Colorado cities, counties to lobby state on climate change

#ClimateChange

Summit County Citizens Voice

New organization to push for more aggresive steps to curb greenhouse gases

Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming? Is Colorado a hotspot for global warming?

Staff Report

Nine Colorado cities and counties are forming a new group that aims to push the state to take more aggressive action to slow climate change.

The new group, Communities for Climate Action, will lobby the state government and participate in state agency proceedings to to represent local interests in climate protection, energy efficiency, and clean energy, according to Stephen Saunders, president of the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization, which is administering the new organization.

Saunders said the coalition’s goals could include support for pro-climate bills in the State Legislature, advocating for an effective state plan to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan and lobbying Gov. John Hickenlooper to urge more aggressive state climate actions.

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2016 #coleg: Colorado’s new water law tells feds butt out — The Mountain Town News

In the hot, parched summer of 2012, the Crystal River south of Carbondale was reduced to a trickle. Photo/Ken Neubecker via The Mountain Town News.
In the hot, parched summer of 2012, the Crystal River south of Carbondale was reduced to a trickle. Photo/Ken Neubecker via The Mountain Town News.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

State legislators in Colorado rarely vote unanimously, and when they do it’s usually in support of a pom-pom proclamation such as espousing eternal support for the Denver Broncos or some other feel-good cause.

The Colorado Water Rights Protection Act was approved unanimously this spring before being signed into law April 21 by Gov. John Hickenlooper. The unanimity, however, glosses over strong disagreements.

The Boulder-based law firm that drove the proposal needed three years to get it approved. Then, once it was passed, an environmental group that helped craft the law’s language declined to be interviewed, because it was, in the words of a spokeswoman for Conservation Colorado, “neutral” about what the law says.

Welcome to the wonky, sometimes wacky, world of Colorado water.

This new law is frequently described as a “message.” It tells the federal government that Colorado has sovereignty over all matters involving water appropriations.

The rub lies in water on federal lands. A majority of Colorado’s 14 million acre-feet of water originates on federal lands, which cover near 36 percent of the state’s land mass. Should the federal land agencies have just a little say say-so in how diversions affect ecosystem functions?

Bypass flows have caused the quiet argument. In some cases, the Forest Service requires small amounts of water remain in creeks and rivers when issuing special-use permits or rights of way for diversion infrastructure such as dams, ditches, and pipes. The Forest Service cites the need for resource protection. Bugs need water, and fish needs bugs. They also need water, too. Most creatures do.

Fish in the Fraser River have struggled because there was too little water for the riparian area that had been created by natural flows. Segments have now been mechanically manipulated to be more narrow. Photo/Allen Best.
Fish in the Fraser River have struggled because there was too little water for the riparian area that had been created by natural flows. Segments have now been mechanically manipulated to be more narrow. Photo/Allen Best.

Near Winter Park, bypass requirements govern diversions from Vasquez and St. Louis creeks by Denver Water. Another requirement mandates bypass flows from Strontia Springs Dam, on the South Platte River southwest of Denver. Still another involves a hydroelectric facility near Georgetown.

The authority, however, lies in contested territory. In 2004, a district court judge agreed with Trout Unlimited that the Forest Service not only has bypass flow authority but also responsibility in some cases to use that authority. A higher federal court took on the case, but ruled on procedural issues, not the substance of the case.

But environmental groups stood by quietly when the Forest Service in 2011 said that ski areas, as a condition of their permits to operate on federal land, had to transfer their water rights to the agency. The reasoning was that water is a critical component of ski area operations, such as for snowmaking. The agency wanted the water rights to be attached to the special-use permit.

That’s really no different than Colorado’s requirement of state school trust lands leased for agriculture. These are the lands—a section in each township—given by the federal government to Colorado at statehood, in 1876, to be managed for income to benefit public schools. There are now about three million acres. Water rights used in agriculture must be transferred to the state when the land is leased.

The ski industry loudly opposed the Forest Service requirement. If a ski area figures out how to make snow with less water, for example, why shouldn’t it be able to move the water elsewhere? Too, some water used at ski areas comes from elsewhere. Both Aspen and Vail, for example, use water that originates in rivers at their bases. Finally, late last year, the Forest Service threw in the towel.

The Forest Service also retreated from a directive declaring that the agency has control over groundwater underlying its lands.

The dividing line

Glenn Porzak, a Boulder-based water attorney who was behind the new law, is adamant that the federal government has no role in determining water allocations in Colorado. “The only way you own that water is if you go through (state) water court,” says Porzak, who has for decades represented many ski areas and other water agencies in the Vail-Summit County area.

Western Resource Advocates, a leading environmental organization, was unwilling to stand by the Forest Service in the tiff with ski areas. Rob Harris, the group’s senior staff attorney, says the Forest Service over-reached, likening it to “poking them in the eye a little bit.”

But the group stood firm that it would oppose any state water rights law that rejected bypass flow authority. “We view the legal question as being well settled,” says Harris, pointing to the 2004 decision by the federal district court. “Most people would be depressed if they went to their favorite tract of national forest and found that the creek was dry,” he adds.

Rep. KC Becker oversaw the compromise. A Democrat from Boulder, her district has key parties on both side of the issue as well as the Eldora, Loveland and Winter Park ski areas. It also includes Grand County. Along with Summit and Eagle counties, it bears the brunt of transmountain diversions from the Western Slope. The three counties said in March that they were ready to oppose the bill if it constricted their ability to impose conditions on diversions. Language favored by the state attorney general’s office would have potentially allowed water diverters to sue Grand County for “takings” of property, said the county’s water attorney, David Taussig.

Leaving water in creeks at certain times and situations was integral to Grand County’s support of Denver’s stepped-up diversions through the Moffat Tunnel to Gross Reservoir. The concept, supported by Denver, is that when water is diverted is equally important to how much. In hot, dry weather, added diversions could leave the Fraser River too shallow and warm for fish.

What does it accomplish?

Even in headwaters counties, some heralded the new law. Rick Sackbauer, who chairs the board of the Vail-based Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, called it a “great victory for water right holders in the Eagle River valley and throughout Colorado.”

In early August 2012, this is what the South Platte River looked like north of downtown Denver, near the Cherokee power plant. Photo/Allen Best .
In early August 2012, this is what the South Platte River looked like north of downtown Denver, near the Cherokee power plant. Photo/Allen Best .

Greg Walcher, former director of the state’s Department of Natural Resources under Gov. Bill Owens, said the law “signals the state attorney general, and state agencies, that they are not only cleared, but encouraged, to take legal action when Colorado water rights are threatened by federal overreach.”

The law’s one shortcoming, said Walcher in his op/ed in the Grand Junction Sentinel, was that it was “watered down” by the neutral language about bypass flows.

That neutrality is why Becker, the bill’s primary sponsor, thinks environmental groups should be happy with the law, too. Not all of them are, though.

“My guess is that no one on the D(emocrat) side wanted any daylight between them and the citizens of the state on this, no matter how they feel about it deep down,” said one knowledgeable individual, concerned about job security. “The feds are everyone’s favorite whipping boy on just about everything, and especially water.”

“All true,” said Chris Treese, legislative affairs director for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, when he was read these words.

Treese doubts Colorado’s message law will resolve anything. Tension between the state and the federal government over water will remain. “This will continue to be an issue and a question of perspective.”

An angler in the Roaring Fork River in Aspen in June 2014. Photo/Allen Best
An angler in the Roaring Fork River in Aspen in June 2014. Photo/Allen Best

The bigger issue is the sufficiency of flows for environmental purposes. Laws adopted in the early 1970s have resulted in water rights called instream flows for environmental protection. They serve the same purpose as the federal government’s bypass flows, argues Porzak, the attorney who works on behalf of ski area interests.

Others think far more must be done. In the dry summer of 2012, for example, the South Platte River was reduced to small puddles downstream from diversions for electrical production and farm ditches. The Yampa River through Steamboat Springs looked no better until an agreement was struck that July to return flows.

But linking arms with federal agencies to secure water is always going to be looked upon with suspicion in Colorado. If the Broncos are the state’s de facto religion, state administration under the doctrine of prior appropriation ranks close behind. Even the water that flows out of the Eisenhower Tunnel has an owner and a priority date adjudicated by a state court.

It’s why legislators took so many years to pass the law making it legal to put a coffee can under your back porch to collect dripping rain. The rain barrels were a matter of principle.

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Wells tested in Widefield, Security and Fountain areas exceed EPA advisory limits for damaging chemicals — The Colorado Springs Gazette

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

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

The majority of private wells tested in the Widefield, Security and Fountain area have tested above new levels announced Thursday for chemicals that may cause low birth weight in children or certain types of cancer.

Fourteen of the 17 wells tested so far were above the newly announced levels – leading health officials to say some people who rely on those wells may want to switch to bottled or treated water. Those people include infants, nursing or pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant.

In addition, health officials are urging people using private wells that draw from the Widefield aquifer to contact El Paso County Public Health and get their water tested for free.

In the meantime, people using those wells – especially those at highest risk – also may want to use other sources of water, said Larry Wolk, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s executive director and chief medical officer.

“It’s really more out of caution and trying to be as conservative as possible to provide the advisory and pass on the information,” Wolk said.

The developments mark the latest in a growing concern over the presence of perfluorinated compounds, or PFCs, in groundwater across the nation.

The Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate the chemicals, but they are on a list of potential pollutants that might be regulated in the future.

On Thursday, the EPA issued new health advisory levels for the human-made chemicals, which have been used for decades in firefighting foams, furniture fabrics, food wrappers and in chemicals used to protect carpets and clothing.

The EPA’s previous alert level was 200 parts per trillion. But current research – while limited – suggests the chemicals may cause low infant birth weight.

As a result, the EPA lowered its advisory level Thursday to 70 parts per trillion.

Low birth weight has been linked to a higher risk of physical or developmental health issues later in life.

Links also may exist between PFCs and several conditions, including kidney and testicular cancer, liver damage and thyroid issues, the EPA said.

Determining the exact risk in humans is difficult, because research has only focused on animals so far, Wolk said. Still, many companies that once used PFCs have stopped them.

The new advisory is a so-called lifetime advisory – meaning that the chemical may be harmful after repeated use over a long period.

The 14 wells that tested above the new health advisory level did not exceed the old level, said Tom Gonzales, El Paso County Public Health’s deputy director.

State health officials say that historical data does not show a “significant difference” in low birth weight between areas where PFCs have been detected and the rest of El Paso County. However, their analysis is ongoing.

The source of the contaminants remains unclear, Gonzales said.

Several other water sources near the aquifer – such as surface water – as well other wells tapped into it are being analyzed to pinpoint its source. The tests usually take about three weeks to process.

The county Health Department plans to continue testing water in the area through March – all to gain a better idea of where the PFCs originated.

The aquifer stretches from Stratton Meadows area to Fountain and extends east to the Colorado Springs Airport. It’s the only one in Colorado where PFCs have been detected, Wolk said.

The chemicals initially reached or exceeded the EPA’s old health advisory levels in three public wells in Security and one public well in Widefield.

That water, however, has been diluted with water pumped into the area from the Pueblo Reservoir.

Local health officials’ main concern has been private wells that draw directly from the aquifer, of which there are an estimated 87.

For those people, Gonzales urged water quality tests. They are available by calling El Paso County Public Health at 575-8602.

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Jakob Rodgers):

El Paso County health officials are aware of more people using water contaminated with chemicals that may cause low infant birth weight.

Security Mobile Home Park, which has about 150 residents, and the Fountain Valley Shopping Center appear, to be drawing from Widefield aquifer wells with unhealthy levels of perfluorinated compounds, said Tom Gonzales, El Paso County Public Health’s deputy director, during a Board of Health meeting Wednesday.

Further, residents on the western end of Security and Widefield may be using water with unhealthy levels of the compounds, water district managers said. That is because efforts to dilute it do not appear to work well enough…

It’s a lifetime advisory – meaning adverse health effects might happen after prolonged use over years. Those effects include low infant birth weights and kidney and testicular cancer.

The Widefield aquifer, which stretches along Interstate 25 from the Stratton Meadows area to Fountain and east to the Colorado Springs Airport, appears to be the only aquifer in Colorado contaminated by PFCs at levels triggering health alerts. The contaminants’ source remains unknown.

Different types of wells pull from the aquifer.

Concerns first centered on public wells, which help supply water to thousands of people in the area via a few water districts. Some of those wells tested positive for elevated levels of PFCs during initial tests by the EPA. In those cases water from the Pueblo Reservoir was used to dilute the chemicals.

However, in a few areas, those efforts may not be working well enough, officials with the Widefield Water and Sanitation District and Security Water and Sanitation Districts said.

Each district serves roughly 18,000 or 19,000 residents. Water serving some of those people – especially those on the western end of each district – may be using water with too many PFCs. That is based on tests performed prior to the middle of last week, and further testing is ongoing.

In Security, the issue may be of particular concern on peak water usage days, when the district must use a higher ratio of well water to meet demand, said Roy Heald, general manager of the Security Water and Sanitation Districts.

As a result, the Security water district will institute voluntary watering restrictions from June 1 to Oct. 1 to limit water usage, he said. Those restrictions are three days a week, based on address. [ed. emphasis mine]

El Paso County Public Health officials also have been testing private wells, which are often only used by one household and tap directly into the aquifer, meaning they do not include water from other sources.

The vast majority of the roughly 15 to 20 private wells tested have registered levels above the new EPA advisory level, and more testing is ongoing.

Gonzales once again urged people drawing from private wells to contact the health department for free tests, to determine the PFC levels of their drinking water.

In the meantime, he said the health department is working on ways to remove the chemicals from the water.

“That is our number one priority right now,” Gonzales said.

From the Associated Press via the The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Federal regulators announced tighter guidelines [May 19, 2016] for human exposure to an industrial chemical used for decades in such consumer products as non-stick pans, stain-resistant carpets and microwave popcorn bags.

The cancer-causing chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, known as PFOA, has been found in the tap water of dozens of factory towns near industrial sites where it was manufactured. DuPont, 3M and other U.S. chemical companies voluntarily phased out the use of PFOA in recent years.

Also at issue is the related chemical perfluorooctane sulfonate, or PFOS, used in firefighting foam.

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the stricter guidelines for the chemicals after years of pressure from public health experts and advocacy groups. The agency said the new limits were prompted by recent scientific studies linking PFOA and PFOS to testicular and kidney cancers, as well as birth defects and liver damage.

“EPA will continue sharing the latest science and information so that state and local officials can make informed decisions and take actions to protect public health,” said Joel Beauvais, the EPA’s deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Water. “This is an important part of our broader effort to support states and public water systems as we work together to strengthen the safety of America’s drinking water.”

Trace amounts of PFOA and PFOS can be detected in the blood of almost every American as the result of exposure through food and consumer products. But of specific concern to regulators is the risk posed to residents in the relatively small number of communities where higher levels of PFOA and PFOS have been found in public drinking water.

EPA now says long-term exposure to either chemical at concentrations above 70 parts per trillion could have adverse health impacts. That’s significantly lower than the agency’s prior advisory level based on short-term exposure of 400 parts per trillion.

Under the EPA’s new guidance, water systems where concentrations of PFOA or PFOS are found above 70 parts per trillion are advised to promptly notify local residents and consult with their state drinking water agencies.

EPA said public notification is especially important for pregnant or nursing women because of the impact the chemicals can have on the development of fetuses and infants who are breastfed or drinking formula made with tap water.

In 2013, EPA ordered about 4,800 public water systems nationwide to test for PFOA. More than 100 cities and towns in 29 states had trace amounts of PFOA, but none exceeded 400 parts per trillion.

However, the new lower limit means that a handful of those communities will now qualify as having water with contamination levels above the advised threshold.

EPA’s national survey also did not include many smaller communities located near sites where the chemicals were used for decades.

Hoosick Falls, New York, is located near a plastics plant and where the water supply system serves just 4,500 people, wasn’t included in the testing. PFOA levels of 600 part per trillion were discovered in village wells in 2014 because residents demanded testing amid concerns about what they perceived as a high cancer rates.

More recently, testing turned up PFOA concentrations of about 100 parts per trillion in the drinking water of nearby Petersburgh, New York, and North Bennington, Vermont, which also had plastics plants. A second round of water testing in North Bennington recently yielded readings of up to 2,730 parts per trillion — nearly 40 times the EPA’s new advisory limit.

High Line Canal Conservancy Launches New Public Planning Initiative to Re-imagine the 71-Mile Trail Corridor

Highline Canal Denver
Highline Canal Denver

Here’s the release from the High Line Canal Conservancy (Suzanna Jones):

The High Line Canal Conservancy, which is dedicated to preserving the recreational and environmental future of the High Line Canal, today announced the launch of the High Line Canal public planning initiative. The public planning initiative is part of a large-scale planning program to ensure the well-loved Canal trail reaches its potential as an economic, environmental, recreational and social asset along all of its 71 miles. The goal of the public outreach and visioning phase, called “Adventure on the Canal: Charting our course for the next century,” is to develop a shared vision for the Canal that will guide the future planning process.

“Today begins a region-wide conversation led by the High Line Canal Conservancy to rehabilitate this beloved corridor into a legacy greenway that unifies and celebrates the distinct communities it intersects,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper. “This project joins a statewide effort to get people outdoors and connect with the beauty of Colorado.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper will help kick off the public planning initiative at the High Line Canal and Triple Creek Trail connection ribbon cutting and bike ride in Aurora on Tuesday, May 31 at 12:10 p.m. Following the press conference, the Governor will begin a bike ride along the Canal with local children from Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK), assisted by Bicycle Colorado, and continue with a small select group of riders for a portion of the trail. The Governor will have an opportunity to see some of the challenges presenting the Canal currently.

“The High Line Canal Conservancy is thrilled to work with the Governor and other leaders throughout the region to preserve and transform this outmoded water delivery corridor into a legacy greenway that unifies and celebrates the distinct communities along the High Line Canal,” said Harriet Crittenden LaMair, Executive Director of the High Line Canal Conservancy. “We’re thrilled to have Governor Hickenlooper’s help launching the public outreach phase of this project, asking the public to consider how they view the long-term purpose of the Canal.”

Following the kickoff event, the Conservancy will launch its summer outreach “Adventure on the High Line Canal,” which will include a series of community open houses, events and other engaging activities in various locations across the region. These gatherings will be interactive, fun opportunities where participants can share the reasons they love the Canal and help write a new chapter for the Canal’s future.

Each series of community open houses includes 3 identical gatherings in various locations along the Canal’s reach and represents an important chapter in the mission to chart the High Line Canal’s course for the next century. Together, the four series follow the arc of a typical story. Chapter One – “Our Journey Begins” will kick off the week of June 6 at Aurora Central Library, the Lowry Town Center and Goodson Recreation Center. At these introductory open house events, we’ll take a journey together along all 71 miles of the Canal, from the foothills to the plains, and you’ll be able to share your ideas and feedback every step of the way.

Chapter Two – “A Fork in the Road” will be held the week of July 18 at Expo Recreation Center, Eloise May Library and Eisenhower Recreation Center. This set of community open houses will be the second chapter of the story, bringing residents together to focus on the Canal’s future opportunities and challenges. We’ll explore how each of these ideas could impact the Canal’s narrative in the years to come and ask for your feedback.

Chapter 3 – “Our Story” will be held the week of September 5 at locations to be set in the future. This third chapter will focus on presenting the initial vision reached by residents, the draft shared vision for the Canal, asking the public to share their feedback and input on the shared vision for the Canal.

Chapter 4 – “Looking Ahead” will be held the week of October 16 at locations to be set in the future. This fourth set of open houses represents the final chapter, the draft action plan, determined by feedback from the public. It will be focused on implementation and next steps, and will continue to rely on feedback from the public about the final preferred vision for the Canal.

In addition, online surveys will be available in June and July, providing additional opportunities for input. Visit highlinecanal.org.

Anyone can participate throughout the launch and subsequent events on social media by following @COHighLineCanal and using the hashtag #71Miles.

Here’s how to stay updated on High Line Canal project updates:

The High Line Canal newsletter.

High Line Canal’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

Participate in public meetings: http://highlinecanal.org/community

Take online surveys, which will be active throughout the summer by visiting http://highlinecanal.org/surveys

Help us spread the word: Please invite your friends and neighbors to participate too!

ABOUT THE HIGH LINE CANAL CONSERVANCY

The High Line Canal Conservancy was formed in 2014 by a passionate coalition of private citizens to provide leadership and harness the region’s commitment to protecting the future of the High Line Canal. With support from each jurisdiction and in partnership with Denver Water, the Conservancy is connecting stakeholders in support of comprehensive planning to ensure that the Canal is protected and enhanced for future generations. For more information, please visit http://www.highlinecanal.org.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin #COriver

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through May 22, 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation through May 22, 2016 via the Colorado Climate Center.

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

U.S. House approves bill to regulate toxic chemicals — The Denver Post

effluent

From the Associated Press via The Denver Post:

The House on Tuesday easily approved a bipartisan bill that would for the first time regulate tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

Supporters said the bill would clear up a hodgepodge of state rules and update and improve a toxic-chemicals law that has remained unchanged for 40 years.

“Today marks a milestone — for this Congress and for the American people as we make great strides to update our nation’s chemical safety laws,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “This bill is good for jobs. It’s good for consumers. And it’s good for the environment.”

The 403-12 vote in favor of the bill sends it to the Senate, where it’s expected to be approved and sent to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.

The bill, more than three years in the making, won support in recent days from a broad coalition that ranged from environmental and public health groups to the chemical industry and the National Association of Manufacturers.

In a sign of the bill’s wide support, lawmakers from both parties heaped praise on the measure. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called it a “common sense” bill that will reduce risks to consumers and make “chemicals and products we use every day safer for Americans.”

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said the bill “addresses the fundamental flaws” of the current law that expose the public to dangerous chemicals. “It is long past time that Congress update this law,” she said.

Some environmental groups remained opposed, however, saying the bill did too little to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer, nervous system disorders and other health problems.

“Despite the best efforts of many lawmakers to redeem legislation that originated in the suites of the chemical industry, on balance the law Congress will send to the president’s desk continues to place chemical company interests above the public interest,” said Ken Cook, president of the Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

Toxic chemicals have been linked to serious illnesses, including cancer, infertility, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. But under current law only a small fraction of chemicals used in consumer goods have been reviewed for safety.

The bill approved Tuesday would set new safety standards for asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, styrene and Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, that have gone unregulated for decades.

The measure would update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to require the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate new and existing chemicals against a new, risk-based safety standard that includes considerations for particularly vulnerable people such as children and pregnant women. It also establishes written deadlines for the EPA to act and makes it harder for the industry to claim chemical information is proprietary and therefore secret.

The manufacturers group said industry has “revolutionized the way chemicals are made and used” since the original toxics law was adopted in 1976, “yet the law has not been updated to keep up with those changes.”

State laws enacted to fill the void have resulted in “a patchwork of confusing, often contradictory, regulations for manufacturers and consumers to navigate,” the manufacturers group said in a statement. “It is time to update our nation’s chemical laws.”

“While not perfect, the bill meets the high goals set by the administration for meaningful reform,” the White House said in a statement Monday. The legislation is likely to restore public confidence in the safety of chemicals while improving public health and environmental protections, the White House said.

A key sticking point in negotiations over the bill has centered on state regulation of toxic chemicals.

California, Massachusetts, Vermont and other states have moved aggressively to regulate chemicals, and some Democrats said they feared the bill would block state efforts even as it imposed the first-ever national standards for tens of thousands of chemicals that have gone unregulated for decades.

The 181-page bill declares that any state law or rule in place before April 22 would not be pre-empted by federal law. The legislation also would allow states to work on some regulations while federal rules are being developed, a process that can take up to seven years.

States that do not regulate chemicals closely would follow the federal standard.

Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said the bill includes a “regulatory pause” that prevents states from acting on some chemicals for up to 3 1/2 years while EPA reviews a chemical. Tonko called that “a core flaw in reform that cannot be ignored.”

Supporters say they hope to win Senate approval later this week, with the goal of sending it to Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.

Higher water release will benefit silvery minnow — The Albuquerque Journal

Rio Grande Silvery Minnow via Wikipedia
Rio Grande Silvery Minnow via Wikipedia

From The Albuquerque Journal (Ollie Reed Jr.)

Spring runoff pumped up by water released from El Vado Reservoir today [May 25, 2016] will push flows on the Rio Chama and Rio Grande up to as much as 4,000 cubic feet per second, the swiftest rate in recent memory, in a multiagency effort to benefit the environment and boost silvery minnow spawning.

“Today will be our high-flow day,” said Carolyn Donnelly, water operations supervisor for the Albuquerque office of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. “We are going up to 4,000 cfs out of El Vado for the first time since I don’t know when.”

In 2014, the spring peak flow was only 1,500 cfs, and last year, the best flow year since 2010, the rate at Albuquerque’s Central Avenue bridge was measured at just under 3,000 cfs.

Donnelly said this week’s fast-moving water on the Rio Chama between El Vado, 80 miles northwest of Santa Fe, and Abiquiu Dam, 60 miles northwest of Santa Fe, will break up channel vegetation that is harmful to the ecology.

“When the channel is static, native species, small invertebrates such as snails, for example, don’t do well,” she said.

The one-two punch of spring runoff and released storage water will provide the robust flow that cues the spawning of the endangered silvery minnow, found in the Rio Grande from Cochiti Dam, 50 miles north of Albuquerque, to Elephant Butte Reservoir, five miles north of Truth or Consequences.

Donnelly said the release from Cochiti Dam will be about 3,300 cfs for about two weeks. That rate will benefit the entire ecosystem as well as the minnow.

“The timing of the release is important to the minnow,” Donnelly said. “Conditions are looking really good. We had more snow in April in the Rio Chama watershed and also up in Colorado on the Rio Grande. We are going to start seeing high water from Colorado real soon. And since it’s late May, the water is warmer and the fish (minnow) like that.”

Agencies collaborating with Reclamation in the project are the Office of the State Engineer and the Interstate Stream Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, the Rio Chama Watershed Partnership and the Rio Grande Compact Commission, which represent the compact states of New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.

A resolution approved in March by the [Rio Grande] Compact Commission made this week’s high-flow push possible by allowing the storage of about 40,000 acre-feet of water in El Vado between May 2 and May 20.

Rio Grande and Pecos River basins
Rio Grande and Pecos River basins