Anyone hip to the latest in environmental journalism has been aware for a while now that “beavers are … having a moment as more people recognize their many benefits to the ecosystem,” as Aspen Journalism Managing Editor Heather Sackett wrote in her most recent story for our Water Desk.
The beaver story Aspen Journalism recently wrote explored how this trend has landed in water policy circles, and it’s not necessarily in a feel-good way, as water managers grapple with the impacts of aridification tightening the balance of supply and demand.
Back in August, Sackett was sitting in on a meeting — somewhere around number 40 for the year — at the summer conference of the Colorado Water Congress in Steamboat Springs that included one of the more unique exchanges a water reporter could expect to hear. A representative from the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District gave lawmakers on the Colorado General Assembly’s Interim Water Resources Committee a presentation on the apparently growing concern that stream restoration projects aiming to bring beavers back to high-country riparian ecosystems could end up harming downstream water users. The concern is that more beaver dams — which have grown in favor because of their ability to create natural storage ponds which provide myriad ecosystem benefits — could translate to higher water losses from evaporation or vegetation sucking it up. The fear is that this could lead to a death-by-1,000-cuts scenario, reducing resource availability to downstream water users with senior rights
A state legislator attending that August meeting asked, “Who are we taking to water court in these cases if beavers move in? It seems to me beavers would probably have the most senior water rights of anyone in the state.”
Intrigued, Sackett did more reporting, learning about the state Department of Water Resources’ attempt to head off a scenario where so-called “beaver dam analog” stream restoration projects would require a water right or a stream augmentation plan. State officials, recognizing that such a high bar would likely preempt most projects, are working on a framework that would “reduce barriers to stream restoration projects while still being protective of water rights,” Sackett reported. Meanwhile, a researcher who has studied the issue said there is no evidence of anyone being harmed by beaver-focused stream restoration projects and, if done correctly, there is no reason why anyone would be.
Also this week at Aspen Journalism, our Data Dashboard helped explain why the last week saw a net gain in water stored at Lake Powell, while Tracking the Curve revealed that while Pitkin County’s COVID-19 new-case incidence rate has been trending down, the test positivity rate is up. In the past that has been a predictor of an upward-pointing curve to come, but the same rules may not apply given the shift to more at-home testing, the results of which seldom are accounted for in official statistics.
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– Curtis Wackerle, editor and executive director
Stream restoration projects focused on beavers present ‘unsettled’ issue
Some fear perceived harm to downstream water users could prompt push for water rights
By Heather Sackett | October 7, 2022
If project proponents were required to spend years in water court securing a water right and spend money on an expensive augmentation plan, in which water is released to replace depletions caused by the project, it could have a major chilling effect on projects that nearly everyone agrees are beneficial to the environment.
Data dashboard: Lake Powell’s elevation has gained one foot
But local streamflows are slowing down as sunny days return
By Laurine Lassalle | October 11, 2022
• Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,530.4 ft on Oct. 9, up from 3,539.5 last week.
• The Fork ran at 97% of average below Maroon Creek and 93% of average at Emma on Oct. 9.
• Maximum air temperature went back to below average as it dropped to 58°F on Oct. 1.
Tracking the Curve
Garfield County has reported 17 new COVID-19 cases since Thursday and Eagle County has added seven cases. Pitkin County has recorded six cases since Thursday.
By Laurine Lassalle
October 11, 2022
Pitkin County’s new-case incidence rate dropped from 155 on Oct. 6 to 80 on Oct. 10, while the test-positivity rate jumped from 16% on Oct. 3 to 33% on Oct. 10.
Aspen area can’t bust out of minor drought classification quite yet
“While the summer monsoons and wet weather leading into fall are welcome, ample snowpack in the winter is what’s needed to bust a drought, said Colorado State Climatologist Russ Schumacher. ‘The Roaring Fork Valley short-term conditions are quite good. The long-term conditions are still not good,’ he said.”
Source: aspendailynews.com | Read more
PAC foe complains to IRS about Boebert’s June speaking engagement at Basalt church
“Nine days ahead of the service, Wheeler emailed Cornerstone Pastor Jim Tarr asking if Republican state Sen. Don Coram, who was challenging Boebert in the June primary, could also speak at the service. And if Coram could not, Wheeler volunteered to speak on his behalf.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
Gravity Haus adds Aspen, Steamboat to its now six-property, 4,000 member mountain-town social club
“Deters has ‘a very long-term lease’ with Hunt for the property, where he plans to open a restaurant in the soon-to-be-empty Wild Fig restaurant space. He’s building Gravity Haus’ own Unravel coffee shop in a former bike shop. There are bars and lounges coming to former lawyer’s offices and members will have a coworking space, gym and ski lockers downstairs at the former pool hall and bar.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
More water restrictions likely as California pledges to cut use of Colorado River supply
“Four water districts and the state’s Colorado River Board said in a letter to the federal government on Wednesday that they are proposing to reduce water use by up to 400,000 acre-feet per year. That would amount to about 9% of the state’s total water allotment from the river for the next four years, through 2026.”
Source: latimes.com | Read more
Can a strain of wheatgrass with an odd name help Colorado farmers use less water?
“Kernza is not going to replace the high yields of alfalfa, Cabot said. But he thinks the crop could pair well with the types of water conservation programs being discussed around the Colorado River Basin — programs that would pay farmers to use less water. Instead of taking a field completely out of production, perhaps a farmer could use less water by planting Kernza, get credit for the water savings and then still have a crop to show for it.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
Advocates, officials seek more clarity on air quality in Pueblo
“Campbell pointed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory, which showed that the Comanche plant emitted more than one million pounds of toxic chemicals in 2020. These emissions made it responsible for about two thirds of the region’s toxic chemical pollution, inventory statistics show.”
Source: collective.coloradotrust.org | Read more
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