Ruedi Reservoir, Twin Lakes and Green Mountain Reservoir operations update

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Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The Bureau of Reclamation is working with Pitkin County Emergency Management to manage high-water at Ruedi Reservoir, 216-miles west of Denver, after continued high temperatures accelerated snow melt runoff from area mountains.

Reclamation is working to maintain consistent flow-rates at Ruedi Dam by monitoring water over-topping the spillway and adjusting controlled releases. The agency’s goal is to keep releases around 750 cfs into the weekend to reduce the impacts to downstream communities.

“We’re working very closely with our partners and local communities to manage the sheer volume of water from snow melt runoff and precipitation that we’re currently experiencing in Colorado,” said Mike Collins, Reclamation’s Eastern Colorado Area Manager.

Melting snow is causing above-normal inflows to reservoirs and rivers across Colorado, and other Reclamation facilities are experiencing high-water conditions. In particular:

• Twin Lakes, south of Leadville, Colo., is releasing 1400, cfs to Lake Creek which flows into the Arkansas River.
• Green Mountain Reservoir is releasing 2400 cfs to the Lower Blue River, which flows into the Colorado River.

Reclamation is keeping its managing partners and stakeholders informed. To receive additional information, please contact Kara Lamb at (970) 962-4326 or klamb@usbr.gov.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Last night’s projection that we would begin utilizing the spillway in mid-morning is being realized. At about 10 a.m., Ruedi Reservoir hit its full elevation. A minimal amount of water is anticipated to flow over the spillway in the coming hours and increase throughout the day. We expect as much as 100 cfs over the spillway by tonight. By utilizing the spillway in conjuction with both the power plant and the dam outlet works, we will be able to maintain a total release of approximately 750 cfs through today, tonight and likely into tomorrow. With the contributions of the Rocky Fork still running at about 50 cfs, the gage on the Fryingpan below Ruedi Dam will read around 800 cfs.

It is probably interesting to note that a week ago at this time, operators of reservoirs along the Colorado River were concerned upper basin reservoirs, including Ruedi, would not fill. This last week of run-off has been a surprise to all watching the gages and keeping an eye on the forecast. What started as a less than average snowpack (only 70%-80% of average across the Colorado River Basin, including the Fryingpan Basin) has now resulted in full and spilling reservoirs.

The upcoming forecast for the weekend currently includes cool temperatures and the possibility of snow in higher elevations. However, if we see a continuation of the heat through today into tomorrow, it is possible our total releases from Ruedi Dam will increase.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As high snowmelt inflows continue into Green Mountain Reservoir, we will be sending more of that native flow on through to the Lower Blue. This morning we will bump releases to the Lower Blue River up by 300 cfs. By noon, flows in the Lower Blue should be around 2400 cfs.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As snowmelt inflows into Lake Estes continue to drop off, we continue to curtail our releases through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson River. This morning, releases to the Big T are around 522 cfs.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Tamarisk control: Tamarisk leaf beetle release in Grand Junction

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

The city of Grand Junction removed tamarisk and fostered four acres of wetland more than a year ago along the river near Riverside and Redlands parkways. The new wetland area was created after seven-tenths of an acre of wetland was eliminated along Patterson Road between 24 1/2 and 25 1/2 roads during the Ranchmen’s Ditch project. The project involved installing pipes that would guide rain water from storms on the Bookcliffs to the Colorado River without causing flooding along the way. Within months, the tamarisk in the new wetland area was back. The city considered spraying a herbicide to kill the new growth, City Project Engineer Dave Donohue said. “We concluded if we did that, we’d have so much herbicide on new wetlands plants and water, it would be a disaster,” Donohue said.

So, Donohue pursued a different tamarisk-killer: the tamarisk beetle. Palisade Insectary Director Dan Bean released 7,000 tamarisk beetles at the site two weeks ago and another 1,000 Wednesday. Eggs and larvae already are appearing this week, showing the beetles are spreading into their new habitat and leaving offspring behind. The beetles regulate their numbers based on available food, Bean said, so he doesn’t expect them to overpopulate the area. Bean said the beetles aren’t likely to enter homes, and they don’t eat anything but tamarisk.

The insectary is one of a few in the country and the only one in Colorado, Bean said. It’s run by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and was placed in Palisade in the 1940s to provide predatory wasps to eat oriental fruit moths, which were destroying peach crops. The insectary continues to collect insects from inside and sometimes outside the state to help farmers, ranchers and gardeners fight pests across Colorado. The tamarisk beetles released along the Colorado River were collected in De Beque Canyon.

More tamarisk control coverage here and here.

Runoff news

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The runoff may have reached its peak Wednesday. “I’d be surprised if we went any higher than this, but I don’t think runoff is over by any means,” said Joe Flory, river operations manager for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. The Arkansas River peaked near 6,000 cubic feet per second at Avondale on Wednesday, but was dropping steeply after releases from Pueblo Dam were cut by 1,000 cfs in the morning. The reduction in flows reflects what is happening upstream of Lake Pueblo, rather than restricting dam releases if flows at Avondale top flood levels. Operations at the dam require flood storage if the U.S. Geological Survey gauge at Avondale tops 6,000 cfs…

At Parkdale, west of Canon City, flows dropped to 4,300 cfs Wednesday, following three days above 5,000 cfs. The levels dropped because cooler weather returned to the mountains to slow runoff and because some Eastern Slope storage rights came into priority, Flory said. The Pueblo Board of Water Works, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., and cities with water rights in Turquoise Lake were all able to use in-basin storage rights during the peak flows, Flory said…

The ups and downs of the past few weeks, which can create spikes in the graphs tracking flows along the river, are a return to historical trends, where runoff comes in stages over several weeks as temperatures rise and fall. During the drought, snow was there one day and gone the next. Over the past few years, however, the runoff has taken more time, as the forests retained snow under the trees and in shaded valleys. “There’s a lot of snow you can’t see from the road, hidden under the trees,” Flory said.

From the Windsor Beacon (Marcy Miranda):

The Colorado Division of Wildlife Resources’ Web site reported that the Poudre River was running faster than 4,000 cfs (cubic feet per second) at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday and had reached a height of 8.14 feet above its normal running level. The record height for the Poudre River in Fort Collins is 10.5 feet. Flood stage is considered to be 12 feet. Windsor Public Works and Windsor-Severance Fire Protection District officials were closely monitoring two Windsor-area bridges which span the Poudre the Weld County Road 13 (County Line Road) bridge and the 7th Street (Weld County Road 17) bridge.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

The river’s high flow early Wednesday morning reached just above 7.25 feet and about 2,900 cubic feet per second, or cfs. The Poudre reached a peak of just above 8 feet and nearly 4,000 cfs on Tuesday morning, according to U.S. Geological Survey data. “I think it’s done,” Poudre River Basin Commissioner George Varra said of the river’s rise. “The only variable is if we get a rainstorm on top of the snow, then we’re going to get another surge down here.”

The weather is shaping up to do just that, said Don Day of DayWeather in Cheyenne. As the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for northeastern Colorado on Wednesday afternoon, Day’s forecast showed the chance for severe weather and tornadoes was very high in Larimer County and the Eastern Plains. That will likely be followed by heavy rain this weekend. “Rain falling on snow causes a lot of melting,” he said. “We should not consider ourselves out of the woods (for flooding) until Monday or Tuesday.” Steady rain will be widespread across the region on Friday night and Saturday, with another shot of moisture expected on Sunday. Depending on how the weekend storm shapes up, rain in the center of the storm will likely be measured in inches, he said.

From The Greeley Tribune (Mike Peters):

Just when they were hoping the flooding from the Poudre River would ease off, rising water forced the closure of three Greeley streets Wednesday and caused minor flooding at a west Greeley home. The flooding, which stems from the higher-than-normal melting snow runoff that has swelled the Poudre River, caused the closure of 71st Avenue, 83rd Avenue and 95th Avenue, all along the river on the west side of Greeley. In addition, the National Weather Service said water levels in the Poudre rose about 6 inches Tuesday night in the Greeley area, reaching 8.17 feet. Forecasters said they hoped the river would start receding Wednesday night.