Category: Conservation

Colorado partnership garners $50K for successful landscape management

WCLC group photo

Group of volunteers learning about the ecosystem in Western Colorado. (Photo courtesy of the Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative)

Working together, federal and state agencies, local governments, environmental groups, public stakeholders and local utilities are improving wildlife habitats in Western Colorado’s natural spaces while reducing fire danger that threatens the landscapes and power lines.

 Western is one of the partners of the Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative, which garnered the prestigious 2013 Colorado Collaboration Award and a $50,000 prize to further the non-profit’s efforts.

“The ecosystems in Western Colorado are under attack from disease, drought and wildfires, and those are higher-level problems than just one entity can deal with,” said Western’s Rocky Mountain Special Programs Manager Ron Turley. “[The collaborative partnership] is a sign of the times in natural resources management. Natural resource managers realize that issues like these goes beyond their jurisdictions and require partnerships with other government entities and the public. A broader landscape perspective and collaborative effort was the only way to get it done.”

The Colorado Collaboration Award is a prize offered each year by a group of foundations and corporate funders to an outstanding nonprofit collaboration. The award will be officially presented at Colorado Nonprofit Association’s Fall Conference & Exhibition in Denver Oct. 7.

“We’re proud and excited to have been selected as the winner of the Colorado Collaboration Award,” said Pam Motley, Director of Uncompahgre/Com, which manages the Western Colorado Landscape Collaborative. “This prize will help us continue major initiatives such as the Escalante Forest Restoration Project.”

Read more on Western’s website.

Cook solar: California employees get sun-cooked snacks

Solar cooker

Administrative Assistant Kelly Rider under the Miracorp contract adjusts a "solar panel" on her homemade solar cooker while cooking beans to share with her coworkers in Folsom, Calif., May 1. Solar cooking is an easy, cheap, environmentally friendly and fun way to cook food and snacks using only the sun for power.

As part of the Sierra Nevada Earth Day celebration in California, Western employees partook in a scrumptious snack prepared entirely by the sun and a few common household supplies.

Miracorp contractor Kelly Rider used only solar energy, recycled paper boxes, clear plastic packing tape, aluminum foil and glue sticks to whip up some nanchos, beans and chocolate chip cookies for employees. 

“Sacramento boasts about 200 days of sun each year, so why not use the sun to cook your food? It doesn’t heat up the house or use any cooking fuel. And the best part is it’s free!” said Rider.

Solar cooking works like a slow cooker set on low, so it doesn’t let food get dry or burned, and there’s no need to constantly stir or watch the food. “Using the sunshine is a great way to prepare and serve meals that are environmentally friendly and reduce your carbon footprint,” Rider added.

In case you’re wondering if solar cooking is only good for small snacks, Rider created a chicken and wild rice dinner the week before Earth Day as a trial run.

Do you have experience with solar cooking? Is it possible where you live? What other types of environmentally friendly cooking have you seen or done? If you want to learn more about solar cooking and its capabilities, visit Solar Cookers International at www.solarcookers.org

Drip-dry: Drought’s major impact on water uses

Have you noticed water evaporating overnight from your cup at your office? Have you been running a humidifier at home or noticed your plants are in need of more TLC than usual? Yes, it’s been dry in the West … extremely dry … critically dry.

U.S. map showing drough conditions

University of Nebraska-Lincoln's U.S. Drought Monitor

There has been a lot of talk in the news about the drought’s impact on farms and food, and what kind of snowfall it would take to relieve the drought.

At Western, since we use water from many of the large streams throughout the West, the drought impacts our regions, our communities and our ability to produce hydropower. In fact, our final hydro conditions report for the water year 2012 was less than stellar. Read more »

Thoughtlessly saving energy at work

3 ways you (probably) save energy without knowing it!

I’m an early-riser; so when I get to the office, the lights are off, the coffee pot isn’t percolating and all the computers are hibernating. Since we’re still on daylight saving time, it’s pretty dark for my first hour of work. As I start the day, there are a few things I do first-thing that save energy without me really thinking about it. Here’s what I do:

  • Use task lighting. Our office lighting is automatically set up to switch on in the morning. When I get in, well before the timer goes off, I just use my task light above my desk to help me work instead of turning the lights on early. (Of course, I switch it back off when the lights pop on.)
  • Keep a sweater at work. Again, our office automatically kicks on the heat during fall and winter months. When it’s just a bit to cool for me, I slip on my office sweater or grab a cup of tea and wait for the automatic system to do its work.
  • Take the stairs. OK, I know this one sounds lame … but in addition to helping get my blood pumping in the morning, taking the stairs (and not the elevator) for two stories up, exercises my power instead of electric power.

All in all, these are simple things I do every day that save energy without a second thought.

So what are your favorite, easy solutions for saving or conserving energy? Read more »

Western receives DOI award for conservation, watershed planning

Western was one of 17 organizations presented a “Partners in Conservation” award by the Deputy Secretary of the Interior today at a ceremony in Washington D.C. for participation in the Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study.

The Colorado River Basin Water Supply and Demand Study is a joint effort among more than 70 Federal and state agencies, Native American tribes, environmental groups and other organizations to establish a common foundation for resolving future water supply and demand imbalances. According to Interior, it is the largest, most comprehensive basin-wide analysis ever undertaken and will serve as a model for watershed planning and planning for future growth and climate change near the Colorado River.

Read more »

Western Operations Study presented

Western hosted a webinar for customers Aug. 16—after posting the report a week earlier—to allow its consultant, Miracorp, to discuss the process they followed to create the report and also define Western’s next steps. Learn more about the study on Western’s Opertions Study page.

Western ‘energizes’ participants at Big Brother, Big Sister education event

Some Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Colorado youth and mentors were literally shocked while learning about the electrifying world of energy Aug. 11.

Participants, like this pair, had their pictures taken with an infrared camera during the Big Brothers and Big Sisters event focused on electricity, Aug. 11

Several Western Area Power Administration employees volunteered their time to provide participants with an understanding about how electricity travels from where it is generated to homes and businesses. “Watching participants learn new things about electricity and energy; and seeing them connect with how they can make simple choices that conserve energy is exciting,” said Energy Services Equipment Loan Program Manager Gary Hoffmann.

In just a little more than two hours, participants learn about money and energy-saving tips for their homes as well as for industry buildings; and took some time to investigate fuel-cell technology, understand different lighting options and ‘see’ heat using an infrared camera. They also had the opportunity to see a Tesla Coil and watch a fluorescent lamp light up in their hands.

One highlight of the event was the Van de Graaff generator where youth and mentors learned about static electricity and had the opportunity to share the electric charge and shock each other. Through the fun, hands-on event, participants learned first-hand how electricity works, its uses and also its dangers.

“We were all very excited about the success of the day. The kids and mentors loved learning about electricity in a hands-on way and were amazed by the various tools and toys Western shared,” added Program and Fund Development Intern Laura Newman, who organized the event. “Many of the kids left the event, infrared pictures of their match [mentor and youth] in hand, discussing how to do more and learn more about energy and science. Every match said they were interested in participating in more events like this.”

In the end, participants walked away charged up and ready to save energy. Some of those solutions include:

  • Turn off appliances when you’re not using them, including lights, computers, gaming consoles, TVs and radios.
  • Unplug chargers when not in use—charging devices can draw power even when they aren’t attached to a battery.
  • Close the refrigerator door quickly after you find a snack.
  • Keep doors, windows and curtains closed on very hot and very cold days.
  • Dress for the weather.
  • Set your thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer and no higher than 68 degrees in the winter.
  • Seal leaks around windows, doors and heating ducts.
  • Air-dry clothes.

Customers: Send comments about Defining the future’ by Aug. 17

The Department of Energy and Western Joint Outreach Team finished the final two of six public workshops and listening sessions the week of July 30 to define Western’s role in transitioning the grid to a flexible, reliable system worthy of the 21st century.

But the team is still accepting comments through Aug. 17 for stakeholders and Aug. 24 for Native American Tribes as part of the public scoping process for this effort. Some comments submitted are already available for viewing on Western’s website. To get your comment in, email JOT@wapa.gov with your name, organizational affiliation and your thoughts.

The team will take the oral and written comments and ideas generated in the workshops and submitted via email to draft recommendations for public comment sometime this fall.

Here are some photos from the Aug. 2 meeting in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Reclamation delays project to relocate Western lines

On July 31, the Bureau of Reclamation announced the delay of a project to relocate Western’s high-voltage transmission lines near Yellowtail Dam in Montana from August to October because of increased environmental concerns.

“I applaud our hydropower partners at Western for their sensitivity to the potential ramifications of the outage associated with the relocation project,” said Dan Jewell, Area Manager for Reclamation’s Montana Area Office. “While these types of maintenance events are never risk-free, delaying the work until later in the year will help reduce that risk.”

The current location of the lines puts them at risk for the dangerous ice storms that occur in the area over winter, prompting a joint effort between Reclamation and Western to move the lines.

The relocation is scheduled to take about two weeks, and the outage requires Reclamation to bypass the water turbines. With the unusually warm summer and fall, agencies and environmentalists were concerned about the impact of not using the colder water at deeper water levels to power the turbines in August. Alternatives to move the water, including the holo-jets and spillways, could increase nitrogen or water temperature, potentially harming fish.

According to Friends of the Bighorn River blog, “With lake water temperatures already well into the 70′s, a slight mistake, miscalculation or unplanned natural or man-made event could have long lasting, devastating effects on the river where fish are already highly stressed from anglers, low flows, gas bubble trauma, irrigation return, warm water and habitat loss.”

 The delay is thought to be a fitting compromise to ensure reliable electricity from Yellowtail Dam this winter and protection of the environment.

Western customer recognized for including the public in IRP process

Western’s Rocky Mountain Region Manager Brad Warren  presented Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association’s CEO Ken Anderson an Administrator’s award in recognition of Tri-State’s exceptional energy efficiency and renewable energy contributions.

Tri-State earned this peer-recognition award for going above the standards to engage the public in its Integrated Resource Plan process.

“Tri-State went the extra mile to involve stakeholders, and that was a tremendous effort to undertake,” said Warren.

See the news release for more information.