Call it a compact: Why examining the limits of Colorado River sharing is key to a successful state water plan

February 27, 2015

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

By Greg Trainor

As Colorado’s Water Plan moves forward through a year of revisions, there remains in the background a larger, most-worrisome issue of diminishing supply across the wider Colorado River Basin. This is evident from the dropping water levels of lakes Powell and Mead during the last 13 years. In 2014, these two major water storage reservoirs for the arid West reached all-time lows.

Colorado’s Water Plan is partially made up of eight individual river basin plans that hope to settle water supply allocations among themselves for various uses. However, like the interstate compacts that govern the use of Colorado’s rivers crossing state lines (there are nine such compacts between Colorado and adjacent states), the Colorado River Compact, on a larger, river-basin scale, already divided the waters of the Colorado River in 1922 among seven states that share the Colorado River Basin, and, in doing so, set the…

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Noontime Nature lecture, “The Story of Getting There” at the Loveland Public Library, March 3 and 4

February 26, 2015

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Kevin J. Cook):

John Wesley Powell earned his fame twice: once for taking a direct hit from a cannon during the Civil War and once for passing through the Grand Canyon on a boat. The first made the second seem all the more remarkable.

But Powell was a remarkable person.

His mind was so eclectic that had his thoughts been light they would have been a rainbow. His ideas were like so many brilliant and distinctive hues; his ambitions were like so many gradations.

This trio of diversity, ideas and ambitions was simultaneously his strength and his weakness, a conflict that would stymie a lesser man.

Powell was the quintessential 80-percenter. He had the passion to pursue his ideas, but he only had the drive to get them going. Once one of his ideas was underway with a substantial measure of progress — 80 percent done — his heart and mind turned to the next idea leaving the previous project for others to direct and to complete.

And the one project for which he is best remembered is one that others finished, for Powell did not boat the Grand Canyon alone. Yet few can name those who ran the river with him. The leader gathers the glory.

Another tidbit also gets little attention: To get from Illinois to the Grand Canyon, he passed through Colorado. In other words, to get there he traveled here.

On July 8, 1868, Powell and his troupe known as the Rocky Mountain Scientific Exploring Expedition crossed into Colorado from Cheyenne, Wyo. They spent the summer engaging Colorado’s mountains and passes, parks and rivers.

Rather than passing through like so many sightseeing travelers, they came to engage this young territory. Powell intended to document what others knew but did not preserve in the language of maps.

Anyone could hire the guide services of a man like Kit Carson, but Carson was an illiterate who was good on the ground but incapable of preserving or passing on what he knew.

Powell put Colorado on the map; Powell put the map on Colorado.

Some people might argue that Powell’s time in Colorado was inconsequential because his work here was eclipsed by the trip through the Grand Canyon. A better argument would be that he made it through the Grand Canyon because he made it through Colorado.

Powell’s experiences in Colorado prepared him for the challenges that filled his life as a dreamer and a realist, as a conservationist before the word was coined, as an anthropologist and as a reluctant but motivated politician.

In Colorado John Wesley Powell found his muse.

If you go

The Noontime Nature lecture, “The Story of Getting There” at the Loveland Public Library, 300 N. Adams Ave., will be presented twice on Tuesday, March 3: noon to 1 p.m. and again 2 to 3 p.m. and will be repeated 6 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 4. Third in a free year-long series about nature writing specific to Colorado sponsored by Friends of the Loveland Library, “Getting There” will feature John Wesley Powell’s passage through Colorado in the summer of 1868, as presented in Wallace Stegner’s book, “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian.”

Thank you President Obama #kxl

February 24, 2015

From the Associated Press via The Greeley Tribune:

Defying the Republican-run Congress, President Barack Obama rejected a bill Tuesday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, wielding his veto power for only the third time in his presidency.

Obama offered no indication of whether he’ll eventually issue a permit for the pipeline, whose construction has become a flashpoint in the U.S. debate about environmental policy and climate change. Instead, Obama sought to reassert his authority to make the decision himself, rebuffing GOP lawmakers who will control both the House and Senate for the remainder of the president’s term.

“The presidential power to veto legislation is one I take seriously,” Obama said in a brief notice delivered to the Senate. “But I also take seriously my responsibility to the American people.”

Obama vetoed the bill in private with no fanfare, in contrast to the televised ceremony Republican leaders staged earlier this month when they signed the bill and sent it to the president. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans were “not even close” to giving up the fight and derided the veto as a “national embarrassment.”

The move sends the politically charged issue back to Congress, where Republicans haven’t shown they can muster the two-thirds majority in both chambers needed to override Obama’s veto. North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, the bill’s chief GOP sponsor, said Republicans are about four votes short in the Senate and need about 11 more in the House.

Although the veto is Obama’s first since Republicans took control on Capitol Hill, it was not likely to be the last. GOP lawmakers are lining up legislation rolling back Obama’s actions on health care, immigration and financial regulation that Obama has promised to similarly reject.

“He’s looking at this as showing he still can be king of the hill, because we don’t have the votes to override,” Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a vocal opponent of Obama’s climate change agenda, said in an interview. “If he vetoed this, he’s going to veto many others that are out there.”

First proposed more than six years ago, the Keystone XL pipeline project has sat in limbo ever since, awaiting a permit required by the federal government because it would cross an international boundary. The pipeline would connect Canada’s tar sands with refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast that specialize in processing heavy crude oil.

Republicans and the energy industry say the $8 billion project would create jobs, spur growth and increase America’s independence from Mideast energy sources. Democrats and environmental groups have sought to make the pipeline a poster child for the type of dirty energy sources they say are exacerbating global warming.

For his part, Obama says his administration is still weighing the pipeline’s merits, and he has repeatedly threatened to veto any attempts by lawmakers to make the decision for him.

The GOP-controlled House passed the bill earlier in February on a 270-152 vote, following weeks of debate and tweaks in the Senate to insert language stating that climate change is real and not a hoax. Republican leaders in Congress delayed sending the bill to the White House until they returned from a weeklong recess, ensuring they would be on hand to denounce the president when he vetoed the bill.

The veto forced Republicans, still reveling in their dramatic gains in the midterm elections, to confront the limitations of being unable to turn their ideas into law without the president’s consent — despite the fact they now control both chambers of Congress.

Republican leaders were mulling a number of potential next steps. In addition to trying to peel off enough Democrats to override Obama’s veto — an unlikely proposition — Republicans were considering inserting Keystone into other critical legislation dealing with energy, spending or infrastructure in hopes that Obama would be less likely to veto those priorities, said Hoeven, R-N.D.

“We’ll look to see if we can get some more bipartisan support,” said Hoeven.

Obama last wielded his veto power in October 2010, nixing a relatively mundane bill dealing with recognition of documents notarized out of state. With the Keystone bill, Obama’s veto count stands at just three — far fewer than most of his predecessors. Yet his veto threats have been piling up rapidly since Republicans took full control of Congress, numbering more than a dozen so far this year.

The president has said he won’t approve Keystone if it’s found to significantly increase U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. A State Department analysis found that the tar sands would be developed one way or another, meaning construction of the pipeline wouldn’t necessarily affect emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month called for that analysis to be revisited, arguing that a drop in oil prices may have altered the equation. [ed. emphasis mine]

Rocky Mountain National Park hosts science summit

February 23, 2015

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Two-day Estes Park event highlights Rocky Mountain NP park research

j'o; Rocky Mountain National Park. bberwyn photo

ug Elk tussling along Trail Ridge Road, bberwyn photo


FRISCO — Along with drawing more than 3 million visitors per year, Rocky Mountain National Park is a hotbed of scientific discovery, Each year the park issues more than 100 research permits, with scientists coming from all over the world to study plants, animals, geology and water. Last year, citizen scientists volunteered thousands of hours to research projects. In addition, hundreds of students participate in field data collections and lab analysis.

Many of the researchers will be in Estes Park next week to share the findings from their studies during the two-day (March 4, 5) biennial research conference, which is free and open to all interested members of the community. No registration is required. The conference begins on Wednesday, March 4, at 8:00 a.m. See…

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Environment: Plastic debris takes toll on endangered species

February 22, 2015

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

A red-shafted flicker, which is a forest bird, died after getting entangled in abandoned fishing line in Summit County, Colorado. A red-shafted flicker, which is a forest bird, died after getting entangled in abandoned fishing line in Summit County, Colorado.

Whales and sea turtles hit especially hard 

Staff Report

FRISCO — Not long after researchers managed to quantify the unbelievable amounts of plastic waste going into the world’s oceans, another team of scientists at Plymouth University said they’ve traced how many species are affected by the debris.

In all, nearly 700 species of marine animals have been recorded as having encountered man-made debris such as plastic and glass, the scientists said after looking at records of 44,000 animals and organisms that became entangled in, or swallowed debris.

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New study takes nuanced look at methane leaks

February 22, 2015

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

In some gas fields, leak rates appear close to official estimates

Fracked nation. Researchers try to quantify methane leakage in natural gas fields.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Boulder-based researchers have used thousands of detailed measurements taken during overflights to start compiled a nuanced look at methane leaks from natural gas fields.

The findings showed methane leaking at the rate of tens of thousands of pounds per hour in three major natural gas basins that span Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. But the overall leak rate from those basins is only about one percent of gas production there — lower than leak rates measured in other gas fields, and in line with federal estimates.

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Feds put Wyoming, Great Lakes wolves back on endangered species list

February 22, 2015

Originally posted on Summit County Citizens Voice:

Heavy snow has pushed elk out of the high country, so the Colorado Division of Wildlife will try to divert them from important livestock feeding areas in the Yampa Valley. PHOTO COURTESY THE NATIONAL PAKR SERVICE. Wolves chase down an elk in Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Responding to lawsuits, USFWS acknowledges that state protections are inadequate

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Wild wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes once again are protected under the Endangered Species Act, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a Federal Register notice explaining that Wyoming’s management plan is not adequate to protect the predators.

Of course the agency needed a push from the federal courts to acknowledge the reality of the Wyoming’s anti-wolf policies. Similarly, a federal court also said the agency can’t delist wolves in the western Great Lakes because protections can’t be removed in part of a species’ range when it has not recovered overall.

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