State of the river: Winter snows dispel some Colorado drought woes

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Will El Niño bring a wet summer to Colorado?

Most northern reservoirs expected to fill with above average snowpack and runoff; southern basins, southeastern plains still under drought gun

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Reservoirs in the northern and central Colorado high country will fill on schedule this year, water managers said Tuesday at the annual Summit County state of the river meeting, outlining their expectations for river flows and runoff volume in the Blue River Basin, a crucial water source area for both sides of the Continental Divide.

Most speakers focused was on these headwaters, but statewide maps also showed much of Colorado’s southern tier with below to well-below average snowpack — down to 50 percent in the Upper Rio Grande Basin, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Colorado snow survey program.

The dry conditions in parts of the eastern San Juans are part of regional Southwest drought footprint, which is increasing demand for this year’s runoff. Southeastern Colorado’s plains are still experiencing Dust Bowl conditions, along with parts of the adjacent south-central plains.

Troy Wineland, water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, said headwater streams in the Blue River Basin are flowing at twice their average volume for this time of year, with peak runoff yet to come. Generally, the Blue River and its tributaries reach peak flows some time in mid-June, though the exact timing is weather-dependent, Wineland said. The state of the river meetings continue the next few weeks with sessions up and down the Colorado River. Details here. Continue reading

Summit County snowfall near average through December

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January snowfall in Summit County, Colorado.

2013 ended up as 2d-wettest on record for Dillon weather station

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A quarter of the way through the 2014 water year (which started Oct. 1, 2013), snowfall and precipitation in Summit County are just about average, according to data from the two official National Weather Service observation sites.

In Breckenridge, long-time weather watcher Rick Bly measured 27.3 inches of snow in December, just a bit more than the long-term average of 22.4 inches. But the water equivalent in that snow was just 1.43 inches, slightly below the average 1.51 inches, Bly said. Continue reading

Summit County: Should hazmat trucks use I-70?

Installation of fire suppression system in the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels could spur discussion on hazmat routing

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Hazmat routes are ubiquitous along Colorado’s major highways.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — With $25 million in funding secured for a long-sought fire suppression system in the I-70 Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels, a debate over hazmat routing through Summit County could heat up again. In a first step, CDOT will start a process to update the 1980s-era rules for the tunnel, potentially opening the door to a petition process that could result in changes to the hazmat route.

Currently, gasoline tankers and nearly all other hazardous materials are routed via U.S. Highway 6 over windy Loveland Pass, where tankers frequently roll over and spill fuel. Most truckers would prefer to haul their flammable, toxic and explosive materials through the tunnel and down I-70 to save time and money, but local emergency responders aren’t sure if the change makes sense from a public safety standpoint.

“This is going to require some very careful evaluation,” said Summit County emergency services director Joel Cochran, acknowledging that there have already been some behind-the-scenes discussions among some stakeholders. Continue reading

Summit County: Wildlife managers seek info on moose kill

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A moose cow and calves grazing near Berthoud Pass, Colorado. bberwyn photo.

Failure to report an accidental kill can lead to fines, loss of license

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — State game managers are looking for information about the death of a bull moose near the Summit County shooting range and Frey Gulch Road. According to wildlife officials, the moose died from a gunshot wound and was not field dressed, leaving the meat to waste.

The moose was found during Colorado’s second rifle-hunting season but officials believe it was killed in early October, possibly during the first rifle season, Oct. 12 through 16.

Although details of the moose’s death are currently unknown, officials are investigating the incident as a possible mistaken or careless kill by an elk hunter.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges the public to provide any additional information that may lead to the person or persons responsible, including personal photos of any live bull moose seen in the area since early October.

“We understand that mistaken kills can happen while hunting, but we ask hunters to let us know right away,” said Summit County District Wildlife Manager Elissa Knox. “Killing an animal without a license, abandoning and wasting the meat and evading authorities can potentially lead to felony charges, substantial fines, prison time and a lifetime suspension of hunting privileges in Colorado as well as 38 other states.” Continue reading

Summit Voice: Most-viewed stories

Climate, wildfires and biodiversity

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Evening alpenlow over the Rocky Mountains.

Compiled by Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —  It’s always good to hear scientists speak the truth, and last week, Australian researchers minced no words as they described the findings of a global warming attribution study that showed a statistically significant link between industrial Co2 pollution and the brutal and and extended heatwave that gripped the island continent. Our report on the study was the most-viewed story of the week, even though it was posted late in the week.

Global warming: Study finds greenhouse gas fingerprints all over Australia’s record-breaking summer heatwave( 2,090 views).

Here in Colorado, we also had near-record dryness last year and to consecutive years of well-below average snowfall across large parts of the entire Colorado River Basin, with record-setting heat in spring. With inflow into Lake Powell looking dismal, it’s time to start wondering how much water will be available in the Colorado in coming years: Climate: How will the Colorado River flow?  (1,076 views). Continue reading

Summit County firefighters head to Front Range

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Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue crews fighting a small wildfire near Keystone, Colorado in March, 2012.

Moderate fire danger in the high country enable local departments to lend a hand with Black Forest Fire

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With only a moderate potential for wildfires in Summit County, local firefighters have been sent to the Front Range to help fight the destructive Black Forest Fire. The assignment could last as long as two weeks, according to a press release from Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue.

The fire northeast of Colorado Springs has already destroyed about 80 to 100 homes and forced the evacuation of several thousand residents, and more homes are still at risk.

In Summit County, fire experts say wildfires are unlikely right now following a wet spring. The potential for fires is expected to creep up the next few weeks and could reach a critical level by late June, according to LDFR deputy chief Jeff Berino. Continue reading

Old Dillon Reservoir completion delayed again

Crews working to replace mile-long pipeline after testing reveals wrong type of pipe was used in construction last summer

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The Old Dillon Reservoir in mid-construction, summer, 2012. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Local water officials say there’s still enough runoff coming down from the mountains to fill the newly enlarged Old Dillon Reservoir by Aug. 1 — even after an unexpected setback delayed the start of fill.

As engineers started to pressure-test the diversion pipeline late last summer, they discovered that the contractor used the wrong kind of pipe for the job, preventing completion of the project.

“Some of the gaskets would not seal,” said Dillon utilities superintendent Trevor Giles, explaining that crews are currently in the process of replacing the 24-inch-diameter pipe, which runs about 5,000 from the lower Salt Lick Gulch area in Wildernest, beneath I-70  and into the reservoir. Continue reading

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