Environment: New Clean Water Rule finalized, but the fighting is not over

Runoff and rainstorms have combined to keep flows high in the Blue River.

A new EPA rule aims to define which streams and rivers are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Big loopholes for industry, farms will continue to threaten water quality

Staff Report

FRISCO — After years of wrangling, the EPA has finalized a new rule intended to define which streams are covered under the Clean Water Act. The debate goes back more than a decade to a pair of court rulings that called into question whether smaller tributaries and seasonal streams are subject to federal regulations.

Yesterday’s announcement probably won’t end the fighting — Republicans in Congress have launched a bitter attack on the rule at the behest of big polluters like industrial farms and factories, and some national conservation groups like the Waterkeeper Alliance say the new rule is too weak, and rolls back protection for some streams that were previously covered. Continue reading

Small wetlands critical to overall ecosystem functions

‘Many people would say, what’s the big deal if we drain this small area? But these smaller wetlands are integral …’

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Colorado wetlands. @bberwyn photo

FRISCO — A new study by researchers at Waterloo University supports the EPA’s proposed new rule for protecting discontinuous wetlands by showing that those smaller marshy patches function best as a group.

Interconnected pockets of wetlands form a landscape mosaic which provide unique habitat and safe breeding grounds for species such as salamanders and migratory birds. Many traditional wetlands conservation projects tend to overlook that “edge” function and mistakenly focus on preserving only total wetland area, with no consideration of ecosystem services provided by different wetland types. Continue reading

Environment: Study shows that even ‘isolated’ wetlands are crucial to protecting water quality

Findings come as EPA edges toward final new clean water rule

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By Summit Voice

Geographically isolated wetlands like prairie potholes and desert playas in the Southwest are critical to water quality and also provide many other ecosystem services — even though they may lack the regulatory protections of other wetlands, according to Indiana University researchers.

Continued loss of such wetlands is likely “to cause serious harm to North American waters,” according to John M. Marton, a researcher with the IU Bloomington School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“Geographically isolated wetlands provide important benefits such as sediment and carbon retention, nutrient transformation and water-quality improvement, all of which are critical for maintaining water quality,” Marton said, discussing the conclusions of a new article appearing in BioScience. Continue reading

Environment: New high-resolution USGS mapping shows changes in Alaska land cover

Map of the northern US Atlantic margin showing the locations of newly-discovered methane seeps mapped by researchers from Mississippi State University, the US Geological Survey, and other partners. (High resolution image)

Map of the northern US Atlantic margin showing the locations of newly-discovered methane seeps mapped by researchers from Mississippi State University, the US Geological Survey, and other partners.

Detailed mapping can help plan climate change adaptation

Staff Report

FRISCO — Huge wildfires have driven the conversion of Alaska forests to grass- and shrublands, and the state’s perennial ice and snow fields, as well as its vast wetlands are also shrinking, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The changing face of Alaska is revealed in a new land-cover data set, which provides detailed information useful to land use planners and decision-makers. Continue reading

GOP lawmakers want to block EPA clean water rule

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No love for wetlands from new GOP majority in Congress. bberwyn photo.

Huge swaths of Colorado wetlands, streams at risk of degradation

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — You may not know it as you speed down I-70 from the Eisenhower Tunnel toward Summit County, but a small stream that runs parallel the freeway, just a few hundred yards away, is the main source of drinking water for the town of Dillon.

Straight Creek’s waters gather up between the craggy peaks high above the tunnel, starting from droplets at the edge of a melting snowdrift, to mossy rivulets and roaring cascades amidst granite boulders. Keeping that water pure is important, not only for Dillon residents, but for thousands of visitors staying at local lodges, resorts and campgrounds.

But some of the smallest streams, like the headwaters of Straight Creek, don’t flow year-round, and that has put them at focal point of a long-running debate about the extent of federal clean water rules. The discussion was center stage today during a rare joint hearing of the House Transportation and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where the new GOP majority grilled top EPA administrators about the proposed Clean Waters of the U.S. Rule. Continue reading

Study: Global warming likely to help invasive species gain the upper hand in wetlands

Colorado wetlands

 Meadow Creek wetlands, Frisco, Colorado.

‘Death by a thousand cuts’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Invasive wetlands species are likely to get a boost from climate change, resulting in long-term threats to key native ecosystems, according to new research from Duke University.

“Changing surface-water temperatures, rainfall patterns and river flows will likely give Japanese knotweed, hydrilla, honeysuckle, privet and other noxious invasive species an edge over less adaptable native species,” said Neal E. Flanagan, visiting assistant professor at the Duke Wetland Center, who led the research. Continue reading

Morning photo: Wetlands morning

(Mostly) unfiltered

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Vertical landscape, to emphasize the deep reflections in the pond. This is an unfiltered, unedited shot straight out of the iPhone.

FRISCO — It’s probably no secret, but not all the images in this ongoing series are morning shots (although many are). But today’s sunrise was so cool that I just decided to post a set showing some different flavors of the same scene, with all the shots taken within a half hour and all within a mile of Summit Voice headquarters in Frisco. If the rest of the day is as good as the sunrise, well, it should be pretty spectacular! Continue reading

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