Snowpack/runoff news: Dry summer ahead for the San Luis Valley?

A picture named smithreservoir

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division Engineer for Division III Craig Cotten said on Friday although the basin’s snowpack was above average at its peak, it has dropped substantially since then. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s forecasts currently are predicting below average run off on the Rio Grande and above average on the Conejos River systems. “We are wondering if those forecasts might be a touch high,” Cotten said. “We are dropping fairly significantly on all of our rivers and creeks right now.” He added there was still some good flow on the rivers and creeks but they are below average for this time of year. “It looks like it’s continuing to go down,” Cotten said…

He said most of the ditches have had a fairly good run during the springtime, but summer could tell a different story. Currently, the Conejos River system is under a 22-percent delivery obligation to the state line and the Rio Grande has a 15-percent delivery obligation to the downstream states under the Rio Grande Compact. Until a few days ago, most of the delivery on the Conejos was being met with return flows. “We had not curtailed any ditches for compact purposes until a few days ago,” Cotten said. Last year, no curtailments on the Conejos were made until July 9.

Curtailments on the Rio Grande are currently 11 percent, similar to the Conejos, Cotten explained. “We are getting some return flows through the system,” he said…

The Beaver Reservoir was causing water watchers some consternation, as a sinkhole was discovered about a month and a half ago at the dam. The water level was subsequently reduced to 40 feet below the spillway to evaluate the sinkhole more closely. “It was determined it did not pose a great danger to the dam,” Cotten said. The reservoir has since been filled to a point about 20 feet below the spillway, which is still fairly low but will allow fish to survive and fishermen a chance to catch them.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel:

Recent high water and fast stream flows caused extensive damage to bridges, roads, water-diversion infrastructure, campgrounds and other facilities in the White River National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service said Wednesday. Forest engineers said the agency may not know for several weeks just how much damage occurred as a result of recent accelerated snowmelt that resulted from high temperatures.

From the Vail Daily:

“We first became aware of the challenges the Forest Service might face when, in the middle of last week a hiker reported to our Eagle/Holy Cross Ranger District that the Lower Cross Creek Bridge in the Holy Cross Wilderness Area had been washed out,” said Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams. “This report was followed by a series of reports of damaged roads and trails, damaged or destroyed bridges in other locations, flooded campgrounds, or high water filling vault toilets along many of the tributaries to the Colorado River.”

From the Summit County Citizens Voice:

In Summit County, the high flows damaged infrastructure associated with water transmission facilities for the Cities of Golden and Colorado Springs. Elsewhere on the forest, damage included a washed-out bridge in the Holy Cross Wilderness area and a mudslide along Piney Ranch Road (FDR 700) just past the Lost Lake Trail. A culvert on the spur road to Woods Lake was over topped by high flows and the surrounding fill was washed out.

Meanwhile Yuma County is still drowning (They’ve gotten 40 inches of rainfall in 18 months.). Here’s a report from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

Officially, Yuma is up to 2.38 inches of rain in June, most of it falling from last Thursday night, which featured a tornado warning complete with sirens and calls from the 911 center, and this past Monday night, when a quiet storm passed overhead and quickly dumped 0.21 of an inch.

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

Such an event of greater than 75 cfs flowing at the Near Granby Gauge would be a long-awaited gift to the Colorado River between the Lake Granby Dam and Windy Gap, said Jon Ewert, DOW aquatics biologist in Hot Sulphur Springs. That section of the Colorado has been deprived of flushing flows because of the dam built for reservoir storage. “It would be beneficial to that stretch,” Ewert said, “it would move sediment out and clean out riffles (stretches of gravel where fish like to spawn and where insect production is).”[…]

With runoff peaking last week, the Northern Water Conservancy District was moving water out of Shadow Mountain Reservoir into Granby Reservoir, releasing by as much as 5,000 cfs for a period of 12 hours. In the Colorado-Big Thompson system, Shadow Mountain Reservoir helps to maintain a constant surface elevation in natural Grand Lake and is a conduit between Granby Reservoir and Grand Lake. Heightened runoff in Grand Lake inlets caused that lake to rise, which by Colorado-Big Thompson decree is not allowed to fluctuate by more than 1 foot. As far as Granby Reservoir’s chances for spilling, “We’re 99 percent sure it’s going to spill,” [Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District spokesperson Brian Werner] said. The lake is rising about .5 feet per day, which means the lake could spill within about 10 days…

Northern is not sending water through the Adams Tunnel with Front Range reservoirs full. Windy Gap, which pumped 6,700 acre-feet, has pumps shut off.

Leave a Reply