New FEMA floodplain maps bring changes to Morgan County — The Fort Morgan Times

Proposed Changes to Effective Floodplain in Morgan County, Colorado. (Red = increase, Green = decrease, blue = no change.)
Proposed Changes to Effective Floodplain in Morgan County, Colorado. (Red = increase, Green = decrease, blue = no change.)

From The Fort Morgan Times (Stephanie Alderton):

If the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s latest floodplain maps go into effect in 2017, Morgan County’s flood risks will look a little different.

As a part of the National Flood Insurance Program, Morgan County’s highest flood risk areas are shown on maps created by FEMA, which help determine property values and insurance rates. For the first time in about 35 years, FEMA has released a new preliminary floodplain map for the county. It introduces several changes to the old map, making the floodplain smaller in some areas and bigger in others.

The map labels areas that are at low, moderate and high risk from flooding, based on the flow rates of nearby rivers. Properties in high-risk areas have higher flood insurance rates and more building restrictions. The last update to Morgan County’s floodplain map was in 1989, while the maps for specific towns like Brush haven’t been updated since 1981.

For some parts of Morgan County, the new flood map isn’t big news. The city of Fort Morgan has always been too elevated to be greatly affected by the floodplain, and Bradley Curtis, the Engineering and Public Works director, said that hasn’t changed.

“It has minimal effects,” he said. “Not a whole lot of developments are affected apart from Riverview Park and the area down by Maverick’s, which we knew about already.”

Parts of Fort Morgan were flooded during the summer, but that was due to heavy rainfall rather than an overflowing river. The FEMA maps only take overflow from nearby rivers into account when predicting flood risks.

For other towns, the re-mapping is a bonus. Much of the town of Wiggins was in the floodplain under the old map, but now it’s considered a low-risk area. Trustee JoAnne Rohn-Cook said she’s delighted by the new map.

“Since the last survey was done, a dike was built west of the town, so I think that helped,” she said.

From The Brush News-Tribune:

For more information about updates to local FEMA floodplain maps, go to http://www.fema.gov/local-official-survey-findings-flood-risk, call the Morgan County Planning and Zoning office at 970-542-3526, or visit the following sites:

Wiggins – http://www.wigginsco.com (click on the link at the bottom left of the homepage).

Brush – http://www.brushcolo.com (click on the “floodplain updates” link).

Morgan County – http://www.co.morgan.co.us (click on the links under “Important Public Announcements”).

Colorado Corn seeking applications for new ‘Farm Stewardship’ award

Sweet corn near Olathe, CO photo via The Nature Conservancy.
Sweet corn near Olathe, CO photo via The Nature Conservancy.

Here’s the release from Colorado Corn:

Many Colorado farmers are implementing some of the latest-and-greatest production methods, aimed at improving efficiency on their farms, protecting our natural resources, and enhancing air and water quality.

And now Colorado Corn wants to honor the producers taking these efforts to new heights.

The organization is seeking applications for its first ever Colorado Farm Stewardship Award.

“It will no doubt be a difficult task to select just one winner, when we know so many of our Colorado farmers are putting extensive time and energy into being excellent stewards of our resources, while also producing our food, fuel and fiber,” said Mark Sponsler, executive director for Colorado Corn. “But while it won’t be easy, we couldn’t be more excited about this new stewardship program. We feel this award will provide a platform for many growers to share their great stories – shining a light on the numerous, forward-thinking, best-management practices taking place on Colorado’s farms.”

The Colorado Farm Stewardship Award winner is expected to be selected by a committee comprised of board member representatives from the Colorado Corn Administrative Committee (CCAC) and Colorado Corn Growers Association (CCGA), as well as other experts in agriculture, conservation and sustainability.

The announcement of the winner will be made during the Colorado Corn Annual Banquet in Yuma on Dec. 7.

In addition to the awards banquet recognition, the winner will be recognized in Colorado Corn’s communications and outreach efforts, and will also receive the organization’s nomination for the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) Good Steward Recognition – an honor that includes a $10,000 cash award for the winner, among other prizes.

Applicants must be Colorado Corn Growers Association members in good standing, implement conservation-tillage methods, and demonstrate practices related to soil, water or air stewardship.

Applications are due Nov. 18. The application can be found here.

If you have any questions, you can contact Melissa Ralston at mralston@coloradocorn.com, Eric Brown at ebrown@coloradocorn.com, or call our office at (970) 351-8201.

Aspen: Objectors plan to give city reservoir rights a “substantial haircut” during diligence filing process

Gravity dam
Gravity dam

From The Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):

Will proceed with diligence filing

Eliminating the city’s future possibility to build reservoirs that would inundate portions of the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness would be irresponsible, given the uncertainties presented by climate change, Aspen City Council members said on Tuesday.

The board was unanimous in its direction to file a diligence application that would maintain the city’s water rights, first decreed in 1971, to build dams that would create the reservoirs on upper Maroon and Castle creeks.

“I have no more interest in building these dams than anyone else in this room,” councilman Art Daily said in the work session attended by about a dozen members of the public, most of whom wanted the city to abandon the water rights.

Yet Daily, like the rest of his council colleagues, said he would need more information about how the city could meet future water supply challenges without the dams, before he could agree to sign away a later council’s ability to pursue their development.

“I can’t in good conscious say we are going to drop these rights without knowing what the viable alternatives are,” Daily said, while acknowledging that a future where they would be necessary feels like an “almost unforeseeable possibility.”

[…]

Ann Mullins said she cannot predict what will happen in 50 years, and officials in the city utilities department have noted that the snow pack around Aspen could look very different under some climate projection scenarios.

“I think it’s the unpredictable part of climate change that is probably the scariest,” she said…

Council members were clear that the city will continue to study alternative water management strategies that will hopefully preclude the need to ever build the dams. This includes increasing conservation and pursuing other supply and storage initiatives.

Within the next year or two, for example, the city hopes to pump treated wastewater from the Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District up hill from the treatment plant near the Aspen Business Center to irrigate the municipal golf course. The city is also exploring developing water supply from deep-underground wells…

Opposition strategies

Numerous parties, including environmental groups, stream-side property owners and the U.S. Forest Service have indicated they will file statements of opposition to the diligence application should it go forward.

Will Roush, conservation director at Wilderness Workshop, made the case at Tuesday’s meeting that the Maroon Bells are too important a resource to keep the possibility of the dams alive. The regulatory hurdles the city would encounter if it ever tried to develop the reservoirs would be too extreme, and would require an exemption signed by the president to federal wilderness area rules, Roush has said previously.

Paul Noto, a local attorney who is working on behalf of the conservation group American Rivers, said that once the application is before a water court judge, the discussion will enter a new phase. A judge would approve any amendment to the water rights that was mutually agreeable to the city and opposing parties, Noto said.

That means changes to the size and placement of the dams and reservoirs would be on the table. Noto, who argued Tuesday that the city doesn’t need the water that would be stored behind these dams, said there’s a strong possibility that the size of the would-be reservoirs is in for a “substantial haircut” in the water-court process.

Security now on 100% surface water

Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.
Widefield aquifer via the Colorado Water Institute.

From KOAA.com:

All Security Water District customers are now using Perflourinated Chemical (PFC) free surface water. According to Security Water officials, the surface water is brought in from the Pueblo Reservoir. Groundwater wells in the area have been shut down since the EPA found elevated levels of PFC’s, a man-made chemical, in water sources used by Fountain, Security, and Widefield.

The US Air Force plans on changing the type of firefighting foam it uses because of concerns that the foam is responsible for the water contamination.

Photo via USAF Air Combat Command
Photo via USAF Air Combat Command

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The move by Security Water and Sanitation Districts signaled the last time that contaminated water is expected to reach residents’ homes, said Roy Heald, the water district’s general manager.

“We’re confident now that we can maintain this, really, until we can get treatment online,” Heald said.

Security’s announcement comes as temperatures cool and the summer watering season comes to a close.

Water districts in Security, Widefield and Fountain have traditionally relied largely on surface water pumped into the area from the Pueblo Reservoir during winter months. However, those water districts relied much more heavily on the Widefield aquifer during the spring and summer months to meet demand.

That strategy became a problem in May when the Environmental Protection Agency tightened its guidelines over perfluorinated compounds and left residents in Security, Widefield and Fountain scrambling to find other water sources.

Fountain managed to go the entire summer without dipping into the aquifer, due largely to watering restrictions.

Widefield Water and Sanitation District, however, does not expect to completely wean itself from the contaminated aquifer until “sometime in October,” according to Brandon Bernard, Widefield’s water department manager.

In Security, multiple projects are underway to ensure the chemicals no longer get into the drinking water, Heald said.

This year, the district purchased extra surface water from Colorado Springs Utilities to limit its well water use.

And this winter, Security plans to install a second line connecting it to the Southern Delivery System – a move that should significantly boost its capacity for bringing in cleaner water from the Pueblo Reservoir.

Both moves are meant to keep the district from using well water until it can be filtered. The Air Force has promised to provide nearly $4.3 million in water filters to affected water systems and well owners, though Security may not get any filters until next year…

The chemicals have been associated with a host of health ailments, including kidney and testicular cancers, thyroid disease and high cholesterol.

Two lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed on behalf of residents in the area against the manufacturers who produced and sold the chemicals.

The “Blue Book” for the November election is hot off the presses from the General Assembly

Click here to go the the website to view the Blue Book and other election materials.

A man votes his ballot in the U.S. midterm elections at a polling place in Westminster, Colorado November 4, 2014.    REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES)
A man votes his ballot in the U.S. midterm elections at a polling place in Westminster, Colorado November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES)

@NOAA: August marks ongoing trend of record-breaking heat for the globe

Here’s the release from NOAA:

Put away your party hats: August marks a not-so-sweet 16 months of record warmth for the globe, the longest such streak in 137 years.

August 2016 was 1.66 degrees F above the 20th-century average, breaking last years’ record for the warmest August on record by 0.09 degrees F, according to scientists from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The June–August seasonal temperature was 1.6 degrees F above average, surpassing the heat record for this period set in 2015 by 0.07 degrees.

For the year to date, the average global temperature was 1.82 degrees F above average, also breaking the heat record set in 2015 by 0.29 degrees.

World map of significant global climate extreme events in August 2016. August 2016 was another record-breaking month for the globe. (NOAA NCEI)
World map of significant global climate extreme events in August 2016. August 2016 was another record-breaking month for the globe. (NOAA NCEI)

More notable findings around the world include:

  • The globally averaged sea surface temperature was second warmest on record for August and warmest on record for both the season (June–August) and the year to date (January–August).
  • The globally averaged land surface temperature was record high for August, the season (June–August) and the year to date (January–August).
  • Record-warm continents: Africa and Asia had their warmest August; South America had its second; North America its sixth; Europe its 10th; and Oceania its 19th.
  • The average Arctic sea ice extent for August was 23.1 percent below the 1981–2010 average. This was the fourth smallest August extent since records began in 1979.
  • The average Antarctic sea ice extent for August was 0.2 percent above the 1981–2010 average, the 19th largest on record for the month.
  • More: Access NOAA’s report and download images by visiting the NCEI website.

    Johnstown water officials cause fish kill with algae treatment — The Greeley Tribune

    Copper Sulfate
    Copper Sulfate

    From The Greeley Tribune (Catharine Sweeney):

    Johnstown water officials are under investigation for inadvertently killing almost 1,000 fish in the town’s reservoir this summer.

    In an effort to treat an algae outbreak, a worker put a chemical compound into the water that ended up suffocating 972 fish, Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said on Thursday.

    On July 29, the employee applied 40 pounds of copper sulfate — often used as a pesticide — to the reservoir.

    “That has been used in the past with no issues,” she said.

    That wasn’t the case this time.

    Several days later, hundreds of dead fish washed ashore. Officials instructed the Johnstown Police Department’s animal control division to clean the mess, and then reported the incident to the division of wildlife, Churchill said.

    The reservoir, which is north of Colo. 60 and east of High Plains Boulevard, is used for the town’s drinking water and recreational fishing. Officials didn’t express any concern about public health as a result of the chemical in the water. Higher concentrations can cause nausea. The compound can cause eye irritation, but swimming isn’t allowed in the reservoir.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials got involved because the agency supplies the fish for the lake, as it does for many fishing ponds across the state.

    “When we have fish killed, it’s not uncommon for there to be reimbursement for the fish,” Churchill said.

    As of today, Churchill said officials aren’t considering criminal charges or fines.

    “We’re hopeful that we can get it resolved without any kind of litigation,” said Johnstown Town Attorney Avi Rocklin.

    Officials didn’t notify residents of the kill on its website or Facebook page.

    “There was talk about putting something out there, but I can’t tell you whether that was done or not,” Rocklin said.

    It also hasn’t been on any town council meeting agendas for public discussion.

    “Obviously, we’re still in the middle of an investigation,” she said. “It may be premature to be having conversations about it.”

    Copper sulfate-caused fish kills aren’t unique, according to a fact sheet from the National Pesticide Information Center.

    However, the chemical doesn’t poison them. Sudden plant death and decomposition depletes the lake’s oxygen, and dead plants can clog gills.

    Neither Greeley’s water department nor the Northern Water Conservancy District use the compound.

    Greeley supplies water to its residents as well as Evans and parts of Windsor. Northern Water administers the Colorado Big-Thompson project supplies water to about 900,000 people in northern Colorado.

    Although Greeley might use the compound in park ponds, it doesn’t go into Greeley’s drinking water, said Water and Sewer Director Burt Knight.

    Instead, Greeley uses a carbon-based compound to eliminate algae, odor, and tastes, he said.

    Northern Water used to use copper sulfate on reservoirs to control algae and aquatic weeds, said Water Quality Engineer Judy Billica,but it stopped in 2008.

    “Copper, (even) at very low concentrations, can impact aquatic life, including fish,” she said.