Colorado Water
The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. -- Luna Leopold

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

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We have a new record for Arctic sea ice, or more properly, the lack of Arctic sea ice. Scientists reported the lowest amount since they started using satellite imaging in 1977. Here's an article from The North Denver News. They write:

University of Colorado at Boulder researchers are now forecasting a 92 percent chance that the 2007 September minimum extent of sea ice across the Arctic region will set an all-time record low.

The researchers, who forecast in April a 33 percent chance the September minimum of sea ice would set a new record, dramatically revised their prediction following a rapid disintegration of sea ice during July, said Research Associate Sheldon Drobot of CU-Boulder's Colorado Center for Astrodynamics.

"During the first week in July, the Arctic sea ice started to disappear at rates we had never seen before," said Drobot, who leads CCAR's Arctic Regional Ice Forecasting System group in CU-Boulder's aerospace engineering sciences department.

"We have been seeing a sharp decline in thicker, multi-year ice that has survived more than one melt season," said CCAR Research Associate James Maslanik. "This has been replaced in many areas by a thin, first-year layer of ice as well as by younger, thinner types of multi-year ice. The thinner ice just does not have the mass to withstand the effects of warming climate."

The record low September minimum for sea ice, set in 2005, is 2.15 million square miles, Drobot said. For 2007, the highest probability minimum extent is 1.96 million square miles, although there is a 25 percent chance the low will fall to 1.88 million square miles and a 5 percent chance the September sea-ice extent will fall to 1.75 million square miles, he said.

Category: 2008 Presidential Election

8:36:55 AM    

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette, "Water will soon flow into Palmer Lake from a pipeline to Monument Creek. The Palmer Lake Town Council voted 6-1 Thursday night to open a valve that will send water from reservoirs above the town into the evaporating lake. Mayor Max Parker cast the lone dissenting vote...

"The council approved two plans of attack recommended by Awake the Lake: first, exchanging treated wastewater for creek water, and second, using excess creek water it has rights to but the town's water filtering plant can't handle. Town drinking water comes from two reservoirs above the town and is transported down the mountainside via Monument Creek. Then it's treated and distributed to homes. Awake the Lake says the town's aging plant can only process 10 percent of the water it receives, with the rest going downstream to other entities such as Monument and Colorado Springs. The plan approved Thursday night will divert the excess water to the lake. Colorado's complex water laws make the situation more difficult, however, because other downstream users with water rights senior to those of Palmer Lake can claim the water first. That means the creek water might not always be available during times of drought, officials said. But filling the lake will never supersede the town's need for drinking water, they said."

Category: Colorado Water

8:29:36 AM    

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Denver Water has received permission for prescribed burns in the South Platte River drainage to help with erosion and sedimentation problems, according to The Rocky Mountain News. From the article:

Colorado's largest water utility has won approval from air pollution regulators to use prescribed burns over thousands of acres of land it owns to prevent catastrophic fires such as the Buffalo Creek and Hayman fires. Super-hot fires can cripple water collection systems, plugging collection pipes with debris and clogging reservoirs with sediment from post-fire rains and erosion. The Hayman Fire, for instance, caused nearly $30 million in damages to areas around Cheesman Reservoir. Smaller, carefully controlled fires, can help avert the problem. Denver Water, which serves 1.2 million people in the metro area, owns roughly 60,000 acres in 10 counties and sought the statewide permit to reduce fire risk in forests on its own land. It initially plans fires on about 2,000 acres.

This fall it will begin doing controlled fires along the North Fork of the South Platte River near Cheesman Reservoir, and elsewhere, according to Chuck Dennis, forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, which manages those lands for Denver Water...

Colorado's seven largest water providers met with forest service officials last week to look at options for preventing the catastrophic fires that foul water pipes and reservoirs and degrade water quality. Eric Wilkinson, manager of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, said he's hopeful the U.S. and state forest services will craft a plan and move quickly to begin thinning trees and creating fire breaks around their mountain water collection systems. He said Front Range cities have been lucky that fires haven't struck yet.

Category: Colorado Water

8:14:50 AM    

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From The Greeley Tribune (free registration required), "Thousands of fish died Wednesday night and early Thursday morning at Rockbridge Lake in Water Valley. The cause of the deaths has not been confirmed by Water Valley officials, but they think it could be due to rapid variation in water temperature. The fish are gizzard shad, a feeder fish for game fish such as largemouth bass, walleye and catfish. Most of the fish are around 1 inch in length, with a few as long as 1 foot. The manmade lakes at Water Valley are around 20-25 feet deep, which result in the temperature rising and falling quickly due to weather conditions."

Category: Colorado Water

8:08:04 AM    

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Here's a recap of yesterday's meeting of the Fountain Creek Task Force from The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The Army Corps of Engineers recommends looking at a dam on Fountain Creek as part of a strategy to reduce flood risk along the waterway...

Wilson also recommended a watershed authority for Fountain Creek to implement plans to not only reduce flood risks, but to manage erosion and sedimentation as well. The Corps also wants to increase standards for development along the creek, restore the ecosystem of the creek and improve water quality. Wilson's presentation was a prelude to completion of the $3 million study that began after flooding in 1999 caused major damage along Fountain Creek. The study has stalled for lack of funding, but efforts are under way to secure the final $149,000 needed to complete the study about one year from now...

The dam is only one idea to tackle flood risk reduction, Wilson said. Another serious flooding problem is the levee system through Pueblo, completed in the late 1980s, which has become less effective as sedimentation and vegetation have begun to clog the channel. The levees were constructed as a result of a study started after the 1965 flood, but only after efforts to build a dam on Fountain Creek failed. The Corps identified three sites for a dam and the concept received support from officials in Colorado and Kansas, but the project was never authorized...

Wilson also identified several reaches along Fountain Creek where ecosystem restoration is needed. Creating wetlands in the area would be relatively easy since increased flows have raised the water tables. Those wetlands would help improve water quality and reduce damage from erosion and sedimentation. The most critical reaches are located between Fountain and Pueblo, he said. Restoring the ecosystem should benefit wildlife, rather than simply preserve open space, Wilson said. "I know that people are trying to put in open space. Mowed grass is fine, but you need to help the habitat as well," Wilson said. He said a good example of an area to create a wetlands would be the area in Pueblo near the Pueblo Mall, where fill was removed, and which flooded in May. It has been mentioned as a possible area to remove flooding pressure in future minor floods. The minor floods - those which could be expected to occur every two years - are among the greatest concerns on Fountain Creek, Wilson said.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette. They write:

Detention ponds, wetland preservation, open space and other methods suggested in the new Army Corps of Engineers report are already used by developers to control stormwater runoff or are on the drawing boards as part of future projects, they said. What's unclear is whether recommendations in the preliminary report would ask developers to go beyond what they're already doing and at what cost. On the massive, 21,400-acre Banning Lewis Ranch development that makes up most of Colorado Springs' east side, where developers envision building 75,000 homes over the next 50 years or so, more than 20 detention ponds are planned, said John Cassiani, a vice president with California based developer Banning Lewis Ranch Management Co. "We know where they will go, how deep, how big," Cassiani said. "You're going to see monster ponds in a drainage basin that will take care of all of these issues."[...]

Doug Stimple, chief executive officer with Classic Cos., the Springs-based homebuilder and development company, also said he was only generally familiar with the corps' report. Classic is one of the city's largest real estate firms; it's built thousands of homes and its development interests include the 1,500-acre Flying Horse project on the Springs' far north side and a planned redevelopment of southwest downtown. Some of the safeguards described in the corps' report have been implemented through federal clean water rules and local government regulations, he said. Developers already use detention ponds, open space, grading techniques and erosion-control measures, Stimple said. Ultimately, he said, any recommendations need to be put to a cost-benefit test to determine what's reasonable and what's not. "Any legitimate issue that comes up, you have a range of solutions," Stimple said. "They range from the modest to the extreme. I don't have enough information to know where this solution falls."

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

Category: Colorado Water

7:52:42 AM    

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