2014 Colorado legislation SB14-195 funds phreatophyte study in the South Platte Basin #COleg

June 18, 2014

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Many farmers and others applauded the recent signing of a bill aimed at addressing a major water issue in the region — vegetation along the rivers, which consumes about 40 percent as much water as all cities in northern Colorado combined, studies show.

Signed into law this month, Senate Bill 195, co-sponsored by Scott Renfroe, R-Eaton, allows the Colorado Water Conservancy Board to use funds for a two-year-plus study on the South Platte River watershed where it was impacted by the 2013 flood. The study will attempt to determine the relationship between high groundwater and increases in non-beneficial water consumption of phreatophytes — particularly non-native tamarisk, salt cedars, Russian olives and other such plants along rivers. The bill also calls for developing a cost analysis for the removal of the unwanted phreatophytes in the South Platte Basin. The final report is expected to be presented to the General Assembly by Dec. 31, 2016.

“The amount of plants along the river … and the amount of water we lose because of them … just gets worse and worse every year for us,” said Frank Eckhardt, a LaSalle-area farmer and member of the South Platte Roundtable — a group made up of water officials and experts in the region who convene monthly to discuss ways of solving the region’s future water gaps.

Eckhardt is also chairman of the board for the Western Mutual and Farmers Independent irrigation companies, which, combined, deliver water to about 15,000 acres of farmland in the LaSalle/Gilcrest areas.

Eckhardt said his ditch companies removed some vegetation along their ditches and saw improvements in those water supplies.

The bill talks of the CWCB working with Colorado State University and the Colorado Department of Agriculture on its study, and also notes funding for the study and report could come from unused dollars in an existing $1 million state fund.

“Rather than spend $1 million to study the problem, there’s a lot of us who’d rather see that $1 million go toward more quickly removing some of those plants,” Eckhardt added. “Still, this was a good step.”

A broader study of the South Platte basin, conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute, showed that phreatophytes continue to increase, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons. According to 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative study, all of the South Platte Basin’s municipalities used a little over 600,000 acre feet. That being the case, approval of the study comes as welcome news to many water users and water officials in the ag-intense South Platte River Basin, which includes all or portions of eight of the state’s top-10 ag-producing counties, in addition to many of the fastest growing cities in Colorado.

Many South Platte water users see invasive phreatophytes — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem and potential threat to agriculture.

In all years, and especially in years like 2012 — one in which rainfall was at a record low, some farmers’ irrigation ditches were running dry and cities were having to watch their supplies closely — many agree some of that water could be going to a more beneficial use than quenching the thirst of vegetation along banks in the South Platte basin.

The Senate Bill 195 study won’t solve the problem, many acknowledge, but it represents another step in the right direction — although some still have questions about the bill.

“There’s still a lot of explanation needed regarding how the dollars will be spent, among other issues,” said Bob Streeter, a South Platte Roundtable member, and head of the roundtable’s phreatophyte committee. “We’re looking forward to having some of that explained to us.”

While Streeter acknowledges that phreatophytes are an issue, he, like others, questions how much water users would actually benefit in the long run if that vegetation was eradicated.

Streeter and others agree some kind of vegetation would be needed in place of the removed phreatophytes because root systems are necessary for keeping the river’s banks from eroding, and vegetation would be needed to provide habitats for wildlife in those areas and flood control.

The study isn’t the first step aimed at the phreatophytes issue. Most recently, the Colorado Youth Corps Association and Colorado Water Conservation Board, a division of the Department of Natural Resources, is funding invasive plant species mitigation projects throughout Colorado in an effort to preserve and protect the state’s water resources. Five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the CWCB — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.

The projects are designed to control a variety of invasive phreatophyte plants. The Weld County Youth Conservation Corps, for example, will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.

The CWCB, local governments and organizations also have put together other efforts to limit the amount of vegetation that now lines the banks across the state — some of which are plants that couldn’t be found along the river a century ago.

With more thorough studies required and millions of dollars needed to help reduce the number of phreatophytes along rivers, no one is expecting immediate action that would significantly help address the looming water gap.

However, despite the uncertainties, recent years — like 2012 — serve as a reminder that water shortages are likely to be an issue down the road as the population grows in northern Colorado, and all possible solutions need to be thrown on the table to avoid the expected water-supply gap.

The Statewide Water Supply Initiative study estimates the South Platte River Basin alone could face a municipal and industrial water-supply gap of between 36,000 and 190,000 acre feet by 2050.

More invasive specie coverage here.


Tamarisk Coalition “Raft the River” event, June 29 #ColoradoRiver

June 2, 2014
Colorado River -- photo via Wikipedia

Colorado River — photo via Wikipedia

Click here for the inside skinny.


2014 #COLeg: SB14-195, South Platte River Post #COflood Phreatophyte Study, Ag to Appropriations unamended 12-0

May 5, 2014

Click here to read the bill.

More 2014 Colorado Legislation coverage here.


The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species — Greeley Tribune

April 3, 2014

tamarisk
From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

The Weld County Youth Corps Association recently received grant dollars to help mitigate invasive plant species along the area’s rivers and protect the state’s water resources.

This will likely come as exciting news to water users in northeast Colorado’s South Platte River Basin, who see invasive phreatophyte plants — deep-rooted plants that obtain water from permanent ground supplies or from the water table — as a major problem.

A study conducted last year by the Colorado Water Institute showed that invasive phreatophyte plants continue to increase in the South Platte basin, resulting in large quantities of non-beneficial consumptive water use — perhaps as much as 250,000 acre feet per year, or 80 billion gallons.

According to a news release, the Weld County Youth Conservation Corps will receive $15,000 to remove invasive vegetation from riverbanks and sandbars of the South Platte River.

The project is coordinated with and sponsored by Ducks Unlimited.

The corps will also receive $7,500 to eradicate tamarisk and Russian olive along the St. Vrain River in a project for the Weld County Weed Division.

A total of five projects in 2014 — funded through a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which is a division of the Department of Natural Resources — will be conducted by Colorado Youth Conservation Association-accredited youth corps in conjunction with local project sponsors in four counties throughout the state.

For the South Platte River project, the Weld County Youth Corps Association crew will clear invasive vegetation from three protected properties located along the South Platte River in Weld and Morgan counties. This work will improve the river channel habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife and reduce consumptive water use.

The project will start at Weld County Road 1 and extend about three linear miles toward the confluence with the South Platte River.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association proposal was one of eight representing $105,000 in requests for 14 weeks of work to mitigate these plants throughout the state.

The Weld County Youth Corps Association — serving youth and young adults ages 14-24 — engages its corps members in community and conservation service projects throughout Weld County.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.


Grand Junction: Riparian Restoration in the Western U.S., February 18, 19, 20

February 7, 2014
Tamarisk

Tamarisk

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

Across the West, stream and riverbanks have been taken over by alien invaders. Tamarisk and Russian Olive form dense thickets that crowd out native plants, degrade wildlife habitat, and cut off access to the water.

As daunting as the scale of this invasion is, a tenacious group of scientists, land managers and weed wranglers are doggedly working to understand and control the problem. Many of these experts will gather in Grand Junction Feb. 18-20 to share their latest discoveries on how to tame the invaders and bring back the native willows and cottonwoods, as well as address other challenges to healthy, accessible streambanks.

The Grand Junction-based Tamarisk Coalition is teaming up with The Water Center at Colorado Mesa University to bring these experts together for the research and management conference titled “Riparian Restoration in the Western U.S.” The conference will involve presentations and workshops highlighting recent advancements and emerging issues in riparian invasive plant management and restoration on Feb. 18-19, and a half-day field trip on Feb. 20 to visit a restoration site in Palisade’s Riverbend Park and the Palisade Insectary, which has played an important role in promoting and studying the spread of a tamarisk-eating beetle.

Conference session topics will include secondary weeds and monitoring, threatened and endangered species considerations in restoration, biological control, partnerships and community, restoration planning, technology, wildlife, and water availability and challenges.

There will also be a half-day workshop on “Bridging the Gap between Land Manager Needs and Scientific Research,” and a presentation on the various ways that gardening practices can encourage or discourage certain kinds of insects, including the destructive emerald ash borer.

This conference offers a great opportunity for land and resource managers, private land owners, researchers, students, and others to convene in a collaborative venue to learn about and discuss the latest trends in riparian restoration and ecology. CMU students can attend for free, although they do need to register under the “scholarship” category.

For complete details on the conference and to register, go to http://www.tamariskcoalition.org/programs/conferences/2014.


#ColoradoRiver District: 2014 Water Resources Grant Program

December 4, 2013
Roaring Fork River

Roaring Fork River

From email from the Colorado River District (Martha Moore):

Effective immediately, the Colorado River District is accepting grant applications for projects that protect, enhance or develop water resources within its 15-county region. (district map)

Projects eligible for the grant program must achieve one or more of the following objectives:

• develop a new water supply
• improve an existing system
• improve instream water quality
• increase water use efficiency
• reduce sediment loading
• implement a watershed management action
• control invasive riparian vegetation
• protect pre-Colorado River Compact water rights (those in use before 1929)

Previous successfully grant-funded projects have included the construction of new water storage, the enlargement of existing water storage or diversion facilities, rehabilitation of nonfunctioning or restricted water storage / delivery / diversion structures, implementation of water efficiency improvements and watershed enhancements.

Successful grantees can receive up to a maximum of $150,000 (or approximately 25% of the total project cost; in the case of smaller projects, this percentage may be slightly higher) for their project. The total amount available for the 2014 competitive grant program is $250,000. The application deadline is Jan. 31, 2014.

To access the Water Resources Grant Program application, instructions, guidelines, policies, and other details please visit http://www.ColoradoRiverDistrict.org/page_193.

More information can be obtained by contacting Dave Kanzer or Alesha Frederick at 970-945-8522 or by e-mail to grantinfo@crwcd.org.

More Colorado River District coverage here.


Tamarisk control: ‘When you get a group of people together, it’s amazing what you can do’ — Jesse Loughman

November 5, 2013
Goat munching tamarisk via The Pueblo Chieftain

Goat munching tamarisk via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Melinda Mawdsley):

Desa Loughman thinks tamarisk and Russian olive trees suck, as in suck up too much water. The Palisade resident is tired of watching the non-native plants choke out native trees and consume large amounts of the Colorado River in Riverbend Park.

“They suck the water. They smother out native plants. They literally suck,” Loughman said.

On [October 14], she and her husband, Jesse Loughman, owners of Colorado Alternative Health Care, organized an informal effort of invasive plant eradication in the popular Palisade park along the Colorado River.

“I hope this inspires people all over Colorado to clean up their rivers,” Loughman said. “When you get a group of people together, it’s amazing what you can do.”

For several hours Sunday, the Loughmans and nearly a dozen other people cut down and removed dozens of plants by the boat launch.

“Look at the beach,” Jesse Loughman joked after a huge area of sand was exposed.

The Loughmans coordinated the effort with Frank Watt, Palisade’s public works director, with the hope he can apply for a future grant to replant native plants, Desa Loughman said.

“Frank has a lot of neat opportunities for the town to do things but doesn’t have the manpower,” she added.

Sunday’s tamarisk and Russian olive destruction day was the latest Lend A Hand effort the Loughmans have coordinated to help beautify Palisade at no extra cost to the town. Another invasive plan eradication day is planned for next spring, but the timing depends on the weather, Desa Loughman said.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.


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