Recently at Aspen Journalism, our Water Desk had news about a ditch improvement project where proponents are tying the work to significant conserved water in Aspen’s Hunter Creek. The Red Mountain Ditch irrigates pastures adjacent to some of Aspen’s prime real estate, taking water from Hunter Creek. For years, the ditch’s owners have been working on piping what was previously an open, 12-mile ditch system, which cuts across the face of Red Mountain. They asked Pitkin County for help finishing the last 3,600 feet, and the Board of County Commissioners last week approved a $48,000 request. According to the ditch company, previous piping has cut water use from 14 cfs to 8 or 9 cfs. Improving the last stretch, according to proponents, will result in an additional 0.5 to 1 cfs of water being left in the iconic local creek which already has its natural flows cut by the trans-basin diversions of the Fry-Ark Project.
Also this week, our Data Dashboard has been tracking soil moisture — an underappreciated environmental metric. Generally, things are looking better this year than last year, with soil moisture levels ticking up above the 2016-2021 average through much of the spring at a monitoring station near Glenwood Springs. Soil moisture is important because it gauges how dry the landscape is — and the more dry, the more water is absorbed before it reaches rivers and streams, and the more vulnerable we are to wildfire.
Over at Tracking the Curve, our local COVID-19 data watchdog, we noted that Pitkin County’s new case incidence rate doubled going into the beginning of the week over the week before — reaching the still-relatively-low rate of 126 new cases over the prior seven days, per 100,000 people — while Eagle County had an elevated test positivity rate at 16%.
Finally, we are excited to announce that Aspen Journalism is partnering with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies to host a public discussion on July 22 at the Hotel Jerome with the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and renowned New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who has covered foreign policy, economics and the environment for more than 40 years. ACES CEO Chris Lane and I will moderate a discussion with Friedman concerning the intersection of the climate crisis, geopolitics and the struggle to sustain liberal democracy. Look for more information to come soon, but in the meantime, tickets went on sale this week for $15. Get them while they are hot at this link, and we look forward to seeing many of you in real life later this summer.
– Curtis Wackerle, editor and executive director
Pitkin County agrees to fund ditch piping project
Red Mountain Ditch operator says more water will be left in Hunter Creek
By Heather Sackett | May 28, 2022
But to complete the final 3,600 feet, the ditch company is turning to public sources of money because they say the project will have the public benefit of keeping between 0.5 and 1 additional cubic feet per second of water in Hunter Creek.
Data dashboard: Glenwood soil moisture improves over 2021, above average in spring
Local snowpack is seeing a small bump due to the cooler temperatures of the Memorial Day weekend.
By Laurine Lassalle | June 2, 2022
• The Roaring Fork River near Aspen ran at 198 cfs on May 30. That’s down from 229 cfs on May 28.
• Snowpack at Indy Pass increased from 5.6% of average last week to 12.1% of average on May 30.
• Lake Powell’s elevation reached 3,531 feet on May 30, up from 3,528 feet on May 22.
Tracking the Curve
Documenting COVID-19 in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties
By Laurine Lassalle | June 1, 2022
Pitkin County’s new-COVID-case incidence rate doubled from around 63 on May 26 to about 127 on May 31. In Eagle County, with the area’s highest positivity rate at around 16%, the incidence remained between 110 and 115.
Pitkin County ready to change growth management system based on climate goals
“The growth management revisit is important because it could result in wholesale changes in unincorporated Pitkin County ranging from house-size restrictions to how transferable development rights are handled. A key goal, according to Houben’s presentation to the commissioners, will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 90% from the 2019 level by 2050 while maintaining a resilient and vibrant economy.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
EcoFlight takes CRMS students into the clouds to learn about the Crystal River
“One of Pargiter’s main missions is to dispel any misinformation related to the Wild and Scenic designation and to make sure local governments understand the issues. She hopes to soon have Colorado Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper on an EcoFlight aircraft — both have worked with the organization prior — as it’ll take Congress to award the designation to the Crystal River.”
Source: aspentimes.com | Read more
Airport redevelopment efforts taking flight
“Airports, though, are not allowed to discriminate against types of aircraft so long as the planes in use meet the criteria for the facility’s basic classification. Time will tell, but the desire to ensure that only certain types of commercial aircraft fly into Aspen could end up being a sticking point with the FAA and the airlines themselves.”
Source: aspendailynews.com | Read more
Eagle County launches three new housing programs
“The three new programs that received approval and launched this week are the Locals First Program, the Aid for Accessory Dwelling Unit program and the Rent Local Program. All of the programs that received authorization Tuesday are now active and accepting applicants.”
Source: vaildaily.com | Read more
How much water is lost in the transfer between Flaming Gorge and Lake Powell?
“‘We’re going to learn in this process what to expect from future releases,’ he said. Cullom said this study, which will involve analyzing stream gauge data as well as some field work, will be the most in-depth recent assessment of its kind. He said these types of transmission-loss questions were studied back in the 1950s and 1960s.”
Source: coloradosun.com | Read more
Bottling the sun: The world has been trying to master this limitless clean energy source since the 1930s. We’re now closer than ever
“What those working on fusion have been trying to do inside their machines is essentially replicate the sun. The sun is a perpetual fusion factory, made up of a gigantic burning ball of plasma. It fuses several hundred tons of hydrogen into helium each second.”
Source: cnn.com | Read more
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