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Feds declare drought disaster in 14 Colorado counties

Farmers hit hard by persistent dry spell

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Dry conditions prevailed in June across much of the Southern Rockies.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With widespread drought conditions still affecting large parts of Colorado, the federal government this week designated 14 counties as eligible for disaster relief: Alamosa, Conejos, Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Jackson, Jefferson, Mesa, Moffat, Montrose, Rio Blanco, Rio Grande, Routt and Saguache. Continue reading

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Colorado: No doubt, still a drought

Annual State of the River meetings will update residents on water planning

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Receding waters of Dillon Reservoir leave big swaths of shoreline exposed.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While spring snowfall has brought some relief to small parts of Colorado, the majority of the state is still gripped by one of the worst droughts on record. The southeastern plains and the southwest mountains in particular have experienced a string of dry years, leaving soil moisture well below normal.

Statewide reservoir storage is also near historic low levels, and even with decent spring runoff in a few river basins, water managers will be scrambling to try and refill key s like Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs. Continue reading

Summit Voice offers a unique Colorado news feed

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Ever wondered about mountain pine beetle genetics? Read Summit Voice.

Water, forests and more …

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — In the age of a global economy and a global environment, nearly all news is local. Case in point is last week’s report from the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General. The IG audited the U.S. Forest Service’s oil and gas drilling program, and found that there is quite a bit of room for improvement when it comes to being prepared for potential spills, and even just keeping track of required inspections.

Since the IG’s office documented a total of almost 200 spills on national forest lands in 2010 and 2011, it’s more than just a hypothetical exercise, and with oil and gas activities expected to ramp up on the White River National Forest, there are implications close to home. Read the story here. Continue reading

Colorado River water users juggle rights to up storage

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A deal between Xcel Energy and Denver Water and other water users to relax the Shoshone hydorpower water right will enable more storage in Dillon, Williams Fork and Green Mountain reservoirs this spring. Photo courtesy Xcel.

Shoshone hydropower water right ‘relaxed’ in collaborative response to 2-year drought; agreement enables about 20,000 acre feet of additional upstream storage early in the year

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Some key players in the Colorado River Basin have worked together to “relax” a senior water right near Glenwood Springs, enabling more water — about 20,000 acre feet — to be stored in upstream reservoirs.

“We expect to gain about 8,000 acre-feet each in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs as a result of the relaxation,” said Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney.

The 1,250-cfs water right for the Xcel-owned Shoshone hydropower plant dates back to 1902, making it one of the most senior rights on the river.

When Xcel exercises that water right, it affects other water users all the way up the river because it’s administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir. Continue reading

Colorado snowpack inches upward in March

Some drought-hit areas stay dry

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Summit County, western Eagle County and parts of Colorado’s northeastern plains saw well above-average precipitation in March, but much of the rest of the state was very dry.

Drought conditions persist at some level across all of Colorado as of late March.

Drought conditions persist at some level across all of Colorado as of late March.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s snowpack continues to inch upward and recently passed last year’s level, but the state’s water woes aren’t over, according to the results of the latest Natural Resources Conservation Service snow survey.

The good news is that the snowpack hasn’t quite peaked yet, according to the April 1 compilation of statistics from automated SNOTEL sites and manual survey results. The bad news is that soil moisture in many parts of the state is still at drought levels, and reservoir levels are well below average and lagging behind last year.

While March snowfall was above average in some parts of Colorado, the statewide snowpack increased by only one percent during the month, from 73 percent of median on March 1, to 74 percent of median on April 1. Continue reading

Morning photo: What a difference a year makes

No March meltdown this year

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In late March, 2012, Dillon Reservoir was well on its way to its earliest melt-out ever.

FRISCO — Precipitation and temperatures were probably fairly close to average in March, but conditions stand in stark contrast to last year, when Colorado experienced record-high temperatures during the same month, setting the stage for a summer drought and a dangerous wildfire season. By late in the month last year, Dillon Reservoir was melted all along the edges, with dark, rotten ice across the rest of its surface. This year, the snow piled up throughout the month and kept the ice well insulated from the sun. It’s never boring in the mountains, is it?
Continue reading

Colorado: Dry January worsens drought woes

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Bare ground above 9,000 feet in early February is not good news for Colorado’s water situation.

Statewide snowpack 30 percent below seasonal average

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Despite some late-January storms, snowpack in the Colorado River Basin continues to lag behind last year and is 30 percent below average for this time of year, according to the latest tally from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Colorado’s southwestern mountains benefited the most from the January precipitation, with snowpack in the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins climbing to 88 percent of normal; up from 70 percent of normal measured on January 1. Continue reading

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