Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have seen the inflow to Lake Estes continue to drop through the day. As a result, we have reduced our releases from Olympus Dam to the Lower Big Thompson river to 800 cfs. We anticipate maintaining the 800 cfs through the night, although there is a slight possibility that could change.

Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Releases from Crystal Reservoir increased by 50 cfs last evening (June 7) due to high side inflows to Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs. (The Cimarron River below Silverjack Reservoir was flowing over 1000 cfs.) Flows in the Gunnison Gorge and Black Canyon are currently at 700 cfs and should remain there until further notice.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Runoff news

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Flash flood warnings are up this afternoon for the northern Front Range foothills, Boulder and the western Denver suburbs until 6:00 p.m.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Tonya Bina):

Residents along the Fraser River awoke Monday to the highest water levels seen in roughly two decades, with flooding in some areas within reach of condominium buildings and lodging units…

The National Weather Service out of Denver on Monday issued a “small stream flood advisory” for Eastern Grand County until 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday. The advisory warns individuals with interests along the river to use “extreme caution” due to high river flows making river banks unstable.

“We weren’t expecting this high of a peak,” said Dave Bennett, Water Resources Project Manager for Denver Water. The rapid increase in runoff is happening at a time when reservoirs are already near full from East Slope water supplies and transmountain diversions. Gross Reservoir, the recipient of Fraser River Basin diversions, “should be full today,” Bennett said. Denver water was diverting a small supply of water on Monday, but as soon as Gross filled, the utility would cease its diversions…

That remaining quantity of snow could determine whether Granby Reservoir fills. By Monday, the reservoir was 14 feet from full, officials said.

From the Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

“Now the Uncompahgre (River) is really coming off the San Juans (Mountains) above Ridgway,” said Dan Crabtree, water management group chief for the Bureau of Reclamation. “It’s really starting to run. The Uncompahgre flowing into Ridgway Reservoir is flowing at about 1,200 cubic feet per second (cfs).” Water levels in the Uncompahgre near Olathe fluctuate but have risen dramatically: Late last week, flows climbed from 500 cfs to more than 1,300 cfs, while they soared from 610 cfs Sunday night to above 1,000 cfs Monday morning, Crabtree said. “The Uncompahgre is really cooking right now,” he said…

A crest of 12.4 feet, “just below the 12.5-foot flood stage” is expected on the Colorado near Grand Junction early today, said Byron Lawrence, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service…

Ridgway Reservoir, fed by a now-turgid Uncompahgre River, is full, and its excess water is spilling, said Mike Berry of the Tri-County Water Conservancy District. Releases had been increased from 300 to 900 cfs in order to slow the rate at which the reservoir was filling, but water began spilling Monday morning, Berry said.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Janey Urquhart):

The Slaughterhouse gauge indicated that section of the Roaring Fork topped 6,000 cubic feet per second sometime in the wee hours of Monday and was running at 5,700 cfs at about 9:30 a.m. However, the gauge at Emma, below the Roaring Fork’s confluence with the Fryingpan, showed a lower flow, suggesting a malfunction with the Slaughterhouse gauge…

Farther down the valley, the Shoshone rapid on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon was flowing at 14,200 cfs at noon and the canyon bike path was closed. Flows at the Glenwood Springs whitewater park on the Colorado were hitting 22,500 cfs by late morning. The big water at the park has apparently given some boaters trouble; kayaker Chase Macek at Alpine Quest Sports said he helped out when he saw two private rafts flip at the wave on Sunday…

Even the lower Fryingpan above Basalt, controlled by releases from the Ruedi Reservoir dam, was flowing higher on Monday. The Bureau of Reclamation announced it would bump up flows by 100 cfs in two increments, putting total flows at 248 cfs. On the Pan, it’s anglers who keep an eye on how much water is coursing downstream. Boaters at Ruedi will find the reservoir water level about six feet away from full, according to the BLM…

The rapid melting of the snow has ramifications for more than river runners. It could affect Colorado’s water supply later in the summer, said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the National Resources Conservation Service, noting the snow is already gone from a lot of the NRCS snowpack measuring sites. The snowpack was at 30 percent of average for the Upper Colorado River Basin on Monday, but was still up 33 percent, compared to last year, according to Gillespie.

Up in Boulder Canyon they’re trying to keep from losing a bridge to the fast and furious runoff. Here’s a report from From the article:

Authorities brought in an earth mover on Tuesday afternoon to pull out the debris after Boulder Police say the culvert-style bridge in Boulder Canyon was partially washed out overnight and debris built up behind it, plugging the culvert and causing water to back up. After working for nine hours, crews managed to slowly remove the debris and allow a controlled release of water to resume flowing under the bridge. Crews say they are happy with the way the water is flowing and are comfortable with the situation. Commander Rick Brough with the Boulder County Sheriff’s Department says the water has dropped several feet behind the collapsed bridge. The water building behind the bridge forced police and fire crews to scramble to clear people from paths along Boulder Creek because of the possibility of a surge of water. Officials say the bridge, located near the Red Lion Restaurant in the 37400 block of Boulder Canyon Drive, could still give way sending more debris downstream.

From The Aspen Times:

The Bureau of Reclamation announced it would be making additional releases into the lower Fryingpan from Ruedi Reservoir, east of Basalt, on Tuesday, after bumping up flows by 100 cubic feet per second on Monday. Flows in the river were expected to hit 650 cfs Tuesday, but the bureau re-evaluated its need to move water and said it would hold the release from the reservoir to 600 cfs. With the contribution of flows out of Rocky Fork, a tributary to the Fryingpan below the dam, the bureau was estimating flows of about 640 cfs coming down the Fryingpan. Flows coming into the reservoir were topping 1,060 cfs, the bureau reported, prompting the need to increase its release out of the lake. According to Fletcher, the county has been told flows below the dam could increase to 800 cfs in the near future. “It’s going to be interesting,” she said…

Twin Lakes Reservoir on the far side of Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen, is filling rapidly. Diversions from the upper Roaring Fork drainage to that side of the Continental Divide will cease, and water managers expect the Fork to rise by another 600 cfs by Saturday as a result, she said. The Crystal River, south of Carbondale, is also raging, and crews placed sandbags along its shore early Monday in a section between Redstone and the town’s fire station, she said. The snowpack was not expected to produce flooding danger this year, according to Fletcher, but an August-like spike in temperatures last weekend has triggered rapid runoff around the state.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Due to fast mountain snowmelt, the Poudre River is running at its highest flow level since 1999, according to the city of Fort Collins utilities department.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The [Cache la Poudre River] reached a height of 8.14 feet at 8:30 a.m., flowing at 3,950 cubic feet per second, or cfs. The last time the river reached that height was April 30, 1999 when the river hit 10.46 feet with a flow of 7,710 cfs in Fort Collins. Bob Smith, Fort Collins city water planner, said Tuesday the high flows pose little flooding threat to the city. The river banks have plenty of capacity to handle more water, he said, adding that in 1983, the Poudre flowed at 6,700 cfs without incident.

2010 Governor’s race

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John Hickenlooper was in Fort Morgan drumming up support recently. Here’s a report from John La Porte writing for The Fort Morgan Times. From the article:

Denver used to be a bully on water, holding senior rights, Hickenlooper said, but other areas running out of or low on water adversely affect everyone`s property values: “We`re joined at the hip.” He added, “It`s not Denver`s water. It`s our water. It`s Colorado`s water.” White-water rafting and other water-related recreation, ranching and fresh food from the plains are all part of what makes life in Denver and Colorado attractive, Hickenlooper said. “Denver has a vested interest in the success of the rest of the state,” he declared.

More coverage from the Sterling Journal Advocate (Judy Debus). From the article:

“Metro Denver has to convince the rest of the state that we care about their water and we are not going to ask them for another drop unless we absolutely, absolutely need it,” he said. “As I go around the state, according to people I’ve talked to; I am the first mayor in history of Colorado that has actually cut for that specific reason, to make sure that they have extra water and that we don’t imperil the rural areas.”

More 2010 Colorado elections coverage here.

Attorney General Suthers proposes $1.6 million settlement for Lowry Landfill

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Companies that contributed to pollution at the 508-acre site and now would pay damages to the state, include Molson Coors Brewing Co., ConocoPhillips Co., Gates Corp., Shell Oil Co., Cyprus Amax Minerals Co., Roche Colorado Corp., S.W. Shattuck Chemical Co. and Alumet Partnership. The Metro Wastewater Reclamation District and the cities of Littleton, Englewood and Lakewood also would pay.

State prosecutors focused on lost public use of groundwater. “This settlement provides an equitable and appropriate solution to address the injuries at the Lowry Landfill Superfund Site,” state Attorney General John Suthers said. “The agreement will allow Colorado to move forward on resource restoration instead of spending years locked in costly litigation.”[…]

Denver set up the landfill in 1964 using land in Arapahoe County that had been used as a bombing range and conveyed by the federal government. Companies dumped about 138 million gallons of liquid industrial waste at the site near Gun Club Road and East Hampden Avenue between 1965 and 1980. Then, Waste Management Inc. ran the landfill for garbage disposal until 1990. An Environmental Protection Agency investigation in 1994 established the presence of hazardous substances in the groundwater, surface water and soils. A cleanup that began in the mid-1980s — run by the state with EPA supervision — is still incomplete.

The settlements, proposed in U.S. District Court, depend on comments received over a 30-day period. Under one settlement with Denver, Waste Management and Chemical Waste Management Inc., about $500,000 would be used for loans to low- and middle-income households needing sewer repairs to help improve groundwater…

EPA officials monitor efforts to contain and reduce a toxic plume in shallow groundwater, [EPA spokesman Rich] Mylott said. That water is being treated. State and federal cleanup officials have indicated no significant health risk linked to contamination at the landfill.

More superfund coverage here.

Runoff news: Flood potential watch

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From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Marcy Miranda):

A continuation of warm weather coupled with strong possibilities for thunderstorms during the coming week and the high water level in Northern Colorado rivers mean residents should be wary of the chances for flooding, said Don Day of DayWeather in Cheyenne, Wyo…

Flooding is more likely to occur when extended thunderstorms fall in areas where water levels are high because of melted snowpack, he said. The Poudre’s water flow level is at its highest since 1999, according to a news release issued by the city of Fort Collins…

Water levels [in the Cache la Poudre] this weekend fluctuated between 2,000 and 5,000 cfs, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey site in Fort Collins. The average water levels for this weekend are slightly below 2,000 cfs, according to data exceeding 100 years. The Big Thompson River was overflowing its banks in some areas of Estes Park on Sunday, causing some minor flooding. The town placed sand bags in several spots along the Big Thompson during the weekend and had sand bags available for residents of the town and Larimer County.

From (Tim Ciesco):

The Colorado River is expected to crest at 12.4 feet early Tuesday morning. Flood stage is 12.5 feet. Mesa County emergency officials say at levels that high, they do expect to see some minor flooding in low lying areas, but believe it will stay to the eastern part of the county, primarily in uninhabited areas. The last time Mesa County experienced flooding was 2008, when surging river levels forced crews to shut down portions of roads. Although the river is expected to peak at a higher level than it did back then, officials don’t believe road closures will happen this time around. They say in 2008, the Colorado and Gunnison Rivers were both running high — but currently, the Gunnison River is not. River levels are expected to start dropping off Tuesday afternoon, but emergency officials say they’ll be keeping a very close eye on them for the next few days.

From The Denver Post (Kieran Nicholson):

Many of the state’s most popular rivers are running at two to three times their normal flow. Unseasonably warm temperatures are expected to persist this week, according to the National Weather Service.

Since Sunday, 14 homes in East Vail have sustained millions of dollars in flood damage, and the town of Vail estimates its loss to bike paths and other public infrastructure at about $1 million…

Clear Creek is running at about 1,350 cubic feet per second. On Friday, the waterway was flowing at 650 cfs, said Karlyn Tilley, a city and fire department spokeswoman. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department will decide this morning whether to close the creek, she said…

Drew Kramer, spokesman for the Colorado River Outfitters Association, said the abnormally fast rivers are a mixed bag for rafting companies. While some people might be frightened away, “adrenaline junkies” are racing to the high country, he said.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Gardner):

According to Bryon Lawrence, a hydrologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Grand Junction, the high water levels and flooding were a surprise with a well-below average snowfall this past winter. “To be totally honest, it was not expected,” Lawrence said of the high water levels. Hydrologists predicted a mediocre runoff season in May, anticipating river flows on the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers near Glenwood Springs to be about half of average. The average peak flow for the Colorado River is reportedly about 10,500 cubic feet per second (cfs).

According to the United State Geological Survey (USGS) the Colorado River at Dotsero was running at about 13,900 cfs Monday. The Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs was reportedly running at about 9,350 cfs, Monday. And the Colorado, below Glenwood Springs where the Roaring Fork dumps into it, was reportedly running at a whopping 22,600 cfs.

While the predictions of peak runoff occurring between June 3-18 are right on target, predicting the runoff peak level can be a difficult thing to do, Lawrence said. “The peak flow forecast is very weather dependent,” he said. “This year we’ve been talking about not having good snowpack, but in March and April we had several snowstorms that replenished the snowpack levels and below normal temperatures that helped maintain that snowpack.” The temperatures remained relatively low until recently, when temperatures surged near record highs for much of the region, and state. The high temperatures melted the snowpack at a rapid pace, causing the river levels to surge. “The snow that is up there now is really melting very quickly,” Lawrence said.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for parts of the Crystal River, near Redstone, on Sunday. And, while the Eagle River near Gypsum is running at record levels and is classified at “above flood stage”, the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers near Glenwood Springs are still being classified as “normal”, despite the higher than average peak flows.

The Colorado River is currently at record levels. According to the USGS, the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs reached a record flow of 22,400 cfs in 1997. The river at Dotsero, above the Glenwood Canyon reached a record flow of 17,100 recorded in 1952. The Roaring Fork River at Glenwood Springs is flowing this year at 9,350 cfs, well above the record levels of 7,140 cfs recorded in 1984…

The USGS measured the Roaring Fork River at a depth of 7.28 feet, Sunday, Lawrence said. The river reaches the flood stage at 9.3 feet, he said. The Colorado is even less likely to flood near Glenwood. The river has a current depth of 10.2 feet, with a flood stage threshold of 16.5 feet.