Posted on April 15, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
High alpine wetlands that aren’t directly connected with larger rivers will regain more protection under a proposed new federal rule. bberwyn photo.
New rule aims to clear up regulatory limbo for seasonal streams and isolated wetlands
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — A proposed federal rule would restore protection to hundreds of Colorado streams and big swaths of wetlands, including beloved alpine creeks and the sandy washes of the Front Range that only hold water seasonally.
The seasonal streams and disconnected wetlands long were covered under the Clean Water Act, but a pair of complex U.S. Supreme Court rulings in 2001 and 2006 opened some loopholes the regulations. At the least, the legal limbo caused headaches for scientists and regulators trying to assess impacts of housing developments and new roads. In some cases, they weren’t sure if they even had authority to regulate filling or draining of some wetlands. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality, wetlands | Tagged: Environment, water quality, waters of the U.S., wetlands | Leave a comment »
Posted on April 10, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
New NOAA-USGS study evaluates aquaculture cleanup potential
Oysters could help clear the water in the Potomac River estuary.
FRISCO — Degraded water quality in the Potomac River estuary could be improved with intensive cultivation of oysters according to a new NOAA and U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Aquatic Geochemistry.
As filter feeders, oysters could remove all of the nitrogen currently polluting the river if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality, leading to unwanted algae blooms and dead zones. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Environment, water, water quality | Tagged: aquaculture, Environment, Potomac River, water quality | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 15, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Abandoned mine cleanups can help clean up polluted streams, a new USGS study in Montana finds.
Water quality improving in Upper Clark Fork Basin
FRISCO — There are hopeful signs that the ongoing cleanup of abandoned mines around the West will pay off.
The U.S. Geological Survey, reported decreased levels of toxic heavy metals in the streams of Montana’s Upper Clark Fork Basin that have been targeted by remediation efforts. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: abandoned mines, Environment, rivers, The West, water quality | Leave a comment »
Posted on March 2, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Map courtesy USGS.
FRISCO — Some Wyoming watersheds may be showing signs of wear and tear due to coalbed methane development, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study done on the Powder and Tongue river basins in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana.
According to the USGS, three sites on the Powder River show a difference in water quality between the time before coalbed methane development and during the production period. But thirteen other sites, including mainstem and tributaries to the Tongue and Powder Rivers in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana, showed few substantial differences in water quality between the two time periods. Continue reading
Filed under: energy, Environment, fracking, gas drilling, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: coalbed methane, fracking, Powder River, water quality, Wyoming | Leave a comment »
Posted on February 25, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Dartmouth study details threats to historic communal irrigation
A patchwork of fields around Taos, New Mexico
FRISCO — The historic communal irrigation systems known as acequias Southwest are in decline as snowmelt dwindles and water priorities shift. Social and economic shifts favoring modernism over tradition, are also factors on the decline, according to a new study from Dartmouth College.
Similar trends have been observed in other parts of the world, where rural communities that once fended for themselves are becoming integrated into larger economies, which provide benefits of modern living but also the uncertainties of larger-scale market fluctuations. The study appears in the journal Global Environmental Change. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, Uncategorized, water | Tagged: acequias, Irrigation, Southwest, Taos Valley, water | 3 Comments »
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Widespread western drought continues
Much of the West has been very dry during the first four months of the 2014 water year.
By Summit Voice
As California experiences its worst drought in more than a century, it’s probably not surprising that some stream gages in the northern part of the state are showing all-time record low readings, with 2013 in the record books as the driest calendar year in the state’s 119-year recorded history.
Low streamflow affects water availability for agricultural, municipal, and industrial uses, water quality, water temperature, recreational opportunities, and the maintenance of fish populations.
Recent precipitation has resulted in some increases in streamflow, snowpack, and reservoir levels, but severe drought conditions remain. Without significant additional precipitation, prior conditions will quickly return leaving most streams in the state at less than 10 percent of normal for this time of year. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Drought, Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: California drought, climate, Colorado River, drought, Lake Powell, rivers | 2 Comments »
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Forest Service wants to reconnect an aquatic ecosystem that was sliced apart by dredges in the mining era
Restoration plans are afoot for a degraded section of the Swan River, in Summit County, Colorado.
By Bob Berwyn
FRISCO — For all the gold Summit County’s old-timers managed to pull from local mountains and rivers, they left behind quite a mess. Along with toxic pollution oozing into rivers from some abandoned mines, other streams were turned completely inside-out, buried under tons of gravel.
That includes the Swan River, near Breckenridge, where the U.S. Forest Service now hopes to reverse some of the damage with an ambitious five- to 10-year restoration project.
The Forest Service aims to recreate of two miles of stream, riparian, and restore uplands that were all destroyed by the dredge boats. The agency also wants to decommission some roads in the area, build a new road and trail, all within a mix ownership of private, county, town, and national forest lands. Another element of the project would create fish barriers to protect populations of cutthroat trout. Continue reading
Filed under: Colorado, Dillon Ranger District, Environment, rivers, Summit County news, US Forest Service, water, White River National Forest | Tagged: Cutthroat trout, Environment, restoration, Swan River | 1 Comment »
Posted on February 9, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Recovery stakeholders find permanent sources of water to sustain needed late summer and autumn flows
Endangered Colorado River Fish will benefit from permanent sources of water earmarked for a collaborative recovery effort. Click on the image to visit the recovery project website.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Four endangered native fish species in the Upper Colorado River may have a little better chance a long-term survival, as stakeholders in a collaborative recovery program found permanent sources of water needed to protect aquatic habitat for the the fish.
Water previously provided from Williams Fork and Wolford reservoirs to benefit endangered fish recovery has been replaced with permanent sources at a cost of about $25 million. The water will come from Ruedi Reservoir (5,412.5 acre-feet) and from Granby Reservoir (5,412.5 acre-feet). The releases from Granby Reservoir will also benefit flow conditions and water quality upstream of endangered fish habitat. Continue reading
Filed under: biodiversity, Colorado, endangered species, Environment, rivers, water | Tagged: biodiversity, Bonytail chub, Colorado Pikeminnow, Colorado River, Colorado River native fish, endangered species, humpback chub, razorback sucker | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 18, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Small changes from norm can have big impacts
New research to help inform river management.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — An in-depth U.S. Geological Survey study in the Tennessee River basin may help quantify how streamflow alteration changes aquatic ecosystems.
The research is based on community data collected by the Tennessee Valley Authority, and predictions of streamflow characteristics at more than 600 locations — and the findings indicate that even small deviations from natural streamflows can reduce fish diversity.
The study highlights the importance of the timing, magnitude, and variability of low streamflows and the frequency and magnitude of high streamflows as key characteristics critical to assessing how fish communities change in response to streamflow alteration. Continue reading
Filed under: Environment, rivers, water, water quality | Tagged: aquatic habitat, biodiversity, Environment, rivers, Streamflow, Tennessee River | Leave a comment »
Posted on January 7, 2014 by Bob Berwyn
Above-average precipitation in October and November give state a headstart to the runoff season
Colorado snowpack is tracking very near average for the winter so far.
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — The snowpack in nearly every river basin in Colorado is at or above normal, federal watchers said this week.
This year’s January 1 snowpack readings are at 103 percent of median statewide, according to Phyllis Ann Philipps, State Conservationist with the NRCS.
“This is a great start to the 2014 water year. As we saw in 2012 and 2013, early seasons deficits are difficult to make up later in the season … so being right where we should be this time of year gives us a head start compared to the past couple of years,” Philipps said. Continue reading
Filed under: climate and weather, Colorado, Colorado River, rivers, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news, water | Tagged: climate, Colorado, Environment, snowpack, water | 1 Comment »