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Biodiversity: Feds want more input on critical habitat plan for threatened yellow-billed cuckoos

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Can critical habitat help recover vanishing western yellow-billed cuckoos?

Proposed protections not popular with western water users

Staff Report

FRISCO — Threatened yellow-billed cuckoos will have to hang on just a bit longer before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalizes a critical habitat proposal. The agency this week announced it is extending a public comment period on the plan for another 60 days, through Jan. 12, 2015.

The agency announced its original critical habitat plan back in August, proposing to designate 546,335 acres of critical habitat in 80 separate units in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Now, federal biologists say they want more input on the birds’  biology and habitat and justification for exclusions from critical habitat. The agency also seeks information on the incremental economic effects of the proposed critical habitat designation. Continue reading

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Native Colorado fish found spawning in Grand Canyon

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Native Colorado River fish find haven in the Grand Cayon. Image courtesy: www.coloradoriverrecovery.org.

Discovery boosts hopes for long-term recovery

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado River anglers may favor big brown lunkers and splashy rainbows, but those trout are, for the most part, relative newcomers.

The river’s real natives are bony, powerful fish that evolved to survive in a challenging environment. Huge flooding flows in the spring, when the water runs thick with silt, or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, low flows during the fall or sustained drought, when the river is sometimes reduced to a trickle.

Among those native species is the endangered razorback sucker, long the focus of a huge recovery effort that may get a boost from the recent discovery that the fish are spawning in the Lower Colorado, specifically in Grand Canyon National Park, where they haven’t been seen since the 1960s. 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

Colorado farming, ranching water ‘in the crosshairs’ as big reservoirs dwindle

Water experts to discuss role of agriculture in Colorado River puzzle

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Can ag water save the Colorado River?

Staff Report

FRISCO — A new $11 million effort to keep water flowing in the Colorado River to Lake Powell could up the pressure on Colorado farmers and ranchers to sell or lease their water.

In fact, agriculture is in the crosshairs in Colorado, according to the Colorado River Water Conservation District, which represents western Colorado water interests. Low water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead — the key storage buckets on the Colorado — have prompted measures to put more water in the river.

The CRWCD’s annual water seminar (Sept. 19, Grand Junction) will focus on what that means for western Colorado, with panel discussions and presentations on ag efficiency, the worth of ag efficiency and how ag efficiency works with the chief goal of sustaining ag as a viable industry. Continue reading

BLM okays new Colorado River whitewater park

kayakPumphouse site to get new play feature for boaters

Staff Report

FRISCO — Along with the incredible natural terrain of the Colorado River through Gore Canyon, boaters will soon also have an artificial place to play. The Kremmling Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management this week announced approval of the proposed Gore Canyon whitewater park at the Pumphouse Recreation area, west of Kremmling in the Upper Colorado River Valley.

Continue reading

Major Colorado River players announce conservation push

Near critical shortages in California prompt action

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Heading downstream … bberwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With Colorado River water supplies disappearing at a dizzying rate, and with a thirsty — and politically mighty — California parched by drought, the biggest water users at the table said this week they’ll invest $11 million to try and conserve significant amounts of water across all sectors, including including agricultural, municipal and industrial uses.

The Central Arizona Project, Denver Water, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and Southern Nevada Water Authority all signed on to what is being presented as a landmark water conservation agreement aimed at demonstrating “the viability of cooperative, voluntary compensated measures,” according to a press release from Denver Water. Continue reading

Op-Ed: Happy Birthday, Colorado River – long may you live!

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No room for mistakes in the Colorado River Basin.

Conservation has to be the centerpiece of local, state and regional water planning efforts

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — When Congress 93 years ago formally renamed the Grand River as the Colorado, it probably didn’t have any inkling about what the mightiest river in the West would be subjected too early in the 21st century.

Now far removed from that era of hopeful development, the river is over-exploited from beginning to end. Headwater streams are diverted to water acres of bluegrass lawns in Denver, and mountain resorts mindlessly draw down tributaries for snowmaking during the low-flow season, just when trout most need the water.

Just this week, scientists said they’ve documented an astounding rate of water loss in the basin from groundwater pumping alone, which may turn out to be a worse problem than we think, groundwater development is state-regulated, therefore not as closely tracked as the diversions and storage related to major reservoir operations.

And all the pressures have intensified in recent years: More population growth, more development, more demand for food and irrigation, a 14-year dry spell across the West and a warming climate. Even without manmade global warming, ancient trees tell us that the region has seen longer and more intense droughts in the past few thousand years.

The Colorado is tapped out. Continue reading

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