Roaring Fork Valley governments ask Reclamation to manage Ruedi releases without disrupting the summer fishing season on the Fryingpan

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From The Aspen Times (Scott Condon):

The Basalt town government and the Ruedi Water and Power Authority, which represents some Roaring Fork Valley governments on water issues, want water releases from Ruedi kept below 250 cubic feet per second or less between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Flows at that level would not disrupt the trout fishing that Basalt’s economy depends on so heavily, says a letter sent to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The local entities also want the feds to pledge to keep water above the 85,000 acre feet level in Ruedi during the same period.

The reclamation bureau office in Loveland manages Ruedi water operations. The fish and wildlife service buys water that it “calls” virtually every summer, sending it downstream to boost flows on the Colorado River to benefit habitat for four endangered native fish. The amount varies because of complex agreements. The local governments claim the water releases weren’t managed well last summer. There were 23 days between June 1 and Sept. 1 that water flows on the Fryingpan River exceeded 350 cfs. That was “unprecedented,” said Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority.

Basalt fishing guides and town officials said poor fishing conditions hurt the town’s economy, which was already smarting from the recession. They want an agreement on flows with the federal agencies. “The Bureau manages rivers elsewhere in the state, i.e. Arkansas River, under regulated flow agreements that recognize the needs of local jurisdictions and incorporates those needs into river management,” the letter says. “Given the importance of the Fryingpan to the local and regional economy and given its broader importance as a fishery and a recreational resource, is it possible to take a similar approach to managing Ruedi and the Fryingpan?” The local governments also want releases timed to more closely follow natural patterns that the Fryingpan experienced before it was dammed…

Fuller said the reclamation bureau has pledged one change to try to keep Basalt officials better informed about water management. The bureau already hosts a meeting in Basalt in May to discuss water management forecasts based on the snowpack level. Agency officials have pledged to hold midsummer meets in Basalt as well to update the water management plan. Fuller said the extra meeting will help keep local officials better informed about changing conditions. “So hopefully we’re not taken by surprise like we were last summer,” he said. Securing an agreement for summer flows on the Fryingpan River at or below 250 cfs might not be so easy. Fuller said the reclamation bureau and wildlife service have “a lot of mandates.” Placating officials in the Roaring Fork Valley isn’t necessarily one of them, he said.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here.

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