Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program: Memorial Day weekend coordinated water releases

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Here’s some background on the coordinated release from six dams in the Upper Colorado River Basin designed to provide an approximation of historical spring streamflows to improve habitat for the endangered natives in the river system, from Mark Jaffe writing for the Denver Post. From the article:

The releases from Granby, Ruedi, Windy Gap, Williams Wolford Mountain, Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs are designed to replicate spring peak flows on the Colorado before the dams were built. “This is a valuable step in in helping to restore these endangered species,” said Angela Kantula, assistant director of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

The extra water will flush sediment and build sandbars to improve the mating habitat for four endangered fish species — the Colorado pikeminnow, the bonytail, razorback sucker and the humpback chub — along a 15-mile stretch of the river near Grand Junction. The releases raised the flow of the river about 15 percent, to a peak of 20,000 cubic feet per second, according to the recovery program. Although the reservoir release program was developed in 1995, there has only been enough water in the reservoirs for the releases in five years, Kantula said…

The releases, which began in mid- May, sent a cue to fish that it was mating season, along with cleaning the riverbed cobbles, where the eggs are laid, and creating sandbars, behind which pockets of calm water offer habitat for the fry, Kantula said…

Between 1989 and 2008, $187 million has been spent on the recovery program, with about 80 percent coming from the federal government and funds from hydropower generators. Colorado has contributed $16 million.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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