Give yourself a round of applause for making it through another week! 👏

In this Friday edition of BRL Today, we take a look at the city’s Cool Boulder campaign, part of a new climate strategy to manage the urban landscape to help pioneer a new model for adapting to more frequent wildfires, floods and heat waves.

Also in today’s newsletter: the latest on the Xcel Energy agreement filed this week with state regulators, which proposes a faster pivot by Colorado’s largest electrical utility from coal to renewables and alternative technologies. Plus the launch of Boulder County’s Climate Innovation Fund, upcoming flood recovery travel delays, the last day of operation for the Marshall Fire Donation and Resource Center, and a whole lot more.

Until Monday,

– Jezy, managing editor

Batter up! Springtime means Little League baseball season in Boulder, and what better place for a game than at the foot of the Flatirons in Aurora 7 Park. April 28, 2022. Credit: Harry Fuller/Boulder Reporting Lab

Quickly

👀 Red Flag warning: Strong winds gusting up to 40-50 mph and low humidity will present critical fire conditions across north central Colorado today. Per usual: Avoid any outdoor activity that might cause a spark, and stay on your toes.

🌎 Climate Innovation Fund: Boulder County’s Office of Sustainability, Climate Action & Resilience this week announced the launch of a Climate Innovation Fund “to support local projects focused on carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and landscape resilience and restoration. The Fund, totaling $450,000, is seeking proposals for these local projects during the application window of April 28, 2022 through May 27, 2022.”

🚧 Flood recovery travel delays: Expect delays along the first half-mile of Sugarloaf Road near CO 119 beginning next week, as Boulder County and its contractor, American Civil Constructors, begin final repairs after the flood of 2013. The project is expected to continue through October, weather permitting.

🥚 Good eggs: The Osprey Nest at the Boulder County Fairgrounds is now the proud home to three eggs. Boulder County Open Space says the first hatch could take place as early as May 18, but will likely happen a few days later since the incubation of the first egg was delayed. (Don’t miss a beat of the avian action with the county’s Osprey Camera!)

🌵 Driest April, ever: Per BoulderCAST Weather: “Boulder has only recorded 0.12 of precipitation so far in the month of April. If we manage to dodge some very spotty showers the next few days, which seems likely, this will go down as the driest April in the city’s 130-year climate record.” It’s also expected to be the first snowless April since 1992. 

⚠️ Natural Disaster Area: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has included Boulder County among 64 Primary Natural Disaster Areas across Colorado. “This Secretarial natural disaster designation allows the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Farm Service Agency (FSA) to extend much-needed emergency credit to producers recovering from natural disasters through emergency loans.”

💰 ARPA Working Groups: Boulder County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing as part of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) community engagement process on Tuesday, May 3, at 4:30 p.m. ARPA Working Groups will present final recommendations for the distribution of federal funds in Boulder County during the virtual meeting.

📅 Last day for Marshall Fire Donation and Resource Center: The final day of operations for the relief site will be this Saturday, April 30. Organizers say plenty of items for fire victims are still available at the 21 W Flatiron Crossing Dr. location in Broomfield, including clothing, bathroom essentials, toys, baby items, books, food and more.

👩🏾‍🚀 From Fairview High to outer space: Jessica Watkins, a graduate of Fairview High School, will be the first Black woman to serve on the International Space Station when the 33-year-old geologist joins NASA’s Crew-4 mission on a six-month journey to the space station. “For me, growing up, it was important to me to have role models in roles that I aspire to be in, contributing in ways I aspired to contribute,” Watkins told NPR. “So to the extent that I’m able to do that, I’m honored and grateful for the opportunity to return the favor.”

Top Stories

How can we live more comfortably on a warming planet? Boulder wants to start by turning down the temperature.

Later this summer, Boulder residents might see cyclists riding around with temperature sensors mounted on their bikes. 

The volunteer scientists will be collecting temperature data across the city as part of a nationwide urban heat mapping project funded through a recent grant the city received from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

The purpose behind the research is to better understand the disparities in how rising heat affects residents across the city. Research indicates buildings and paved surfaces intensify heat, while parks and open space have a cooling effect. Urban heat can exacerbate health disparities for low-income residents and people who work outside.

The project is among the first in the city’s Cool Boulder campaign, which formally launched on Thursday, April 28, part of a larger effort to expand the city’s climate resiliency work under its new Natural Climate Solutions program. The heat data will be used to guide urban infrastructure investments designed to cool the city down. 

“You can have as much as a 20- to 30-degree difference across a single community, depending on the nature of the built environment and the level of shade that exists there,” Brett KenCairn, policy advisor for the Natural Climate Solutions program, said in an interview. “There’s emerging science that’s going to start to confirm that we can literally change local climate conditions by the way we manage landscapes.” 

Cool Boulder, and the urban heat mapping project, provide the public the first concrete look at the city’s shift and expansion of its climate work. After focusing primarily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy, the city is pivoting its strategy. It wants to create an urban landscape better equipped to lessen the growing impacts of heat waves, wildfires and floods and draw carbon down from the atmosphere. 

A sharper coal pivot could be in store for Xcel Energy, according to a new settlement agreement with state regulators

An agreement filed Tuesday with state regulators proposes a sharper, faster pivot by Colorado’s largest electrical utility from coal to renewables and alternative technologies.

The settlement agreement filed by Xcel Energy and other parties calls for retirement of Comanche 3, the state’s youngest and most powerful coal plant, “no later than” Jan. 1, 2031. Retirement could actually occur sooner.

As for new natural gas generation, the agreement calls for a new measuring stick: How cost-effective can the gas plant be if it operates only 25 years?

This could potentially result in Xcel Energy reducing carbon emissions from its electrical generation 88% by 2030, as compared to 2005 levels. As of 2021, Xcel’s electrical generation in Colorado was 39% carbon free.

But the proposal would also kick some major decisions down the road to 2024 and 2025.

“The modeling and technologies need just a little more time to improve,” said Gwen Farnsworth, managing senior policy advisor in Colorado for Boulder-based Western Resource Advocates.

BRL Picks

💃 Día del Niño (tomorrow!): Don’t forget —Día del Niño (Children’s Day) with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art kicks off tomorrow, April 30, between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., at the Boulder Central Park Bandshell. Enjoy free live music and dance performances by Flamenco Denver, Grupo Folklórico Sabor Latino, the Colorado Youth Mariachi Program, plus arts and crafts tables.

⛰️ Art of the land: City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks and the Boulder Public Library have announced an open call for artwork inspired by city open space, to be included in an upcoming community art exhibition celebrating the outdoors in Boulder. Deadline for submission is Sunday, June 12, 2022.

👩‍🌾 Farm hands wanted: Milk and Honey Farm at the Boulder Jewish Community Center (6018 Oreg Ave.) is looking for volunteers to help dig, weed, plant and harvest their tzedakah (donation) garden, educational garden beds and geodesic dome greenhouse. Beginning May 2, get your hands dirty and spend quality time with the farm’s goats and chickens during volunteer shifts every Monday and Thursday morning.

Covid-19 Updates: April 29, 2022

  • 126 daily new cases (7-day avg.) 🔺Up 73% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 0 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Down from avg. of 40 since July 2020.
  • 53% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 71% since July 2020.
  • CDPHE updates data reporting to facilitate accuracy in national reporting. The move by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) to make it easier for third parties to calculate and display Colorado case rates comes after some national Covid data dashboards, like the New York Times, showed Colorado data in a way that made it seem as though there were more current cases than there were.
  • CDPHE suspends Red Rock Pharmacy. The suspension from participation in the Covid-19 vaccination program is due to alleged “compliance issues that indicate Red Rock Pharmacy was not meeting the necessary standards required by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine administration.” 
  • Moderna asks FDA to authorize Covid-19 vaccine for young kids. Per Politico: “The request comes a month after the drug company signaled its two-dose regimen generated immune protection in the youngest children comparable to young adults.” 

What We’re Reading

📖 CU Boulder confirms Todd Saliman as new system president: “Before becoming interim president, Saliman oversaw the CU system’s $4.1 billion budget. For that reason, and also because of his background as a budget man for the administration of two Democratic Colorado governors, Saliman told Colorado Matters he is uniquely qualified for the position. He argued whoever is at the helm of the CU system must manage one of the tightest higher education budgets in the country.” [CPR News]

ICYMI from BRL

🛣️ ‘We’re at a pivot point’: Boulder’s departing transportation director emphasizes tradeoffs as the city pursues a new vision for its roadways. In a continuation of Boulder Reporting Lab’s exit interview series, Erika Vandenbrande discusses her department’s challenges and opportunities as the city plans to overhaul its cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

✍️ Several bills in the state legislature aim to nudge Coloradans toward low- and zero-carbon homes. One of them, sponsored by Rep. Tracey Bernett, who represents parts of Louisville, would mandate statewide building codes. Others would create incentives for heat pumps, energy storage and geothermal. Only one has bipartisan sponsors.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.