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Fishing: More tiger muskies in Colorado?

State biologists try to balance recreation with restoration of native fish

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More tiger muskies, more native fish? Photo courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife/ Tim Knepp.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Colorado fishery experts say planting more tiger muskie in western Colorado reservoirs could help provide the sport fishing that anglers want, while helping to meet goals of the Colorado River native fish recovery program. Colorado Parks and Wildlife will release more the tiger muskies in Harvey Gap Reservoir this week, adding to the 140 that were stocked last year.

“We are continuing the evaluation phase of this project,” said aquatic biologist Lori Martin. “This introduction of the non-native species last year was well received. There is still potential for tiger muskie to become a viable alternative to northern pike,” Martin said. Continue reading

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Environment: Rock snot mystery solved?

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Caption: This is the freshwater algae known as “rock snot” or “didymo.” Credit: Carole-Anne Gillis.

Global warming likely to intensify outbreaks of unwanted algae, but eradication efforts may be futile

Staff Report

FRISCO — The recent proliferation of freshwater rock snot algae is probably related to changing environmental conditions, Dartmouth scientists reported in a new study last week.

The algae have been native to much of the world for thousands of years, but conditions promoting visible growths were absent or rare. It’s not likely the recent emergence of rock snot was caused by accidental introductions by fishermen or the emergence of a new genetic strain.

That means efforts to wipe out the algae with chemicals or fishing restrictions probably won’t work. Instead, resource managers should try to understand and mitigate the environmental factors that trigger the blooms. Continue reading

Summit Voice: Weekly roundup

Water wars, chapter 33?

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A new study spells out environmental impacts of new diversions from the Colorado River Basin.

By Bob Berwyn

The tug of war over western water is a never-ending source of fascination and a vital topic for everyone in Colorado. In the past couple of weeks, water users on both sides of the Continental Divide have started digesting details of a massive environmental study that spells out the impacts of new diversions from the Fraser River, a key headwaters stream in the Upper Colorado River Basin.

The story is complex and deserves in-depth and sustained coverage. I took a stab at an overview for the Boulder Weekly after talking to some really smart people about how the proposed Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion might play out. Will there be enough common ground? Or will the push to take even more water from the Colorado spur an all-out water war?

One thing is for sure: Cheap water shouldn’t be the fuel for population growth and speculative real estate development, and water planning needs to be more fully incorporated into land use planning, including in the upcoming state water plan. If there is a disconnect between the state water plan and land use, the plan is doomed to fail.

Read more about the latest push to divert more of the Colorado River: “Water has never come easy in the West, and when people start eying the last few drops of an already dying river, things can get tense in a hurry, even in an era of Colorado River Kumbaya …”

Morel madness

M-mmmmorels! Photo courtesy Donald Hughes.

M-mmmmorels! Photo courtesy Donald Hughes.

I also reported on the start of the wild mushroom foraging season in Colorado, which starts in the grassy cottonwood bosques along the Front Range, when tasty morels start to sprout in hidden clumps. Morel, along with several other fungi, are important players in wildfire ecology, helping to prepare the soil at a very mollecular level for new shrub, grass and tree growth.

Read more: “Mushroom hunters are a strange bunch to begin with, scurrying through the forest with their eyes glued to all the damp and shady spots on the ground, hoping to find that treasure trove of delectable fungi …”

Frack no more!

And in case you missed it the previous week, the Boulder Weekly also let me ramble on about beer, fracking and travel in the food section, as I tried to track down whether there is any real threat to Colorado brewers. Read the story here: “As a red-blooded American beer enthusiast with deep roots in beer culture, I got a little riled up when I read a press release a few months ago from a group of brewers concerned about the potential impacts of fracking to their water supplies …”

Deep sea dump

For Summit Voice I interviewed marine ecology professor Kerry Howell about her study of human garbage that’s piling up in some of the most remote ocean depths. Heineken beer cans, Uncle Ben’s rice packets and more, all washing off land and down into submarine canyons, where samples across wide swaths of sea bottom, from the Arctic to the Azores, showed as many as 10 pieces of garbage per acre. Rea the story here: “It’s not the best when your feeding apparatus is covered with plastic …”

Pay to play?

Nobody in Colorado covers recreation fees like Summit Voice. The controversial pay to play program is back in the news, as a California judge ruled that the Forest Service violating the law by charging a general public lands admission fee with a widespread adventure pass program. At stake is free access to trailhead parking on public lands across the country. Read: “The Forest Service is prohibited from charging a fee solely for parking. If a visitor does nothing other than park, the fee is solely for parking and is, therefore, plainly prohibited by the REA,” the court ruled, referencing previous court decisions …”

A few more headlines:

Feds see $470 million gap in firefighting budget

Climate: Scientists surprised by level of ocean acidification impacts off the West Coast of U.S.

Can Squaw Valley slow the development juggernaut?

Wolves just can’t catch seem to a break in the West

 

 

Environment: Feds release final study on Denver Water’s proposed new transmountain water diversions

Massive study evaluates and discloses impacts of new Fraser River diversions, expanded Gross Reservoir

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Will Denver Water get permission to divert more water from the West Slope?

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Not developing new water diversions from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range would increase the chances of a major Denver Water system failure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded in its final environmental impact study for the Moffat Tunnel Collection System expansion.

The federal agency, charged with evaluating and disclosing impacts of the proposal, claims that Denver Water customers could experience periodic raw water and treated water shortages in dry years, with Arvada, Westminster and the North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District especially vulnerable to raw water shortages.

“Severe and more frequent mandatory watering restrictions, including surcharges, may result in a reduced quality of life and place financial burdens on customers. Though still infrequent, mandatory restrictions would reduce production, employment, and other business activity in the Denver Metropolitan area,” The Corps wrote in the executive summary of the massive study. Continue reading

Colorado wetlands to regain federal protection

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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

Oyster farming could clean up Potomac River

New NOAA-USGS study evaluates aquaculture cleanup potential

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Oysters could help clear the water in the Potomac River estuary.

Staff Report

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

Environment: USGS study measures success of abandoned mine cleanups in Montana

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Abandoned mine cleanups can help clean up polluted streams, a new USGS study in Montana finds. 

Water quality improving in Upper Clark Fork Basin

Staff Report

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

Environment: Does coalbed methane development in Wyoming affect water quality?

Wyoming's Powder River Basin. Map courtesy USGS.

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

Water: How long will the Southwest’s acequias survive?

Dartmouth study details threats to historic communal irrigation 

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A patchwork of fields around Taos, New Mexico

Staff Report

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

Climate: USGS says most California streams flowing at less than 10 percent of normal

Widespread western drought continues

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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

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