Colorado Water
Dazed and confused coverage of water issues in Colorado

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

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Here's a recap of this week's Rio Grande Water Conservation District meeting from The Valley Courier: From the article:

Areas that have been dry in past years are flowing with water, and the Division of Water Resources has had to adjust projections for downstream deliveries as well as curtailments to Valley water users. Clark Dirks with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the refuges are experiencing an excellent irrigation year with a great deal of water on the refuges. Habitat conditions are excellent," he said. "We are seeing lots of broods." Roy Smith with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management added that the habitat on the Blanca wetlands is also good this year. "We have got water to some basins that had never had water in them before in the history of BLM management," he said. Dirks said that on the Monte Vista refuge several artesian wells were flowing this year that had not flown in several years. Some began flowing in January, he said. "It is a positive sign," he said. Great Sand Dunes National Park Superintendent Art Hutchinson said, "The theme 'what a difference a year makes' is the same at the sand dunes." He said visitation is up 20 percent at the dunes largely because of the amount of water running in Medano Creek.

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division III Michael Sullivan said that for a 75-percent water year, 2007 has turned out differently than projected. Just a month ago the forecast for the annual index for the Rio Grande was 560,000 acre feet and the curtailments to water users on the Rio Grande were only 2 percent, Sullivan said. The projected annual index was adjusted in July to 700,000 acre feet, Sullivan said. The state must deliver 204,000 acre feet of that 700,000 to downstream states to meet its Rio Grande Compact obligation. To meet that obligation, water users will have to be curtailed 31.5 percent, Sullivan said. The curtailment on the Conejos River is about 16 percent, Sullivan said. The Conejos owes about 94,000 acre feet of the projected annual index of 278,000 acre feet, and to meet that water users will have to be curtailed 16 percent, Sullivan explained.

Thanks to SLV Dweller for the link.

Category: Colorado Water

9:02:06 AM    

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How are you going to keep them down on the farm after they've seen D.C.? Here's a press release from the Department of Interior about the resignation of Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Mark Limbaugh to take a job in private industry. According to an article from (Subscription required) Mr. Limbaugh will now be lobbying for the interests he was regulating. From the press release:

Limbaugh joined the Department in January 2002 as Director of External and Intergovernmental Affairs for the Bureau of Reclamation to oversee the agency's Congressional and Legislative and Public Affairs activities. He was appointed Deputy Commissioner in June 2003. He was confirmed to serve as Assistant Secretary for Water and Science in July 2005. Limbaugh also has served as a Director for the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage and actively has been involved in various state and federal water organizations throughout his career. He previously served as president of the Family Farm Alliance, Watermaster of Idaho's Payette River Basin, and executive director of the Payette River Water Users Association. A native of Fruitland, Idaho, and for many years an Idaho family farmer, Limbaugh earned his B.S. cum laude in 1978 from the University of Idaho and is a Certified Public Accountant.

From the EENews article:

The resignation of the Interior Department's top water and science official to join a company that lobbies the department on water issues is a troubling sign for Interior, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said today in a letter to Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. Assistant Secretary Mark Limbaugh -- named late last month to chair Interior's new Conduct Accountability Board -- has left Interior for the Ferguson Group, a lobbying firm that claims to represent more irrigation districts and local water agencies than any other firm in Washington, D.C. "Mr. Limbaugh's switch from water regulator to water lobbyist is ominous, in part, because of the department's recent history of scandals involving industry players moving through department ranks while serving industry interests," Wyden wrote, referring to former Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles. Ethics rules prohibit Limbaugh from having contacts with Interior for one year and limits future contacts on matters in which he was personally involved. "From my perspective, these are temporary jobs. You have to make a living," Limbaugh told The Hill newspaper recently. "When you are in a business like natural resources, you are not going out to work for a tire store."

Category: Colorado Water

8:11:03 AM    

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The South Platte River Basin has had a good surface water year, with the large storms early in the winter, a cool spring, and adequate runoff to fill reservoirs all along the river. The news is not all good though, its been dry this year signaling that those who pronounced our multi-year over were wrong. Here's a look at the problems from drought in the Pawnee National Grassland from The Greeley Tribune. They write:

Like his father before him, [Roland Ball] grazes his cows on Pawnee National Grassland. His father became a member of one of the two cooperative grazing associations in 1937, allowing him to keep his cattle on an allotment of the grassland for a portion of the year. Ball joined in the 1950s and has brought his cows to Pawnee annually ever since -- grazing them on the U .S. Forest Service land between mid-May and mid-October. But since he's joined, he's never seen drier conditions, especially as the impact of several years of drought are now compounding. Others agree, and despite attempts to mitigate the detrimental impacts of drought on Pawnee -- such as reducing the number of cattle grazing, moving cattle to vacant allotments and turning cattle out to the prairie later -- the effort have not been enough with the given moisture shortage. In fact, little can be done to learn the drought's impact on the forage, especially on bluegrass and blue gramma grass. So now, Pawnee National Grassland is once again shortening the grazing season, requiring some ranchers to move their cattle to their own land prior to the end of the permitted grazing season. As of last week, the Forest Service had vacated six of its allotments and one more will be cleared by the end of the week...

Consecutive years of drought are taking their toll: 2002 was considered one of the worst for rainfall and the years following have seen below-average rain and snow, causing an absence of desirable forage for the cattle. Pawnee's 60-year average for rain and snow is just more than 13 inches. The rainfall in nearby Briggsdale was measured at 7.2 inches last year. Many consider this spring and summer to be worse. While December precipitation in Colorado was above average, that moisture did little to help vegetation growth. Forest Service officials say the rain has not come during the primary forage-production months -- May through July -- when plants need moisture most. "A lot of precipitation we are receiving is coming but just not at the right time," said Rhegan Cloudman of the Forest Service. The Forest Service is continuing to monitor Pawnee's different allotments for residual forage an soil moisture retention. Clearing certain parcels they hope will help leave enough vegetation to mitigate soil damage and to leave cover and food for other plants and animals. "There's a lot of wildlife that we have to manage and we still have other wildlife that we have to be aware of," Cloudman said. "We look at providing forage for them and providing cover for them. "We're keeping (grazing cattle) out as much as we can without doing as much damage." Forest Service officials expect that the majority of the grazing land will be cleared by the end of the month -- unless there is a significant amount of precipitation...

"Being in the ranching business all my life, I would sell older cows and keep the youngest ones hoping that it will rain next year," he said. Because he has bee forced to sell cattle in the past five years, Ball has basically cut his income in half. "If I sell half, then I would have 100 less cattle," he said. "If you do it long enough, you won't have any income at all." Taking those hits begins to add up, intensifying every year, month and day it doesn't rain. "Sometimes it makes you think it just can't rain," he said. "Then you have neighbors who will get some rain and it makes you drool a bit. I just don't know ho long the smaller rancher can hang on."

Category: Colorado Water

7:43:13 AM    

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Here's a look back at the flood in Fort Collins on July 28, 1997, from The Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Five women lost their lives when wave after wave of water kept crashing into and through their mobile homes when 14 inches of rain pushed water from Spring Creek into the city. Unstoppable showers halted and then derailed a train. Lower levels of Colorado State University's Lory Student Center and Morgan Library were destroyed, causing millions of dollars to renovate. Businesses along Prospect and College were overrun with mud and debris, and property damage exceeded $200 million...

Following are some of the lessons from that fateful night:

* Rescuers, professionals and volunteers, risked their lives to help others. Upon arriving at the site where two mobile home parks once rested, firefighters and others leapt without hesitation into the dirty water. Hearing pleas for help, they called on every resource, every muscle to rescue as many people as possible. Their quick action and heroics saved dozens of lives that night. Years after the flood, Poudre Fire Authority Battalion Chief Glenn Levy said he found it unbelievable that no rescuers became victims that night.

* The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is now often maligned, responded quickly and efficiently to the disaster, as did the American Red Cross. Although snags did occur, information to help homeowners and business owners recover was provided in a timely and compassionate manner.

* Since that fateful night, the city of Fort Collins has regularly reviewed its stomwater drainage master plan and will pump more than $120 million over 20 years into projects that lift areas out of the flood plain and redirect water to drainage basins. Weather experts now call the Flood of 1997 a 500-year flood; regulations and resources continue to be developed to ensure public safety.

Ten years has nearly passed, but the same words have to be shared today. This community will not forget: the victims, the rescuers or the spirit of a community that united in tragedy and, finally, in healing.

Category: Colorado Water

7:22:29 AM    

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