Measure what matters and expanding recreation’s clout
We all know it was hot this month, particularly last week when the mercury topped 90°F for four straight days at the Aspen airport. But did you know that the peak temperature through that stretch — 91°F — came within a single degree of the highest-ever recorded temperature in Aspen since 1980?
We have all heard that the biggest reservoirs — Lake Powell and Lake Mead — on the Colorado River system are at or approaching record-low levels, but did you know that the last time Lake Powell was this low was the spring of 2005, and that this season’s low-pool elevation, set last month, is barely 4 feet above the 2005 low mark?
Aspen Journalism is now two weeks into a data dashboard project where we corral metrics of local public interest and I’m excited to share our second effort at the feature. Data Desk Editor Laurine Lassalle has improved upon last week’s model by including lodging occupancy data for Aspen and Snowmass, diving deeper into streamflow and air temperature numbers and getting more info on Lake Powell levels. We are working on more features for the weeks to come so stay tuned.
Also this week, we published a story from Water Desk Editor Heather Sackett about an effort to expand access to recreational in-channel diversion water rights (RICDs). This kind of a water right allows a community to establish a water right specifically for recreational uses, but it must be tied to a man-made structure in the river, such as a “play wave” seen in whitewater parks where artificial structures in the channel create a river feature. Conservation groups are aiming to change that, so that an RICD could be connected to a natural feature already being used for river recreation. This could lower the bar for creating new RICDs, since building an artificial wave can be expensive and tricky, as Pitkin County has learned. Even though new RICDs are junior water rights, Front Range water providers who rely on Western Slope rivers are signaling that they are likely to push back on efforts to expand access to RICDs.
Tracking the Curve, our COVID-19 data tracking project, has been reporting this week on the spread of the Delta variant in Garfield and Mesa counties, as well as new deaths tied to COVID-19 in Garfield County.
Finally, keep an eye out for our latest story, running in Saturday’s Aspen Times, about efforts to plan for water shortages affecting homes and businesses in the Crystal River Valley.
— Curtis Wackerle, editor
By Laurine Lassalle | June 25, 2021
After a low summer season for Aspen and Snowmass tourism last year due to the pandemic, this summer promises to get back on track and even exceed 2019’s occupancy rates.
By Heather Sackett | June 21, 2021
Water rights for natural river features would represent a shift in a state where putting water to “beneficial use” has traditionally meant taking water out of the river for use in agriculture or cities.
By Laurine Lassalle | June 25, 2021
Rio Blanco, Mesa and Delta counties have the highest 7-day incidence rates in the state, with rates ranging from about 134 to 184 per 100,000, according to CDPHE. In the Roaring Fork Valley, Garfield County has the highest rate with 84.8 per 100,000.
“After almost 40 years in and around the news business, I have come to believe strongly that all successful news organizations start with visionary editors. No exceptions.”
Source: cjr.org | Read more
“To make the population numbers work, Pueblo County was moved into the 4th Congressional District, which represents most of the state’s eastern plains. Jessika Shipley, the commission staff director, also added that the group had heard from mountain counties that they’d prefer to be in the same congressional district.”
Source: vaildaily.com | Read more
Survey of Colorado’s high-country residents a “wake-up call” on the devastating implications of the affordable housing crisis
“‘The majority of full-time residents making their living in the county do not have the income to compete for housing in the current high-competition environment,’ reads the report. About 60% of newcomers and 70% of part-time residents who responded to the survey work for an employer outside of the county, compared with about a quarter of full-time residents.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
Guest commentary: Recovering our friend from Crystal River was something we had to do; he would have done the same for us
“Those of us who knew and loved Chason could not stand by without attempting to recover him from the river. So, the assembled group made some calls and rounded up all the necessary equipment to perform a body recovery on our own. … In a five-hour period on Saturday (June 19) the group built a ropes system across the river to guide a raft, controlled from shore, into the area where Chason Russell submerged.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
“Lake Powell’s water level is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the latest 24-month projections from the Arizona and Utah reservoir show that it’s likely to drop even further — below a critical threshold of 3,525 feet by next year.”
Source: cpr.org | Read more
“‘I think DNR obviously is working to get reintroduction done and at the governor’s direction working to get it done as quickly as possible. And so it was surprising when no action was taken against an employee who was working against that effort openly and bragging about it,’ Hampton said.”
Source: gjsentinel.com | Read more
“The center turned out to be just one part of a Rocky Mountain avalanche of businesses, nonprofits, side projects and boondoggles that made up Mr. Stranahan’s career. The only-in-America array of fields he threw himself into ranged from craft beer to free-speech activism to saloon management to childhood education, along with a dash of literary patronage.”
Source: nytimes.com | Read more