Runoff news: Lake Powell is up 4 feet in a week

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From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Wayne Gustaveson):

Lake Powell rose 4 feet since last week’s report seven days ago. Daily inflow is currently near 74,000 acre feet per day.

From Steamboat Today (Nicole Inglis):

Weather Service hydrologist Bryon Lawrence said the 9.9-feet crest height [for the Yampa River] measured Wednesday morning is likely the highest the Craig area will see. It will be the third highest peak crest in 25 years. The average peak crest is 7.8 feet. “It looks like this will be the peak,” he said. “But, we expect flows to remain quite high on the Yampa River for the next few days.”[…]

At a measurement station where the Yampa crosses Colorado Highway 13, the river hit 11,575 cubic feet per second, which Lawrence said is likely the peak discharge for the year. The average peak flow for the last 25 years is 8,400.

From the Pagosa Sun (Chuck McGuire):

According to the United States Geological Survey, the San Juan River through Pagosa Springs peaked at more than 2,900 cubic feet per second (cfs) around midnight, May 30. Peak flows quickly fell to about 1,650 cfs by late last Thursday, but rose again with the onset of unseasonably warm weather over the past weekend. By late Sunday night, the river rose to more than 2,400 cfs…

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) attributes the state’s sudden high water to rapid runoff brought on by warm, dry weather across Colorado. By June 1, in fact, the statewide snowpack had fallen to just 53 percent of average, after measuring 78 percent of average a month earlier. In the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores basin, the June 1 snowpack measured just 19 percent of average — by far the lowest in the state. According to NRCS State Conservationist Allen Green, southern Colorado experienced the greatest snowpack decline through May. “A general lack of precipitation since early April has decreased the outlook for runoff in the southwestern corner of Colorado,” Green said in an NRCS monthly snowpack report. “What appeared to be an excellent runoff season back in mid-winter has deteriorated into a below average runoff season in the Animas, Dolores and San Miguel rivers.”[…]

Statewide, the June 1 reservoir storage was listed as 110 percent of average, with only the Rio Grande basin showing somewhat less than 100 percent of average storage. Thankfully, the combined San Juan, Animas, Dolores basin tops the list at 115 percent of average. The Gunnison, Colorado and Yampa basins were only slightly lower.

From the Summit Daily News (Robert Allen):

“Depending on conditions in the South Platte Basin in the next couple of days, the utility may have to reduce the flows through or shut off Robert’s tunnel to avoid wasting water it cannot use and remain in compliance with the Blue River Decree,” according to a Denver Water press release. The utility may only move water through the tunnel to meet demands of the South Platte. The Blue River below the dam on Thursday was flowing at 1,700 cubic feet per second at a gauge height of 3.5 feet. “We work to keep flows coming out of Dillon Reservoir to 1,800 cfs or less to help prevent flooding, but there’s only so much we can do to help manage the high flows Mother Nature is throwing at us this year,” Denver Water raw water supply manager Bob Steger said in the press release.

From the Summit County Citizen’s Voice:

In a press release, Denver Water again said that inflows to the reservoir were significantly higher than expected the past few days. The standard source for predicting flows called for a maximum inflow of about 1.300 cubic feet per second, but the actual flows peaked at slightly above 2,000 cfs, said Bob Steger, manager of raw water resources…

Denver Water has to balance variables of weather and customer water needs while operating its system to comply with the Blue River Decree, which says the utility only can take water from the West Slope for use on the East Slope when there is a need for it. Dillon Reservoir began spilling May 24. This past Sunday, Denver Water began running water through the Roberts Tunnel to fill up its South Platte Reservoir storage — space created when a river call for the South Platte Basin was placed on June 4. By starting the tunnel, the amount of water flowing out of Dillon Reservoir to the Blue River was reduced. Depending on conditions in the South Platte Basin in the next couple of days, the utility may have to reduce the flows through or shut off Roberts Tunnel to avoid wasting water it cannot use and remain in compliance with the Blue River Decree. That could bring renewed high flows downstream of the reservoir, especially if forecast rain storms materialize.

The utility also has been operating the discharge gates at Dillon Reservoir to manage the amount of water that goes downstream. This operation depends on the amount of water coming into the reservoir.
Denver Water has been monitoring the reservoir outflow multiple times a day and at night to make decisions about how much water to release through the discharge gates. The goal is to keep the total outflow below 1,800 cfs; whether or not this goal can be met depends on the amount of water going into the reservoir and how much water is needed to supplement the utility’s South Platte supplies.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Indenpendent:

Flood waters in some parts of Vail earlier this week exceeded 100-year-flows, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says…Public safety responders continue to remain on high alert in the event water levels rise following [June 6] record flows of 2,350 cubic feet per second on Gore Creek at the Red Sandstone/Eagle River Water & Sanitation District monitoring station.

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Facing flooding from fast-melting snow, Summit County authorities — normally wary of letting water be taken across the Continental Divide — are now urging Denver Water to draw all it can out of an overflowing Dillon Reservoir. But while the metro area’s water utility was pumping through a transmountain tunnel to accommodate the request, water managers warned that reservoirs on the eastern side of the Divide also are full. The use of Denver’s tunnel as a safety valve technically may violate a river compact that lets Denver divert water only for a “beneficial use.” While water attorneys pondered the point, the withdrawals from Dillon have been happening all week…

The only way to do that now is by diverting more water through the 10-foot-3-inch-diameter Roberts tunnel — which runs from Dillon Reservoir 23.3 miles under mountains to the eastern side of the Continental Divide. The diversions brought immediate relief. Water levels below the reservoir dam along the Blue River on Thursday decreased slightly to 1,700 cubic feet per second, down from 1,800 cfs earlier this week — the limit above which flooding is likely…

Diversions to Denver started [June 6]. The water is run through the tunnel down the North Fork of the South Platte River to the Strontia Springs and Chatfield reservoirs. Water lawyers were pondering whether the diversion is allowed under what is known as the Blue River Decree. Denver Water officials argued that it meets the test of “beneficial use” because the water eventually will help meet needs of 1.3 million metro-area customers — with the extra benefit of some flood control. “It is not a decreed right that we have . . . to take water through the tunnel for flood control. Our right is to take water through the tunnel for use by customers. That’s where we get into a little bit of a rub. We’re certainly willing to do things to help out here,” said David Little, Denver Water’s director of planning.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Molly Armbrister):

Fort Collins received just under an inch of rain during the day Friday and overnight, according to the official Fort Collins weather station on the CSU campus.

From the La Junta Tribune-Democrat

According to the National Weather Service website, flood stage is considered to be 10 ft. At this point, minor agricultural flooding is expected. The last observed value of the level of the river was at 10:15 this morning and was at 9.56 ft. Since the level was below 10 ft, the flood warning is no longer in affect [for Otero County]. The river level is expected to continue to drop to below 9 ft. by tommorrow morning.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dave Buchanan):

The USDA National Resources Conservation Service estimated the Colorado River basin snowpack at 57 percent of average on June 1, and many observers didn’t think Ruedi would fill this year. But a blast of hot weather starting June 5 sent the upper Fryingpan surging, going from less than 500 cfs on June 4 to more than 1,900 cfs on June 7. It receded from that high but even late Thursday the gauges above Ruedi were reading 970 cfs. That surge surprised many long-time snowpack watchers, said Bureau of Reclamation spokesperson Kara Lamb. “We didn’t think Ruedi would even fill this year and it filled in five days,” Lamb said Thursday.

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