Forecast news: ‘Light snow is expected over most parts of southern Colorado today’ — NWS Pueblo #codrought #cowx

January 14, 2013

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Drought/snowpack news: ‘Many people don’t realize how close Colorado is to being out of water’ –Paul Bernklau #codrought

January 14, 2013

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From The Rifle Citizen Telegram (Nelson Harvey):

In Western Colorado…all thoughts are on the ongoing drought…

“To go through a second year like 2012 would definitely be tough,” said Ken Kuhns, who manages Peach Valley Community Supported Agriculture Farm near Silt with his wife, Gail, growing about six acres of mixed vegetables, flowers and fruit. “We’ve learned that we need those mid-summer rains.”

Although Peach Valley enjoys decent rights to water from a nearby ditch, Kuhns said the drought certainly affected last year’s production. He plants spinach in the fall for early spring harvest, and harvested about 100 pounds of it last spring, compared to 600 pounds the year before. “A lot of that was due to moisture,” he said.

As of Feb. 7, snowpack in the Colorado River basin hovered around 60 percent of average. That’s about where it stood at the same time last year. But that was before the scorching summer heat depleted millions of gallons of water from area reservoirs.

“I think this drought is going to last us longer than the one in 2002, and that’s because the reservoirs are all empty,” said Paul Bernklau, a retired rancher from Rifle and a former president of the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. “Many people don’t realize how close Colorado is to being out of water.” Bernklau is a seasoned drought-watcher. It was during the drought of 2002 that he was forced to sell out of the cattle industry.

“Getting out was the only smart move I made in the cattle business,” he joked. “A lot of ranchers in the area had to sell out that year.”

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

At 61 percent, the [Colorado River Basin] got off to a slow start in terms of snowpack and subsequent reservoir volumes, according to information provided by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As of Jan. 1, Colorado’s statewide snowpack was at 70 percent of average. The winter season thus far has been dominated by high pressure weather systems and a jet stream that has not cooperated…

Overall, the Colorado River basin shows 69 percent of average for snowpack. Total snow accumulation ranges from 82 percent of average in the Yampa and White River basins to 61 percent of average in the Arkansas basin. In general, the Colorado River basin has a slightly better snowpack than last year at this time, while the southern basins in the state are receiving less snow this year compared with last year.


Folks from both sides of the Great Divide are finding economic common ground around urging caution in the development of oil shale #coriver

January 14, 2013

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Here’s a guest column written by Deborah Ortega and Allyn Harvey running in The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

It is not often that we find common ground across the Rockies on issues that affect our friends and neighbors. We sometimes think of issues as “ours” or “theirs,” though many issues transcend the mountains.

Communities and local businesses across our state depend on clean, abundant water from the Colorado River Basin. There is no greater reminder of that fact than the current drought and the resulting economic impacts we are facing.

It is with those challenges in mind that people in communities from the Western Slope to the Front Range — such as Carbondale, New Castle, Rifle, Grand Junction, Thornton and Denver — support a balanced, commonsense approach to oil shale that requires research prior to commercial leasing of taxpayer-owned land in the West.

Oil shale development could pose a significant risk to the health of our rivers and the availability of water for agriculture, drinking supplies and local businesses. We need to know the risks ahead of any commercial development.

Energy development in our state has always been a significant economic driver, but it must still work in concert with our other job-creating industries that rely on their fair share of the water supply. Impacts to our water sources could affect the livelihoods of millions of residents in every corner of our state.

The technology to make oil shale viable still has not been developed. Since commercial technology does not yet exist, there is no possible way to know the impacts, especially on our water, that would accompany full-scale oil- shale development. All of us have a right to know the facts, so that municipalities, farmers and ranchers, as well as tourism and outdoor recreation businesses that depend on healthy rivers and safe drinking water supplies can plan and make wise decisions. Some have suggested that development will not use much water, and others say it will take too much. The only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know for sure.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed a wide range of estimates that found that industrial-scale oil shale development would require as much as 140 percent of the amount of water Denver Water provides each year (or as much as a city 30 times the size of Grand Junction would use).

There are also those who say that investing public land and water in oil shale will provide a worthwhile return in jobs on the Western Slope and energy for our nation. We hope they are right. We don’t know that for sure either. But we have 100 years of promises and a dismal record of failure with projects such as the Exxon Colony Project, which devastated the local economy after laying off more than 2,000 workers when it closed down on “Black Sunday,” May 2, 1982.

No good investor would put money into a venture without first seeing the books. The Bureau of Land Management’s new plan does just that by requiring oil shale companies to do the research first, so we know just how much water would be needed and what the impacts to water quality would be, before going forward with commercial leasing.

Our neighbors in Arizona and Nevada have also asked that we know the impacts to water — particularly the Colorado River — prior to commercial development.

It was former Denver Water Manager Chips Barry — often heralded by those on both sides of the divide for bringing people together — who cited concerns that industrial-scale oil-shale development could prevent Colorado from fulfilling its obligations to downstream users. In 2009, he told The Denver Post, “That is a risk not only for Denver Water but for the entire state.”

More than 100 business leaders, recreation organizations, farmers, ranchers and others asked the BLM to ensure that Colorado water is protected. Sportsmen have cautioned that reduced stream flows will negatively impact fish and the region’s outdoor-dependent economy. These businesses depend on healthy rivers and safe water supplies. We cannot afford to gamble the backbone of our economy without fully understanding the risk that oil shale poses to it.

We have much to offer here in the West. People come to our communities to visit, and sometimes they stay and call it home, largely because of our big skies and outdoor recreation. We are all concerned about the potential impact on existing water rights throughout the Colorado River Basin once oil shale companies begin to exercise the senior rights they hold. In a worst-case scenario, this could turn the West Slope into an industrial zone, ruin the Colorado River and threaten drinking water supplies on both sides of the Copntinental Divide.

As local officials, our responsibility is to ensure safe, healthy drinking water for our residents and a healthy community. With that in mind, both of our municipalities have taken positions supporting a cautious approach to oil shale. Given that a commercial industry does not yet exist, it is just smart planning to require that research of oil-shale technologies be completed first and impacts fully analyzed before moving forward with a commercial leasing program, as the federal plan suggests. That is an approach that puts the health of our water and the future of our communities first, to ensure that communities on both sides of the Rockies — and our entire region — continue to thrive.

More oil shale — the next big thing for over a hundred years now — coverage here and here.


The Telluride Institute is launching a quarterly film and lecture series — Watershed Expedition Series — January 17 #coriver

January 14, 2013

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From The Telluride Watch (Peter Shelton):

TI is ramping up a new watershed initiative, in two parts. The first event is the screening, at the Nugget Theater on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m., of the Redford Center documentary Watershed: Exploring a New Water Ethic for the New West. The film – about the Colorado River, its complicated history and controversial future – uses character studies to tell the story, from a fishing guide at the headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park to a rancher in Durango, from a group of river rafting Outward Bound teens to a project manager at the river’s delta, in Mexico, a place that rarely sees water actually reach the sea…

The second part of the Institute’s new push on water is called the Watershed Expedition Series, a quarterly film and lecture series jointly supported by the Watershed Education Program and Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library.

VISTA intern Sophia Cinnamon (sophia@tellurideinstitute.org) is spearheading this one, with an emphasis, she says, on “creating a platform for local explorers to share with the community about their adventures and the relation to the natural resources they depend on to travel and recreate.”

The first evening in the series features two Colorado College graduates and their films “at the crossroads of watershed development and conservation.”

Zak Podmore will screen his film Remains of a River at the Library on Tuesday, . on Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. (A reception with the presenters precedes the show at 5:30 p.m.)[...]

The second presenter is Julia Nave, who will talk about her recent trip to the Sacred Headwaters area of British Columbia. With a National Geographic Young Explorer’s grant, she and five other skiers explored the remote Tadogin Plateau backcountry, a pristine wilderness under threat of mining and fracking.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.


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