— WyoFile (@WyoFile) September 30, 2014
@CityofSteamboat starts to revamp stormwater maintenance program without busting its budget — Steamboat TodaySeptember 24, 2014
— Pilot & Today (@steamboatpilot) September 24, 2014
Here’s an excerpt.
A year after the city was grappling with the potentially enormous cost of improving its aging stormwater system, the city has started to revamp its stormwater maintenance program without busting its budget or assessing property owners a new fee to help cover the cost.
The city also is earning kudos as it starts to adopt the recommendations of a much-praised citizen task force that spent more than 500 volunteer hours analyzing the city’s storm water infrastructure.
“We’ve historically maintained maybe a dozen culverts per year, and typically we’re just chasing problems and complaints,” Kelly Heaney, the city’s new water resources manager, said last week as she briefed the council on the improvements. “This year with the additional resources we were able to maintain 45 culverts in less than two months.”
Steamboat City Council members liked what they heard.
The biggest changes the city has made this year include hiring Heaney, increasing the streets maintenance budget and adding two seasonal employees dedicated to drainage maintenance.
All of the stormwater improvements in 2014 cost $302,000 and included $47,000 for capital improvements, according to Public Works Director Chuck Anderson.
The total cost of the improvements this year was far less than some of the multi-million dollar options the city was presented with last year for improving its neglected stormwater system.
Early last year, a Minnesota consulting firm that was paid $180,000 to study the city’s stormwater infrastructure, which includes bridges, culverts and dams, called for the city to possibly spend more than $10 million in new capital projects to upgrade its stormwater system and help manage future flooding and problems associated with annual spring runoff.
Faced with the high cost, city officials at one point floated the idea of assessing a fee to property owners to help pay for the improvements.
Before that, city officials were bracing for recommendations carrying a price tag even higher than the $10 million.
The city assembled the stormwater task force to look over the master plan and make recommendations for how to implement and fund it.
While several other communities in Colorado have turned to new fees on property owners to pay for expensive upgrades, the task force here recommended against that option at this time.
Instead, they called on the city to add more money in the annual budget for personnel to more proactively maintain the system.
More stormwater coverage here.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Drought is nothing new to the arid West. It’s just never been witnessed by this many people. Vast swatches of Colorado burned in 2012-13, and California, Oregon and Washington are experiencing one of the worst fire seasons in history this year. In the Colorado River basin, Lake Mead is at the lowest levels since it first filled, while Lake Powell is approaching levels too low to generate power. So Western states, like Colorado, are emphasizing drought planning.
“What happens if the drought continues?” asked John McClow, president of the Colorado Water Congress.
To answer the question, water planners from other states in the Colorado River basin were invited to address the group’s summer conference.
“We have to come together as a basin to decide what happens after 2026,” said Tom McCann, assistant director of the Central Arizona Project. “The first thing is the lower basin states (Arizona, California and Nevada) need to reduce their use.”
CAP stands to lose one-fifth of its supply in a continued drought under temporary guidelines agreed to by states in 2007. To cope, Arizona has implemented conservation, underground storage and weather modification programs.
“We’ve been in a drought emergency since January,” said Tanya Trujillo, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California, where more than 4,000 fires have occurred this year.
California voters will decide whether the state will issue $7.5 billion in bonds for water projects in this year’s elections. Already, the state has fallowed 800,000 acres of farm ground and imposed mandatory water restrictions statewide.
Utah is alarmed by the reduction in levels in Lake Powell that threaten power production, said Eric Millis of the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The state is contemplating a project that would build a pipeline from Lake Powell to serve municipal needs.
“If you look at the 14-year drought, Lake Powell has performed well,” Millis said.
But the downward trend in lake levels has continued after a brief spike in the record wet year of 2011.
In Wyoming, a cloud-seeding research program has been kept alive by donations from other states in the Colorado River Basin, said Steve Wolff, of the Wyoming engineer’s office.
The state is looking for the first time at using water from Fontenelle Reservoir — part of the storage system built to protect the obligation of upper states (Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) under the Colorado River Compact — as a protection against drought.
From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A three-year drought is nothing compared with the damage Los Angeles did to Mono Lake. But people are trying to fix that. Los Angeles expects to get just a fraction of the water it usually brings down off the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains this year, James Yannotta, manager of Los Angeles aqueduct system, told the Colorado Water Congress last week.
“We average 250,000 acre-feet,” he explained, adding that the city has other sources of water. “This year, it will be 40,000 acre-feet. This is horrible.”
The aqueduct system for the Owens Valley was completed prior to state environmental laws, and dried up agriculture in the area. But the extension to Mono Lake extension completed in 1940, 338 miles north of Los Angeles, became a lightning rod of environmental concern.
The level of the lake dropped 40 feet by 1989, and court cases and agreements in the 1990s required Los Angeles to restore it. The lake is three times saltier than the ocean, but Los Angeles captures the water from feeder streams in the closed system before it reaches the lake, Yannotta explained.
Half of the water Los Angeles used to take now stays in the Mono basin to address environmental needs. Formerly, 30,000-150,000 acre-feet annually were taken from Mono basin, but the level now is regulated by the level of Mono Lake. For the past few years, only 16,000 acre-feet have been pumped. That could be reduced to 4,500 acre-feet if the drought continues next year, Yannotta said. To make up for shortfalls in its traditional supplies, Los Angeles is looking at cleaning its contaminated groundwater supplies, reusing more water, capturing stormwater and conservation — strategies that will cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars.
Conservation efforts have kept water use steady, even though the population served grew by 1 million people in the past 20 years.
Meanwhile, Mono Lake is filling again, and streams in the Owens Valley below it are flowing as the giant city to the south reins in its thirst.
More Colorado River Basin coverage here.
Reclamation: Join us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Flaming Gorge Dam in UT on August 16 #ColoradoRiver #GreenRiverJuly 30, 2014
From Steamboat Today (Eugene Buchanan):
For the fourth time, local nonprofit Friends of the Yampa (FOY) hosted a group of more than 20 national conservationists, water policy stakeholders and other river advocates for a four-day raft trip through Yampa Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument as part of its Yampa River Awareness Project (YRAP).
After taking a fly-over of the Yampa Valley and Yampa Canyon the day before to see the waterway from the air, attendees packed dry bags and river gear to float the 71-mile stretch of river from Deerlodge Park west of Maybell to the Split Mountain Boat Ramp in Utah.
Included on the trip were representatives from such conservation organizations as American Rivers and Western Resource Advocates, scientists from the Nature Conservancy and stakeholders from Conservation Colorado, The Wilderness Society, Colorado Water Trust, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, the Yampa River System Legacy Project and the Colorado River Water Conservation District. Local participants included former Routt County commissioner Ben Beall and former City Council president Ken Brenner.
Hosted by river outfitter O.A.R.S, the think-tank trip included campfire panel discussions on everything from preserving the Yampa’s flows and integrity of its bio-diversity to the river’s PBO (Programmatic Biological Opinion), flow management plans and much more. Pow-wow sessions were held each morning and evening at camp, as well as at key ecological sites along the river.
“One of Friends of the Yampa’s goals is to protect the free-flowing nature of the Yampa,” said FOY Board President Soren Jespersen. “You can’t protect something if you don’t have engaged constituents. This year our focus was bringing people who work in river advocacy and water policy programs. There’s an increasing threat that Front Range water interests are looking to the Yampa to solve their perceived water gaps.”
Included on the trip was 14-year Dinosaur National Monument botanist Tamara Naumann, who estimates she’s been down the river nearly 100 times. For her, the biggest threat isn’t protecting the river’s flows or trans-basin diversions, but “people not caring.”
“We need to figure out how to manage it into the next half-century,” she said. “There are many obligations that need to be met, and Colorado has an obligation to send water downstream. But while people’s objectives can be different, the end result can benefit everyone.”
Two other participants, former Adrift Adventures owner Pat Tierney and renowned photographer John Fielder, attended as part of their plans to produce a coffee table book entitled “The Yampa River: Wild and Free Flowing,” to be released in 2015. As part of their efforts before the trip through Dinosaur, they floated and photographed the river from Steamboat to Maybell.
“It’s a great story, and we’re excited to tell it,” said Tierney, adding that this year marked his 37th straight year running the canyon. “It will have great photographs and bring many of the river’s issues to light.”[...]
“We need to build more relationships with farmers and ranchers in the region and show them that our interests are aligned,” said Kate Greenberg of the National Young Farmer’s Coalition. “We’re not going to solve the problem in a week, but this is a great start.”
Take-homes included the need to get recreational and agricultural interests better aligned at both the local and Water Basin Roundtable level; creating an informal management plan for the Yampa’s resource values; and spreading the word on its unique bio-diversity.
“The science aspect of the endangered species that thrive in a free-flowing river environment is important,” said FOY board member and recreational representative for the Yampa/White/Green Basin Roundtable Kent Vertrees, touting such endangered fish in the river as the Colorado pikeminnow. “You need it to back up water policy.”
In the end, after crashing through the dinosaur-sized waves of Split Mountain Canyon at a whopping 20,000 cfs, every participant left with a better understanding of what needs to be done to preserve such a treasure. And many participants stayed on — and were joined by nearly 50 other out-of-town river advocates — to attend the ensuing three-day seminar in Steamboat and tour the upper Yampa Basin as part of a program put together by Nicole Seltzer of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education.
More Yampa River Basin coverage here.