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Sen. Udall helps secure funding for snow surveys

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NRCS snow surveys help water managers plan ahead.

Temporary budget fix ensures program through August 2014

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For decades, hydrologists have been tromping through the high country of Colorado and around the West to make detailed snowpack measurements. Together with data from automated SNOTEL sites and other tools, the monthly snow-course readings help water managers develop accurate projections of spring stream flows, and  how much water will be available for irrigation and storage.

The information is critical in arid regions, which rely on the winter snowpack as the ultimate reservoir. Federal budget cuts have threatened the program, raising concern among western resource managers, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that it has found a way to maintain funding for the Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program — at least through the end of Aug. 2014. Continue reading

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Colorado snowpack lingering in the northern mountains

Southern part of state still gripped by drought

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Colorado’s June 5 snowpack map is a patchwork quilt of contrasts.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Springtime in the Rockies was a tale of two states in Colorado. The snowpack rebounded in the northern mountains, which benefited from a series of wet spring storms, but the southern half of the state was dry and warm, with serious drought conditions persisting in the Rio Grande, as as the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins.

This year’s statewide snowpack peaked April 21, several weeks later than the average date, and cool weather helped further delay snowmelt across the higher elevations, resulting in a statewide June 1 snowpack  at 92 percent of median, according to Randy Randall, acting State Conservationist with the NRCS.

“This respectable percentage is due mainly to the generous amount of snow that remains across northern Colorado. In contrast, the snowpack in the southern portion of the state is nearly depleted even at the higher elevations,” Randall said. Continue reading

Colorado River Basin snowpack surges surges in April

Near-normal runoff expected in some headwaters streams

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The Colorado River Basin snowpack zoomed upward in April.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Spring storms that repeatedly targeted the north-central mountains of Colorado in April help bring the snowpack to near normal in a few river basins. The May 1 snow survey showed the statewide snowpack climbing up to 83 percent of average for the date, the highest level of the year.

“Those wet storms really improved our water supplies, especially along the Front Range and Upper Colorado River basin”, said Phyllis Ann Phillips, state conservationist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. Some headwaters of the Colorado and South Platte  River basins may see runoff near to slightly above average, the NRCS said in the monthly snowpack update. 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

Colorado drought expected to persist through spring

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Drought persists across all of Colorado.

Reservoir storage reaching historic low levels

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Heading into April, Colorado water managers say snowfall the next few weeks would have to be more than twice or normal for the snowpack to reach the average peak snowpack, which typically happens April 8.

A big swath of the high country, including Summit and Eagle counties, is still classified as being in extreme drought.

After spending the last few months hoping for more snow, water providers now say they are preparing for continued drought conditions in spring and summer. Some towns have already announced strict outdoor watering restrictions staring early in spring. More information on watering restrictions is online at  www.COH2O.co. Continue reading

Colorado: February storms fail to boost snowpack

Wet March needed to ease drought

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None of Colorado’s river basins have reached average snowpack levels this winter.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — It’s been a tale of two winters in Colorado, where enough snow has fallen at just the right times to prevent a complete meltdown of the ski industry, but not nearly enough to recover from last year’s drought.

“Unless Colorado sees weather patterns in March that bring well above average snowfall and precipitation to the state, there will not be much relief from the current drought conditions,” the USDA natural resources conservation service wrote in its monthly snowpack update. Continue reading

Environment: House Republicans slash $1 billion from USDA’s voluntary conservation and wildlife habitat programs

Voluntary wetlands and wildlife conservation programs are on the Republican chopping block.

‘Penny-wise and dollar-foolish’ policy, conservation groups say

By Summit Voice

The U.S. House of Representatives this week cut almost  $1 billion from U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs for Fiscal Year 2012, spurring criticism from environmental groups.

“We realize that Congress faces tough budget choices, but making draconian cuts to voluntary conservation programs that help farmers and ranchers provide all Americans with cleaner air and water, more productive soils and habitat for wildlife is penny-wise and dollar-foolish,” said Sara Hopper, agricultural policy director for Environmental Defense Fund and a former staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “The Senate needs to restore reasonable funding levels for conservation programs for the benefit of our environment and taxpayers.” Continue reading

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