Dolores River: Reclamation hopes for a 10 day boating season downstream of McPhee Reservoir this year, Dolores River Dialogue meeting April 28

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From The Durango Telegraph (Missy Votel):

“The spring wind and weather has been eating it up,” said Vern Harrell, Bureau of Reclamation liaison for the Dolores River Project, of the region’s snowpack. “This year we don’t even know if we’ll fill the reservoir.” The reservoir, which was a capacity of 229,000 acre-feet is expected to receive 225,000 acre-feet of runoff this spring. With the latest prediction, this would make for a 10-day spill of about 800 cfs in order to stretch the flows out as long as possible. However, when and if this happens is anybody’s educated guess. While the BuRec ideally shoots for Memorial Day Weekend, sudden temperature or precipitation spikes could influence it either way. “We’ll know more the week after the reservoir starts to fill, depending on weather and storm forecasts,” said Harrell. He said flows will most likely not be significant enough for commercial rafting companies to plan trips, but savvy local boaters at the ready could luck out with some careful monitoring of the BuRec’s web site at “That’s the best information out there,” said Harrell of the site, which is updated twice a week. In targeting Memorial Day Weekend, May 28-30, the spill will be held back until May 20, if possible. However, in 2009 McPhee filled early pushing up the release start date to May 11. Last year, cold weather caused the reservoir to fill slowly, holding back the spill until May 24…

A steering committee for the Dolores River Dialogue, a varied group of user interests which has been meeting since 2004, will be revealing two proposals to benefit the Dolores’ downstream fisheries next week. The flow from McPhee was originally conceived with the nonnative, cold-water trout sport fishery in mind, but the objective has since grown to include the warm-water fishery of native species such as suckers, chubs and pike minnows. There is also concern over the health of the river’s riparian zone as well as the geomorphology of the riverbed, including sediment build up and flow.

The steering committee’s first proposal looks at the use of “selective level outlet works,” which would basically allow water to be pulled from various elevations within the reservoir for release. “In the past, we have only pulled water from the bottom, because that’s the coldest water for the trout, but we can get better water quality for the native fish with warmer water higher up,” Harrell said.

The second proposal from the group calls for the Montezuma Irrigation Co. to lease 6,000 acre feet of water from the Colorado Water Conservation Board for downstream flows. The water would actually come from Groundhog Reservoir, north of Dolores, and flow through McPhee, which is overallocated as is. The lease would be for any three years out of a 10-year span, although the sequence of those three years remains to be seen. “We will have to develop that concept, but details still aren’t here yet,” Harrell said.

More Dolores River watershed coverage here and here.

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