Organizers of the very first “State of the Basin Symposium” announced one more heavy hitter will be added to the speaker list at this Saturday’s event: Former U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar.
The Washington D.C. heavy hitter and former Colorado Senator will join the state’s new Attorney General Phil Weiser for a day of brim-filling water data. Looks like the Centennial State’s spotlight will be in Alamosa at the end of this week.
The inaugural Rio Grande “State of the Basin Symposium” will be held from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, on the Adams State University (ASU) campus. the event is free and open to the public.
Center stage will be the nearly 1,900 miles of a major waterway once described by western legend Will Rogers as “the only river I know of that is in need of irrigating.” And for San Luis Valley farmers and ranchers, that statement rings even truer today.
According to the Rio Grande’s official website: “From its headwaters in the San Juan Range of the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico at Brownsville, Texas, the Rio Grande draws from 11 percent of the continental US, with much of that being drought-prone land. That vulnerability is compounded by scores of dams and irrigation diversions, which has left significant portions of the river dry in recent years. In 2001 the river failed to reach the Gulf of Mexico for the first time. In 2002, it happened again.”
That was nearly two decades ago. Today, the accelerating
crisis has brought the waterway’s situation far beyond a startling quote or
present day “meme.” In fact, it’s that uncertain future that will bring local stakeholders,
along with ASU student leaders together with county, state and federal officials
in Alamosa near the river’s headwaters in the San Juan Mountain Range for a
day-long information exchange.
“As part of an emerging Water Education Initiative at Adams
State, the Salazar Center aims to help ‘grow the next generation of water
leaders,’” said Salazar Center Director, Linda Rio de la Vista. “We are working
with the Valley’s many water partners to bring relevant and useful information
to ASU’s students and faculty and the local community. The time is now to raise
our level of knowledge on the critical water issues here, and to engage more
people in community-based efforts for a sustainable water future. We need everyone’s
help to make that possible.”
A number of knowledgeable local experts and teachers will
address topics of Rio Grande Basin Water Management 101; Groundwater Management
and Subdistricts; the Water Economy; Water and Land Conservation and Acequias;
Water, Wildlife, and Restoration of Rivers, Streams and Wetlands; Water and
Education; Water and Recreation; and Water and Soil Health.
Local water leaders will also present overviews and updates
on key aspects of our current water conditions and challenges. Craig Cotten,
Division 3 Engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, Cleave
Simpson, General Manager of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District and
Chair of the ASU Board of Trustees, and Heather Dutton, Manager of the San Luis
Valley Water Conservancy District (SLVWCD) and the Rio Grande Basin
Representative on the Colorado Water Conservation Board will speak in the
morning session in the Richardson Hall Auditorium.
Adams State University’s Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center
and the RGWCD are hosts of the event. Additional sponsors include the SLVWCD, Conejos
Water Conservancy District and the San Luis Valley Irrigation District.
Parking for this free event is available in campus parking
lots along Edgemont Blvd. and on the east side of McDaniel Hall. Permits are
not required on Saturdays.
If you ask the locals, it’s seemed a bit more like winter in Saguache Today than in recent years. The San Luis Valley has been seeing its share of moisture this season, although more is needed to catch up with the deep reserves. But high above the valley floor is where field reporters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) have been observing weather conditions and perhaps more importantly for backcountry adventurers, avalanche danger.
And while your own winter concerns may take you no farther
than getting your driveway plowed and sidewalk shoveled, it’s important to stay
situationally aware of shifting snow conditions in the mountains. Not only can
these storms impact traffic with an increase in snow and rock slides blocking
highways and high mountain passes. But for those in the tourism industry, it’s
imperative to know where to direct visitors venturing into the backcountry to
find the latest conditions and tips on how to be prepared. To that end,
Saguache today brings readers the following reports issued by the CAIC within
the past 24 hours.
CAIC Field Report for Sangre de Cristos Zone
By Mike Cooperstein, CAIC Forecaster (filed at 8 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 17)
Strong winds since Thursday’s storm have moved all available
snow to lee-facing slopes. North through east to south-facing slopes near and
above treeline are the most dangerous today and should be avoided. We have also
received reports of dangerous wind-slabs in open below treeline meadows, so do
not blindly jump onto steep slopes in below treeline areas either.
It may be a few days before we know the extent of the
avalanche cycle that this unusual snow event triggered, but from what we can
tell it seems like most avalanches broke within or just underneath the storm
snow. These avalanches were two to three feet deep and were large and
dangerous. As you would expect with a storm with this high of precipitation
intensity, we have also received reports of dangerous avalanches breaking near
the ground or on mid- to upper-pack layers such as near-surface facets and
facets around crust. The crust-facet combos are more prevalent on sunny slopes
and could be buried 3 to 5 feet deep at this point. If you trigger an avalanche
on one of these persistent weak layers it will most likely be inescapable.
Snow continues today with up to 10 inches possible by Monday
afternoon. The new snow will be low density., and will most likely not add
enough weight to trigger another natural avalanche cycle. Slopes that continue
to receive wind-drifted snow will continue to be dangerous and loading will
have to stop before these slopes become more stable.
The bottom line is that this was a very large load in a
short period. The general trend of the snowpack is good on a seasonal scale as
we are building a deeper and stronger snowpack. For today, very dangerous
conditions exist and the snowpack needs some time to adjust to this rapid load.
If you are traveling in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains,
these mountains received about a foot of snow with strong winds. Although this
a lot less snow than the San Juan Mountains, the snowpack is much, much weaker
and avalanches on deeper layers or the ground are more likely. This problem in
the Sangre de Cristo zone will be slow to change.
CAIC Report for Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 at 6 AM
This morning the Colorado Avalanche Information Center
(CAIC) issued the following Special Avalanche Advisory for the surrounding
mountains near Saguache Today:
“A strong storm on Thursday night brought 1 to 2 feet of
dense snow with strong winds to the mountains. Avalanche conditions remain
dangerous especially in the Central and Southern Mountains. You can trigger
avalanches that break in the new and wind drifted snow that will be large
enough to bury or kill you. You may even be able to trigger very large very
dangerous avalanches that break deeper in the snowpack. If you trigger one of
these deeper avalanches it will most likely be inescapable. Consult the Zone
Summary for the areas you are planning to travel for specific information and
travel advice. Make sure you carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe
and know how to use all of your gear. You can always limit the chance of being
caught in a dangerous avalanche by sticking to lower angle terrain without
steeper connected avalanche slopes above you.
February Avalanche Accident Trends
Over the last 10 years, February has proven to be the single
most dangerous month for avalanches in Colorado. Over a quarter of the fatal
avalanche accidents happened during this month. In the past decade, there have
been 15 fatal avalanche accidents in the month of February. Eight of those
accidents occurred in the middle of the month, and 4 between Valentine’s Day
and Presidents Day. Historically, this weekend has been a dangerous period for
avalanche accidents. But avalanche education and safety awareness can help to
break that pattern.
Close Calls in January: How It Compares?
As of January 31, the CAIC has documented 57 people caught
in 42 separate avalanche events. Seven of the people have been critically (head
under the snow) or fully buried, and two have died. Of those, 60% of the
involvements occurred in January, including both fatalities. The 56
cumulative involvements this year are far more than recorded for all of
2017-18, 2015-16, and 2014-15. Projections indicate that the 2018-19 winter
season will tally the most avalanches on record with the CAIC.
About the CAIC
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) is a program within the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Executive Director’s Office. The program is a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Transportation (CDOT), and the Friends of the CAIC (FoCAIC) a 501c3 group. The mission of the CAIC is to provide avalanche information, education and promote research for the protection of life, property and the enhancement of the state’s economy.
History of The CAIC
Since 1950 avalanches have killed more people in Colorado
than any other natural hazard, and in the United States, Colorado accounts for
one-third of all avalanche deaths. The Colorado Avalanche Warning Center began
issuing public avalanche forecasts in 1973 as part of a research program in the
USDA-Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station. The program moved out of
the federal government and into the Colorado state government, becoming part of
the Department of Natural Resources in 1983. The CAIC joined the Colorado
Department of Transportation’s highway safety program in 1993. The Friends of
the CAIC (a 501c3 group) formed in 2007 to promote avalanche safety in Colorado
and support the recreation program of the CAIC.
Funding for the CAIC
About half of the CAIC’s funding comes from an
intergovernmental agreement with CDOT to provide training and forecasting for
highway maintenance operations. As part of the Department of Natural Resources,
close to 40% of the Center’s funding come from the Severance Tax Fund. The rest
of the funding to run the program comes from the United States Forest Service,
local governments, the Friends of the CAIC, and from donations from people like