Environment: Oxygen-depleted dead zones caused by reservoirs killing endangered fish embryos

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Pallid sturgeon embryos are dying in the dead zones of the Missouri River. Photo via Nebraska Games and Parks Commission.

‘We’re basically talking about a living dinosaur that takes 20 years to reach sexual maturity and can live as long as the average human in the U.S.’

Staff Report

FRISCO — A river fish whose genetic lineage goes back ten of million years has survived dramatic climate shifts and other earth-changing events, but may not be able to persist through the age of dam-building.

Oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the upper Missouri River Missouri River are preventing pallid sturgeon from reproducing, and there’s no sign things will get better, at least not without a little help from humans. Continue reading

The ‘greening’ of the Colorado River Delta

The Colorado River Delta in May, 2014. Photo courtesy NASA.

The Colorado River Delta in May, 2014. Photo courtesy NASA.

Science team tracks effects of historic pulse flow

Staff Report

FRISCO — Last May’s pulse flow in the Colorado River helped revive vegetation along a huge swath of the river’s edge, triggering new plant growth and raising the water table in the delta. After comparing satellite images taken August 2013 with new images from this year, scientists calculated a 23 percent increase in the greenness of riparian zone vegetation. Continue reading

Study: Toxic stream pollution from road salt doubles

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Pollution from road salt is increasing quickly, a new USGS study found.

EPA standards for chloride exceeded at one in three sampling sites

Staff Report

FRISCO — Many streams in the northern U.S. are polluted to toxic levels by salt deicers, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a new study that found the frequency of these occurrences nearly doubling in two decades.

Chloride levels increased substantially in 84 percent of the urban streams analyzed, the researchers said, using data going back to 1960 and ending as recently as 2011. Continue reading

Colorado: Senators Udall and Bennet ask President Obama to use Antiquities Act to designate Browns Canyon as a national monument

Gridlock in Congress prompts request for designation

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There’s a new push to create a national monument along the Arkansas River.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Citing gridlock in Congress, Colorado’s U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have asked President Obama to consider designating Browns Canyon, in Chaffee County, as a national monument under the Antiquities Act.

The request comes as Congress has all but ignored a huge backlog of public lands bills primarily based on ideological opposition to land protection measures by House Republican committee chairs.

According to Udall and Bennet’s Nov. 25 letter to President Obama, community leaders in the Browns Canyon area suggested the Antiquities Act path, recognizing the significant economic benefits of the designation for regional tourism-based businesses. Continue reading

Environment: Bulkhead a big step in Peru Creek cleanup

All-out remediation effort targets acid mine drainage near Keystone Ski Area

Remediation work in progress at the Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado. Photo via Snake River Watershed Task Force.

Remediation work in progress at the Pennsylvania Mine site in Summit County, Colorado. Photo via Snake River Watershed Task Force.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For decades, the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine has been oozing heavy metals — zinc, manganese, cadmium, lead and and arsenic — into the waters of Peru Creek, a small tributary of the Snake River near Keystone, Colorado. The site has been the focus of intensive study during the past 15 years with the goal of improving water quality downstream.

Last week, engineers and environmental experts took a big step toward trying to staunch that flow by blocking one of the mine tunnels. If all goes well, the new bulkhead could reduce the direct discharge from the mine by about two-thirds, said Jeff Graves, a remediation expert with the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

Graves explained that the new plug should force the water back into its natural underground pathways, trickling and percolating down through layers of rock and earth, and not as prone to the oxidation that’s key in the formation of acid mine drainage. Essentially, the work will restore the groundwater flow to more natural, pre-mining conditions, he said. Continue reading

Colorado River flows about average for 2014 water year

Storage still near all-time lows

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A 2014 water year map shows the continuing drought conditions in California, as well as dry patches from Texas, extending north into Oklahoma.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Near-average inflow to Lake Powell the past 12 months helped maintain storage at a similar level to last year in the key Colorado River reservoir. According to the Bureau of Reclamation. Continue reading

Microclimates may buffer some streams from global warming

Low flows in high country streams this summer. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.

Microclimates may partially buffer some streams, at least temporarily, from warming air temperatures. bberwyn photo

‘The one constant is that a healthy watershed will be more resilient to climate change than one that isn’t healthy …’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Global warming is all but sure to raise stream temperatures in many areas, but it turns out that changes in air temperatures don’t offer a reliable proxy for projecting those changes.

Eapecially in the mountains streams of the West, topography and riparian conditions are huge factors in regulating stream temperatures.

The correlation between air temperature and stream temperature is surprisingly tenuous, according to stream ecologists at Oregon State University, who examined historic stream temperature data over a period of one to four decades from 25 sites in the western United States. Continue reading

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