Reclamation’s summer releases into Fryingpan River catching flack from anglers

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From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Basalt town government, Ruedi Water and Power Authority, and fishing guides want a detailed review and explanation of the reclamation bureau’s releases from Ruedi Reservoir. The releases created water levels that were too high for fishing in the gold-medal trout habitat of the Fryingpan River from late July to early September. The water level in Ruedi dropped too low to allow use of the Aspen Yacht Club docks on Labor Day weekend. “In short, the six weeks between approximately July 26 and Sept. 6 was a disaster for water-related recreation in the Fryingpan Valley,” says a letter from Basalt and the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. The latter entity operates a small hyrdo-electric project at the reservoir and closely monitors Ruedi water issues for local governments. The letter was released to the public at a Basalt Town Council meeting Tuesday night. The Bureau of Reclamation office in Loveland, which manages Ruedi releases, was closed for Veterans Day so no immediate reaction was available.

Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, said the releases were handled differently this year than over the last decade or so. The flow in the Fryingpan River is generally maintained at 250 cubic feet per second during summer months. It has rarely exceeded 300 cfs during summers and if it did, it was only for a day or two, he said. This year the flow in the Fryingpan topped 250 cfs the week of July 29 and kept climbing. It topped 400 cfs by Aug. 12 and 500 cfs by Aug. 19. Flows didn’t drop below 250 cfs until the week of Sept. 9…

[Bruce Gabow] quizzed reclamation officials about the flow and was told a “perfect storm” of circumstances affected the releases. Ruedi is one of a handful of reservoirs used to meet the demands of downstream users who purchase water. A variety of factors affected releases this summer when there were “calls” for water. There was a brief shutdown of the Shoshone Power Plant on the Colorado River, which affected water required from Ruedi; there was a delay in declaring a surplus of water from Green Mountain Reservoir, requiring more water releases from Ruedi while Green Mountain couldn’t answer the calls; and there was the usual contribution by Ruedi to a program to benefit endangered fish species on the Colorado River east of Grand Junction. The reaction of the federal agency to concerns in the Fryingpan Valley have been frustrating Gabow for years. Officials hold the necessary public hearings to collect input and they act concerned about the points raised by local residents, Gabow said, but they don’t alter their operations. “They do whatever they want,” he said. “They’re not really accountable to anyone here. They’re the government.”

More Fryingpan River watershed coverage here.

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