Aspinall unit draft environmental impact statement

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From the Crested Butte News (Evan Dawson): “A draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Aspinall Unit Re-operations plan was released for review on February 13, initiating a 70-day public comment period that ends on April 24. The DEIS contains several different management alternatives that each involve storing and releasing water in the three dams in a different way, along with more than 600 pages of information and data. Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD) attorney John McClow says the DEIS up for public review isn’t much different from an earlier draft that water officials saw last fall.”

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There are five alternatives included in the DEIS. As usual in federal environmental reviews, the bureau has included a “no action” alternative that would continue to employ current water management practices in the Aspinall dam series.

Alternative B is the bureau’s preferred alternative, and manages water for a series of spring flushing flows at different levels, along with downstream flow targets at varying points during the year. The minimum flow would be 300 cubic feet per second (cfs), and the maximum would be the 2,150 cfs capacity of the Crystal Dam hydroelectric power plant. In a March 17 written report to the UGRWCD board, McClow said one downside of the preferred alternative was it could result in a reduction of hydropower generation among the Aspinall dam series in all but the wettest years…

Alternative A presents a management plan intended to create strong spring peak flows with an over-abundance of water in the Aspinall Unit, but could pose a risk of spill at the Crystal Dam.
Alternative C includes longer “ramping up” periods for the flow targets, while Alternative D presents sharp jumps in flow levels…

During the UGRWCD’s regular meeting on March 23, McClow said he had a chance to speak with a representative of the Colorado River District and they were in support of the preferred alternative. “It looks like that will be the consensus of most of the Western Slope participants,” he said.

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