Colorado

Seeing the Devastation First Hand

There are many roles a Regional Administrator must play in the daily work of protecting the environment and human health. Recently, I played what I consider to be one of my most important roles: listening to and assisting the citizens in our region as we recover from devastating flooding.

The small mountain town has been cut off because of Boulder County flood. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams deployed to the state to help in Search and Rescue operations. Photo credit: Steve Zumwalt FEMA

This small mountain town has been cut off because of Boulder County flood. FEMA Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) teams deployed to the state to help in Search and Rescue operations. Photo credit: Steve Zumwalt FEMA

I saw firsthand how an extreme weather event can impact an entire state. Seven lives were lost in the floods in Colorado this year. Over 2,000 square miles spanning 17 counties have been affected. Numerous roads are destroyed and thousands of homes are lost. It’s a sobering reminder that such extreme events are predicted to become even more frequent because of the changing climate.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Inspired by the Next Generation

IMG_1439

(left to right) Emma Hutchinson, Administrator Gina McCarthy, Eric Bear, Milo Cress, and Christina Bear

After serving as EPA’s regional administrator in Denver for only a few months, I am already impressed with the incredible staff we have here at EPA. I am also equally encouraged by what I have seen from our younger generations and the level of their environmental commitment. I recently had a chance to visit with several young people who are making a huge difference. These young folks attended the recent Climate Change Panel in Boulder, Colorado and had a chance to talk with me and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy.

More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Life Along The Colorado

By Kasia Broussalian

A sense of adventure runs deep in my blood. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and onto the proverbial “open road.” I set off on that road for a few sweltering months in the summer and fall of 2009. With my last undergraduate class just behind me and a passion for community-based issues, I set out. My goal: to document populations living along, and dependent on, the Colorado River. The idea grew out of an interest I’d developed in water; an interest that began with an environmental policy class I had taken two years earlier. The differences among the people I encountered were staggering; from urban skate park teenagers and leggy accounting majors handing out drink coupons, to onion pickers and a Hoover Dam engineer.

I traveled along the Colorado River, from origin to delta, photographing the livelihoods of the communities thriving on this life-providing resource. My time spent along the shores of the river made me realize that while the Southwest is unlikely to run out of water anytime soon, it will run out of cheap water in the coming decades. How will this affect the communities dependent on its precarious flow? That is the underlying theme of my documentary.

Embedded in each of these communities is a unique sense of self. Though they vary drastically from one another, in another sense they are alike: all are completely reliant upon that one necessary resource, the Colorado River.

But, my main question still remains: once something as necessary and vital as water begins to change and become more expensive, what are these places going to look like? What will we lose in terms of culture and history as populations pick up and move on?

To view my documentary, please visit and click “Multimedia &Video”, “Life Along the Colorado.”

About the author: Kasia Broussalian is a Public Affairs intern for EPA Region 2. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at New York University, and has been with the agency since 2010.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Learning In Your Own Backyard

CU-Boulder Professor Jeff Mitton

CU-Boulder Professor Jeff Mitton

By Wendy Dew

Here in Colorado we have an abundance of environmental education opportunities with a diversity of flora and fauna. You can even see prairie dogs from the side of the road at a shopping center!

Unfortunately, one the best educational examples we have right now is Pine Beetle. Rocky Mountain kids can see firsthand the effects of climate change and drought on our local forests with the pine beetle epidemic. The mountain pine beetle is in the midst of its most intense and widespread epidemic in recorded history. The geographic infestation extends from New Mexico to the Yukon Territory and from the front range of Colorado to the Pacific Ocean. In Colorado alone, more than 3 million acres of forests have already been affected.

The University of Colorado – Boulder recently released a new film on mountain pine beetle and its effects in Colorado. They have also created a lesson on mountain pine beetle appropriate for high school but adaptable to middle school. They have a variety of other lesson plans and videos and resources for teaching about local climate change.

Every student has the opportunity to learn about the environment. Whether it be the pine beetle, the Chesapeake Bay or in your own backyard. Look to your local environment to find out what issues are happening and what you can do about them.

For more information

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The New Teen Scene: Leaf Looking!

(c) JVick 2010

(c) JVick 2010

You hear a lot about kids and teens not spending enough time outdoors these days. Teens are constantly “plugged-in” texting and staring at the TV all afternoon, etc. I know when I was growing up we played both outside and inside. This past weekend I was incredibly pleased to see a ton of teens out “leaf looking” at the base of Pikes Peak.

Here in the mountains of Colorado, you always see the “leaf lookers” come out every fall to see the beautiful colors of the changing trees. We always giggle a bit because they are usually older and drive REALLY slow through the mountain roads.

But this year, I was amazed to see how many kids, especially teens, were out enjoying the beautiful fall colors. Teens were running, laughing, taking photos on their phones and sending them to their friends. Nature and texting DO mix!

I think teens and parents hear a lot about getting outside more. I worry it becomes a “to-do-list item” instead of an enjoyable, repeatable experience. So, in my view, let the kids play video games, tweet and text, but balance it out with fun outdoor family or group activities – like going to a favorite hiking trail and seeing all the great fall colors. Make it an annual family event!

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Saving Some For The Fishes And Rethinking The Future of Our Water Supply

When I first moved to Colorado, I spent my summers hiking streams and collecting aquatic insects. I visited many high mountain streams that were dammed and diverted to provide water to cities along Colorado’s Front Range. In their natural state, these rivers flowed raucously over boulders, watering streamside plants, flooding wetlands, and creating fabulous habitat for fish and other aquatic critters. Downstream of the dams, the streambeds were sometimes completely dry – other times with only a thin trickle of water.

At this very moment, there are thousands of dams in Colorado that are withdrawing water from Rocky Mountain streams. Once diverted, the water moves through networks of ditches and aqueducts, sometimes tunneling through mountains and across the Continental Divide, to distant farms and cities. But the water taken from these streams is not enough to meet growing demands. In the future, water demand will far exceed supply. In response to this need and recent drought conditions, water developers in Colorado are proposing to exercise some of the last remaining water rights – for spring snowmelt peak flows in the wettest of years.

Diverting snowmelt flows from our rivers is a controversial and complex issue, both politically and environmentally. On one hand, cities want this water to support economic growth, including new commercial and residential development. However, these flows are critical to aquatic ecosystems, rearranging sediments for fish habitat, assisting Cottonwood regeneration, recharging groundwater and flooding backwater wetland habitats. Countless plants and animals rely on these flows for their long-term survival. Many of these rivers are already anemic from water withdrawals and we are approaching a tipping point beyond which the resiliency of these ecosystems will be tested.

What are our options?

As scientists, we must apply our knowledge to better balance human needs and the needs of our rivers’ inhabitants. Various water supply and smart growth solutions are available that could maintain natural ecosystems while meeting the needs of communities. Water conservation will play an increasingly critical role in allowing for a sustainable water future. Moving forward, researching and implementing state of the art water conservation technologies is key.

Your perspective on water differs whether you live near the Great Lakes, in the arid west, or by the coast. We must all begin thinking about the sustainability of our water supplies and how we can meet our needs while also protecting our rivers, lakes and wetlands.

What do you think?

About the author: Julia McCarthy is an Environmental Scientist with the EPA Regional Office in Denver, CO. She works in the Clean Water Act regulatory program on rivers and wetlands. Her background is in aquatic ecology and freshwater conservation. She recently worked on a video titled ‘Wetlands and Wonder: Reconnecting Children With Nearby Nature.’ Check it out at http://epa.gov/wetlands/education/wetlandsvideo/

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.