Denver, is a global leader in the production of premium-quality cheese and dairy ingredients. The awards program, managed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, was established under the leadership of dairy farmers, through their checkoff, and dairy companies.

Leprino’s employees are credited with earning this impressive award.

“We were very surprised and honored to have our employees’ hard work recognized by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Every employee has contributed to our success in both Greeley and across our operations — starting at the top. Our leadership is committed to global responsibility and reinforcing the importance of sustainability in how we operate, every day,” said Adam Wylie, associate director of environment and global responsibility at Leprino Foods. “We have worked diligently over the past several years, but our work isn’t done. We will continue to focus on sustainability as part of the core values and priorities of our company.”

The Greeley plant is built on an abandoned sugar-processing factory site, and is Leprino Foods’ newest facility. The company purchased the Greeley property in 2008, then began construction in 2010.

The plant has approximately 550 employees and produces mozzarella cheese, nonfat dry milk, and several nutrition ingredients including whey protein isolate, lactose, native whey and micellar casein.

“Leprino Foods is the largest producer of mozzarella cheese in the world and a leading manufacturer of lactose, whey protein and sweet whey,” said Leprino Foods Company President Mike Durkin. “Our commitment to sustainable operations allowed us to improve environmental performance while simultaneously reducing costs, enhancing worker safety, and benefiting the community.”

[…]

Leprino’s dairy plant was recognized for relying on a combined heat and power system generating electricity from two natural gas turbines which handle 75 percent of the plant’s power needs. The plant uses technology that pulls water from milk during the cheesemaking process to clean the facility, which reduces the need for fresh water. Leprino also uses recycled water that goes through treatment, resulting in feedstock for the plant’s anaerobic digester, which in turn creates renewable biogas. Leprino management said these projects add up to $4.5 million in estimated annual energy cost savings and provided a quick return on investment…

The U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards, made possible through sponsors, show appreciation to farmers, companies and organizations for their commitment to improving communities, the environment and their businesses. For this year’s awards, the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy recognized DeLaval, Zoetis, Phibro Animal Health, Syngenta and USDA for their support.

These awards are held annually. The next call for entries will go out this fall. A farmer or company is nominated by someone, to become eligible. More than 70 U.S. dairy farms, businesses and collaborative partnerships have been honored since 2011.

“The program shines a light on the many ways our industry is leading the way to a more sustainable future,” said Dairy Management Inc. Executive Vice President of Global Environmental Strategy Krysta Harden, in a statement.

From using an anaerobic digester to make cow bedding and crop fertilizer out of cow manure to using no-till and strip cropping in the fields, Twin Birch Dairy of Skaneateles, N.Y., partnered with an environmental group to safeguard good water quality in New York’s Finger Lakes, and also earned a 2020 Sustainability Award.

Then, through genetics and breeding cows that live longer and are less susceptible to disease and illness, Rosy-Lane Holsteins of Watertown, Wis., earned a 2020 award for producing 70 more semi-tankers of milk a year; using the same inputs as other dairy farms.

An award also went to Oregon’s largest dairy farm; Three Mile Canyon Farms of Boardman, for its closed-loop system of mint harvest byproducts included in the cows’ feed, manure — used as fertilizer, and its methane digester that produces renewable natural gas.

When runoff and pollution from six states including Pennsylvania severely affected the Chesapeake Bay’s habitat, Turkey Hill Dairy of Pennsylvania partnered with local farms, the private and public sectors. That resulted in dairy farmers developing modern housing for cows, manure storage, tree planting, cover crops and nutrient management and improving the farms’ soil, the Chesapeake Bay, and earned a 2020 award.

The sixth dairy award went to Sustainable Conservation, Netafim, De Jager & McRee Dairies, Western United Dairies of California, who together developed a subsurface drip irrigation system so crops can benefit from manure’s nutrients, which are applied closer to the the plants rootzone for improved growth.

The awards are judged by an independent panel of dairy and conservation experts. Among the criteria to apply is participation and good standing in the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) animal care program and use of the FARM Environmental Stewardship online tool for determining their GHG and energy footprint…

Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at rotatingstorm2004@yahoo.com.

Gothic permanently protected under conservation easement: Research and education in perpetuity

Gothic mountain shrouded in clouds behind several cabins in the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado, USA. By Charlie DeTar – Own workby uploader, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4795644

From The Crested Butte News (Katherine Nettles):

We all may be missing visits to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory (RMBL) in Gothic this summer, but a conservation easement finalized last week ensures that the 92-year-old research site will remain in perpetuity beyond just one summer season.

The RMBL site itself has been relatively quiet this summer with its usual camps, tours, cafeteria, visitor center/general store and coffee house closed to the public to protect researchers and staff from the risks of coronavirus.

But a smaller number of field scientists are conducting their own business as usual there and RMBL announced on Thursday, July 16, that its 270-acre “living laboratory” has been permanently protected under a conservation easement with Colorado Open Lands for the entire town of Gothic.

The contract will create requirements for RMBL to uphold its mission for research and science, and will in turn protect the area from development beyond those purposes…

The conservation easement prevents subdivision of and development on the land and preserves the site for education and recreation into perpetuity…

This means, as RMBL stated in a press release, “that the hundreds of scientists and students that RMBL normally hosts each year have guaranteed access to conduct field research in a large, intact outdoor environment and that tens of thousands of visitors will have unique opportunities to explore environmental science in a beautiful and informal setting.”

[…]

As RMBL executive director Dr. Ian Billick phrased it, “The community can know that the Gothic Townsite is dedicated to research and education in perpetuity.”

All of the buildings must have a primary purpose of research and education. There are several buildings outside the building envelope, which Billick explains are in an avalanche zone and will eventually be replaced by structures inside the building envelope…

In 1997, Gunnison County voters approved a 1 percent sales tax to fund the protection of open space, agriculture, wildlife habitat, wetlands and public parks and trails. With these funds, the Gunnison Valley Land Protection Fund provided a transaction costs grant to support this project. The cost was $65,000, according to Billick.

Tony Caligiuri, president of Colorado Open Lands added, “This is a unique opportunity for a land trust to conserve an entire town, and knowing that the space will be used in perpetuity to advance critical research makes it even more meaningful.”

Extreme #drought shifts in eastern #Colorado — The Kiowa County Press

From The Kiowa County Press (Chris Sorensen):

Thanks to recent rain, portions of southeast Colorado saw improvement in drought conditions while the northeast continued to experience a worsening situation according to the latest report from the National Drought Mitigation Center.

In far northwest Colorado, abnormally dry conditions expanded to cover all of Moffat County. A pocket of severe drought appeared over portions of Jefferson, Douglas, Arapahoe and Denver counties. Severe drought also expanded northward into Sedgwick County.

Moderate drought also expanded further in Logan, Morgan, Washington, Adams, Denver and Arapahoe counties.

Colorado Drought Monitor July 21, 2020.

Extreme drought – the second worst category – developed in eastern Washington and western Yuma counties. Heavy rain in the area Friday, which included flash flood warnings, may produce improvements in the next report.

In southeast Colorado, recent rains led to extreme drought shifting to severe conditions for all of Pueblo and Crowley counties. Extreme conditions also withdrew from a small portion of eastern Huerfano County, along with north central Las Animas County, most of Otero County, and portions of Lincoln, Elbert, Kiowa and Bent counties…

Overall, only three percent of Colorado is free from drought, down from five percent during the previous week. Abnormally dry conditions dropped two percent to 23, while moderate drought increased to 14 percent from 12. Severe drought increased to 29 percent from 21. Extreme drought fell five percent to 32. Seventy-five percent of Colorado is in moderate drought or worse. Numbers do not equal 100 percent due to rounding.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 21, 2020.

Is a big win for conservation a blow to climate action? — @HighCountryNews

From The High Country News (Carl Segerstrom) [July 22, 2020]:

As extinction and climate crises loom, the Great American Outdoors Act and recreation industry continue to rely on oil money.

On July 22, Congress passed the biggest public-lands spending bill in half a century. The bipartisan bill, called the Great American Outdoors Act, puts nearly $10 billion toward repairing public-lands infrastructure, such as outdated buildings and dysfunctional water systems in national parks. It also guarantees that Congress will spend the $900 million it collects each year through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF. The legislation boosts access to nature, funds city parks and will pay for a significant chunk of the massive maintenance backlog on public lands in the U.S.

But it all comes at a cost to the climate. To pay the bill’s hefty price tag, Congress is tapping revenue from the fossil fuel industry. Though the new law has been cheered by conservation groups, it fails to address either the modern crisis of climate change or the impacts of the West’s growing recreation and tourism economy on wildlife. In this way, the Outdoors Act exposes the gaps between conservation and climate activism, while providing a grim reminder of the complicated entanglements of energy, economics, climate — and now, a pandemic.

The biggest windfall from the Great American Outdoors Act — up to $6.5 billion over five years — will go to the National Park Service. National parks are the public lands’ top tourist attraction, receiving more than 327 million visits in 2019 alone, but dwindling annual funding has left the agency with about $12 billion in overdue projects. These projects include everything from a $100 million pipeline to bring water to visitors and communities on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to routine campground and trail maintenance.

The money will also benefit gateway communities in the West. A National Park Service analysis projects that the new legislation will create an additional 100,000 jobs over the next five years, on top of the 340,500 jobs the parks already support in nearby towns. For many places reeling from the pandemic’s economic toll on tourism, such as Whitefish, Montana, a gateway community to Glacier National Park, the bill will be a shot in the arm. Glacier has more than $100 million in overdue projects, and the infusion of money will bring new jobs after a dismal tourist season.

The impacts also stretch beyond immediate job gains because of the way access to recreation drives economic growth in the rural West. Communities that have more protected lands nearby generally grow faster and have higher income levels, said Mark Haggerty, who researches rural economies for Headwaters Economics, a nonprofit think tank in Montana. That growth is driven by both tourism and new arrivals looking to live closer to the outdoors. “Residents and businesses want to be close to public lands,” Haggerty said. “Recreational amenities can attract high-wage jobs.”

Federal public lands aren’t the only places that will benefit from the bill. Since 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has paid for a variety of outdoor projects around the country with taxes and royalty payments from oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The Outdoors Act obliges the LCWF to spend the entire $900 million it collects each year, something that’s happened only twice in the past 50-plus years.

With full LWCF funding, more money will be flowing from federal coffers to local projects. In urban areas, like the South Park neighborhood in Seattle, the fund recently paid for new playground equipment and a spray zone at a local park. Out in the country, the program typically finances projects to protect habitat and improve public access, as at Tenderfoot Creek in Montana, where the fund paid for more than 8,000 acres to be transferred from private to public ownership by 2015.

BUT RISING RECREATION COMES AT A COST for critters. Recent studies have shown that it poses a serious threat to the very wildlife that draws people to backcountry trails. In Vail, Colorado, a town built around access to nature and outdoor sports, local elk herds have been in precipitous decline, a phenomenon biologists attribute to more people tromping through the woods. In Idaho, snowmobilers and federal land managers are battling over whether to reroute the machines to save wolverines. And a recent review by the California Department of Fish and Game found that vulnerable species can be pushed to extinction by expanding human activity on public lands.

Supporters of the Outdoors Act see securing LWCF funding as vital for conservation. “It’s the best and virtually only tool for protecting land for wildlife,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, the leader of the National Wildlife Federation’s public-lands program. But that doesn’t mean that recreation’s impacts are being ignored, Stone-Manning said. “We need to protect open spaces, then we need to get smart about managing the impact of recreation on wildlife.”

Oil burns during a controlled oil fire in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Venice, Louisiana, following the April 20, 2010, explosion on Deepwater Horizon. The Great American Outdoors Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund depend on the oil and gas industry. This leaves both funds vulnerable should the U.S. transition away from fossil fuels or if production drops for other reasons, like the current pandemic. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Justin E. Stumberg/Released)

Even as many rural Western communities grapple with an economic future tied to recreation, the Outdoors Act underlines the enduring legacy of American dependence on fossil fuels. The $9.5 billion set aside for the public-lands maintenance backlog will come from revenue paid by private companies that produce energy — from both fossil and renewable sources — on federal lands and waters. At first glance, this appears to be a shift away from the LWCF’s funding model, which depends solely on offshore oil and gas income. But for now at least, most of the money will still come from fossil fuel production: In 2019, for example, federal offshore wind energy generated just over $410 million in revenue, a drop in the bucket compared to the nearly $9 billion from fossil fuels on federal land and waters.

Reliance on oil production to pay for parks ignores the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to preserve a livable climate. “You have to give kudos to the Republicans for shifting the conversation so far to the right that the premise has been agreed to that we should fund conservation with the destruction of the earth,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Because they depend on the oil and gas industry, the LWCF and park maintenance are vulnerable should the U.S. transition away from fossil fuels, or if production drops for another reason, like the current pandemic. (Compared to the same time period in 2019, onshore oil and gas royalty receipts dropped 53% and offshore royalties plummeted by 84% in April 2020.) The arrangement also provides rhetorical cover for energy executives. “These programs underscore the need to continue safe development of domestic offshore energy reserves,” said American Petroleum Institute Vice President Lem Smith in a press release cheering the Senate passage of the bill. “Policies that end or limit production in federal waters would put these essential conservation funds in doubt.”

Even as Congress relies on the fossil fuel industry to pay for conservation projects, legislative frameworks that recognize the climate and extinction crises are intertwined are emerging. Recently proposed initiatives like the “roadmap for climate action” put forward by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and the 30 by 30 resolution, a Senate push to protect 30% of U.S. land and oceans by 2030, tie climate action to land and wildlife conservation. And proposals for different funding models for conservation, including a “backpack tax” on outdoor apparel and equipment that would shift some conservation costs to recreationists, have been proposed for decades.

All of these plans are a far cry from the bill currently being celebrated as a major win for conservation and public lands. “We need to be sure we’re not pretending our work is done; this money is not a panacea for reaching conservation goals,” said Kate Kelly, the director of public lands for the Center for American Progress and an Obama-era Interior Department senior adviser, who supports the bill. “The funding model needs to be re-examined and reimagined.” Moving forward, addressing climate change and biodiversity loss requires acknowledging that the crises are inextricable. “The climate and conservation communities haven’t always coordinated, and that needs to change,” Kelly said. “They’re two sides of the same coin.”

Carl Segerstrom is an assistant editor at High Country News, covering Alaska, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies from Spokane, Washington. Email him at carls@hcn.org.

#Runoff news: #SanJuanRiver at Pagosa Spring = 152 CFS, median for the day = 155 CFS #Monsoon2020

From The Pagosa Springs Sun (Chris Mannara):

River report

As of Wednesday, the San Juan River had a flow of 39.4 cfs. This is well below the average for July 22 of 233 cfs.

The lowest reported flow total for July 22 came in 2002 when the San Juan River had a flow of 16.8 cfs, while the highest reported flow came in 1941 when the San Juan River had a reported flow of 1,160 cfs.

E. coli fouls 100 Colorado waterways. But managers aren’t sure how big the threat is to people playing in streams — The #Colorado Sun

Boulder Creek. Photo credit: Susan from Alameda, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2536150

From The Colorado Sun (Sharon Udasin):

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has registered more than 100 waterbody segments on its impaired waters list due to alarmingly high E. coli levels

…public health officials are taking this fecal bacterium quite seriously, as summer temperatures make Colorado’s waterways ideal breeding grounds for Escherichia coli. Policymakers and scientists across the state are working to decipher which types of microbes are lurking in the water, and whether they actually pose a significant threat to human health…

100 waterways considered “impaired” by E. coli

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has registered more than 100 waterbody segments on its impaired waters list due to alarmingly high E. coli levels. While only certain strains of E. coli cause illness in humans, officials do not yet have the capacity to pinpoint in any real-time fashion where and when these strains congregate.

Among the newest segments on the list is the stretch of Boulder Creek between the mouth of Boulder Canyon and 13th Street…

Prior to the latest update in January, the CDPHE had considered only the portion from below 13th Street to its confluence with South Boulder Creek to be impaired…

The city of Boulder isn’t sure where the contamination is coming from, but a team led by Candice Owen, the stormwater quality supervisor, is trying to figure it out. She and her team will be taking more frequent dry weather discharge samples toward the end of the recreation season, when E. coli concentrations are typically highest, she said. The city also recently began posting precautionary signs along the creek, in English and Spanish, indicating the periodic presence of bacteria…

The CDPHE’s Monitoring and Evaluation list, or M&E list, includes waterways in which two, three, or four water samples have exceeded the EPA’s recreational-waters standard of 126 colony-forming units (cfu) per 100 milliliters. For more serious violations, in which there is “overwhelming evidence” of contamination, waterways end up on the state’s list of impaired waters, officially known as 303(d). The Water Quality Control Division defines overwhelming evidence as exceeding water quality standards by more than 50%.

While EPA standards consider recreational waters to be impaired if E. coli levels exceed 126 cfu per 100 mL – as opposed to 235 cfu per 100 mL necessary for swim beach closures – the CDPHE warns that risk of becoming ill still exists in these waters.

CDPHE recommends that people take precautions if they choose to swim in impaired waterways, mainly by avoiding swallowing water and washing their hands upon exiting. To minimize further contamination of the waterways, the department advises showering before entering, taking children on frequent bathroom breaks and staying out of the water when ill with gastrointestinal symptoms…

Confluence Park Denver

Boulder Creek is far from alone in its E. coli problems – with quite a formidable competitor at Confluence Park in Denver, where the South Platte River and Cherry Creek come together.

When storm drains undergo flushing or sediment in streams is stirred up, so, too, are the E. coli lurking in these spaces, explained Jon Novick, environmental administrator at the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment. Like Owen, Novick said pinpointing the bacteria’s exact sources is difficult, but he noted that raccoons congregate near the park and homeless individuals also camp along the river…

…Denver has launched a number of initiatives aimed at tackling the problem – particularly within the stormwater outfalls where “urban drool,” like irrigation return flows and other untreated water tends to accumulate, Novick said. For example, he said, the city has installed UV filtration systems that are quite effective in eliminating E. coli from sewage during dry weather…

Confluence Park samples collected on July 14 indicated that E. coli levels were above recreational standards at both the Cherry Creek and South Platte River testing sites, which Novick attributed to that day’s storm. The Cherry Creek spot is typically the greater offender of the two, due to its shallow water level, sandy bottom and shaded environment, he said…

Nonetheless, Novick acknowledged that officials don’t really know whether exposure to E. coli in impaired waters actually leads to illness. Public health agencies do not typically survey bathers to find out if swimming in the creek has made them sick, he said.

R.I.P. Peter Green: “I could tell you about my life. And keep you amused I’m sure”

Peter Green Bliston England, 2009. By Tony Hisgett – https://www.flickr.com/photos/hisgett/4193246701/in/faves-24788065@N02/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10046822

From Rolling Stone (Daniel Kreps):

Peter Green, guitarist and co-founding member of Fleetwood Mac, has died at the age of 73.

Green’s family confirmed his death in a statement to the BBC, “It is with great sadness that the family of Peter Green announce his death this weekend, peacefully in his sleep. A further statement will be provided in the coming days.”

Green was one of eight Fleetwood Mac members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998; the blues guitarist also placed number 58 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list.
The London-born blues guitarist first came to prominence beginning in 1965 when he was handpicked as Eric Clapton’s replacement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. “He might not be better [than Clapton] now. But you wait… he’s going to be the best,” Mayall told his producer at the time.

Two years later, Green and fellow Bluesbreaker and drummer Mick Fleetwood formed their own band, later to be known simply as Fleetwood Mac; the pair would later recruit another veteran of the Bluesbreakers, bassist John McVie.

With Green at the helm, this early blues rock incarnation of Fleetwood Mac released three albums, beginning with their 1968 self-titled debut. The instrumental “Albatross,” a non-LP, Green-penned single, would reach Number One on the British singles chart soon after, with a follow-up single “Man of the World” peaking at Number Two. Green also wrote the band’s 1968 single “Black Magic Woman,” which later became a hit for Santana.

Following 1968’s Mr. Wonderful, Green’s Fleetwood Mac released their most revered album, 1969’s Then Play On.

40 Of #Colorado’s 64 Counties Are In Severe To Extreme #Drought — Colorado Public Radio

Colorado Drought Monitor July 21, 2020.

From Colorado Public Radio (Carol McKinley):

As the state’s second extreme drought in three years grips Southeastern Colorado, some farmers are struggling to pay their bills. Parched grazing land means ranchers must buy grain to feed their cattle. With that added expense, many have been forced to sell off their animals at low prices.

Bruce Fickenschure, who oversees the southeast part of Colorado for the Colorado State University Extension, said coronavirus provided a one-two punch for those who depended on outside income.

As side jobs in small towns dried up so did that extra income…

Colorado’s latest drought started May 5. According to Colorado Water Conservancy Board Director Becky Mitchell, there’s a heightened level of concern since “drought affects agriculture, outdoor recreation and tourism.”

[…]

Nearly the entire state, 95 percent, is in some level of drought and close to half of all Coloradans live in the affected areas. Forty of Colorado’s sixty-four counties are in severe to extreme drought.

Interview: “If we carry on with business as usual, we’re going to destroy ourselves” — Jane Goodall #ActOnClimate

Dame Jane Goodall in Tanzania. By Muhammad Mahdi Karim – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72964222

From CBSNews.com (Jeff Beradelli). Here’s an excerpt:

CBS News recently spoke to Goodall over a video conference call and asked her questions about the state of our planet. Her soft-spoken grace somehow helped cushion what was otherwise extremely sobering news: “I just know that if we carry on with business as usual, we’re going to destroy ourselves. It would be the end of us, as well as life on Earth as we know it,” warned Goodall…

Dr. Jane Goodall: Well, the thing is, we brought this on ourselves because the scientists that have been studying these so-called zoonotic diseases that jump from an animal to a human have been predicting something like this for so long. As we chop down at stake tropical rainforest, with its rich biodiversity, we are eating away the habitats of millions of animals, and many of them are being pushed into greater contact with humans. We’re driving deeper and deeper, making roads throughout the habitat, which again brings people and animals in contact with each other. People are hunting the animals and selling the meat, or trafficking the infants, and all of this is creating environments which are perfect for a virus or a bacteria to cross that species barrier and sometimes, like COVID-19, it becomes very contagious and we’re suffering from it.

But we know if we don’t stop destroying the environment and disrespecting animals — we’re hunting them, killing them, eating them; killing and eating chimpanzees in Central Africa led to HIV/AIDS — there will be another one. It’s inevitable…

We have to have a different kind of economy, we need a different way of thinking about what is success. Is it just about having more and more money, more and more stuff, being able to show off to your friends, and the wasteful society we live in? We waste clothes, we waste food, we waste laptops and cellphones. That pollutes the environment. So we’ve got to think differently, haven’t we?

[…]

As I think you know, I began a program for young people back in 1991 called Roots and Shoots because young people had lost hope in the future. I’ve met them all over the world. They were mostly apathetic and didn’t seem to care. Or they were angry or deeply depressed and they told me they felt like that because we compromised their future and there was nothing they could do about it. And we have compromised their future. We’ve been stealing it for years and years. And yes, we still are still stealing it today. But when they said there was nothing they could do I thought, no, that’s not right. We got this window of time. If we all get together, take action, we can start healing some of the harm, we can start slowing down climate change and we can work on educating people.

Keep the water flowing: Funding available to help ranchers pay for required measuring infrastructure — Steamboat Today #YampaRiver #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Irrigated pasture at Mantle Ranch along the Yampa River. Ranchers in the Yampa River basin are grappling with the enforcement of state regulations that require them to monitor their water use. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Steamboat Today (Derek Maiolo):

Funding is available to Routt County ranchers and farmers to install water-measuring infrastructure to better gauge how much water they are diverting…

The [Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District] has about $200,000 worth of funding to help farmers and ranchers afford the measuring devices thanks to a $100,000 match from the Yampa-White-Green Roundtable, according to Holly Kirkpatrick, communications manager for the conservancy district.

Her office will reimburse 50% of costs associated with the devices, Kirkpatrick said, up to $5,000. The district is taking application through 2021.

“We are seeing a huge uptick in interest for grant funds with people completing their projects,” Kirkpatrick said. “Folks are really interested in how they go about this process and getting projects completed before the end of year.”

For more information on the measuring devices and available funding, contact Kirkpatrick at hkirkpatrick@upperyampawater.com.

Conditions ‘pretty grim’ for endangered fish locally due to falling river flows — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

This map shows the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River near Grand Junction, home to four species of endangered fish. Water from Ruedi Reservoir flows down the Fryingpan River and into the Roaring Fork, which flows into the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs. Map credit: CWCB

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun asking for water releases from high-country reservoirs to boost water flows in the Colorado River upstream of the Gunnison River confluence and aid endangered fish, while being careful not to exhaust available water that may be needed for the species later in the year.

The agency is seeing what U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hydrologist Don Anderson on Wednesday said are “quickly deteriorating flow conditions” on what’s called the 15-Mile Reach of the river between the Gunnison confluence and where Grand Valley irrigation diversions occur upstream.

Speaking in a conference call with upstream reservoir operators, local irrigation officials and others who work to cooperatively manage Colorado River flow levels, he said flows in the stretch Wednesday were around 450 cubic feet per second. The longterm median flow at Palisade below where Grand Valley diversions occur is 1,780 cfs for July 23, according to U.S. Geological Survey streamflow data.

Anderson told call participants that according to a report from Fish and Wildlife Service colleague Dale Ryden, fish conditions in the 15-mile stretch “are getting pretty grim.”

[…]

There, when water is low the fish are more prone to predation, exposure to more sun especially in clearer-water conditions, and even impacts from recreational river use, Anderson said. The latter is on the upswing on that river stretch as people are restless due to the pandemic and looking to get outdoors.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and partners make use of water leases and contracts, coordinated releases from upstream reservoirs and other means to enhance flows in the river stretch.

Anderson has asked for releases totaling 150 cubic feet per second from three upstream reservoirs to boost flow levels in the stretch. While he indicated a desire to further increase flows, he’s balancing that against a desire to not too quickly go through what he referred to as firm sources of water to hit an ideal flow target, in case some of that water is needed later in the year…

Anderson said some endangered fish, such as young Colorado pikeminnow, are reportedly responding to the current conditions by moving to the lower Gunnison River, which currently has more favorable flows and turbid conditions that benefit them…

One bright spot is the moister weather that is arriving in Colorado and could boost river flows. Treste Huse, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said during Wednesday’s call that a more active seasonal monsoon pattern is setting up that will bring a steady increase in moisture to the region over the next several days. While the most rain is expected in southwest and south-central Colorado, she said a total of maybe 1.5 to 3 inches of rain is possible in north-central Colorado. She said the 30-day outlook now calls for an equal chance of above- or below-average precipitation…

Another development that will boost the river’s flows is the expected restoration of operations at Xcel Energy’s Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon by the end of this week. That plant has a senior 1,250-cfs water right but was damaged by river ice this spring. Flows just above the plant have fallen below that point but will be boosted once the plant exercises its right to call for more water.

Endangered fish potentially could benefit later this year from what’s called a historic users pool of water in Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County. While the pool was created for irrigators, municipal and other water users, some years surplus water from that pool can be used to boost fish flows.

he fish also stand to gain this year from the efforts of the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust. Last year it reached a five-year agreement with the Grand Valley Waters Users Association and the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, which operate the Grand Valley Power Plant hydroelectric facility near Palisade. The deal calls for the Colorado Water Trust to secure water from upstream sources to deliver to the plant at critical times of year, boosting the plant’s operational capacity when water supply is otherwise limited while also putting more water in the 15-mile river stretch.

The penstocks and main building at the Shoshone hydropower plant, which uses water diverted from the Colorado River to produce electricity. The Shoshone Outage Protocol keeps water flowing down the Colorado River when the hydro plant is inoperable. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Fountain Creek restoration projects update

From Colorado Public Radio (Dan Boyce):

In cities like Denver and Pueblo, urban waterways have become recreation resources. But in the Springs, Fountain Creek is still struggling to shake its reputation as a contaminated dumping ground…

The city is mired in a years-long ongoing lawsuit concerning pollution and creek sediment brought by a group of plaintiffs that includes the EPA and multiple downstream counties…

The trash-strewn banks of today don’t help the image either; nor does the looming silhouette of the Martin Drake power plant near at hand. But in spite of all that, [Richard] Mulledy said Fountain Creek is turning a corner in the public’s mind…

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on addressing water quality concerns and miles of creekside trails have been constructed in recent years. These are just the latest indications that the state’s second largest city is serious about catching up to the amenity-focused approach other Colorado cities have taken to their once-industrial waterways.

And surprising glimmers of hope are already swimming in the creek itself: normal, non-radioactive, two-eyed trout — and hefty ones at that.

“I’ve caught rainbow trout up to 18 inches down by Walmart and brown trout bigger than that,” said local fly fisherman Alan Peak…

On the city’s south side, Dorchester Park provides one of the more secluded camping options for those experiencing homelessness. It also holds some of Fountain Creek’s best trout habitat. Alan Peak stops by every so often to tidy up the area, filling up large black garbage bags with trash.

He said he would never eat the fish he catches from Fountain Creek; he releases them all. Outside of that, he’s not really worried about water pollution. He just washes up after his visits…

Certain stretches of the creek do still test above the state’s minimum standard for e-coli contamination at times — an unhappy distinction it shares with about 100 other Colorado waterways. But the city argues that, broadly speaking, the stream is now safe.

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.

Drought news: The weak Southwest #Monsoon…left the #FourCorners States bereft of significant rainfall but is expected to ramp up

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of drought data from the US Drought Monitor.

Click here to go to the US Drought Monitor website. Here’s an excerpt:

This Week’s Drought Summary

High pressure dominated the southern half of the contiguous U.S. (CONUS) during this U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) week. Upper-level weather systems tracked across the U.S.-Canadian border, dragging surface lows and fronts along with them. The frontal systems tapped Gulf of Mexico moisture to drop locally heavy rain across parts of the Plains to Midwest, while convective thunderstorms peppered coastal areas of the Gulf. The high-pressure ridge inhibited precipitation across much of the southern Plains to Southeast, and across most of the West. It also kept temperatures unusually hot, with daily maximums exceeding 90 degrees F across the South throughout the week and across much of the West for most of the week. The excessive heat spread into the northern Plains, Midwest, and into the Northeast as the week wore on. The persistent heat increased evapotranspiration, which dried soils and stressed crops and other vegetation. The locally heavy rains brought temporary relief from the heat and dryness, but only for those areas in the Plains and Midwest lucky enough to receive the rain…

High Plains

Areas of 2+ inches of rain were widespread across Kansas, eastern North Dakota, and parts of Nebraska, with locally over 5 inches in northeast Kansas and southeast Nebraska. But the spigot remained off across most of Wyoming and western and northern parts of Colorado. Drought contracted where the beneficial rains fell, including southeast Colorado, western Kansas to parts of Nebraska, northeast Wyoming, and parts of North Dakota. But drought and abnormal dryness expanded where it continued dry, including eastern Kansas, northeastern Colorado to adjoining parts of Nebraska, northeastern Nebraska, parts of the Dakotas, and especially in Wyoming. Moderate to severe drought expanded in, and extreme drought was added to, Wyoming…

West

Eastern Montana and parts of New Mexico received notable amounts of rain (half an inch or more), with scattered light showers over parts of Arizona, but most of the West was bone dry this week. Drought or abnormal dryness contracted in northeastern Montana and parts of eastern and southern New Mexico. But the weak Southwest Monsoon otherwise left the Four Corners States bereft of significant rainfall, so drought and abnormal dryness expanded in central, western, and southern New Mexico; across much of Arizona; and in parts of Nevada, Utah, and Oregon…

South

Two to locally over 5 inches of rain fell across parts of the Texas panhandle and northwest Oklahoma, and along parts of the Texas to Mississippi coast. But it was another dry week across much of Texas to eastern Oklahoma to northern Mississippi and Tennessee. Moderate to extreme drought contracted in the wet panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, but moderate to severe drought expanded in other parts of Texas, with pockets of extreme drought added to southwestern Texas and southwestern Oklahoma. Abnormal dryness or moderate drought expanded further east across parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee…

Looking Ahead

For July 23-27, the Southwest Monsoon is predicted to fire up, dropping locally 2 or more inches of rain across parts of the Four Corners states, and up to an inch of rain is forecast over parts of the northern Rockies. Otherwise, the West is expected to be mostly dry. A tropical system may bring up to 4 inches of rain along the western Gulf of Mexico coast and up to 2 inches over southern Florida, while frontal systems could leave one to 3 inches of rain over parts of Nebraska, the northern Plains to western Great Lakes, parts of the Midwest to Appalachians, the Mid-Atlantic coast, and parts of the Northeast. In between these systems, large swaths of the southern and central Plains to Southeast and southern Great Lakes have less than an inch of rain in the forecast. Temperatures are predicted to continue warmer than normal for most of the CONUS. The outlook for July 28-August 1 calls for wetter-than-normal conditions across the Southwest to Mid-Atlantic region and most of Alaska, and drier-than-normal conditions in the Pacific Northwest to Great Basin, northern Plains to Great Lakes, and much of the Northeast, as well as southeast Alaska. Odds favor warmer-than-normal conditions for most of the West, northern Plains to Great Lakes, eastern Gulf Coast, all along the Eastern Seaboard, and across the Aleutians in Alaska. Cooler-than-normal temperatures are likely across the southern to central Plains and across most of Alaska.

US Drought Monitor one week change map ending July 21, 2020.

July #Climate Briefing: La Niña Watch Issued — IRI #ENSO

Typical La Nina weather patterns over North America via NOAA.

Click here to go to the IRI website:

In mid-July, the sea-surface temperatures were slightly below average but in the ENSO-neutral range, and some atmospheric indicators showed neutral conditions while others leaned slightly toward La Niña. A new set of model runs predicts that cool-neutral or weak La Niña conditions are most likely from late Northern Hemisphere summer through early winter, with a 50-55% probability for weak La Niña for the August-October through October-December seasons. This outlook calls for just slightly lower chances for La Niña from late summer to early winter as the official ENSO forecast issued July 9, which used both models and human judgment, and which now carries a La Niña watch.

Weston Anderson provides the briefing summary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHyoN9clt88&feature=emb_logo

Notice of Stakeholder Meeting on Instream Flow Rules Revisions to Implement HB20-1157 — @CWCB_DNR

Coal Creek near Redstone. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

From email from the Colorado Water Conservation Board (Rob Viehl):

The CWCB staff has drafted proposed revisions to the Rules Concerning Colorado’s Instream Flow and Natural Lake Level Program (“ISF Rules”). The revisions to the ISF Rules will: (1) address the rulemaking requirements of HB20-1157; (2) update a reference to the CWCB’s website; and (3) update references to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Staff will hold an informal stakeholder meeting on Monday, August 3, 2020 from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. to discuss the draft ISF Rules revisions. Staff invites interested parties to submit written comments on the draft ISF Rules revisions by emailing them to linda.bassi@state.co.us. Please submit comments by COB on July 29, 2020. Any comments received by that date will be posted on the CWCB website prior to the August 3 meeting. Written comments may be submitted after July 29, 2020, but might not be posted on the website prior to the August 3 meeting. At the meeting, CWCB staff and attendees will discuss the draft ISF Rules revisions, comments received prior to the meeting, and comments expressed at the meeting. If you have questions, contact Linda Bassi at linda.bassi@state.co.us or (303) 866-3441, ext. 3204.

Meeting Details:
Mon, Aug 3, 2020 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM (MDT)

Please join the meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/454890797
When you log in to the meeting, please provide your full name for our records.

You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (224) 501-3412

Access Code: 454-890-797

#ColoradoRiver District will ask voters for tax increase — @AspenJournalism #COriver #aridification

A boater paddles the Roaring Fork River near Carbondale in May. The Colorado River Water Conservation District, which advocates to keep water on the Western Slope, will ask voters for a tax increase in November. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

The Colorado River Water Conservation District will ask voters this November to approve a property-tax increase that would double its budget, from about $4 million to $8 million.

After a lengthy discussion at Tuesday’s regular quarterly meeting, River District board members voted to move ahead with a ballot question asking voters to raise its property taxes from a quarter-mill to a half-mill. That works out to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. One mill is the equivalent of $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

According to numbers provided by the River District, the mill levy would increase per year to $40.28 from $18.93 for Pitkin County’s median home value, which at $1.13 million is the highest in the district.

The district in April had put off making a decision on moving forward with a ballot question until July due to concerns about asking voters for more money during the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. Officials were comfortable moving forward, however, after recent polling showed continued support for the measure.

According to the resolution approving the ballot language, the money will be used for fighting to keep water on the Western Slope; protecting adequate water supplies for Western Slope farmers and ranchers; protecting sustainable drinking-water supplies; and protecting fish, wildlife and recreation by maintaining river levels and water quality.

“This is one of the most consequential decisions the district has made in some time,” said board president Dave Merritt, who represents Garfield County. “This is going to be really important to the future of the River District to take us into the next era.”

The district has seen its revenue stream decline in recent years due to shrinking tax revenue from the fossil-fuel industry and lower residential assessments as a result of the state’s Gallagher and Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendments. As a result, the district has reduced its staff by four positions, suspended a grant program and reduced its vehicle fleet.

The district got more specific in the spring about what it would do with the money in a fiscal implementation plan. About 86% would go toward water projects backed by local communities and basin roundtables. Examples could include environmentally focused projects such as forest restoration on the Yampa River, infrastructure projects such as rehabilitation for the Grand Valley Roller Dam, and dam and reservoir projects such as the White River Storage Project. The district would not use the money to create new staff positions.

The Glenwood Springs-based River District, which was created in 1937 to protect and develop water supplies in western Colorado, spans 15 counties: Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt, Moffat, Garfield, Mesa, Delta, Montrose, Ouray, Gunnison, Hinsdale and Saguache.

Pitkin County’s representative, County Attorney John Ely, was the lone “no” vote for the ballot measure. He said the fiscal implementation plan should include a promise that the River District will work with local elected officials on water projects, especially since River District board members would be the ones allocating project funding — and they are not elected to their positions.

“Having that type of commitment in the plan, I think that would go a long way in allaying that type of a concern,” Ely said.

The River District added the language Ely requested to the fiscal implementation plan.

At the suggestion of some agriculture-dependent counties, including Mesa County, River District General Manager Andy Mueller added language to the ballot question that says the district will not utilize the additional funds for paying to fallow irrigated agriculture. Montrose County representative Marc Catlin pushed to go a step further, suggesting that the definition of fallowing include permanent programs, as well as voluntary, temporary and compensated programs. The state of Colorado is currently looking into a program that could pay irrigators on a voluntary, temporary and compensated basis to fallow fields in order to leave more water in the river.

“I think we ought to tie it to this ballot because 10 years from now, somebody might have a completely different idea of what fallowing might mean,” Catlin said.

But other directors cautioned against getting too wordy in the question, which could confuse voters, especially since a recent survey found strong support for a more simply stated proposal.

“I would just be happier if we kept this closer to what was polled and simpler,” said Martha Whitmore, who represents Ouray County.

The Colorado River flows through the Grand Valley near Grand Junction. The Colorado River Water Conservation District board of directors voted Tuesday to ask voters for a mill levy increase in November. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Survey finds support

The River District hired Lori Weigel from Arvada-based consultant New Bridge Strategy for another round of voter polling, which surveyed 600 district residents between June 25 and July 2. If the election were held tomorrow, 63% of those surveyed said they would definitely vote in favor of a tax increase.

“That 63% is really the critical number there,” Weigel said. “It’s pretty rare that we see support levels this high.”

The district had previously found similarly high levels of support — 65% — when Weigel surveyed voters in mid-March. Some board members worried that because the survey coincided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the results would no longer be valid. But survey results this time around showed continued support for a tax increase.

“I think we can have a great deal of confidence in this data,” Weigel said. “(Support) has not shifted significantly. Water is something that is important to people. Water is sort of a constant.”

Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit, investigative news organization covering water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the July 22 edition of The Aspen Times.

Denver’s Highline Canal a study in using something old to solve new problem — @WaterEdCO

Old cottonwoods line the banks and trails of the historic Highline Canal, which is being converted into an ultra modern stormwater system even as its trail systems continue to serve metro area residents. July 21, 2020 Credit: Jerd Smith via Water Education Colorado

From Water Education Colorado (Caitlin Coleman):

Infrastructure built more than a century ago still endures, but some of Colorado’s old irrigation ditches have been repurposed to meet the moment. The High Line Canal—a 71-mile-long former irrigation conveyance turned greenway and stormwater filtration tool—winds its way through the Denver metro area as an artery of infrastructure boasting a story of adaptation.

The canal, built in the 1880s to move irrigation water, was purchased by Denver Water in the 1920s. But the metro area changed around it. By the 1960s, people were sneaking onto the service road alongside the ditch and using it as a walking trail, says Harriet Crittenden LaMair, executive director of the High Line Canal Conservancy, a nonprofit working to preserve, protect and enhance the canal.

By the 1970s, municipalities and special districts began negotiating with Denver Water to allow residents to legally enjoy the tree-lined trail. While this opened the canal up to public enjoyment, it also divided it through a series of leases and use agreements. “[The public] saw it as a greenway but it was being cared for as a utility corridor,” Crittenden LaMair says.

Highline Canal trail map. Credit: Google maps via Water Education Colorado

So sparked the development of a working group, and eventually the Highline Canal Conservancy, to create a larger, unified vision for the waterway. “In urban areas, people are rethinking the uses of old infrastructure that has outlived its original purposes,” Crittenden LaMair says. “Parks advocates are working with utilities and thinking, ‘Wow, what additional benefits can be seen from this infrastructure?’”

With the public using the trail as a recreational resource, Denver Water has been weaning customers off of water delivered through the canal, having them instead rely on more efficient conveyances. While there are still a few dozen customers receiving water via the High Line Canal, they will switch to different sources within the next few years. In the meantime, the canal will capture and filter stormwater. “It’s amazing that parts of the actual infrastructure built in the 1880s can be used, with modifications, for stormwater management,” Crittenden LaMair says.

The Conservancy’s 15-year plan for the canal, completed in 2018, comes with a price tag of more than $100 million in improvements, including the stormwater management infrastructure, underpasses, interpretive signage, and more. Work will be incremental, but four individual stormwater projects are already underway to filter runoff before it makes its way to receiving streams, helping municipalities and special districts meet their stormwater discharge permitting requirements.

A rendering of the High Line Canal shows people recreating along the greenway and the canal itself operating as a green infrastructure system to manage stormwater. Credit: High Line Canal Conservancy via Water Education Colorado

That stormwater benefit is even lessening the new infrastructure that some developments and cities would have had to build, says Amy Turney, director of engineering for Denver Water and the utility’s stormwater lead on the High Line Canal work. “As development and roadway projects get designed close to the canal, developers and cities are realizing that using the canal is a better option than having to build new detention ponds and storm sewers.’”

Work on the High Line Canal hasn’t been without its challenges. Public perception has been high on that list with people cherishing the canal as a recreational greenway while the utility was using the canal as a piece of water delivery infrastructure.

“We had a maintenance road that turned to a path and [neighbors] didn’t want maintenance trucks anymore. There’s been no shortage of public ownership. This is their backyard—literally,” Turney says. But it will be worthwhile in the end. “The long-term success of the infiltrated stormwater helping the greenway prosper and improving receiving stream health is a legacy for us, as well as an amenity throughout the Denver metro area that thousands enjoy every year. We’re really proud of it,” she says. “Anyone who hears about this and cares about water gets excited about how we are saving water, and simultaneously using water for the best purposes.”

Caitlin Coleman is the Headwaters magazine editor and communications specialist at Water Education Colorado. She can be reached at caitlin@wateredco.org.

This article first appeared in the Summer of 2020 issue of Headwaters Magazine.

20 states sue over @POTUS rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects — The Hill

A sign along U.S. Highway 20 in Stuart, Nebraska, in May 2012. Stuart is on the edge of the Sand Hills, a few miles from Newport. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2015/11/15/rural-nebraska-keystone-and-the-paris-climate-talks/#sthash.Hm4HePDb.dpuf

From The Hill (Rebecca Beitsch):

A coalition of 20 states is suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over a rule that weakens states’ ability to block pipelines and other controversial projects that cross their waterways…

The suit from California and others asks the courts to throw out the rule, which was finalized in June.

The Clean Water Act essentially gave states veto authority over projects by requiring projects to gain state certification under Section 401 of the law.

It applies to a wide variety of projects that could range from power plants to waste water treatment plants to industrial development.

But that portion of the law has been eyed by the Trump administration after two states run by Democrats have recently used the law to sideline major projects.

New York denied a certification for the Constitution Pipeline, a 124-mile natural gas pipeline that would have run from Pennsylvania to New York, crossing rivers more than 200 times. Washington state also denied certification for the Millennium Coal Terminal, a shipping port for large stocks of coal…

The new policy from the Trump administration accelerates timelines under the law, limiting what it sees as state power to keep a project in harmful limbo. The need for a Section 401 certification from the state will be waived if states do not respond within a year.

ut states argue the new rule won’t give them the time necessary to conduct thorough environmental reviews of massive projects.

And on Monday, Becerra complained the Trump administration wants states to evaluate only the most narrow impacts of a project, while issues like downstream flows from a hydroelectric plant or impacts on nearby wetlands are overlooked.

Along with California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin also joined the suit.

Navajo Dam operations update: 700 CFS in the #SanJuan River #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Navajo Dam spillway via Reclamation.

From email from Reclamation (Susan Novak Behery):

In response to increasing flows and a forecast wet weather pattern in the San Juan River Basin, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled an decrease in the release from Navajo Dam to 700 cfs on Thursday, July 23rd, starting 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).

The San Juan River Basin Recovery Implementation Program has recommended base flows as close to 500 cfs as possible for the summer of 2020. This is within their normal recommended range of 500 to 1,000 cfs. The target base flow is calculated as the weekly average of gaged flows throughout the critical habitat area from Farmington to Lake Powell.

The journey of water — a snapshot — News on TAP

Denver’s water snakes and tumbles through stunning country to reach your tap. The post The journey of water — a snapshot appeared first on News on TAP.

via The journey of water — a snapshot — News on TAP

One eye on the weather, the other on water use — News on TAP

Denver metro area continues to use water efficiently as drought looms during hot, dry summer resulting in increased watering. The post One eye on the weather, the other on water use appeared first on News on TAP.

via One eye on the weather, the other on water use — News on TAP

Summit County ‘abnormally dry’ as most of #Colorado falls into #drought — The Summit Daily

Colorado Drought Monitor July 14, 2020.

From The Summit Daily (Taylor Sienkiewicz):

Summit County fared well in the way of snowpack this year yet is experiencing dryness as portions of the state fall into drought conditions.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Summit County’s drought level is classified as abnormally dry, while most of the counties in southern Colorado fall under extreme drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor’s July 16 high plains drought summary explained that southern states have seen a gradual deterioration over the summer and that Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas are experiencing drought conditions. The summary noted that despite some precipitation in northeastern Colorado, high temperatures expanded drought in much of the state.

Treste Huse, a senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Boulder, said that while the snowpack was fairly normal this year, Summit County didn’t see the abundance of snowfall that it enjoyed last season. Overall, Huse said this season’s snow added onto leftover storage from last year.

“We had that storage still from 2019, and it’s been holding pretty steady for the last half a year,” Huse said. “And then the snowpack was enough to bring us back up to where we’re around normal.”

Huse noted that it has been a dry spring and summer and that the snowpack melted out two to three weeks earlier than normal this year. Yet, water storage is strong as of the end of June. Huse said the upper Colorado River basin was at 109% of average water storage and at 97% capacity. Green Mountain Reservoir is currently sitting at 110% of average water and 99% of capacity. Huse said the area is faring much better than other parts of the state as the Arkansas basin is at 49% of average. She said six streams along the Blue River are showing normal streamflow while three streams that are mainly going into Dillon Reservoir are below normal.

Over the past 30 days, Huse said the county has seen a “flash drought” where dry conditions develop quickly, which can impact crops and fire weather — rated as high in Summit County. She said the percent of average precipitation throughout most of Summit County is running around 70% to 90% of normal. For July, only 0.49 inches of precipitation have been recorded at the weather site in Dillon while the normal precipitation level through July 20 is 1.13 inches.

West Drought Monitor July 14, 2020.

Yampa Valley “State of the River” July 29, 2020 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Yampa River Basin via Wikimedia.

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

Topic: Yampa Valley State of the River

Description:

Whether it’s for clean water from your kitchen tap, water for hay or livestock or flows to paddle or play on, we all rely on the Yampa River and its tributaries.

Learn about current Yampa Basin water issues, ongoing drought and challenges facing West Slope water users at the virtual Yampa Valley State of the River meeting hosted by the Colorado River District, the Community Agriculture Alliance and the Yampa-White-Green Basin Roundtable.

If you’re busy for the live event, register to receive a recording of the webinar by email to watch later.

Agenda:

• Protecting West Slope Water in Times of Uncertainty – Jim Pokrandt, Director of Community Affairs at the Colorado River District
• Snowpack and Runoff updates in the Yampa River Basin – Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District
• Recreation in the Yampa River Basin – Lindsey Marlow, Program Manager at Friends of the Yampa and Josh Veenstra, owner of Good Vibes River Gear
• How you can participate in Yampa River planning and the Integrated Water Management Plan – Marsha Daughenbaugh, Rocking C Bar Ranch and Nicole Seltzer, Science & Policy Manager at River Network
• Conversation with the Division Engineer – Erin Light, Division 6 Engineer at the Colorado Division of Water Resources and Jackie Brown, Natural Resource Policy Advisor, Tri-State Generation and Transmission

Time: Jul 29, 2020 06:30 PM in Mountain Time (US and Canada)

Thousands of water rights may be abandoned — The Valley Courier

Colorado Rivers. Credit: Geology.com

Here’s a guest column from Kent Holsinger and David Kueter that’s running in The Valley Courier:

Once every ten years a comet is visible in the night sky, the census counts every person living in the United States, and your water rights are at risk of abandonment in Colorado. Water is Colorado’s most precious natural resource. Colorado’s proposed decennial abandonment lists were published online on July 1st. Over four thousand water rights were listed, including over 630 rights in Division 3. This is a marked increase from decades past.

Put another way, the lists prepared by the Division Engineers at the Colorado Division of Water Resources could result in a significant number of water rights being declared abandoned throughout the state. The Rio Grande Basin has been over appropriated since the 1890’s with groundwater resources depleted throughout much of the basin. The Colorado Water Plan projects the basin will need an additional 180,000 acre feet (AF) by 2050. As a result, protecting existing rights is more important than ever. Water right owners should check the lists online at http://water.state.co.us to determine whether their rights are at risk. The lists will also be published in the local papers of record throughout the state in July and August.

While the agency is required to notify the “last known owner or claimant” of a water right included on the list by July 31st, the State’s ownership records are not always up-to-date. In an arid climate like Colorado, water rights are highly coveted and highly valued. Losing a water right to abandonment can be catastrophic. It can also directly impact the bottom line and the market value of your property. Water right owners have multiple opportunities to protest inclusion of a right on the abandonment lists. Under Colorado water laws, abandonment requires both an overt act (typically non-use) and intent. Good record-keeping, personal knowledge and extrinsic evidence like Google Earth imagery can help protect valued water rights. Lands protected by conservation easements may have other good arguments to employ.

Fortunately, the deadline for written objections to be submitted to the appropriate Division Engineer (along with a $10.00 fee for each water right) is July 1, 2021. In the meantime, water right owners would be wise to start collecting records and consulting with legal counsel. By December 31, 2021, after considering any filed objections, the Division Engineers will file the final proposed abandonment lists with the Water Court. Water right owners can then formally protest the inclusion on the list by June 30, 2022, which protests will be heard by the Water Judge beginning in October 2022. This article does not constitute legal advice nor the creation of an attorneyclient relationship. Kent Holsinger and David Kueter are attorneys at Holsinger Law, LLC and can be contacted at: http://www.holsingerlaw.com.

Voters to face #ColoradoRiver District tax question — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel #COriver #aridification

The Colorado River Water Conservation District spans 15 Western Slope counties. River District directors are asking voters this fall to raise the mill levy.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Voters in 15 counties this fall will be asked if they’re willing to lighten their wallets a little for the sake of supporting Western Slope water interests.

The Colorado River District board on Tuesday voted almost unanimously to put a proposal on the November ballot to boost its property tax rate to 0.5 mills. The move would raise its annual revenue by an estimated $4.9 million and cost an additional $1.90 per $100,000 in residential property value. The district’s levy is now capped at 0.252 mills and its effective current rate is 0.235 mills.

The district is seeking to address a growing financial crisis and strengthen its ability to play a role in addressing the water issues that challenge the region amid a continuing trend toward longterm drought…

The river district measure includes a provision that would relieve the district from TABOR’s limits on how much revenue it can collect and spend in any year, though it would continue to have to go to voters for any further hike in its tax rate.

The district already has cut staff and other expenses. Absent a tax hike, it is expecting a possible $425,000 reduction in general fund revenues based on the latest projection for how Gallagher will affect collections of taxes from residential properties next year.

If the measure passes, the district says it will spend only 14% of the new revenues to address its financial structural deficit, with the remainder to focus on projects partnering with others and focused on agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, conservation and efficiency…

Polling the district did in March and again a few weeks ago suggest that a majority of voters (about 63% in the latest poll) would support the tax measure today, even amidst a pandemic and its economic impacts. That polling suggests 60% support in Mesa County, which will be pivotal to the measure’s chances because Mesa has the largest population of any district county and also is largely conservative when it comes to tax and other issues.

Steve Acquafresca, Mesa County’s representative on the district board, is supporting the tax proposal.

Acquafresca had agreed to support the measure after ballot language was added that commits the district not to use any of the new tax revenue to pay for fallowing of agricultural fields. He said Mesa County commissioners also were unanimous on insisting on that clause being included before they would even consider supporting the tax measure.

After Tests Find ‘Forever Chemicals’ Flowing From #Suncor, #Colorado Eyes A Crackdown — Colorado Public Radio #PFAS

From Colorado Public Radio (Sam Brasch):

“At least with the smog, you can see it. With the flaring, we can see it,” said [Ean Thomas] Tafoya. “I would say average people aren’t really aware as much about water pollution because it’s something that’s invisible.”

What concerns Tafoya is recent evidence Suncor is emitting high levels of per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, into Sand Creek…

Since last summer, Suncor has complied with a state directive to test treated groundwater it pumps into Sand Creek for the chemicals. A letter state regulators sent to the company show the effluent often had PFAS concentrations far exceeding what the EPA recommends for safe drinking water.

According to one test from January, the levels of PFOS and PFOA, two of the best understood PFAS, combined to 199 parts per trillion. That’s almost three times the federal health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. It’s seven times more than stricter levels recently adopted in New Hampshire…

Combined PFOA and PFOS emission levels from the Suncor refinery in Commerce City, Colo., in parts per trillion. Graphic credit: Colorado Public Radio

The refinery’s problems with water pollution date back to the 1990s. Due to hydrocarbon spills and benzene pollution, the company began to pump up groundwater, treat it and release it into Sand Creek…

While the presence of PFAS in that water has not been reported until now, it was not a huge surprise to state regulators at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The refinery has long practiced firefighting at an onsite location. In a statement, spokesperson Erin Rees said the company believes the chemicals in groundwater comes from the historic use of Class B firefighting foam. She added the company has since replaced the foam with a new product in line with EPA recommendations…

The news also follows a statewide survey commissioned by the legislature, which identified Suncor as a forever-chemical hotspot. The state conducted tests of 24 wells at the refinery between October 2018 and May 2019. The results found concentrations almost 150 times above the EPA health advisory.

That same survey included tests of surface water across the state. The only place where levels exceeded the threshold of 70 parts per trillion was the mouth of Sand Creek, just below Suncor…

After finding such high concentrations, Dani said the state worked with local health officials to reach nearby homes with shallow groundwater wells. The campaign, conducted in English and Spanish, offered residents free PFAS tests. According to Dani, the results show “we don’t have anyone drinking water above the health advisory.”

[…]

Kipp Scott, the manager of the South Adams County Water & Sanitation District, said the same can be said for municipal tap water. His system supplies water to more than 60,000 people in Commerce City and other parts of southern Adams County.

The district has worked to control PFAS in its water supply since 2018 when it found high concentrations in a dozen wells near I-270 and Quebec. The district disconnected three of the wells and purchased supplies from Denver Water to dilute what it sent to customers…

Following the incident, Scott said his district improved its water treatment practices and launched programs to conduct regular tests of the chemicals. Those results show water now sent to customers contains about 25 parts per trillion for PFOS/PFOA, below the health advisory.

Scott added he’s “reasonably sure” forever chemicals from Suncor aren’t affecting the water supply of its neighbors. That’s because most of the water supplied to the district comes from wells sunk into a different branch of the alluvial aquifer running beneath the district. Based on groundwater models, he said he has no reason to believe the chemicals at Suncor have reached the water supply.

Still, the water in Sand Creek does join the South Platte, which flows through Colorado into Nebraska. Water districts downstream from Commerce City use the river to grow crops and supply drinking water.

A Coming Crack Down

Even if forever chemicals from Suncor aren’t affecting drinking water, it will likely affect the company.

Last week, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission adopted the state’s first-ever limits on forever chemicals. The new policy was pushed ahead in the absence of federal regulation, which has lagged under complex EPA rulemaking and inaction from Congress. It allows the state to set limits for the chemicals in wastewater permits in line with the federal health advisory. If a company or wastewater district exceeds the limit, it could require water treatment or issue fines of up to $54,000 per day.

Meg Parish, permit section manager for the Water Quality Control Division, said Suncor’s permit is up for renewal next year and would be subject to the new policy…

Rees, the spokesperson for Suncor, said the company is already exploring PFOS/PFOA treatment options as a part of its general efforts to improve water coming from the Commerce City facility…

But the commitment from Suncor doesn’t put Olga Mijares at ease. The school administrator lives near the refinery and raised her three children in Commerce City. Like most people in the largely Latino community, she doesn’t drink the tap water but showers and cooks with it.

Her oldest son, who is 29 years old, has already battled thyroid and brain cancer. She said a doctor told her she would never know what was behind the conditions and to put it out of her mind, if possible. She said that gets a lot harder when she learns about any new pollution near her home.

PFAS contamination in the U.S. via ewg.org. [Click the map to go to the website.]

Electoral College benefits whiter states, study shows — The Conversation


A congressional staffer opens the boxes containing the Electoral College ballots in January 2017.
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

William Blake, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

States can force members of the Electoral College to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state’s presidential primary, the Supreme Court recently ruled. The July 6 decision removed one of the two reasons why the framers of the U.S. Constitution created this election system: to empower political elites who may know more about the candidates than ordinary voters. Now, the founders’ only remaining justification for the Electoral College is structural racism.

Though the Electoral College has changed since it was first used to elect George Washington to the presidency in 1789, my research shows that the system continues to give more power to states whose populations are whiter and more racially resentful.

Electoral College myths and realities

The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College in large part because they feared voters would not know all the candidates who would be running for president. In that era, most people never left their home states, so they were not likely to know candidates from other states.

The founders did not foresee the development of political parties and campaigns, which help teach voters about their options. Instead, Alexander Hamilton argued that those serving in the Electoral College would be “most likely to possess the information and discernment” needed to choose a president.

With its recent decision, the Supreme Court has abandoned the possibility that electors might vote for people other than the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state.

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]

The other reason for the Electoral College was to bridge a major divide among the states: slavery. As James Madison said at the Constitutional Convention: “[T]he great division of interests in the U. States did not lie between the large & small States; it lay between the Northern & Southern” because of “their having or not having slaves.”

The original 13 U.S. colonies and their territorial changes from 1782 to 1802.
The 13 colonies had competing land claims in the early years of the United States.
Kmusser, CC BY

Race in early America

By the time the founders discussed how to pick a president, they had already made the so-called “three-fifths compromise,” counting enslaved people as three-fifths of a person in the census and allotting seats in the House of Representatives accordingly. That gave Southern slave states an advantage over the Northern states in the House.

Slave states – with many people and with fewer – insisted on the Electoral College to preserve this advantage to give them a similar advantage in presidential selection. Ultimately, delegates to the Constitutional Convention decided that each state would receive votes in the Electoral College equal to their representation in both houses of Congress.

As a result, after the 1790 census, Virginia got 21 electoral votes and Pennsylvania got 15, though both were home to just over 110,000 free white male adults, who were then the only Americans allowed to vote. That’s because Virginia had 292,627 enslaved residents, to Pennsylvania’s 3,737, the country’s very first census shows.

Similarly, South Carolina and New Hampshire had nearly identical numbers of free white men – right around 36,000. But South Carolina got two more electoral votes, for a total of eight, because more than 100,000 enslaved people lived there, compared to New Hampshire’s 158 enslaved people.

Congressman Samuel Thatcher of Massachusetts.
U.S. Rep. Samuel Thatcher, in 1806.
Fevret de Saint Memin/Wikimedia Commons

In 1803, the 1800 census was about to shift the balance even more toward slave states. Representative Samuel Thatcher of Massachusetts complained that counting enslaved people added significant numbers to the slave states’ delegations.

The slavery bonus ensured that the nation’s first 18 presidential elections delivered a slave-owner as either president, vice president or both. Only in 1860, with the victory of Abraham Lincoln from Illinois and his running mate, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, did a team of Northern politicians manage to beat the Electoral College’s skew toward white Southerners.

After the Civil War

Following the Civil War, the 14th Amendment removed the three-fifths clause, and the 15th Amendment should have protected African Americans’ legal right to vote. But that didn’t fix the Electoral College’s anti-Black bias. It actually made the problem worse, because Southern state governments were happy to get the representation from their large numbers of Black citizens – while keeping them from voting through discriminatory practices like literacy tests and poll taxes.

Judicial decisions at the time upheld Jim Crow restrictions on the right to vote, but those practices are illegal today.

This system benefited the Democratic Party, which was dominant in the South. Republicans tried to counter that power by strategically admitting new states from the Great Plains and Mountain West. In part because of racially disparate postwar settlement policies, these states – such as Nebraska, the Dakotas and Wyoming – were unusually thinly populated, heavily white and reliably Republican.

A woman looks at papers.
Staff of the House of Representatives review Illinois’ Electoral College vote report in January 2017.
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Race and the Electoral College now

Those statehood decisions made a century and a half ago still reverberate today. States with smaller populations have more electoral votes per resident because, no matter how few people they might have, they still get two senators and one House member.

I recently performed a quantitative analysis of race and the allocation of electoral votes. The data indicate that whiter states consistently wield more electoral power partly because of their population.

On average, as a state’s racial composition gets whiter, its electoral power increases. For instance, in 2016, North Dakota was the seventh whitest state and 47th on the list in terms of adult population. It had more than 5.2 electoral votes per million adult residents, when an average state had just 2.2 electoral votes per million adult residents. According to my analysis, a state that is 10% whiter than the average state tends to have one extra electoral vote per million adult residents than the average state.

I also found that states whose people exhibit more intense anti-Black attitudes, based on their answers to a series of survey questions, tend to have more electoral votes per person.

Statistically speaking, if two states’ population numbers indicate each would have 10 electoral votes, but one had substantially more racial resentment, the more intolerant state would likely have 11.

This is not an ironclad rule, and the inherent bias isn’t always decisive. For instance, Donald Trump owes his presidency to winning Wisconsin, a state that is whiter than the average state, but that has slightly less electoral votes per capita than average.

In addition, the centuries-old racial bias in the Electoral College could disappear with future population changes. Perhaps other states with relatively few people will follow the pattern of Nevada, whose population has recently become larger and more racially diverse. But the Electoral College remains a system born from white supremacy that will likely continue to operate in a racially discriminatory fashion.The Conversation

William Blake, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Online workshop: ‘#Snowpack, #drought and #water management in a warming Mountain West’ — Western Water Assessment

Photo credit: Western Water Assessment

Click here for all the inside skinny and to register:

Western Water Assessment (WWA) is hosting a virtual workshop focused on municipal water planning in the Mountain West. The workshop will feature talks from scientists and water professionals on the current water year, and on recent trends and future projections in snowpack, drought, and water supply. In addition, we will provide demonstrations of several tools and data sources on this topic. There will be several opportunities to engage in discussions with scientists, water managers, and other experts, including a panel discussion with several water utilities.

We look forward to seeing you online! If you have additional suggestions or questions about the workshop, please contact Seth Arens at wwa.arens@gmail.com, or Lineke Woelders at lineke.woelders@colorado.edu. You can learn more about WWA at https://wwa.colorado.edu.

Aspinall Unit operations update: 1050 CFS through the Gunnison Tunnel #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased from 1550 cfs to 1450 cfs on Tuesday, July 21st. Releases are being adjusted to maintain flows near the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River. The July 15th runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir predicts 57% of average for April-July inflows.

There is a drought rule in the Aspinall Unit Operations EIS which has changed the baseflow target at the Whitewater gage. The rule states that during Dry or Moderately Dry years, when the content of Blue Mesa Reservoir drops below 600,000 AF the baseflow target is reduced from 1050 cfs to 900 cfs. Therefore, the baseflow target for July and August will now be 900 cfs.

Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 900 cfs. River flows are expected to stay at levels above the baseflow target after the release decrease has arrived at the Whitewater gage.

Currently, Gunnison Tunnel diversions are 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 550 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be around 1050 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 450 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

Grand opening of the Gunnison Tunnel in Colorado 1909. Photo credit USBR.

International Boundary Water Commission: #Mexico must take immediate action to meet treaty obligations #RioGrande #aridification

Here’s the release from the IBWC:

U.S. Commissioner Jayne Harkins of the International Boundary and Water Commission, United States and Mexico, today reiterated that Mexico must take immediate action to deliver Rio Grande water to the United States to comply with the bilateral 1944 Water Treaty. Under the treaty, Rio Grande water is allotted to the United States in quantities calculated based on cycles of five years. The current cycle ends on October 24, 2020. To meet its international obligations, Mexico must deliver an additional 416,829 acre-feet (514.2 million cubic meters [mcm]) to the United States between now and the end of the cycle.

“Mexican government officials have stated there is enough water stored in the Mexican reservoirs to enable Mexico to meet the needs of Chihuahua farmers during this year’s irrigation season while complying with the treaty. They need to increase their water releases to the United States immediately,” said Commissioner Harkins. “Mexico has failed to implement releases promised earlier and continuing to delay increases the risk of Mexico failing to meet its delivery obligation.”

Commissioner Emily Lindley of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said, “Mexico has not honored its commitments. Texas farmers, irrigators, municipalities, and industries along the Rio Grande rely on water that should be delivered as laid out in the 1944 Treaty. I echo Commissioner Harkins that it is vital Mexico deliver water immediately to the U.S.”

Mexico has only delivered 1,333,171 acre-feet (1,644 mcm) out of the minimum five- year obligation of 1,750,000 acre-feet (2,159 mcm). The remaining volume yet to be delivered exceeds the 350,000 acre-feet (431.7 mcm) minimum average volume the 1944 Water Treaty requires over an entire year, demonstrating that immediate action is required.

“I want to emphasize that farmers and cities in South Texas rely on this water to get them through the summer,” Commissioner Harkins added.

Under the 1944 Water Treaty, Mexico delivers Rio Grande water to the United States while the United States delivers Colorado River water to Mexico. The United States continues to meet its obligations to deliver Colorado River water and expects Mexico to fulfill its Rio Grande obligations to the United States. The International Boundary and Water Commission is responsible for applying the boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico.

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins. Map credit: By Kmusser – Own work, Elevation data from SRTM, drainage basin from GTOPO [1], U.S. stream from the National Atlas [2], all other features from Vector Map., CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11218868

Better #wastewater treatment? It’s a wrap — Rice University

Here’s the release from Rice University (Jade Boyd):

Rice’s trap-and-zap strategy for antibiotic resistant bugs becomes wrap, trap and zap

A shield of graphene helps particles destroy antibiotic-resistant bacteria and free-floating antibiotic resistance genes in wastewater treatment plants.

Improved bacterial affinity and reactive oxygen species generation enhances antibacterial inactivation in wastewater by graphene oxide-wrapped nanospheres developed by scientists at Rice University and Tongji University, Shanghai. Antibiotic resistance genes (eARG) released by inactivated antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB) in the vicinity of photocatalytic sites on the spheres facilitates their degradation. (Credit: Alvarez Research Group/Rice University)

Think of the new strategy developed at Rice University as “wrap, trap and zap.”

The labs of Rice environmental scientist Pedro Alvarez and Yalei Zhang, a professor of environmental engineering at Tongji University, Shanghai, introduced microspheres wrapped in graphene oxide in the Elsevier journal Water Research.

Alvarez and his partners in the Rice-based Nanosystems Engineering Research Center for Nanotechnology-Enabled Water Treatment (NEWT) have worked toward quenching antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” since first finding them in wastewater treatment plants in 2013.

“Superbugs are known to breed in wastewater treatment plants and release extracellular antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) when they are killed as the effluent is disinfected,” Alvarez said. “These ARGs are then discharged and may transform indigenous bacteria in the receiving environment, which become resistome reservoirs.

“Our innovation would minimize the discharge of extracellular ARGs, and thus mitigate dissemination of antibiotic resistance from wastewater treatment plants,” he said.

A scanning electron microscope image shows a graphene oxide shell around the layered nanoplates that make up the core of a particle that traps and zaps antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the resistance genes they release. The wrapped spheres developed at Rice and Tongji universities proved three times better able to disinfect secondary effluent from wastewater plants than the spheres without the nitrogen-doped graphene oxide. (Credit: Deyi Li/Tongji University)

The Rice lab showed its spheres — cores of bismuth, oxygen and carbon wrapped with nitrogen-doped graphene oxide — inactivated multidrug-resistant Escherichia coli bacteria and degraded plasmid-encoded antibiotic-resistant genes in secondary wastewater effluent.

The graphene-wrapped spheres kill nasties in effluent by producing three times the amount of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as compared to the spheres alone.

The spheres themselves are photocatalysts that produce ROS when exposed to light. Lab tests showed that wrapping the spheres minimized the ability of ROS scavengers to curtail their ability to disinfect the solution.

The researchers said nitrogen-doping the shells increases their ability to capture bacteria, giving the catalytic spheres more time to kill them. The enhanced particles then immediately capture and degrade the resistant genes released by the dead bacteria before they contaminate the effluent.

“Wrapping improved bacterial affinity for the microspheres through enhanced hydrophobic interaction between the bacterial surface and the shell,” said co-lead author Pingfeng Yu, a postdoctoral research associate at Rice’s Brown School of Engineering. “This mitigated ROS dilution and scavenging by background constituents and facilitated immediate capture and degradation of the released ARGs.”

An electron microscope image shows E. coli bacteria trapped by wrapped microspheres developed at Rice and Tongji universities. The spheres were created to disinfect secondary effluent from wastewater treatment plants, a breeding ground for antibiotic resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance genes. (Credit: Deyi Li/Tongji University)

Because the wrapped spheres are large enough to be filtered out of the disinfected effluent, they can be reused, Yu said. Tests showed the photocatalytic activity of the spheres was relatively stable, with no significant decrease in activity after 10 cycles. That was significantly better than the cycle lifetime of the same spheres minus the wrap.

Deyi Li of Tongji University, Shanghai, is co-lead author of the paper. Co-authors are Xuefei Zhou and Zhang of Tongji and Jae-Hong Kim, the Henry P. Becton Sr. Professor and Chair of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at Yale University. Alvarez is the George R. Brown Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, a professor of chemistry, of materials science and nanoengineering, and of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of NEWT.

The National Science Foundation, the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Key R&D Program of China supported the research.

Jade Boyd is science editor and associate director of news and media relations in Rice University’s Office of Public Affairs.

2020 #COleg: #Water Wins from the 2020 #Colorado Legislative Session — Water for Colorado

Mystic canyon on the Yampa River: Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Water for Colorado (Aaron Citron):

2020 has been a tumultuous year, and as we enter our fifth month of quarantine and social distancing, it can be encouraging to find things to celebrate. With the close of Colorado’s legislative session last month and Governor Polis finalizing his bill signings, one thing that we can laud is the work that was accomplished for our rivers. Even though the Colorado General Assembly struggled to fully address a more than $3 billion budget shortfall, they maintained and expanded programs and investments necessary to keep our rivers flowing, and this is something we can be proud of.

In March, Governor Polis signed two bills into law that expand and improve Colorado’s instream flow program. These bills, HB20-1157 and HB20-1037, provide new tools for water users and conservationists to work together to keep water in rivers for the benefit of fish and wildlife. HB20-1157 will be a particularly important tool for the Yampa River Fund which provides grants to improve the health of the Yampa River, including through leases of water from Stagecoach Reservoir to enhance late-season fish habitat, agriculture, and to benefit the local tourism and outdoor recreation economy.

Colorado also made a new commitment to improve water conservation in our cities and towns. The Colorado Water Plan, finalized in 2015, sets a goal of achieving 400,000 acre-feet of municipal and industrial water conservation savings by 2050. The way that we plan and build our cities and towns contributes to how we use water, how much we use, and how quickly demands grow for new supplies. The new law, HB20-1095, authorizes local governments to include water conservation elements into their master plans, thereby encouraging local governments to combine their land and water use planning to accelerate the state toward its 400,000 acre-foot conservation savings goal.

While budgets were slashed statewide, fortunately funding for the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan was maintained. Over $7 million was included in the Colorado Water Conservation Board budget for Water Plan implementation grants or water projects across the state, and an additional $4 million was allocated to invest in stream and watershed management planning efforts to keep rivers healthy and flowing. We appreciate the state’s continued recognition of the importance of clean rivers and drinking water for all Coloradans and hope that this commitment continues.

State Capitol May 12, 2018 via Aspen Journalism

Just over six months ago, voters demonstrated their own commitment to healthy rivers and water supplies by legalizing sports betting and directing tax revenues to fund the implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan. As sports begin to start back up, we urge the General Assembly to respect the will of the voters and ensure this tax revenue is directed, as intended, to Water Plan implementation.

While we celebrate these wins for Colorado’s waterways, we recognize there is still more work to be done.

In June, the Trump administration issued rules that significantly reduce protections for Colorado’s rivers and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, leaving many previously protected waterways in limbo. The new federal rule leaves one out of every five stream miles in Colorado, including half of the state’s wetlands, unprotected from construction activity discharges. Thanks to a lawsuit led by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, the rule has been temporarily blocked pending resolution, which maintains protections for our state’s waterways—for now.

Regardless of the outcome in court, it is time for Colorado to ensure that its rivers and wetlands will always be protected from destructive dumping and discharges. The Water community is coming together—virtually—this summer to try to find some common ground on this issue and we plan to bring a solution before the General Assembly for the 2021 legislative session.

While 2020 seems to be the year of one bad headline after the next, we are heartened by the work of our state legislature and government to make positive strides toward safeguarding our water future.

The Four Corners will likely see #monsoon moisture, cooler temperatures this week — The Farmington Daily Times

From The Farmington Daily-Times (Mike Easterling):

While monsoon rainfall in the Four Corners has been of a hit-or-miss nature so far this season, most of San Juan County [New Mexico] will see a good chance of precipitation in the week ahead.

Randall Hergert, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, said the moisture outlook for the next several days is very encouraging.

“We are in the monsoon season,” he said. “We are finally getting a nice plume of moisture coming up from Mexico.”

Hergert said storms will begin to form over high terrain on July 21 and continue to build July 21 through July 23, moving out over lower-elevation areas.

“The peak of activity will be toward the end of the week for the Four Corners area,” he said, explaining that a plume of moisture is making its way toward northwest New Mexico and eastern Arizona.

Closer but no cigar for #Denver Water — The Mountain Town News #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project will add 77,000 total acre feet — 72,000 for Denver Water use and 5,000 for an environmental pool that provides additional water for South Boulder Creek during low-flow periods — nearly tripling reservoir capacity.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Utility says Gross expansion needed for water security for 1.5 million people

Denver Water has been awarded its final federal permit for expansion of Gross Reservoir but may still need a permit from Boulder County.

A permit from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced today wraps up all the federal permitting needed to raise the existing 340-foot-tall Gross Dam across South Boulder Creek by 131 feet.

The dam has a hydro plant with a capacity of producing up to 7.6 megawatts.

But the most difficult permit may be the one that it still lacks: a 1041 permit from Boulder County. The Boulder Daily Camera explains that a district court decision affirmed the county’s authority to review the project under a 1973 law. That law, commonly known by his legislative bill title, gives local governments land use authority to review major projects by other governments.

Eagle County used that same authority in 1991 to deny a permit sought by Aurora and Colorado Springs to conduct a major water diversion project from within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area near Minturn and Red Cliff. The two Front Range cities fought the denial but lost and ultimately participated in a collaborative process designed to produce a more acceptable solution. That process is ongoing, with many opposed to the lighter, gentler approach. But by any measure, the current proposal in the Homestake Valley would have much less impact upon the wilderness area .

This case of Gross Dam is different in that the water being diverted only passes through Boulder County. The water would come from Grand County via the Moffat Tunnel. The county itself signed off on the expansion after a lengthy collaborative process that was in many ways modeled after what was created in the wake of the Homestake II denial.

Denver Water in this case committed to a collaborative process called Learning by Doing. The intent is to allow Denver to use its water rights in the Fraser Valley and also in the adjoining Williams Fork Valley but in ways that avoid the harshest of impacts.

The process earned Denver the support of Trout Unlimited, and also some fierce Denver critics such as Kirk Klancke, a Fraser Valley resident.

But some Fraser Valley residents continue to oppose the project. “We don’t have any more water to send to Denver,” says Andy Miller, a Fraser town trustee, as elected members of the governing council are known. “With the water that is being diverted now, we are barely keeping the system alive.”

Miller said additional diversions would mean that at times the only water in the Fraser River will be the releases from the wastewater treatment plants in Winter Park and Fraser. “That’s not enough,” says Miller, a member of the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group.

Denver began pursuing the expansion of the dam after the drought of 2002 exposed the vulnerability of water delivery to Arvada and other suburbs in the northwest metropolitan area that contract with Denver Water for supplies. The next year, Denver began the federal environmental permitting process. Denver already received approvals from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2016 and 2017.

Colorado’s largest water provider, Denver Water provides water not just for the city’s residents but a broad swath of the metropolitan area, a quarter of the state’s 5.8 million residents.

In a statement, Jim Lochhead, the chief executive of Denver Water, said the FERC permit—it’s technically called an order—brings a comprehensive 17-year federal and state permitting process to a close.

Lochhead also characterized the project as a necessary given the increasing weather variability in a warming climate.

“The project provides the system balance, additional storage and resiliency needed for our existing customers as well as a growing population. We are seeing extreme climate variability and that means we need more options to safeguard a reliable water supply for 1.5 million people in Denver Water’s service area,” he said.

Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

From The Boulder Daily Camera (Sam Lounsberry):

Denver Water announced Friday it earned its final federal approval to pursue the largest construction project in the history of Boulder County with its planned Gross Reservoir expansion.

If completed, the enlargement would help continue to serve a growing population in the water provider’s jurisdiction amid climate change that is clouding future supply with uncertainty, [Jim Lochhead] said…

An opening brief is due in August for the water agency’s appeal of a Boulder District Court decision that affirmed the county’s ability to review the project under what is known as local government 1041 power, which could result in its ultimate official disapproval by local leaders, or not, if they allow it to move forward…

Denver Water touted that the project has the support of environmental groups such as Colorado Trout Unlimited, The Greenway Foundation and Western Resource Advocates. It also said it has committed more than $20 million to more than 60 environmental mitigation and enhancement projects that will create new habitat and water flow protections for rivers and streams on both sides of the Continental Divide.

“We are committed to working closely with the Boulder County community to ensure safety, be considerate neighbors and retain open, two-way communication channels during this construction project,” Jeff Martin, program manager for the Gross Reservoir Expansion Project, stated in the news release. “We will continue to seek community input on topics such as traffic control plans, hauling traffic schedules, tree removal plans and other construction-related activities.”

The design phase for the Gross expansion is expected to finish by the middle of next year, followed by four years of construction, if approved. It will involve raising the existing 340-foot Gross Dam by an additional 131 feet, increasing reservoir capacity by 77,000 acre-feet, and it will include 5,000 acre-feet of storage dedicated to South Boulder Creek flows that will be managed by the Boulder and Lafayette city governments. Raising the capacity of Gross was a recommendation of environmentalists as an alternative to building a new dam, a proposal that would have created Two Forks Reservoir in the 1980s, the release said.

Boulder Creek. Photo credit: Susan from Alameda, CA, USA – CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2536150

From The Associated Press via KUNC:

Even with federal approval, Boulder County still wants to conduct its own review under local government 1041 power, that could result in the project’s ultimate official disapproval by local leaders.

“We think that it was a well-reasoned decision from the district court and we have strong arguments in defense of the appeal,” County Deputy Attorney David Hughes said. “It’s not uncommon for local governments to use 1041 powers in review of major projects by other governments.”

Denver Water is expecting to appeal the county’s decision and provide an opening brief in August.

Gross Dam

From Colorado Public Radio (Corey H. Jones):

In 2018, some environmental groups sued three U.S. government agencies in an effort to stop the expansion. They argued that it would harm aquatic life and wildlife as well as hinder streamflows, adding that the Colorado River needs to be better protected…

Lochhead has said that Denver Water will only take extra water from tributaries during wet years, avoiding periods of drought.

It’s been a long road for the utility, which began the permitting process for the expansion seventeen years ago. Denver Water plans to finish the design next year, followed by four years of construction.

#Colorado official says demand management program holds #water — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

The bathtub ring in Lake Powell in October 2014, which illustrates how reservoir levels have dropped since 2000. A state official says she sees no reason Colorado shouldn’t move forward with an investigation of a program that would send water to Lake Powell. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

After a year of meetings, workshops and in-depth discussions, state officials feel a feasibility investigation into a program that would pay water users to reduce consumption and add to a savings account in Lake Powell should continue.

Although no formal decision has yet been made on whether to implement a voluntary, temporary and compensated water-use reduction plan known as demand management, Amy Ostdiek, Colorado Water Conservation Board deputy section chief for interstate, federal and water information, told the state agency’s board of directors on Wednesday she has not found a reason to keep from moving forward.

“I didn’t identify any points that would indicate to me that we should stop the feasibility investigation,” said Ostdiek, who has been leading and organizing the process for the state. “From my perspective, we have not identified a reason not to continue the analysis or any hard reason it wouldn’t work.”

At the heart of a potential program is a reduction in water use in an attempt to send up to 500,000 acre-feet downstream to Lake Powell to bolster levels in the giant reservoir and meet 1922 Colorado River Compact obligations.

Under such a program, agricultural water users could get paid to temporarily fallow fields and leave more water in the river, in order to fill a 500,000 acre-foot pool as an insurance policy in case of continued drought or further reduction in average flows.

This field near Carbondale is irrigated with water that eventually flows into the Colorado River. The state has wrapped up the first year of an investigation into a program that could pay irrigators to reduce their consumptive use in order to send water downstream to a savings account in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

Report from workgroups

In June 2019, the CWCB, a state agency responsible for developing and protecting Colorado’s water, named 74 water experts and managers to eight work groups tasked with tackling complicated issues and questions around the creation of a demand management program. The groups were divided by topics: law and policy; monitoring and verification; water-rights administration and accounting; environmental considerations; economic considerations and local government; funding; education and outreach; and agricultural impacts.

A ninth group, headed by former Colorado lawmaker and chair of the Interbasin Compact Committee Russell George, has been focusing on how to ensure a demand management program is equitable among water users and basins. The IBCC facilitates conversations among representatives of different river basins and addresses statewide water issues.

Each group met multiple times over the past year and their findings, as well as their lingering questions, were included in a 200-page demand management update report presented [July 15, 2020] to CWCB directors.

The sprawling report summarizes the work completed by the groups and their overlapping key values, concerns and uncertainties. The sustainability of agriculture and agricultural communities ranked highest in the values category, while program design and participation ranked highest in the uncertainties category.

Several board members offered their opinions on a potential demand management program. Steve Anderson, who represents the Gunnison-Uncompahgre River basin, questioned whether the state could create water savings by funding more projects outlined in the Basin Implementation Plans instead of crafting a demand management program. The BIPs identify how each basin’s water needs will be met through existing or new projects, policies and processes.

“Once we become more efficient I think we would generate more system water for the Colorado,” he said. “At the end of the day we are going to have a choice between buying an insurance plan or using those funds elsewhere for conservation and efficiency.”

It is unclear how much a demand management program would cost the state, but one of the work groups is dedicated to the funding question.

The main goal of a demand management program would be to defend against what’s known as a “compact call,” which could happen if the upper basin states — Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico — were not able to deliver the 75 million acre-feet of water over 10 years to the lower basin states, as required by the Colorado River Compact. Colorado water managers desperately want to avoid this scenario, which looms larger each year with the increasing effects of drought and climate change on an over-allocated river, because it could trigger mandatory cutbacks for water users.

CWCB board member Greg Felt, who represents the Arkansas River basin, struck a dark tone, saying moving forward with a demand management program is necessary because one of the potential alternatives — involuntary cutbacks, also known as “curtailment” under a compact call — will be impossible to enforce.

“I frankly think that people are not going to accept curtailments on any rights the way they have historically,” Felt said. “From what I’ve watched this year in rural Colorado, people aren’t going to be buying curtailment. The water is going to come out of the stream. You can’t have enough water commissioners to stop that.”

Water from the Government Highline Canal pours into Highline Lake in Mack. If irrigators in Grand Valley need more water than what was supplied upstream, the Grand Valley Water Users Association – the group that regulates water flow in the canal – can close the gate to the lake to back up water as a last resort. Photo credit: Bethany Blitz/Aspen Journalism

Funding for next steps restored

With the first year of a feasibility investigation complete, the ultimate decision on whether to move forward with a demand management program lies with CWCB board members. The board plans to discuss the work presented by the work groups at a one-day workshop in September.

CWCB staff also are planning a virtual regional workshop for the public to learn more about the first year’s findings. Both meetings will be open to the public.

For several weeks there was uncertainty surrounding the future funding of the demand management feasibility investigation, when on May 1, Gov. Jared Polis suspended the program’s funding due to the COVID-19-caused state budget crisis. But the funding was restored in this year’s projects bill, according to CWCB Deputy Director Lauren Ris.

The agency now has until the end of June 2021 to spend the remaining $834,000 of the original $1.7 million allocation, should the board decide to continue delving into the issue for another year.

CWCB Director Rebecca Mitchell urged the board to be leaders for Colorado on the issue of demand management.

“We want to do whatever we can to avoid a curtailment situation,” Mitchell said. “Everyone is looking to see what we do and how we handle this, and we do have a very unique opportunity at a very critical time to lead strongly on this.”

Aspen Journalism is a local, nonprofit, investigative news organization covering water and rivers in collaboration with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the July 18 edition of The Aspen Times.

The July 2020 newsletter is hot off the presses from the #ColoradoRiver District

Andy Mueller, the general manager of the Colorado River District, addressing a crowd of 265 water managers, users and stakeholders in Grand Junction [September 2018] at a River District seminar called ‘Risky business on the Colorado River.’ Mueller spelled out six principles the River District wants the state to embrace as it develops a ‘demand management’ program designed to get the state’s water users to reduce their water use in order to bolster levels in Lake Powell.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

General Manager Andy Mueller recommends financial security for West Slope water security

The Colorado River is under tremendous strain. In seven states and two countries over 40 million people rely upon the river for their drinking water and millions more throughout the United States are fed by the more than three million acres of irrigated agriculture that the river supports. The number of people served by the river is expected to hit at least 70 million by 2060.

Long term drought and rising temperatures mean that we have less water flowing in the river. Over 60% of the river’s natural flow originates within the boundaries of the Colorado River District. As the population grows, and the river flows continue to diminish, we are experiencing greater pressure on this limited resource.

There is widespread recognition that the river is out of balance and there are many suggestions as to how the river should be brought back into balance. Many of the suggestions being promoted by Lower Basin states and major metropolitan areas focus on reducing water use in places like our District; people such as former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt are calling for a redistribution of water from our agricultural communities to the urbanized Lower Basin. Never has it been so clear that the people of Western Colorado need a strong advocate at the water policy table who can speak for the West Slope with a unified voice, leading in the protection, conservation, use and development of the waters of the Colorado River for the residents and environment within our District. That voice is your Colorado River District.

Unfortunately, even before the current pandemic-inspired economic upheaval, the Colorado River District was facing a declining revenue stream. Declining tax revenues from the fossil fuel industry, losses caused by the Gallagher Amendment and the effects of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights (TABOR) Amendment are conspiring to drive the District’s income into significantly negative territory. The most recent state predictions for 2021 indicate that the Gallagher Amendment alone will likely cause the District to lose approximately $425,000 in the District’s General Fund budget.

Our flat and decreasing revenue led District management in the last 18 months to reduce the District work force by 4 positions or 15%, suspend our grant program, reduce the District vehicle fleet and implement across-the-board reductions in expenses. Even with these cost-saving measures, our financial projections indicate that the District will have to reduce its work force again as soon as 2022. While the District to date has been able to tighten its belt and successfully accomplish our core mission, our ability to protect the West Slope’s water security in the future will be significantly compromised through the loss of additional staff positions and proper resources.

Additionally, as our communities face the dual challenges of increasing demand on the Colorado River and reduction in the flow of the river, important West Slope priorities are not being accomplished because they are unfunded. West Slope communities through the three Basin Roundtables in our District have identified priority projects that are essential for water security. The unfunded water priorities span the full range of needs in all categories, including productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, conservation and efficiency.

In the recent past, advocacy and creative problem-solving by the District staff have enabled the District to serve as a catalyst for important projects. However, without the ability to bring money to the table we often find ourselves negotiating with our hands out and very little ability to influence the selection and direction of projects. As the District and our water users are forced to turn empty handed to the federal or state government for funding, we find the priorities of the state and federal governments, not those of the West Slope, are dictating the type, location and scope of projects.

The District was founded to lead in the protection, conservation, use and development of the water resources of the Colorado River basin for the welfare of the District. In 1937, at the request of West Slope leaders, the District was authorized to collect up to 2.5 mills in property tax. Today, due to a variety of reasons, the District’s mill levy is capped at 0.252 and its current, effective mill levy is set at .235 mills…less than one-tenth of its original authorization. The District’s ability to fulfill its mission and protect the West Slope is significantly hampered by declining revenue.

In January I recommended to the Colorado River District Board that it consider placing a question on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot asking voters to approve an increase of the District’s taxing authority to up to 0.5 mills. The recommended increase is predicted on generating approximately $4.9 million in additional revenue per year at a cost of approximately $1.90 per $100,000 in residential value, which is equivalent to a tax increase of $6.34 annually for the median-priced home in the District.

The Board is still contemplating my recommendation. In January, Board members asked the staff to conduct additional outreach and public opinion research. We commenced that outreach through public forums and started discussions with Boards of County Commissioners. We arranged for public opinion polling to take place in the second half of March before the April Board meeting.

Unfortunately, by mid-March the coronavirus pandemic swept through Colorado and shut down our communities, wreaking economic havoc and interfering with our ability to conduct significant portions of our planned public outreach through districtwide events known as our State of the River meetings.

Our polling conducted in late March, after the closure of the ski areas and during the shut-down of the rest of the state, came back showing strong public support for the recommended tax increase. Specifically, the poll indicated that 65% of the likely voters polled were in favor of the measure. The poll showed widespread support across the political spectrum and throughout the District. The poll also showed incredibly strong support for the mission of the District indicating that projects that focus on water security in Western Colorado are funding priorities for residents throughout the District.

In April, society was coming to terms with the long-term economic effects of the pandemic and the Board and staff expressed concern about moving ahead with any tax increase, no matter how small. The Board requested that staff continue to engage in outreach to the public and county leadership and requested that polling be conducted closer to the July quarterly meeting so that we would have a better, more current understanding of public support for this potential ballot measure.

The additional polling was conducted at the beginning of July, and the report is still being finalized at the time of this writing. Preliminary reports from our research firm indicate that support in early July for the District and the potential tax increase remain high. 63% of likely voters polled support the tax increase. When informed that the increase would be modest, i.e. $1.90 per $100,000 in residential value, support for the measure climbed to 67%, identical to the informed support in March. Based upon our outreach to political and civic leaders in the District, there is generally widespread, but not unanimous support for the proposed ballot measure.

We have heard from the public, water-user entities and elected officials that it is incredibly important that the District Board and staff publicly commit to how the funds will be spent by the District. Our Board is contemplating the draft Fiscal Implementation Plan, which if adopted, will outline the District’s commitment as to how it would spend the additional revenue.

In summary, the plan calls for the District to allocate approximately 86% or $4.2 million of the anticipated annual revenue to partnership projects in the District, prioritizing multi-purpose projects that meet needs in one or more of the following five categories: productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, conservation and efficiency. The plan commits the District to expending funds in an equitable manner which, over time, disperses the benefits of the program geographically within the District boundaries and among the identified categories. The plan also commits the District to utilizing these funds to drive the initiation and completion of projects that are priorities for residents of the District by utilizing District funds as a catalyst for matching funds from state, federal and private foundation sources.

The Fiscal Implementation Plan itself has greater detail. The remaining approximately 14% of the funds will be utilized by the District to fix the District’s internal financial structural deficit caused by the cumulative impact of the Gallagher Amendment, the decline of tax revenue from the fossil fuel industry and TABOR revenue limitations. The District will not utilize the new revenue to create additional staff positions but will allocate the money to fund existing staff positions and business-related expenses. This allocation will help to ensure the financial integrity of the important work of the River District’s Enterprise Fund by preserving enterprise reserves for anticipated capital expenses and critical maintenance and repair work on water-supply assets owned by the District.

At our July meeting, the Board will be considering my recommendation and of course, the thoughts and concerns of the public. The Board may decide that the time is right to ask the voters for approval for a tax increase. The staff and Board welcome the public to attend, listen and comment on this important decision.

The public can listen to the meeting by visiting http://ColoradoRiverDistrict.com and navigating to the District’s YouTube channel.

ID retains control over #ColoradoRiver water in legal tussle with farmer Michael Abatti — The #PalmSprings Desert Sun #COriver #ardification

The All American Canal diverts water from the Lower Colorado River to irrigate crops in California’s Imperial Valley and supply 9 cities. Graphic credit: USGS

From The Palm Springs Desert Sun (Mark Olalde):

The Imperial Irrigation District and farmer Michael Abatti have been locked in a years-long legal battle with as many twists as the river over which it has been fought. The saga might finally come to an end, though, after a California appellate court handed down a ruling on Thursday that found IID is the rightful manager of the portion of the Colorado River guaranteed to the Imperial Valley.

The three-judge panel was asked to determine whether IID fairly distributes water, including to the nearly 500,000 acres of agriculture that receive it every year. Additionally, the judges needed to decide whether farmers, via their private property, had a specific right to Colorado River water, as a trial court judge ruled in 2017. That decision had thrown into question a more than century-old system that doled out water in the agricultural valley south of the Salton Sea.

In the ruling, the judges found that farmers have a guaranteed right to water delivery but that they don’t hold a special claim to water rights above other industrial and residential users…

Equitable Distribution Plan

After the ruling came out, questions remained about the future of the Equitable Distribution Plan, a document IID revised in 2013 to determine how water would be apportioned in the case of a declared shortage on the river. Farmers were put last in line in the plan, and that was the other key question Abatti raised in his litigation.

The appellate court ruled that IID “abused its discretion in how it prioritizes apportionment among categories of water users,” but both sides emerged from the case claiming a level of victory on that point.

In an email, Lee Hejmanowski, one of Abatti’s attorneys, told The Desert Sun, “In 2013, Michael Abatti stood up for all of the farmers in the Imperial Valley by challenging the IID’s so-called ‘Equitable Distribution Plan.’ Mr. Abatti is pleased that the Court of Appeal has affirmed the trial court’s decision striking down the EDP, which was not, in fact, equitable because it treated farmers inequitably.”

Frank Oswalt, IID’s general counsel, said he believes “the board’s got a lot of homework to do” to ensure it is reading the decision correctly when moving forward with some form of the Equitable Distribution Plan. But, Oswalt said he viewed the decision as largely affirming the mechanisms the IID used in the plan.

Wally Leimgruber of the Imperial Valley Coalition for the Fair Sharing of Water, which supports IID’s position, said the ruling was a victory for the district. But, he expects the plan to be rewritten to clearly spell out that all water users must be treated equally if there is a water shortage…

What comes next

Both sides in the legal fight between farmers and the IID have hunkered down to determine the next phase of their battle plans.

“Mr. Abatti and his attorneys are digesting the Court of Appeal’s 106-page decision and determining the next steps in the process,” Hejmanowski said.

Oswalt said the IID, too, is mulling the finer details of the ruling, and it ultimately will be up to the board of directors to decide on next steps. But, he said, IID leadership are satisfied that the decision leaves control over water solidly with them, meaning “the IID board is a lot less likely to want to appeal this than the other side.”

Each side also will need to make a determination about how many more resources they want to plow into the fight.

In a January board meeting, Oswalt told the IID board that the district had racked up a $2.3 million legal bill. While the district would not provide an exact updated figure on Friday, Galindo said it had crept toward the $3 million range…

The parties have 10 days after the appellate court’s decision becomes final — which typically happens within a month from when it was handed down — to request that the state’s apex court take it up. The California Supreme Court only hears about 5% of cases that are sent its way, however, meaning there is a strong chance that Thursday’s decision could be the final word in Abatti’s legal challenge to IID’s control over Colorado River water in the Imperial Valley.