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Feel of Drought: So this is Drought

As Colorado enters the heat of summer and the prospect of another drought year, PULP looked at some of the forces of drought and found there’s more to drought than the heat. 



“We should never be living in the illusion of plentiful water.  Because of this, during a D2 drought, and especially in the third consecutive summer of drought in southeast Colorado, I would recommend that residents voluntarily restrict how much water they use this summer,” said Becky Smith, Colorado Climate Center’s Drought Specialist.

As Colorado faces a D3 (severe) and D4 (extreme) drought conditions, in many areas, the response to drought is mixed.

However, with future prospects of prolonged drought affecting the majority of this country, demand on water will only continue to increase, or simply put, there will be less water to sustain a growing population.

Most Coloradoans think of drought as a yearly event where less snowfall means less water and there’s unbearable heat killing all the crops. However, the consequences Pueblo County and other parts of southern Colorado are likely to encounter are extremely high risk of wildfires potentially devastating to forests and communities, failed crops, diminished yields, soil and irri-gations issues, but also consumption restrictions like those already being faced by residents of Colorado Springs and Denver on nonessential water use.

Everyone understands natural drought mechanics on a basic level. Less snow and rain means less water. But there is something called consumptive use, or the water you use and the water used for industrial and agricultural means. What’s happening is Colorado is in a natural severe drought that is being worsened by the demands of human consumptive use. The system, the lakes, reservoirs, the underground aquifers, and ground water doesn’t have time to replenish naturally because of continued drought and continued use. 

Also, average water storage at reservoirs across the Colorado is down 34 percent from this time last year, according to the Colorado Board of Natural Resources, and filled to only 39 percent of capacity. This year is the third consecutive year of severe drought conditions. 

Factors contributing to the Colorado’s drought are a historically dry season, exacerbated by Colorado’s perception that water is abundantly plentiful but in reality is being drawn at a rate faster than it can be naturally replenished. All this done in a semi-arid state trending towards an even more arid climate.

To understand drought mechanics, you have to first look at the intensity the current drought in the West. 

Currently, the majority of the country is in a severe drought with conditions ranging from moderate to exceptional across two-thirds of the lower 48 states. Colorado is one of six states –  along with Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Iowa – facing an exceptionally dry period unlike any other period since 1895. 

Aiguo Dai, associate professor of climate science at University at Albany, suggests “we are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be ful-ly recognized by both the public and the climate change research community.” 

Models from Dai’s study indicate that most of the United States, especially the West, will be significantly drier by the 2030s. Estimates show some areas reaching a level of drought sever-ity rarely, if ever, observed in modern times. 

Still, gaining an understanding of what Coloradoans can assume about the state of their climate, along with what influences are applying stress on it only paints part of the picture of Colorado’s current climatological situation. Climate scientists agree that Colorado’s climate is not going to change overnight into a radically dry climate with no wet seasons. Colorado will still see fluctuations in wet and dry seasons as the history of Colorado weather shows but with a long-term move to being an overall drier climate due to climate change.

Information for US Drought Monitor - David Miskus

Information for US Drought Monitor – David Miskus

 The analysis conducted by NWS indicates Southern Colorado has seen some level of beneficial moisture in the past few months, however it also reports “a continued lack of moisture … along with increasing temperatures and the start of the convective [fire risk] season … will likely keep high fire danger across the area and could lead to more local governments instituting fire restrictions over the next several months.”

NWS’s data also indicates the soil across Southern Colorado is much drier than normal and the southeast plains region, dense in agriculture-centered communities, faces the greatest deficits of moisture in the state. Those deficits in soil moisture only return to normal levels after sustained wet seasons.

To translate: Colorado is dehydrated and the water we do have is going to satisfy a thirst that is unquenchable because of the heat and drought conditions. While climate change does im-pact the drought, according to Becky Smith, consumption practices are the most immediate threat to continued drought. 

Tracing transmountain municipal water supply (mountain snowpack) shows several locations reporting an overall decrease in average water content over the last 50 years. With the most dramatic decrease seen in the Ivanhoe Snotel (SNOwpack TELemetry) where the average water content in April fell from 18.2 feet between 1961-1990 to 11 feet during the years of 1981-2010. Additionally, in the mid-2000s snow course reports started being conducted around areas of the Columbine Ditch, located on Fremont Pass 13 miles north of Leadville, as well as Ewing Placer and Wurtz ditches; all of which either collect and divert or store transmountain water eventually seen flowing through the Arkansas River. The Ewing Ditch is one of the oldest diversions in Colorado and was constructed in 1880. 

So where does the latest analysis leave the region as the summer heat approaches? 

NWS forecasts, “May and June indicate better chances for above normal temperatures along with a slight tilt to below normal precipitation … Especially across southwest Colorado.”

Even the Pueblo Board of Water Works in its most recent state-of-the-drought report to customers acknowledges, “This ongoing drought is a natural disaster beyond human control.”

But a paragraph later, the same report states the Pueblo Board of Water Works does “not anticipate watering restrictions or curtailment of extraterritorial water leases this coming summer [2013].” 

In 2002, Pueblo felt the impact of the severe drought conditions when the board placed restrictions on outdoor watering and some water leaseholders. 

Having learned from the 2002 experience, the board has worked proactively to maximize storage and explains that it currently has more water stored in reservoirs it draws from than it did entering the irrigation season in 2002. 

Still Smith urges all Coloradans to bear in mind that the NWS is a government entity and most water providers are private companies. Even if the area is considered to be in an extreme drought, water providers will not immediately put water restrictions into place.

“NWS is going to tell you what they observe, based on objectively analyzing data.  Water providers are a business, selling customers a product.  They may take some more time before they advise the customers not to ‘buy’ as much of their product,” said Smith.  

She adds that the public should keep in mind the lack of restrictions doesn’t mean the area isn’t suffering from an “impending water shortage.”

As Colorado enters to what looks like another drought year, the State may be faced to change its long-standing policy where it can stave off drought through water storage. In the next decade, for the first time since the Arkansas Frying-Pan system was created, southeast Colorado may again realize what water shortage looks like and the only way to fight drought is at the source — the modern source — the tap.

by Matthew Ramirez & Rob Donovan

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Middle schoolers have a plan to stop rock art tagging in Western Colorado




GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — Arron Buehler’s day in a western Colorado canyon might not have had the Hollywood panache of Ferris Bueller’s day off, but something about seeing Buehler’s name scrawled on the sandstone escarpment gave Chris Joyner pause.

Joyner, spokesman for the Grand Junction Office of the Bureau of Land Management, looked at Buehler’s name — and those of many others emblazoned on rock in a canyon south of Grand Junction — and said that, paradoxically, there might be a reason for hope.

It was just last year that Buehler posted his name, next to Elizabeth, who left her mark in 2017.

Few of the names appeared to be more than a year or two old, and, “That tells me there’s opportunity here,” Joyner said.

The more recent the markings, the more likely the vandals are to be found, and the more likely it is that other methods might discourage younger people from following Arron Buehler’s lead, Joyner said.

Joyner and BLM archaeologist Alissa Leavitt-Reynolds are working in Grand Junction to deal with vandalism on federal lands, whether it be by graffiti artists such as Charley Humpy (who helpfully added, “Remember me” next to his name and yes, the BLM is doing all it can to achieve total recall), drug users ditching evidence in the desert, mayhem by “marksmen” and plain old dumping.

As much as Arron Buehler and a multitude of companions — Brian, Charley, Dizz, Dominique, Kay, Megan, Elizabeth, Jon, Sam and Tosha all seem to be begging for court dates (and Tosha, did you know your name covered an ancient petroglyph?) — Joyner said prosecution ought not be the only response to a growing trend of vandalism and worse on western Colorado’s rocky outcrops and arid landscapes.

Citations for vandalism aren’t tracked by the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes offenses on federal land, so no precise numbers are available.

An Army veteran, Joyner is using his post 9/11 GI Bill funds at Johns-Hopkins University to study ways to divert people from what he terms “dysfunctional visitor behavior.”

“Dysfunctional visitor behavior” has a more authoritative ring than “vandalism” and “littering” and Joyner said he hopes that a scholarly approach can help agencies fend off some of the destructive activity on federal lands before it takes place.

Some of his research suggests that “informed participation in nearby historic and cultural sites” can influence the way many residents perceive those sites, Joyner said.

The students in Ginger DeCavitch’s social studies classes at Mount Garfield Middle School experienced “informed participation” last summer.

DeCavitch took her students into Bangs Canyon to see the mica mine and found the defaced escarpment “as we were stepping over broken beer bottles and charcoal” from fires.

Vandals had used charcoal to scratch names and slogans on the rock, DeCavitch said.

“They call it tagging” and few participants see any issue with defacing the rock, taking selfies and posting them on social media, DeCavitch said.

She contacted the BLM soon afterward to see if her class could help clean up the mess they found.

“They all wanted to go back,” enough that some students hauled 40-pound containers of water down an occasionally difficult trail to help clean the site, DeCavitch said.

Her middle school students sat silent as members of the Southern Ute tribe described how they perceived the canyon and the ancient markings, many of which had been defaced, DeCavitch said.

Far from being discouraged, her students were enthused about tackling the enormity of the defacement, DeCavitch said.

“We have a plan that we’ll be back,” she said.

Introducing young people properly to wild lands is one way to discourage future vandals and dysfunctional visitors.

It’s one “foot-in-the-door” tactic that Joyner hopes land managers take up.

Visitors also can be endowed with a sense of ownership by agreeing with a simple proposition — the idea that one ought not litter on public lands, for instance — and then be brought along to agree with how to visit them appropriately, Joyner said.

It’s part of a human tendency to want to be consistent, he said. People who agree not to litter tend to want to build on that as opposed to act in contradictory fashion, he said.

Even providing a small gift or trinket can engender a sense of responsibility among potential vandals, Joyner said.

Other techniques include the “broken-window” approach — the idea that replacing broken glass as soon as it’s found and thus denying miscreants their moment of victory — isn’t as easy as it might be in other environments, Joyner said.

DeCavitch’s class, for instance, learned that while cleaning up a mess might eliminate an eyesore, it also could erase history.

Her eager middle-schoolers couldn’t go forward with the cleanup until members of the Southern Ute Tribe, headquartered in Duchesne, Utah, approved the plan, DeCavitch said.

While Joyner’s studies have suggested that males 16 to 25 who live within 60 miles of Grand Junction are the likely offenders, one look at the escarpment suggests that young women are more active participants than crime statistics might suggest, Joyner said.

One study suggests that younger people prefer non-coercive approaches, but Joyner said that doesn’t mean the BLM is losing interest in prosecuting vandals and others.

Far from it.

BLM officials routinely contact school officials and consult high school yearbooks to match the names they come across with people who could be prosecuted.

Some miscreants make it easier, posting selfies of themselves with their works. Some even lower the level of difficulty by including hashtags.

The criminal exposure can reach felony levels because of the difficulty and expense of dealing with cleaning up or restoring the markings that date back hundreds of years.

If the malefactors are found, Joyner said, “We don’t write warning tickets.”


Information from: The Daily Sentinel,

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The #WhatNow of #MeToo for the #COLeg



AP Photo/David Zalubowski

When several lawmakers, lobbyists and staff at the state Legislature came forward this fall to allege they were victims of sexual harassment by lawmakers, two big questions followed: how often does this happen? What can be done to prevent more cases?

Reporters have asked state officials the first question repeatedly, returning to readers with little response from the state. The latter prompted a conversation from leadership, but as for what’s next—how the allegations, formal complaints, and legislature’s response—will impact politics under the gold dome and whether women will feel any safer is to be determined.

So far, top state lawmakers have decided to hire a human resources officer—who would be independent from the legislature—to be a contact person when incidents involving sexual harassment are brought forward. Now, leadership is tasked with handling and investigating such claims.

The group also decided to hire an independent consultant to review the legislature’s sexual harassment policy, and lawmakers, staff, and aides will undergo another round of sexual harassment training this year. Typically, those working at the Legislature are only required to go through training every two years.

Those changes are a good start, said Erin Hottenstein, executive director of Colorado 50/50, an organization that aims to get more women in public office. But the legislature stopped short of changing any current policies. And Colorado 50/50 called for an entire overhaul.

“I’m very pleased that there was a recognition that the policy needs to be improved,” Hottenstein said.

But there weren’t any specific recommendations regarding transparency, which Hottenstein said is significant in looking at what happens next.

Lawmakers and staff said they couldn’t disclose how many sexual harassment claims that leadership in each chamber have received because they were personnel issues.

“I think there’s a way to be transparent and safe,” Hottenstein said. “There should be a high- level summary document that shows on a certain date a sexual harassment complaint was made and who it was against and a date of a deposition and what the result was.”

Hottenstein said transparency becomes crucial in these cases because it leads to accountability and the public’s right to know what actions the people elected to office are taking.

In October, Pueblo Rep. Daneya Esgar broke her silence posting on Facebook that she was no stranger to sexual harassment and experienced it just a week earlier with a colleague she works with regularly as a lawmaker. The post was part of the #MeToo movement after a New York Times expose highlighted the stories of several women who said they’d been sexually harassed or assaulted by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Then, a flood of other allegations were brought to the surface in Colorado politics. Rep. Faith Winter said fellow House member Steve Lebsock had harassed her at a legislative party in 2016. Winter and a lobbyist say they filed formal complaints against Lebsock.

An intern said Sen. Randy Baumgardner harassed her with sexually suggestive comments. The same went for Sen. Jack Tate of Centennial, who was accused of telling an intern that if she wanted to get ahead in her career, he could help.

Rep. Paul Rosenthal, who is openly gay, allegedly groped a man and used his seat to try and get a date with another.

But the case between Lebsock and Winter gained the most attention, even prompting Lebsock to take a polygraph test, which the administrator says he passed, to prove his innocence. Lebsock has hinted that the entire incident may be a case of dirty politics, alleging that Winter is the one lying.

When several lawmakers were asked if the case would mean a splintered Democratic party in the House, they were unsure, but optimistic about the session.

Still, there haven’t been any resignations over the allegations, though several, including leadership and editorial boards from across the state, said these legislators should step down from their seat. Some even called for House Speaker Crisanta Duran to step down from her position because she promoted Lebsock to a chairmanship despite knowing there was an incident between him and Winter.

The transparency piece has yet to be addressed by state lawmakers, and it’s unclear whether any policy or legislative changes will address that in the coming months. But for what it’s worth, the women who have broken their silence about sexual harassment in the Legislature are supportive of the changes leadership has discussed.

“I’m encouraged to see the direction leadership is taking when it comes to developing new and independent methods of dealing with complaints of sexual harassment at the Capitol,” said Esgar, who still hasn’t named the colleague she said grabbed her thigh at a legislative event earlier this year. “I’m hopeful that new ideas are still being formulated and considered, when it comes to ways to change the culture itself.”

The lawmaker added that a new session will certainly mean new ideas will come to light, “it’s our responsibility to lead the state in changing cultures to help make work environments safe and productive for all employees on every level.”

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20 cities primed on the Amazon wishlist to be its next HQ



NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s second home could be in an already tech-heavy city, such as Boston, New York or Austin, Texas. Or it could be in the Midwest, say, Indianapolis or Columbus, Ohio. Or the company could go outside the U.S. altogether and set up shop in Toronto.

Those six locations, as well as 14 others, made it onto Amazon’s not-so-short shortlist Thursday of places under consideration for the online retailing giant’s second headquarters.

The 20 picks, narrowed down from 238 proposals, are concentrated mostly in the East and the Midwest and include several of the biggest metro areas in the country, such as Chicago, Washington and Los Angeles, the only West Coast city on the list.

The Seattle-based company set off fierce competition last fall when it announced that it was looking for a second home, promising 50,000 jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion. Many cities drew up elaborate presentations that included rich financial incentives.

The list of finalists highlights a key challenge facing the U.S. economy: Jobs and economic growth are increasingly concentrated in a few large metro areas, mostly on the East and West Coasts and a few places in between, such as Texas.

Nearly all the cities on Amazon’s list already have growing economies, low unemployment and highly educated populations.

“Amazon has picked a bunch of winners,” said Richard Florida, an economic development expert and professor at the University of Toronto who helped develop that city’s bid. “It really reflects winner-take-all urbanism.”

Among those that didn’t make the cut were Detroit, a disappointment for those excited about progress since the city came out of bankruptcy, and Memphis, Tennessee, where the mayor said the city gave it its “best shot.” San Diego also failed to advance.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, who oversees Amazon’s public policy. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Amazon said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

Besides Austin, another Texas city made the cut: Dallas. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

Officials in cities that made the shortlist took the opportunity to further tout their locations, with Philadelphia’s mayor noting “all that Philadelphia has to offer” and officials in and around Pittsburgh citing the region’s “world-class talent pool” and other advantages.

Other contenders among the 20 include Denver; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

“It’s a long list for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.

He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or other incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location on the list, increasing the competition there, he said.

“It’s hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives, but said in a statement that it will “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice. Some pulled off stunts to stand out, such as New York, which lit the Empire State Building in Amazon orange.

Some gimmicks didn’t work: Tucson, Arizona, which sent a 21-foot cactus to Seattle, did not make the list. Neither did Birmingham, Alabama, which installed giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash buttons.

The company had stipulated that it wanted to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, and nearly all of those on the shortlist have a metro population of at least double that.

Amazon also wanted to be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand the headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before leaving office Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark is also proposing $2 billion in tax breaks.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13, including New York, Chicago and Miami, declined requests from The Associated Press to release their applications. Toronto’s mayor said Thursday that the city offered no financial incentives to woo Amazon.

Several said they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has said.

The extra space will give the rapidly growing company room to spread out. It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of the Whole Foods grocery chain and its 89,000 employees.


Associated Press writers Josh Cornfield in Philadelphia, Matt O’Brien in Providence, Rhode Island, and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report. Rugaber contributed from Washington.

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