@CWCB_DNR: March 2017 #Drought Update

Click here to read the update (Taryn Finnessey/Tracy Kosloff). Here’s an excerpt:

February of this year was the second warmest February on record, and the warmest since 1954. Well above average temperatures have continued into March. Precipitation in February was average but has slowed considerably with only 29 percent of average month –to-date in March. However, the forecast for the next two weeks indicates that the state will likely see cooler temperatures and more significant moisture. Demand has already increased for municipal water providers, indicative of an increase in outdoor watering typically not seen for another month. Agricultural producers are also expressing concern and are hopeful that forecasted storms will materialize and help to alleviate worsening drought conditions. Fires have already been an issue in the foothills and on the eastern plains.

  • Statewide water year- to- date snowpack as of March 20th is at 116 percent of normal, down from 133% of normal on March 1st. The Upper Rio Grande currently has the lowest snowpack in the state at 105 percent of normal while the basins of the Southwest and Gunnison have the highest snowpack at 130 percent of normal.
  • Above average temperatures have resulted in snowpack beginning to melt off at some mountain locations. All basins have seen a decline in snowpack with respect to normal since March 1st due to combined dry and warm weather. This is typically the snowiest month of the year in the Colorado mountains. Normal peak accumulation typically occurs around April 9th,so the possibility remains to return to snowier weather and accumulate more snowpack potentially providing a higher peak snowpack this year.
  • Following an average February, all basins are well below average for precipitation thus far in March, with accumulation ranging from a low of 19 percent in the Gunnison to a high of 55 percent in the Yampa & White. Statewide March-to-date precipitation is only 29 percent of average.
  • Reservoir storage statewide remains high at 107% of normal. The Yampa & White River basins along with the Southwestern basins have the highest storage levels in the state at 127 and 114% of average, respectively. The Upper Rio Grande has the lowest storage levels at 91% percent. Reservoirs are already beginning to see inflow from the early snowmelt.
  • Reservoir storage and above average streamflow forecasts have resulted in the Surface Water Supply Index (SWSI) indicating slightly wet to moderately wet across most of the state, with the eastern plains showing less available water than the west slope.
  • Streamflow forecasts, while still above average, have been trending downward over the last month and without additional snow accumulation are expected to continue decreasing.
  • Neutral ENSO conditions are present, and are favored to continue through spring, with the possible development of an El Nino this summer. The April-June forecast looks dry for the season, with the promise of an enhanced monsoon season based on current analogues. Should an El Niño develop this summer, precipitation during the latter half of the growing season becomes more favorable.
  • Short term forecasts show an increased probability of precipitation across most of the state over the next two weeks with widespread 1-4 inches of moisture expected over the mountains and northeastern plains.
  • Colorado Drought Monitor March 21, 2017.

    Boulder County adopts new oil and gas regulations

    From KUNC (Jackie Fortier):

    The county calls them the “most restrictive” of such regulations in Colorado. They are about 60 pages and require a much higher environmental and public health standard than the state. Boulder County began the new rule process following two state Supreme Court decisions in 2016 that invalidated hydraulic fracking bans or long term moratoriums.

    “In light of those decisions, the board terminated our moratorium that was in effect until 2018, and established a new moratorium until May 1, 2017, for the purpose of allowing us [Boulder County planning department] to update the regulations that we had adopted in 2012 and prepare for their implementation,” said Kim Sanchez, chief planner for the county.

    Now that the commissioners have adopted these regulations, here are three key takeaways:

    These regulations are ‘the most restrictive’ in Colorado

    Boulder County wants to push the envelope. For example, an oil or gas company that wants to drill in unincorporated Boulder County would have to give notice to surrounding landowners and residents, have multiple public meetings, and do soil and water testing, which could be a very long and probably more expensive process than anywhere else in Colorado. State officials told Boulder County it is overstepping their local authority, a position that Commissioner Elise Jones said they would defend.

    “Our focus is on adopting regulations that we think are the strongest possible, for our citizens and the environment, and our understanding of the law as we see it,” she said. “If the state disagrees well, so be it, we’ll deal with that. If the state wants to pre-empt local governments, on oil and gas then they need to do their job and protect us from the impacts of oil and gas, and they are not doing that. And until they do that, local jurisdictions like Boulder County will continue to push to do that work themselves.”

    What can the state regulate and what can local governments like Boulder County regulate?

    The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission regulates location and construction of drill sites and associated equipment, for example what machinery is used. Local governments like Boulder County have substantial regulatory authority through their land use code, such as building permits for structures, traffic impact fees, and inspecting for compliance with local codes and standards related to water quality and wildlife impacts. Boulder County’s new regulations are the most stringent in terms of land use.

    You could get paid to live by oil and gas drilling

    One of Boulder County’s regulations could require a company to pay residents “disruption payments.” Not every company would have to do this; it’s an option for the county to require. Within a mile radius of the drill site, companies would need to pay residents enough money to move and pay rent somewhere else during some operations. The closer you are to the drill site, the more money you would get. The amount would be calculated based on federal data for the area. Every month residents would get a check. It would be up to them if they would want to move temporarily or just keep the money.

    Commissioner Jones said they thought disruption payments were necessary to include.

    “Industry has never been required to say ‘Yes, I’m impacting those people’s lives and I’m going to pay to help move them to a place so their quality of life isn’t diminished by my noise and my dust and my vibrations and my emissions,’ Jones said. “We think that it’s an important first step in industry taking ownership of the significant impacts that drilling has, particularly when you’re drilling near homes and schools and the like.”

    Alamosa: Councillors review augmentation, loan, project plans

    Alamosa railroad depot circa 1912

    From The Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

    Like all other larger well owners in the San Luis Valley , the City of Alamosa has to comply with groundwater regulations filed by the Colorado Division of Water Resources State Engineer and pending court approval.

    Those regulations require well owners to make up for the injuries they are causing senior surface water rights. The regulations also require measures to help replenish the basin’s aquifer levels.

    The City of Alamosa staff and council have been working on means to comply with the new rules including acquisition of water to offset the city’s well pumping.

    The city is setting up financing to cover those costs, which the city has capped at $4.3 million. The city will basically use a portion of its ranch property as collateral to finance the city’s water compliance efforts…

    Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks explained that the city allowed flexibility in authorizing up to $4.3 million to include the East Alamosa Water & Sanitation District, if it wished to participate in the city’s plan.

    If East Alamosa opts to develop its own augmentation plan, or other costs for the city’s water plan are not as high as expected, the city will have leeway in the $4.3 million for other projects, Brooks added. The city would also have the option of paying the money back earlier, she said. The city staff and council identified some projects they felt were appropriate to use this money for, if it was not all needed for the water augmentation plan.

    These include: water and sewer mains; sanitary lift stations; and levee rehabilitation to meet FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and CWCB (Colorado Water Conservation Board) requirements.

    Including these projects in the financing ordinance does not mean they will be completed, but it gives the city more options with the financing , Brooks explained.

    “It allows flexibility,” she said. She said the identified projects need addressed. For example, some of the pumps on sanitary lift stations are 30 years old “essentially at the end of their life” and if they were to be replaced, it would increase efficiency, use less electricity and require less staff time.

    Likewise, there are sewer and water lines that need to be replaced. Last year lines even collapsed in a couple of areas, Brooks said.

    The city also has to recertify the levee and cannot use enterprise funds for that, Brooks said. Councilors agreed it was a good idea to have some flexibility.

    “It leaves the door open ” in case we need it,” said Councilor Liz Thomas Hensley . “It doesn’t cost anything extra than what we are already doing.”

    […]

    The council unanimously approved on first reading the ordinance amendment and scheduled the second reading and public hearing during the city’s 7 p.m. meeting on April 5.

    Bailey: STEM education

    Students pulling samples

    From The Fairplay Flume (Lori Bennet):

    Dropping eggs from second floor buildings and programming robots sounds like fun. True, but these activities are preparing students for jobs that use serious science, technology, art and math skills.

    “We are giving kids skills for jobs in the 21st century that may not even have been created yet,” said, Ginger Slocum, principal of Fitzsimmons Middle School in Bailey.
    You may have heard the term, STEM, in schools when discussing science skills. However, STEM is much more than just a science class.

    “STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in four specific disciplines — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — in an interdisciplinary and applied approach,” per the website, http://www.livescience.com.

    The Women on the Front Lines of Climate Change — @PacificStand

    Kalee Kreider is a climate consultant, a climate change adviser to the U.N. Foundation, and a former adviser to Al Gore. (Photo: Ali Berrada) via The Pacific Standard.

    Here’s a look at 9 women in the lead in the fight to mitigate the climate crisis from Kate Wheeling & Ted Scheinman writing for Pacific Standard Magazine. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

    Twenty-six million people around the globe have been displaced by climate change since 2010; 20 million of those climate refugees — more than 75 percent of them — are women. But women are not merely victims of climate change: They also have the potential to create lasting solutions. In the global north, women make 80 percent of consumer decisions. In developing countries, the vast majority of water-collection and food-production tasks fall to women. Meanwhile, as Kalee Kreider notes, women are increasingly controlling the upper levels of climate diplomacy, from the executive secretariat of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to the working group in charge of implementing the Paris Agreement.

    In this special series from Pacific Standard, we highlight the work of nine extraordinary women who are shaping the future of our planet, at all levels of the climate struggle.

    For an opportunity to learn about the climate crisis please consider coming by Smiley Library this Wednesday, March 29th. I’ll be addressing the 3 questions: Should we change; Can we change; Will we change?

    @NOAAClimate: 2017 U.S. spring climate and flood outlook — Red River, Snake River at elevated risk for snowmelt flooding #runoff

    Here’s the 2017 U.S. spring climate and flood outlook from NOAA:

    Spring Outlook: Risk of major flooding in North Dakota, moderate flooding in Idaho

    Warmer-than-average temperatures favored in much of U.S. this spring

    Northern North Dakota—the Souris River, Devils Lake and the northernmost reaches of the Red River—has the greatest risk of major flooding this spring, while moderate flooding is possible over southern Idaho in the Snake River basin, according to NOAA’s Spring Outlook released today. California, which saw extensive flooding in February, is susceptible to additional flooding from possible storms through the remainder of the wet season and later, from snowmelt.

    U.S. areas at risk for minor (light blue), moderate (medium blue), or major (dark blue) flooding this spring due to winter precipitation and temperature patterns. NOAA Climate.gov map, based on data from the National Weather Sevice.

    “If you’re in northern North Dakota, or in the Snake River basin in Idaho, prepare for moderate to major flooding this spring,” said Tom Graziano, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction. “Snowpack is heavy in the West and northern plains, and if our long term warm-up coincides with spring rains, already saturated soils will not be able to absorb the increased water, which would lead to increased runoff and potential flooding.”

    But while the extreme north could see flooding, the rest of the country could be warmer than average, forecasters said. “Above average temperatures are favored for much of the U.S. this spring with the south-central Plains and eastern U.S. having the highest chance for warmer than average conditions,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

    There was a remarkable turnaround in California’s five-year drought over the winter. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, issued today, the geographic extent of drought in the state dropped from 73 percent three months ago to eight percent this week, due to near-record precipitation from a series of powerful winter storms. Also, in February, only three percent of the contiguous U.S. saw severe to exceptional drought, the lowest level in seven years.

    “If you’re in northern North Dakota, or in the Snake River basin in Idaho, prepare for moderate to major flooding this spring,” said Tom Graziano, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s Office of Water Prediction. “Snowpack is heavy in the West and northern plains, and if our long term warm-up coincides with spring rains, already saturated soils will not be able to absorb the increased water, which would lead to increased runoff and potential flooding.”
    But while the extreme north could see flooding, the rest of the country could be warmer than average, forecasters said. “Above average temperatures are favored for much of the U.S. this spring with the south-central Plains and eastern U.S. having the highest chance for warmer than average conditions,” said Jon Gottschalck, chief, Operational Prediction Branch, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
    There was a remarkable turnaround in California’s five-year drought over the winter. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, issued today, the geographic extent of drought in the state dropped from 73 percent three months ago to eight percent this week, due to near-record precipitation from a series of powerful winter storms. Also, in February, only three percent of the contiguous U.S. saw severe to exceptional drought, the lowest level in seven years.
    U.S. drought conditions at the start of the winter wet season in the West. Much of California was in exceptional (dark red) or extreme (bright red) drought going into winter. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data from the U.S. Drought Monitor project.

    Driving the forecast for major flooding in northern North Dakota is an extensive snowpack, containing up to four inches of liquid water that could increase with additional storms through April. When this snowpack melts, the already saturated and frozen soil won’t be able to absorb it, creating runoff and potential flooding. The location of greatest concern is Devils Lake, where forecasters are projecting a near record runoff that could cause the lake to rise three to four feet, possibly exceeding its record high flood level set in June 2011.

    Read the whole press release.

    Spring 2017 temperature outlook

    Shades of red show parts of the United States where the chances of a much warmer than normal spring are greater than the chances of a near-normal or cooler than normal spring. Shades of blue show places where the odds of a much cooler than normal spring are higher than the odds of a near-normal, or warmer than normal spring. The darker the color, the greater the chances of the respective outcome. White areas mean there is an equal chance (~33%) for a warm, near-normal, or cool spring. The large version of the map shows Alaska and Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data from the Climate Prediction Center.

    Spring 2017 precipitation outlook

    Shades of green show parts of the United States where the chances of a much wetter than normal spring are greater than the chances of a near-normal or drier than normal spring. Shades of brown show places where the odds of a much drier than normal spring are higher than the odds of a near-normal, or wetter than normal spring. The darker the color, the greater the chances of the respective outcome. White areas mean there is an equal chance (~33%) for a dry, near-normal, or wet spring. The large version of the map shows Alaska and Hawaii. NOAA Climate.gov map based on data from the Climate Prediction Center.

    Busting the tree ring — @HighCountryNews

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

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

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