Your Morning News - February 9th, 2015

Feb 9, 2015

West Slope Back On Drought Index

In the dry month of January, snowpack levels in nearly every river basin in Colorado declined. In the Roaring Fork Valley, not only did the amount of snow diminish but drought conditions returned. 

The U.S. Drought Monitor released Thursday puts the Western Slope in the “abnormally dry” category, including the majority of Eagle and Pitkin Counties and all of Garfield County. “Abnormally dry” is the least severe of five categories.

The latest snowpack report shows the Roaring Fork Watershed sits at 90 percent of normal - less than last year at this time, but significantly more snow than two years ago. Sarah Johnson is with the Roaring Fork Conservancy.

"It’s important to remember that even though our snowpack numbers are behind right now, I think the high country is holding the snow that it’s received and I think the warm temperatures are mostly affecting our valley floor. The snow that we have received is sticking around, which is really important because that snow in the high country determines our streamflow later in the spring and summer."

The snowpack typically peaks in April, leading to peak river flows in June. Early season melting could lead to diminished water supplies and increased wildfire risk. There’s still time to catch up. March normally brings the wettest snow of the year. 

State Wildlife Officials Want Public Input On Bear Plan

Colorado Parks and Wildlife is updating its black bear population management plan for the Roaring Fork and Eagle River Valleys and wants the public’s help. On Wednesday, the agency is holding a public meeting in Glenwood Springs.

Every ten years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife examines how many bears there are and how to use methods like hunting to control population. Agency officials say the goal is to consider current population trends, concerns around human-bear conflicts, the local economic impact of hunting and the public’s preferences for population levels. The outcome may be a change to the number of hunting licenses allowed.

The agency is also taking written suggestions and comments via an online survey until March 15th. Comments can also be submitted at the meeting Wednesday. It starts at 6:30 at the Glenwood Springs Recreation Center.

RFTA Extends Comment Period For Controversial Plan

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority has extended the comment period for a plan for preserving a rail corridor. RFTA's draft access plan has proved controversial so far, with local governments asking for more time to review and respond to the document. It's possible the deadline will be pushed back even further. That's up for discussion at this Thursday's RFTA board meeting.

Junior Freeride Competition Results

In Aspen, local skier Rhianna Borderick was on the podium after a mostly skiing event yesterday. Borderick took third in the fifteen to eighteen category in the Junior Freeride Competition Presented by GoPro that was on Aspen Mountain.

Forest Service Releases Forest Health Survey

The Forest Service has released its health survey of forests in Colorado. The agency works with the Colorado State Forest Service to conduct the annual review. This year the report shows trees in the Roaring Fork Valley area are still fending off a beetle that’s torn through forests further east. That's the mountain pine beetle. Bob Cain studies insects for the Forest Service.

"The White River is sitting in a good place, right now, for the numbers of insect and disease activity," he says.

The review isn’t all good news. There are spruce beetles in the forest along the Valley. They’re not too much of a problem now, but...

"The rapidly expanding spruce beetle epidemic in the state is just to the South of the White River. Monarch Pass, Cottonwood Pass have... quite a bit of activity, and there’s activity on Grand Mesa."

Cain says although temperatures have been on the warm side this winter, it’s unlikely they normally would have been cold enough to kill off a big part of the beetle population.

Health Insurance Deadline Coming Up

February 15th is the deadline for signing up for health insurance for this year. Garfield County Health officials are holding an event today to help locals do that. That’s from 2pm to 7pm at the Rifle Library.

Carbondale Police Investigating Possible Meth Lab

Carbondale’s Police department is investigating a suspected methamphetamine lab in downtown. A building about a block from Main Street has been sealed up after police and a specialized law enforcement agency went through and took samples of materials inside.

The Carbondale Police Department says the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT, provided assistance. Confiscated evidence is now being reviewed by a lab. The possible bust came after the police got a tip about suspected meth use.