Runoff news: Glenwood Canyon High water closed back path

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent: “According to the Colorado Department of Transportation the bike path is closed between the Shoshone Power Plant and the Hanging Lake Rest Area.”

The Crystal Dam is spilling again this year and you can be there. From the Montrose Daily Press:

Limited access [May 15 and 16] to the spring releases is available between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. both days; a $15 fee per car will be necessary to access the dam through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. On Friday, May 15, about 2,500 cubic feet per second, or 1,122,000 gallons per minute, of unregulated runoff will be cascading from the dam’s spillway, with an additional 4,000 cfs of water being released through the dam to the Gunnison River. Parking will be outside of the project gates and viewers will have to walk about half a mile to view the spill.

The road providing access to Crystal Dam and Power Plant is accessed by turning onto Highway 347, 8 miles east of Montrose. The beginning elevation on Highway 347 is 6,572 feet and at the point where one turns onto the East Portal Road to the power plant, the elevation will have increased to 8,266 feet.

The East Portal Road is 6 miles long. Once drivers begin to drop into the canyon, the elevation decreases by more than 1,800 feet within 3 miles. This section of road is one of the steepest in the state, with a 16-percent grade, and is one switchback after another; careful driving is recommended.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Today, Lake Estes is sitting at a water level elevation of 7472 feet–just a couple of feet below full. Snowmelt is coming down the Big Thompson River into Lake Estes. Because of river travel times, snow that melts during the day does not show up in downstream rivers until evening or night. That is why, this time of year, fluctuation in the Big T river can be daily. At night, inflows to Estes are currently jumping up into the 200 cfs area. During the day, they drop down to around 170 cfs. We are controlling that incoming water a little, using some for hydropower generation. As a result, we are maintaining a steady release of around 100 cfs from Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River through the canyon.

Pinewood Reservoir has been sitting fairly consistently at an elevation of 6566. We are moving water through for power generation at the Flatiron Plant below.

Carter Lake is still sitting at an elevation of 5756–just three feet below full.

And, we are currently running just under 300 cfs to Horsetooth Reservoir. Earlier today, power generation at the Big Thompson Powerplant (near the Dam Store) came on, reducing the flow north by about 50 cfs. We saw a similar pattern last weekend, as well. Today, Horsetooth is at an elevation of 5415–a foot higher than it was this time last year. The water level at Horsetooth should continue to rise through the weekend.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

What this means for Green Mountain Reservoir is that we will be bypassing the inflowing snowmelt to the reservoir on through the dam and down the Lower Blue. Because more is coming in than we are currently releasing, we will be bumping up releases in 100 cfs increments over the next several days, hitting a cfs of around 600 by Monday, May 18. After Monday, the CROS group will reconvene. But, there is a strong likelihood the 600 cfs will continue through Memorial Day. I’ll keep you posted on what changes are made. This afternoon, we bumped releases up from around 100 cfs to about 200 cfs. The change was made between 1 and 3 p.m. I’m anticipating the daily 100 cfs increase will be made in this same time frame through the weekend, hitting the 600 cfs mark Monday afternoon. For those keeping tabs on the reservoir, it is currently at a water elevation of 7913 feet–that’s still quite a bit down from full, but we’re anticipating enough water down the Blue this year to participate in this program and fill the reservoir.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

What this means for Ruedi Reservoir is that we will be bypassing the inflowing snowmelt to the reservoir on through the dam and down the Fryingpan. Because more is coming in than we are currently releasing, we will be bumping up releases in 50 cfs increments, twice a day, over the next several days, hitting a cfs of around 650 by Monday, May 18. After Monday, the CROS group will reconvene. But, there is a strong likelihood the 650 cfs could continue through Memorial Day. I’ll keep you posted on what changes are made. Around 6:30 this evening, we will bump releases up the first 50 cfs, raising the cfs in the Fryingpan from 197 cfs to 247 cfs. Tomorrow morning, we will increase another 50 cfs, then again in the afternoon by another 50, with a resulting flow of 347. We will follow this same pattern until Monday afternoon when we will hit the 647 cfs. For those keeping tabs on the reservoir, it is currently at a water elevation of 7737 feet–that’s still quite a bit down from full, but we’re anticipating enough water down the ‘Pan this year to participate in this program and fill the reservoir.

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Yesterday, a combination of Morrow Point Releases and high side-inflows caused Crystal Reservoir to spill and flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge to reach over 7,000 cfs by this morning. Flows at Delta are currently in the 12,000 cfs range. The May 1st forecast for the April through July runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir is 690,000 ac-ft. consequently, the Black Canyon Water Right calls for a 24 hr peak flow of almost 6,000 cfs (5,864 cfs according to the decree). This flow was achieved starting at about 16:45 May 12th. To insure a 24 hour peak is obtained and to make efficient use of water, Reclamation will start to slowly ramp down releases today. As a result, the spill at Crystal will start to subside and probably be complete by Sunday May 17th. A more detailed schedule is being developed and additional information will be distributed as it becomes available.

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