Funny, while walking on Eagle Trail north of Boulder two days ago, I noticed air pollution to the northeast of Boulder, rather than in its usual place, which is in a trail drifting northward from Denver (except on days when it’s ubiquitous or, thanks to high to moderate winds, not present).
The following article makes me wonder whether what we were seeing was from the extensive fracking activity going on to the northeast of us. Excerpt:
There are over 51,000 fracking wells in Colorado, most of which have been drilled in the last four years. These wells, which produce both gas and oil, also leak gases like methane, the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas.
Read the article, reported by Greenpeace researcher Jesse Coleman and published on Nation of Change.
(The picture above is a Nation of Change file photo, not what I saw that day.)
Mt. Sanitas open space after the storm (Reporter video)
Here in northwest Boulder, we were pretty much at ground zero of the most intense wave of the Great Colorado Monsoon, which hit its peak on the night of Wednesday, September 11, 2013.
On that night, what had been a hard rain much of the day became an eerily hard downpour, pounding on the flat roof above our heads. I went outside to make sure the gutters and downspouts were all working; they weren’t, and soon I was climbing a ladder to the roof, then scrambling around the yard, removing obstructions to try to get the water flowing off the roof and away from the house.
Toward midnight, the rain seemed to get even harder. As a journalist, I am inflicted with a malady that drives me zombie-like toward “breaking news.” It was thus that I set out northward from our house at about midnight, under a very large umbrella.
Within five or so minutes I had walked the bike path running north of 4th St. and Kalmia Ave., reaching the corner where Linden intersects Wonderland Hill Ave. In calmer times, Linden Ave. is a fairly major road leading from Broadway up to the Pine Brook Hills neighborhood above North Boulder. A usually dry ditch runs west to east at the north end of a big open field, then there are houses.
But that night, in the dark, I looked north at the field and did a double take. Two giant rivers of gray water were flowing across the formerly empty field. A catchment basin on the corner was full, water pouring out of its east end in a torrent. I suspected that, were I to stand there much longer, that water was going to overflow its channel and start flowing south — towards me. I turned and walked quickly back down the bike path, looking backward frequently to check for water coming at me.
By some point later that night, the water did in fact begin racing southward on the bike path toward Kalmia, where it turned left and merged with other eastward-rushing streams to become a river racing down Kalmia, setting in to its job of flooding many of the houses between 4th St. and Broadway.
It turns out the situation on Linden was more dangerous even than I knew. As I was to learn in the next two days, two teenagers died that Wednesday night probably a quarter-mile west on Linden. Four kids had tried to run their car through the rushing water to get up to Pine Brook Hills. Bad move. One boy’s body was found quickly, his girlfriend’s only later. Two others lived.
A video I shot Thursday afternoon from the corner where I’d stood staring in amazement the night before.
We spent much of Friday dealing with a flooded guest bedroom, fortunately enlisting a contractor friend to help us move furniture and tear out wet carpeting and a few inches of drywall. The scope of our particular “flood” didn’t extend to the inches or feet of standing water suffered by a lot of neighbors. And, no, our insurance doesn’t cover it.
Our triage tasks complete, we set out walking the neighborhood around 4th St. to view the damage done to foothills hiking trails and nearby streets. A tweeted photo from Congressman Jared Polis had already alerted me about the state of the block of Hawthorne Ave. going uphill west from 4th St. toward Jared’s childhood home. Going up the hill we realized that water, amazingly, had carved long, deep trenches into the pavement. The torn-up asphalt was now a tableau of small waterfalls.
As we walked on, neighbors exchanged stories about whose houses had flooded and how badly. On the mountainside, mudslides had laid bare three long gashes of exposed earth and rocks, each maybe a quarter-mile long. Sand and mud and rocks were strewn about in yards and streets.
The storm was capricious. On that Thursday morning, I drove fairly easily across town to Home Depot to buy a length of downspout. Many blocks of neighborhoods adjacent to ours, such as Newlands and Mapleton Hill, showed few signs of damage except occasional debris or water rushing along at curbsides.
But when we explored the Mt. Sanitas trail on Open Space just west of North Boulder, giant ruts had rendered the main trail unpassable, and long-familiar landscapes had been resculpted by the water almost beyond recognition (see attached video). Throughout North Boulder, the extent of damage seemed determined by location and terrain, with the downward-flowing water making the decisions.
When I finally went to bed Thursday night and closed my eyes, I could see only images of rushing water. In the ensuing days, the sound of falling rain, which I have always found soothing, now seems fearsome. When will it start up again? How hard will it rain? How long it will last?
This is just one small story among thousands. The big picture and a lot of touching individual stories have been very well portrayed in local media, including some very good local TV coverage. NPR had a great sound piece, and a The New York Timesaccount helped tell our story to the nation.
Is it too early for some big lessons to be learned here? Well, you’ve gotta think hard about the role of climate change.
And you’ve gotta wonder about some personal ironies. Here we thought that living in our house at the very, utmost, extreme, literal edge of the Rocky Mountains — where plains that begin somewhere west of Chicago give way to the start of towering mountains right across the street — was such a great blessing.
PERFECT DAY:Boulder’s heat wave made for a perfect first trip of the season to Brainard Lake and (pictured here) Lake Isabelle. (Reporter photo)
Our first trip to Brainard Lake Thursday, June 27, was a smashing success. The whole area was dazzlingly gorgeous under a deep blue sky. Huge changes have been made — in particular, the road that ran north of Brainard Lake and up to the Long Lake and Mitchell Lake trainheads is being rerouted so the area east and north of Brainard is now traffic-free, a nice improvement.
There are many other changes, too (new structures and parking lots, and the new Gateway Trailhead about two miles east of the Brainard Lake complex). The new road to the two upper trailheads is being rerouted to south of Brainard Lake. Since that road won’t be open until mid-July, we parked east of Brainard and hiked all the way (well, “all the way” for me) up to Lake Isabelle, which was filled up and boisterously overflowing into its two beautiful waterfalls. It still had snow-capped ice floes in the middle of the lake (probably not for long).
Get up there…it’s gorgeous! And (for you newbies) it’s only 45 minutes’ drive from Boulder.
Quite possibly the best single source for breaking environmental news and analysis is Eco-Watch. One story with a poignant local angle is this one telling about how scarce water in drought-ridden areas, including Colorado, is being grabbed up by (you guessed it) frackers. A Colorado farmer laments:
“There is a new player for water, which is oil and gas. And certainly they are in a position to pay a whole lot more than we are.”
You can sign up for e-mail updates of Eco-Watch’s best and latest content (see box at top-right of their front page). I know, you’re wary of more e-mail. But I’ve found this one is worth it.
The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnick said it so well recently:
The future of writing in America — or at least, the future of making a living by writing — seems in doubt as rarely before. Thanks to the Internet, the disproportion between writerly supply and demand, always tricky, has tipped: anyone can write, and everyone does, and the beginners are expected to be the last pure philanthropists, giving it all away for the naches [Yiddish: emotional gratification or pride --Ed.]. It has never been easier to be a writer; and it has never been harder to be a professional writer. The strange anatomy of the new literary manners has yet to be anatomized: the vast school of tweets feeding on the giant whales of a few big books, the literary ecology of the very big, the very small, and the sudden vertiginous whoosh; the blog that becomes a book; the writer torn to pieces by his former Internet fans, which makes one the other. … The same forces that have hampered writing as a profession have empowered reading as a pastime: everything ever written, it seems, is now easily available to be read, and everything is.
A Boulder “angle” to this story? People here, as everywhere, are showered with a seemingly limitless supply of excellent “content,” should they just bother to lift a finger toward their iPads or Kindles. The bare-bones Daily Camera seems to satisfy most people’s appetite for, and time for, local news. KGNU’s Morning Magazine, The Blue Line, Boulder Weekly and Boulder Magazine all contribute significant local coverage. Any possible business model for someone to do additional local reporting certainly eludes me. Boulder Reporter will linger on, as a place to air grudges, kudos, and maybe (at times, out of sheer perversity and force of habit) hard-news reporting.
It’s definitely worth your while to read the Daily Camera’s coverage of how a group of Boulder city and county police apparently collaborated to kill an elk on Mapleton Hill, then steal the carcass, then not report their actions. The website’s many pages of reader comments are also revealing, both of some important details and of the huge public reaction to the event.
Amazing, disturbing and revealing in so many ways. Not only does one mourn the loss of this beautiful animal, but one must now acknowledge the emerging picture of a culture of lawlessness in our police force (remember our recent story about two Boulder Police DUI officers and their own DUIs?). Surely the rot goes all the way to the top of the police hierarchy, and surely personnel changes need to occur, starting at the top. North Boulder and Mapleton Hill are so chock-a-block with liberal lawyers, judges and City Council members (past and present) that I predict heads will indeed role — indeed, that the process is already underway. If that doesn’t occur, then we’re really in trouble.
Further, is this incident not also evidence of a culture clash between North Boulder’s liberal, animal-loving citizenry and people who, though they may work in Boulder, are part of the gun-toting, hunting, yahoo element that is out there, in Colorado and beyond. I can’t help thinking that the cops involved intended their act to be, not just a way of bagging a trophy and taking meat home to their freezers, but a premeditated and hostile affront to people living inside the (to them, effete) Boulder bubble. In other words, a statement writ small of the polarization and class hatred that’s sweeping the land.
UPDATE: New developments were breaking Friday morning, with Chief Beckner tweeting that two officers involved have been placed on “Admin Leave w/pay.”