State plan takes on the challenges of water future — The Crested Butte News #COWaterPlan

Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

The plan has been getting a lot of attention for addressing potential transmountain water diversion projects that would carry water from the Western Slope to the Front Range, including the Gunnison River. But local water experts say that’s one small part of a comprehensive document.

“One thing that’s interesting is the amount of attention that transmountain diversion has gotten in the Colorado Water Plan. That’s really just a page or two out of about 500 pages, but it has gotten more attention than the rest of the document combined,” said Frank Kugel, general manager for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District.

In fact, the plan doesn’t address specific project proposals for transmountain diversion. It provides a conceptual framework to guide the consideration of any future proposals—what Kugel calls sideboards for future discussions—including protection for local communities.

“There will be strict principles applied to any future transmountain diversion projects. The diverter has to accept the risk of that project and understand that if there is no water available, they are the first ones to be shut off,” Kugel said.

The full plan considers many other aspects of water management. As Kugel explained, “We’re facing the risk of having twice as many people [in Colorado] by the year 2050 and some 10 to 15 percent less water supply due to climate change. Those two paths are going in opposite directions, so we need to figure out how to serve more people with less.”

To do that, all nine of Colorado’s Water Basin Roundtables, the Interbasin Compact Committee (IBCC) and the Colorado Water Conservation Board have been providing input to the plan.

As the Water Plan website states, “The 27 members of the IBCC, representing every water basin and water interest in Colorado, have agreed that unless action is taken, we will face an undesirable future for Colorado with unacceptable consequences.”

The process has attracted a lot of attention from the public. Julie Nania, water director for High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA), says that more than 24,000 public comments were submitted on the first draft of the plan.

“As a plan itself it’s important, but it also facilitates a conversation, taking a closer look at the difficult water issues in Colorado… and how to move forward and protect natural resources while ensuring that communities have the water they need to thrive,” Nania said.

After an initial review of the second draft, Nania is encouraged by the progress that has been made: there are strong urban conservation goals; emphasis has been placed on the importance of healthy rivers, watersheds and watershed planning (including a recognition of the $2 billion to $3 billion needed to keep them healthy); and stringent principles have been developed to vet any future transmountain diversions projects.

“Two things HCCA will look at as we move forward are funding… and more robust criteria for projects before the state decides to fund them,” Nania said. While the plan acknowledges the cost of maintaining healthy rivers and watersheds, there is no funding mechanism identified for other types of projects.

“And we would always like to see stronger language against new transmountain diversions,” Nania continued.

Dolores River watershed
Dolores River watershed

From The Durango Herald (Peter Marcus) via the Cortez Journal:

The July 2 release of the plan marks a critical juncture for Colorado’s Water Plan, which has been hailed by Gov. John Hickenlooper as one of the most important pieces of policy facing the state. The draft was actually released about two weeks early…

Local and state water officials will hold a meeting July 20 at the Holiday Inn & Suites in Durango, where state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango; James Eklund, director of the Water Conservation Board; and Mike Preston, chairman of the Southwest Basin Roundtable, are expected to give an overview.

Preston said the plan represents an opportunity to frame the future of water in Southwest Colorado and throughout the state for the next 50 years…

Policymakers must balance the interests of rural Colorado – where water is precious for agricultural needs – with the needs of the rapidly expanding Front Range and suburban communities. One sticking point could be transmountain water diversions for Front Range communities. Front Range plans call for more transmountain water, but Preston questions the viability of such a strategy.

Officials must also preserve the state’s “prior appropriation” system, in which rights are granted to the first person to take water from an aquifer or river, despite residential proximity. Water rights often dominate policy conversations.

The Southwest Basin is complicated, flowing through two Native American reservations and including a series of nine sub-basins, eight of which flow out of state. Complexities exist with agreements with the federal government, which owns large swaths of land in the region…

Preston said he has a team currently combing through the second draft of the plan to determine what changes occurred from the first draft. He was not immediately able to comment on any updates to the plan.

“We’ve got a lot of substance, really a 50-year strategy in the plan, and then a bunch of unresolved issues on a statewide level,” Preston said. “So, we’re really going to press for broader community education and engagement from here forward.

“This is a living document,” Preston said. “We’re pretty serious about what’s in it, both in terms of trying to develop our own supplies for the future and how we need to participate in the statewide exercise.”

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

International report confirms: 2014 was Earth’s warmest year on record — NOAA #climatechange


Here’s the release from NOAA:

In 2014, the most essential indicators of Earth’s changing climate continued to reflect trends of a warming planet, with several markers such as rising land and ocean temperature, sea levels and greenhouse gases ─ setting new records. These key findings and others can be found in the State of the Climate in 2014 report released online today by the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information is based on contributions from 413 scientists from 58 countries around the world (highlight, full report). It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space.

“This report represents data from around the globe, from hundreds of scientists and gives us a picture of what happened in 2014. The variety of indicators shows us how our climate is changing, not just in temperature but from the depths of the oceans to the outer atmosphere,” said Thomas R. Karl, L.H.D, Director, NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information.

The report’s climate indicators show patterns, changes and trends of the global climate system. Examples of the indicators include various types of greenhouse gases; temperatures throughout the atmosphere, ocean, and land; cloud cover; sea level; ocean salinity; sea ice extent; and snow cover. The indicators often reflect many thousands of measurements from multiple independent datasets.

“This is the 25th report in this important annual series, as well as the 20th report that has been produced for publication in BAMS,” said Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director. “Over the years we have seen clearly the value of careful and consistent monitoring of our climate which allows us to document real changes occurring in the Earth’s climate system.”
Key highlights from the report include:

  • Greenhouse gases continued to climb: Major greenhouse gas concentrations, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, continued to rise during 2014, once again reaching historic high values. Atmospheric CO2 concentrations increased by 1.9 ppm in 2014, reaching a global average of 397.2 ppm for the year. This compares with a global average of 354.0 in 1990 when this report was first published just 25 years ago.
  • Record temperatures observed near the Earth’s surface: Four independent global datasets showed that 2014 was the warmest year on record. The warmth was widespread across land areas. Europe experienced its warmest year on record, with more than 20 countries exceeding their previous records. Africa had above-average temperatures across most of the continent throughout 2014, Australia saw its third warmest year on record, Mexico had its warmest year on record, and Argentina and Uruguay each had their second warmest year on record. Eastern North America was the only major region to experience below-average annual temperatures.
  • Tropical Pacific Ocean moves towards El Niño–Southern Oscillation conditions: The El Niño–Southern Oscillation was in a neutral state during 2014, although it was on the cool side of neutral at the beginning of the year and approached warm El Niño conditions by the end of the year. This pattern played a major role in several regional climate outcomes.
  • Sea surface temperatures were record high: The globally averaged sea surface temperature was the highest on record. The warmth was particularly notable in the North Pacific Ocean, where temperatures are in part likely driven by a transition of the Pacific decadal oscillation – a recurring pattern of ocean-atmosphere climate variability centered in the region.
  • Global upper ocean heat content was record high: Globally, upper ocean heat content reached a record high for the year, reflecting the continuing accumulation of thermal energy in the upper layer of the oceans. Oceans absorb over 90 percent of Earth’s excess heat from greenhouse gas forcing.
  • Global sea level was record high: Global average sea level rose to a record high in 2014. This keeps pace with the 3.2 ± 0.4 mm per year trend in sea level growth observed over the past two decades.
  • The Arctic continued to warm; sea ice extent remained low: The Arctic experienced its fourth warmest year since records began in the early 20th century. Arctic snow melt occurred 20–30 days earlier than the 1998–2010 average. On the North Slope of Alaska, record high temperatures at 20-meter depth were measured at four of five permafrost observatories. The Arctic minimum sea ice extent reached 1.94 million square miles on September 17, the sixth lowest since satellite observations began in 1979. The eight lowest minimum sea ice extents during this period have occurred in the last eight years.
  • The Antarctic showed highly variable temperature patterns; sea ice extent reached record high: Temperature patterns across the Antarctic showed strong seasonal and regional patterns of warmer-than-normal and cooler-than-normal conditions, resulting in near-average conditions for the year for the continent as a whole. The Antarctic maximum sea ice extent reached a record high of 7.78 million square miles on September 20. This is 220,000 square miles more than the previous record of 7.56 million square miles that occurred in 2013. This was the third consecutive year of record maximum sea ice extent.
  • Tropical cyclones above average overall: There were 91 tropical cyclones in 2014, well above the 1981–2010 average of 82 storms. The 22 named storms in the Eastern/Central Pacific were the most to occur in the basin since 1992. Similar to 2013, the North Atlantic season was quieter than most years of the last two decades with respect to the number of storms.
  • The State of the Climate in 2014 is the 25th edition in a peer-reviewed series published annually as a special supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The journal makes the full report openly available online.

    State water board rules against Glenwood’s proposed whitewater rights — Aspen Journalism #ColoradoRiver

    Upstream view of the Colorado River at the mouth of the Roaring fork River
    Upstream view of the Colorado River at the mouth of the Roaring fork River

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    IGNACIO — The ongoing effort by the city of Glenwood Springs to establish a new water right for three potential whitewater parks on the Colorado River was dealt a setback Thursday by the directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

    The CWCB board voted 8-to-1 to adopt staff “findings of fact” that the proposed water rights for a “recreational in-channel diversion,” or RICD, would “impair Colorado’s ability to fully develop its compact entitlements” and would not promote “the maximum beneficial use of water” in the state.

    James Eklund, the director of the CWCB, and a nonvoting board member, was asked after the meeting what he would tell a kayaker in Glenwood about the board’s vote on Thursday.

    “These are complicated issues,” Eklund said. “The CWCB values recreational water projects and takes very seriously its charge to strike a balance among recreational, environmental and consumptive uses. The proponent’s data and analysis weren’t able to demonstrate that the RICD as proposed struck this balance to the satisfaction of the CWCB.”

    The CWCB board is required by state law to review all applications made in water courts for new recreational water rights, and to make a determination if the water right would prevent the state from developing all the water it legally can.

    Colorado’s “compact entitlements” stem from the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which requires seven Western states to share water from the larger Colorado River basin.

    The compact requires that an unspecified amount of water be divided between Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, and estimates of the amount of water Colorado can still develop under the compact range from zero to 400,000 acre-feet to 1.5 million acre-feet.

    Mark Hamilton, an attorney with Holland and Hart representing Glenwood, told the CWCB board members Thursday that there would be “no material impairment” to the state’s ability to develop new water supplies.

    “If the issue really is what’s the additional upstream development potential, we would point out that significant upstream development can still occur,” Hamilton said.

    Hamilton also said that the recreational water right would be non-consumptive, meaning the water would stay in the river and simply flow over u-shaped, wave-producing concrete forms embedded into the riverbed.

    Glenwood is seeking the right to call for 1,250 cubic feet per second of water to be delivered to three whitewater parks at No Name, Horseshoe Bend and Two Rivers Park, from April 1 to Sept. 30.

    It also wants the right to call for 2,500 cfs for up to 46 days between April 30 and July 23, and to call for 4,000 cfs on five consecutive days sometime between May 11 and July 6 in order to host a whitewater competition.

    Aurora and Colorado Springs, together as partners in the Homestake transmountain diversion project, are opposing Glenwood’s water rights application, which was filed in December 2013.

    “We do not oppose reasonable RICDs, but we believe this RICD claim is extraordinary by any measure,” Joseph Stibrich, the water resources policy manager for the city of Aurora, told the CWCB board, which was meeting in Ignacio on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

    “We believe that a water claim of over 581,000 acre feet will seriously impair full development of Colorado’s compact entitlement,” Stibrich said. “This claim will severely impact the state of Colorado’s ability to meet its future water needs.”

    Stibrich also said “this RICD is going to shift the burden of water supply development to meet the future needs of the state to the Yampa, to the Gunnison, and to the Rio Grande basins, while promoting further dry-up of irrigated lands throughout the state.”

    Denver Water is also opposing Glenwood’s water rights application.

    As part of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Denver Water agreed not to oppose a RICD application from Glenwood, but only if Glenwood did not seek a flow greater than 1,250 cubic feet per second, which is the same size as the senior water right tied to the Shoshone hydropower plant.

    Casey Funk, an attorney with Denver Water, said the utility stands by its agreement, but since Glenwood has asked for more than 1,250 cfs, it is opposing the city’s water court application. However, Funk said Denver Water is willing to keep negotiating with Glenwood.

    The city made the case on Thursday that it was asking for more than 1,250 cfs on only 46 days between April and September, and it was doing so because the stretch of the Colorado from Grizzly to Two Rivers Park was more fun to float at 2,500 cfs than 1,250 cfs.

    According to testimony Thursday, Glenwood also offered to include a “carve-out” in its water right to allow for 20,000 acre-feet of water to be diverted, stored and transported upstream of the proposed whitewater parks at some point in the future.

    But that did not do much to sway the concerns of the CWCB staff.

    “Staff is concerned with this provision, as it does not include water rights for transmountain diversions,” stated a July 15 memo to the CWCB board from Ted Kowalski and Suzanne Sellers of the CWCB’s Interstate, Federal & Water Information Section.

    The CWCB staff memo also found that Glenwood’s recreational water rights would “exacerbate the call on the river and materially impact the ability of the state to fully use its compact entitlements because the RICDs will pull a substantial amount of water downstream.”

    Peter Fleming, the general counsel for the Colorado River District, suggested the CWCB board give the parties in the case more time to continue negotiating before it ruled on its staffs’ findings.

    The River District, which is also a party to Glenwood’s water court case, represents 15 counties on the Western Slope.

    “We think that compact issues are effectively done,” Fleming told the board about Glenwood’s application. “We believe there is sufficient water above the RICD to develop.”

    But the CWCB board did not take Fleming’s suggestion, and after relatively little debate and discussion, a motion was made to accept the staff’s findings that Glenwood’s RICD failed two of the three criteria the CWCB board was supposed to rule on.

    “I think it is really unfortunate that the board took the approach they did,” said Nathan Fey, the Colorado stewardship director for American Whitewater, after the board’s decision against Glenwood.

    American Whitewater and Western Resource Advocates are both parties in the water court case, and they are supporting Glenwood’s application.

    “It is unclear what evidence the staff presented that shows it is of material impairment to developing our water, or maximizing use of the state’s water,” Fey said. “Those are significant concerns, but I don’t think the state made a very strong case on those points. And it sounds like we would prefer to see another transmountain diversion and some future use on the Front Range, rather than protect the current river uses we have in our communities, like Glenwood Springs, now.”

    The board’s finding will now be sent to the Division 5 Water Court in Glenwood Springs, where the city filed its water rights application and the process is still unfolding.

    And while the CWCB board’s determination is not binding on a water court judge, it has to be considered by the court as part of the ongoing case.

    But Hamilton, Glenwood’s attorney, said after the meeting that the court would also need to consider additional balancing information presented by Glenwood.

    It could be an uphill journey for Glenwood, though, as the CWCB staff has also been directed by the CWCB board to remain a party in the water court case and to defend its “findings of fact,” which includes more issues than were considered by the CWCB on Thursday.

    Given the board’s vote on Thursday, Stibrich of Aurora said settlement discussions with Glenwood Springs are now likely.

    “I’m certain they will make overtures to us and we’ll talk,” Stibrich said. “We’ll see if something can be reached or not.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and The Aspen Times on coverage of rivers and water. The Post Independent published this story online on July 16, 2015.

    More whitewater coverage here.

    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism
    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

    2015 Colorado legislation water bill recap

    Colorado Capitol building
    Colorado Capitol building

    From The Fort Morgan Times (Marianne Goodland):

    It began with the interim water resources review committee, which last summer held hearings on studies on groundwater levels in the South Platte River Basin area. That led to four bills dealing with flooding and groundwater issues in the Basin.

    House Bill 15-1178 provided $165,000 in 2015-16 for grants administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board to be used for emergency dewatering of wells in LaSalle and Sterling, due to high groundwater levels that have damaged crops, homes and businesses in those areas. The money comes the CWCB construction fund. It was signed into law on June 5 and went into effect upon the governor’s signature. Rep. Lori Saine, R-Firestone, said emergency dewatering started in LaSalle in April. Another $290,000 will be available in 2016-17 for additional dewatering.

    A related bill, HB 1013, requires the CWCB and state engineer to select two pilot programs, one from LaSalle/Gilcrest and the other from Sterling, to test different ways for lowering the water table. The law requires an annual report on the project to the General Assembly, with a final report due in 2020.

    The law also tasks the state engineer with making changes on operations and design of recharge structures (such as wells) for augmentation plans that include construction of those wells. Augmentation plans are required when someone wants to take water out-of-priority and must replace enough water to avoid injury to the river or other water users.

    Currently, when the water court considers an application for an augmentation plan with a well, the court looks at whether the plan will provide that replacement water, but the court hasn’t looked at the effect on groundwater for nearby water users. HB 1013 requires the state engineer to examine that issue. The bill was signed into law on May 29 and goes into effect on August 5.

    A bill from the water resources review committee puts off a change to state law regarding the Dawson aquifer. The aquifer is one of four within the Denver Basin, which extends from Colorado Springs to Denver and east to Limon and into Morgan County. On July 1, 2015, those who pump from Dawson would have been required to use calculations based on the aquifer’s current condition when figuring out how much water would be needed to replace stream depletions. This dates back a law passed in 2001, and delayed several times since then. Because the state has never had the money to do the modeling necessary, the requirement needed to be postponed again. The legislation did not provide a new implementation date.

    Finally, the annual CWCB projects list included $125,000 for South Platte River basin groundwater level data collection, analysis and remediation.

    Among other significant water bills passed in the 2015 session:

    • Major changes to the fallowing program administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Currently, agricultural land-owners can lease their water rights to municipalities for up to 10 years. This pilot program was expanded by the General Assembly to allow for leasing of water rights for other agricultural, industrial, environmental and recreational uses.

    Garrett Mook, a fourth-generation farmer from Lamar, talked about the value of expanding the program with the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee in March. Mook cited as an example a feedlot in Swink that relies on well water. The well was shut down because of the drought in Southeastern Colorado, and farmers in the area wanted to help the lot owner by leasing some of their water. They weren’t able to do that because the lease-fallow program only allows leasing water rights to municipalities, and the feedlot owner had to find water elsewhere.

    “The way crop prices varies from year to year and rainfall varies from year to year, a new source of revenue is crucial for us…It gives farmers my age a fighting chance,” he said.

    The bill, sponsored by Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) and Rep. Ed Vigil (D-Fort Garland), sailed unanimously through both the House and Senate and was signed into law by the governor on May 1. The new law goes into effect on August 1.

    • A $5 million grant program was set up to manage invasive phreatophytes. These are deep-rooted plants that draw their water from a nearby water table. In Colorado, that means tamarisk and Russian-olive trees. The bill, HB 1005, came from the water resources review committee.

    Colorado has been dealing with these problem plants for more than a decade. The grant program goes into effect on August 5.

    • Rep. Jon Becker, R-Fort Morgan, called SB 183 the most important water bill of the session. The bill quantifies historical use of consumptive water (water that is consumed by crops, for example, and not returned to a stream).

    The bill ran into problems in the House, in the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. It was opposed by the Colorado River District, Trout Unlimited and the Audubon Society. Chris Treese of the Colorado River District said the issue had become a West Slope/Eastern Plains dispute. He pointed to two water court cases where the bill would hamper, rather than hinder, appropriate determinations of consumptive use.

    In one case, an agricultural water right that came through a transmountain diversion (water that is diverted from the West Slope to the Eastern Plains) was sold to two municipalities. The Pueblo water board sought an immediate change-of-use decree from the water court. The city of Aurora did not, although it used the water for 22 years. The city finally went to water court in 2009 to seek the proper permit. But the judge in the case counted all the water used in the decree, including the 22 years of non-decreed (illegal) use. The state Division of Water Resources argued that the water decree should be reduced by 27 percent to account for the years of illegal use. That would be done by using zeros in the calculation, representing the years of non-decreed use.

    The case is pending in the state Supreme Court.

    Becker told this reporter that SB 183 would provide certainty and stability in water court cases. He disagreed with the suggestion that the court use zeros in its calculation of consumptive use. “Non-decreed uses can’t be a benefit but it shouldn’t be a detriment,” Becker said. The courts should use a calculation based on actual consumptive use. He also pointed out that in Aurora’s case, the state engineer had the authority to stop non-decreed use, and didn’t.

    The law established under SB 183 would allow the courts to base the consumptive use on wet years, dry years, and average years, and exclude the year(s) of non-decreed use.

    The law went into effect on May 4 when the governor signed the bill.

    More 2015 Colorado legislation coverage here.

    #Drought news: Colorado is now officially out of drought — KUNC

    From KUNC (Poncie Rutsch). Click through for the great animation showing the progression our of drought. Here’s an excerpt:

    The period from July 2013 to June 2015 is the second wettest two-year period in the U.S. Drought Monitor’s 120 years of observation for the state of Colorado — and that helps. Yet more rain doesn’t always satiate a drought, since too much at any one time means flooding and water runoff. The better solution is snowpack — the amount of snow that falls over the winter and refills the state’s reservoirs as it melts over the winter.

    “What you want is kind of a gradual melting of the snowpack in the late spring and into the summer so that you get that gradual filling of the reservoirs,” explains David Simeral, a meteorologist and author of the U.S. Drought Monitor.

    “It’s been gradually getting better since 2013,” says Simeral. The rains and flooding helped ease Colorado’s drought, and steady rain and snowfall have continued to finish the job…

    The annual monsoon doesn’t hurt.

    “That generally doesn’t help the reservoirs,” says Simeral, “but it helps the vegetation and keeps stream flows up.”

    Vegetation and stream flows are two other indicators that Simeral uses to monitor drought, along with precipitation, soil moisture, and local temperatures.

    “The monsoon is very difficult to predict,” says Simeral. Still, he forecasts more wet weather for the rest of the summer, keeping the state out of drought.

    From InkStain (John Fleck):

    I would like to point out that the first six months of 2015, which roughly coincides with the time since I quite writing about drought for the Albuquerque Journal, have seen the wettest statewide [NM] average precipitation since the epic year of 1941.

    Ag Tech Summit recap

    Drone and cow photo via Popular Science

    From the Produce News (Tim Linden):

    From drones mapping tens of thousands of acres to a personal in-home eco-system, technology advances for the agriculture industry were celebrated at The AgTech Summit, held in Salinas, CA, July 8, as part of the Forbes Reinventing America series. Western Growers was a major sponsor of the event.

    One of the highlights of the day was the winner of the year-long Thrive Accelerator Program, developed by SVG Partners in conjunction with Forbes, Verizon and Western Groves. the Thrive Accelerator is a highly selective mentorship and investment program for technology-enabled startups working specifically in agriculture. Originally, there were close to three dozen firms submitting proposals, 10 were picked to move forward and team with ag industry mentors to help them develop their ideas into real-world products…

    Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers, helped kick-off the day by participating in the opening panel, titled “The World’s Biggest Opportunity.” The panelists discussed how a generation of new technologies will revolutionize the way farming is done in the future. Nassif focused his remarks on the need for innovative solutions to the challenges facing the future of agriculture, in particular the increasing regulatory and market pressures to grow more with less.

    “In the future, farming companies must continue to seek out and adopt new technologies that will allow them to increase yields while using less resources and inputs — such as water, labor, fertilizers and pesticides, and energy — and generating less waste,” said Nassif…

    While the event was held in Salinas and specialty crop production was highlighted by several speakers, it was fairly apparent that the agronomic crops and the huge farms that dot the Midwest tend to be the focus of research in the ag technology sector. The fresh produce industry will clearly benefit as these technologies are developed and adopted, but speaker after speaker spoke of mapping huge farms with drones and satellite images to more efficiently water and fertilize these thousands of acres. One speaker talked about a 70,000-acre lentil farm in Canada.

    Many different companies have surfaced that use public mapping data from satellite images to help growers better manage their crops by more efficiently using resources and drilling down to sub-acre plots, even as small as five-meter plots.

    Another topic of interest that surfaced several times during the day was biotechnology and other advances in plant breeding. Robert Fraley, the chief technology officer for Monsanto, discussed genetic engineering and similar advances that are helping to produce better varieties and crop protection tools that can solve a multitude of issues. Both he and Neal Gutterson, vice president of agricultural biotechnology at DuPont Pioneer, talked about technology that allows researchers to look into the micrbiomes of a plant. This allows plant breeders to study the genomes of a plant cell and be much more targeted in their approach.

    One very interesting session featured Gabe Blanchet, the 24-year-old co-founder and CEO of Grove Labs, which is producing a bookcase-sized ecosystem that endeavors to put a green house in every home. The piece of furniture uses a fish tank and its byproducts to help provide nutrients for a mini greenhouse that he said can give consumers two to three robust bowls of salad per week. The company has already produced and sold the first 50 of these ecosystems in the Boston area. He expects to be in full production this fall with a price tag in the $2,000 range.

    Larimer Co. to buy flood-ravaged properties — The Fort Collins Coloradan

    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280
    Plume of subtropical moisture streaming into Colorado September 2013 via Weather5280

    From the Fort Collins Coloradan (Nick Coltrain):

    The Larimer County Board of Commissioners gave the OK [June 9] for the county’s Community Development Department to move forward with the plan. The properties, all in the Big Thompson Canyon and North Fork areas, were substantially damaged in the floods to the point where they can’t be built upon.

    Terry Gilbert, the community development director, emphasized that the program is voluntary. The estimated value of the parcels range from about $10,000 to $30,000, with a total cost estimate of about $1.2 million. The money would come from federal reimbursements for road work the county did in the immediate aftermath of the flood.

    “We know there’s a lot of landowners struggling and wanting to move forward,” Larimer County Emergency Management Director Lori Hodges said…

    Gilbert said the county had looked at chasing a FEMA grant to buy 18 of the properties, but found the process onerous for the government and the property owners and potentially not worth the savings. The use of FEMA funds would have required every property to be assessed at least twice and, if sold to the county, maintained in perpetuity.

    The assessments alone could have exceeded the value of some of the parcels, Gilbert said.

    Using county money gives more flexibility for buying, reselling and the level of maintenance provided for the properties. It is also potentially a quicker process for property owners looking to get rid of land they can no longer build upon.

    More South Platte River Basin coverage here.