Colorado-Big Thompson Project update

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have started to see some of the inflow from snowmelt into Green Mountain slow a little bit. As a result, we are cutting back the releases by 300 cfs. By 11:30 this morning (June 11), there should be about 2100 cfs in the Lower Blue River below Green Mountain.

More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Side inflows into Morrow Point and Crystal are beginning to subside reducing the potential for a second Crystal spill. In order to make the most efficient use of runoff conditions, releases from Crystal Reservoir were reduced by 50 cfs today, bringing flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge back to last week’s level of 650 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Energy policy — nuclear: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment orders Cotter to stop flows from Schwartzwalder

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From the Associated Press:

The state health department is taking action because Cotter Corp. has been discharging pollution without a permit and uranium levels in the water are significantly exceeding the safety standard, Steve Gunderson, director of the state water quality control division, said Thursday. The agency sent the notice earlier this month. The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety has sent a separate notice to Cotter saying it believes the company is violation of several state laws. Cotter could face fines of up to $10,000 if found in violation. The Denver-based company didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Hearings are scheduled July 14 and 15 to consider whether Cotter should face penalties.

Uranium was detected in raw water going to the west-Denver suburb of Arvada, Gunderson said. The city’s water treatment plants can filter out the uranium, but disposing of the contamination could become a problem.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

Lightner Creek sediment source study heads into phase II

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The Southwestern Water Conservation District has contributed $3,600 to help fund the second phase of a study to determine the source of periodic sediment in Lightner Creek. Initial results of the study point to the Perins Canyon watershed and a stormwater retention basin as possible sources.

For years, water-protection groups and Trout Unlimited have been concerned about the chalky-colored water that from time to time enters the Animas River from Lightner Creek immediately south of the DoubleTree Hotel. In February 2009, Buck Skillen, a board member of Trout Unlimited, tested water turbidity at the confluence of the waterways. When he poured 60 cubic centimeters of water (the equivalent of two shot glasses or a medical syringe) in a filter, it became clogged by the time 45 centimeters had passed through.

Overall water quality and the effects of sediment on the Animas’ gold-medal trout fishery are the major concerns of the coalition of concerned groups that initiated the study last October.

First-phase work by Mark Oliver of Basin Hydrology established some potential sources of sediment, members of the Southwestern Water Conservation District learned Wednesday from Meghan Maloney, river campaign director at the San Juan Citizens Alliance, and Koren Nydick, executive director of the Mountain Studies Institute. At certain points along the creek Oliver measured the size and movement of the sediment. Oliver found the likeliest sources of Lightner Creek pollution is the Perins Canyon watershed and a stormwater retention basin on Tech Center Drive that gathers sediment. Other potential sources of sediment are along U.S. Highway 160 west…

The second phase of the study aims to determine how much sediment Lightner Creek carries, the sources and why it appears sporadically, Nydick and Maloney said. The coalition, which includes Trout Unlimited, Animas Riverkeepers, San Juan Citizens Alliance, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Division of Wildlife, La Plata County and the Mountain Studies Institute, asked the water district for $3,600 to continue the work for a year beginning Tuesday. The water conservation district contributed $2,600 to the phase 1 work. In June 2011, funding will be available from the Animas Watershed Partnership, which is creating a watershed management plan for the Animas from Bakers Bridge to the confluence with the San Juan River in New Mexico.

More Animas River watershed coverage here.

Runoff news

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

Ruedi was considered “full” at about 10 a.m. Thursday and water started going through the spillway about two hours later, said Kara Lamb, public information specialist with the reclamation bureau. But releases from the Ruedi outlet infrastructure and the power plant at the dam were lowered to keep flows at about the same level as before the reservoir filled, she said. About 750 cubic feet per second was being released from Ruedi. Approximately 50 cfs was flowing from Rocky Fork Creek, just below the dam, for a combined flow of 800 cfs. “850 is where people start to get their property wet,” Lamb said.

Emergency response agencies from Basalt, Pitkin and Eagle counties met at 11 a.m. Thursday to consider if any flood preparations were necessary. They held a telephone conference call with Bureau of Reclamation officials and were surprised to learn the releases wouldn’t match inflows. “Full,” it seems, doesn’t really mean “full” at Ruedi. There is a higher capacity for the reservoir — beyond what is considered the operationally full level — that can be used by adjusting releases, Andrew Gilmore, a hydrologist with the reclamation bureau told the Roaring Fork Valley officials. “It sounds like we do have a buffer here,” Kane said after the meeting.

Lamb explained after the meeting that using the spillway and adjusting the other outlets allowed the reclamation bureau to avoid matching the inflow. “We’re able to slow it enough that it’s not a straight trade-off,” she said. Gilmore said high water releases will likely be required into Friday. After that, signs point to a lower level of runoff. Much lower temperatures are expected starting Friday night and through the weekend. In addition, officials said the high temperatures over the last week have melted a significant portion of the snowpack, even at high elevations…

Gilmore said the reclamation bureau wants the flexibility to boost total releases from Ruedi and Rocky Fork to 850 cfs, if local officials thought that could be done without causing flooding damage. Local officials responded that seemed possible, at least during daylight hours, when the Roaring Fork River’s flow has generally been lower than at night. No major releases are expected from reservoirs in the upper Roaring Fork River drainage for the next week. “I have no doubt we could go up to 850 [on the Fryingpan] without much difference,” Kane said after Thursday’s meeting.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

“Yes, the rivers are really cooking, they’re really moving and they’re full of water, but they seem to be handling it very well,” said Pat Bingham, a Pitkin County spokeswoman. Bureau of Reclamation spokeswoman Kara Lamb said that while the threat of spilling isn’t over, inflows into the reservoir fell off sharply during the day. However, they tend to rise again following a day of snowmelt, and future inflows will depend on how much snow already has melted, and whether there are more warm temperatures or a lot of rain, she said…

Basalt’s situation was improved Thursday by the fact the Roaring Fork River had begun dropping. Lawrence believes it has passed its peak flow, reducing the chance of it backing up into the Frying Pan at their confluence and causing flooding…

Lawrence said while flows in headwater streams are dropping, it takes a while for that to be reflected downstream. Although he believes the Colorado River at Cameo reached its annual peak Tuesday night, at about 12.22 feet, it was expected to still surpass 12 feet Thursday night. Flood stage there is 12.5 feet.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Vanessa Miller):

Silver Lake — which sits in Roosevelt National Forest, west of Colo. 72 between Nederland and Ward — is expected to spill over into Boulder Creek on Friday, said sheriff’s Cmdr. Rick Brough. Once that happens, water levels are expected to rise by 80 to 150 cubic feet per second, Brough said. Thursday afternoon, he said, Boulder Creek was running at about 629 cubic feet per second. On Wednesday, the creek was running at about 700 cubic feet per second, which was down from Tuesday when it was at 920 cubic feet per second, Brough said. On Tuesday, because of the high water levels and a bridge collapse up stream at the Red Lion Restaurant, authorities closed bike paths along the creek — from the Red Lion to 30th Street in Boulder — and stationed divers along the fast-moving stream. Normally, Boulder Creek runs at between 100 and 300 cubic feet per second, Brough said.

Roaring Fork River ‘Floating Summit’ recap

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

About 75 people gathered along the west bank of a runoff-swollen Roaring Fork River in Veltus Park Thursday morning for a “floating summit” sponsored by the Roaring Fork Conservancy. The original idea was to have a flotilla of several rafts from Carbondale to Glenwood, with small group discussions taking place in each raft, followed by a summary discussion at the park. For the past six years, the conservancy sponsored the free float for members of the general public to see the river up close and learn about the issues that impact the waterway. With the high runoff and near-flooding conditions this week, however, it was decided to suspend the float in favor of a morning-long meeting of the minds…

The gathering included representatives from each of the municipalities and counties in the Roaring Fork Valley, as well as water district officials, river outfitters and conservation groups. District 61 State Rep. Kathleen Curry, I-Gunnison, was also on hand to speak to the issue from a statewide perspective. “This is a great way to stimulate local discussion on how best to address issues in the Roaring Fork watershed,” Curry said…

“We need to be proactive as a region to make sure the impacts from water diversions [from the West Slope to the Front Range metro areas] are minimized,” Curry said. One way to do that is to come up with as many ways as possible, and financially feasible, to make use of more water on the Western Slope…

“From a legislative standpoint, we also need to work to make sure that if the state is going to use state tax dollars for water projects that it benefits the entire state, not just part of it,” Curry said.

Local governments would also be prudent to work together to set up legal defense funds in case Western Slope water rights are challenged by Front Range interests. “If they know we are in a position to litigate, they’re more likely to come to the table and negotiate something that works for all interests,” she said.

For the past two years, the Roaring Fork Conservancy and the Ruedi Water and Power Authority have been working to develop the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan. The collaborative effort has brought various government and water management agencies in the valley together to address common water concerns, said Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. “I’m confident we’re going to have a plan that will help control our own fate when it comes to future water development,” Fuller said.

More Roaring Fork watershed coverage here and here.

Invasive mussel boat inspection update

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From the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

In Southwest Colorado, all boats launched from trailers will be inspected at the following reservoirs: Vallecito Reservoir in La Plata County; Navajo Reservoir in Archuleta County; McPhee Reservoir and Jackson Gulch Reservoir at Mancos State Par in Montezuma County; Taylor Reservoir and Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison County and Sanchez Reservoir in Costilla County. Sanchez Reservoir also is closed from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Boats can be launched only at the boat ramp. The reservoir will be closed to boating completely for the winter starting in October. Boats must be inspected every time they enter the water. Depending on the reservoir, inspections will be conducted by personnel from the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Colorado State Parks or the National Park Service. The DOW has coordinated inspection training with the other agencies…

Inspection times vary from reservoir to reservoir but generally inspectors will be at boat ramps from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day until October. For a list of all the mandatory inspection sites and schedules in Colorado, or for more information aquatic nuisance species and the boat inspection program, visit

More invasive species coverage here and here.