Snowpack/precipitation/runoff news: Lake County tallies 166.6 inches of snow for the water year so far

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From the Leadville Herald-Democrat (Carol Werckman):

According to local weather guru Charlie Kuster, so far through April 30 of this snow year, which isn’t over until June 30, Lake County has received 166.6 inches of snow. This is almost 150 percent of normal, he said. Normal is around 114 inches…Climax records support the “lots of snow” theory. So far, as of April 30, the snowfall at Climax has already broken the record for the annual total, which was 380.1 inches. It now measures 382.3 inches, with one more month of measuring to go. Also, the total for April snow at Climax was just half an inch below the record of 69.8 inches. This April Climax received 69.3 inches.

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

“Everything to Lake Powell is above 100 percent,” said Don Meyer of the Colorado River District, in an overview of May 1 forecasts for probable runoff volumes. The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center indicates early to mid-May would be the optimum time for a prolonged warm period to melt snows and decrease the probability of spring floods…

Collectively, water engineers went out on a limb and guessed that peak runoff may take place from mid-June to the end of June, and that flows on the Colorado River at the Kremmling gauge below the confluence of the Blue River might reach around 12,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is about double the peak flow of last year and triple the historical average peak flow of around 4,000 cfs…

operators at Willow Creek Reservoir, a much smaller impoundment constructed to pump water into Lake Granby, are taking it as “low as can take the reservoir safely,” [Andrew Gilmore of the Bureau of Reclamation] said. That’s in preparation for projected runoff from the Willow Creek Basin, which is sitting at a record-breaking 203 percent of average snowpack. Gilmore said Big-Thompson operators are preparing Willow Creek to capture an expected 97,000 acre-feet of runoff, or the equivalent of seven times the capacity of the reservoir…

And Adams Tunnel on the east end of Grand Lake, which sends water to the northern Front Range for power generation and municipal and agriculture use, is running full right now, engineers said. At peak runoff, operators plan to close Adams Tunnel, allowing East Slope reservoirs to capture native runoff on the east side of the Continental Divide…

In the Moffat System operated by Denver Water, Jones Pass has tied the record for the most snow on May 1, said Bob Steger of Denver Water. Steger said Denver Water plans to reserve a certain amount of space in Gross Reservoir to prepare for peaks on the Fraser River. But the “wild card,” he said, is Denver Water’s junior water rights on South Boulder Creek, the water from which is also stored in Gross. At Williams Fork, Denver Water is conducting repairs on the reservoir’s outlet works, which means it is “limping on 70 to 80 cubic feet per second with temporary outlet works,” Steger said. By next week, repairs should be completed, allowing the reservoir to release more water at that time in preparation for capturing runoff.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Making room for runoff

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The end of this week brought some visible changes to the east side of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. As most of you have probably already noted, we are preparing for a significant run-off season, when mountain snow melt comes down, increasing flows in rivers and streams. Additionally, some other changes are also going on.

Most importantly, Northern Water, the entity representing the water users for whom the C-BT was originally built, has declared the availability of non-charge water. As a result, yesterday May 5, releases from Carter and Horsetooth Reservoirs went up. Carter is currently releasing around 600 cfs. Horsetooth is releasing upwards of 1300 cfs. Most of that is through Horsetooth Dam, but about 55 cfs is being released for municipal use through Soldier Canyon Dam.

Tomorrow morning two more changes will occur. We will turn off the pump to Carter Lake first thing in the morning, around 7 a.m. Also about that same time, we will increase the release of water to the Big Thompson Canyon at the canyon mouth, right above the Dam Store. We have been releasing just under 200 cfs through today. Tomorrow morning, that release will jump to about 520 cfs. This water is also being released as part of the declared non-charge program. This will make for quite an impressive view from the Dam Store’s upper deck.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

Aspinall Unit update: The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center released their May 1 forecast — 945,000 acre-feet into Blue Mesa

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From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) has issued the final May 1st forecast. In the two week period between April 18th and May 2nd the CBRFC forecasts that the runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir has increased by 145,000 ac-ft to 945,000 ac-ft. This changes the Black Canyon water right one day peak target to 6,800 cfs. Although additionally challenging, Reclamation still plans to operate the Aspinall Unit in a manner which will allow this peak target to be met. Our tentative plans are to implement this peak operation toward the latter part of May or first part of June, depending on the hydrologic behavior of other tributaries. This peak operation will require a spill at Crystal Reservoir of around 3,000 cfs. Normally Reclamation attempts to manage the peak in the mid to late May timeframe, however in some years weather and runoff conditions may dictate the peak occur at a later time.

Also, additional space is required in the Aspinall Unit to accommodate this year’s projected runoff. Consequently, releases from Crystal Reservoir will increase by 100 cfs per day until May 16th when flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will reach about 2,500 cfs. At that time, the mid-May forecast will be evaluated and further increases are likely for the remainder of that week. Further updates will be provided as the time of peak operation approaches.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Animas-La Plata Project: Reclamation is testing the outlet works at Lake Nighthorse

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

Test releases of water, which will occur for about three weeks, accomplish two objectives, first-fill engineer Tyler Artichoker said. “If you build something, you test it to see how it functions,” Artichoker said. “But the tests also will show us how the system works when a project sponsor downstream requests water.”[…]

Test releases, ranging from 5 to 200 cubic feet per second, will show how well drop structures – basins that slow the flow of water and dissipate its energy – work. The basins in effect eliminate 200 feet of the 500-foot drop in elevation from the dam to the river, Artichoker said. There are 11 drop structures in Basin Creek from the dam outlet works to its confluence with the Animas River five miles away. The lower stretch of Basin Creek was left in its natural state except for the drop structures, built of grout-covered rip-rap. Test releases will establish how long it takes for water to reach the Animas, Artichoker said. The information will indicate to project partners in New Mexico how much lead time is required when they want water.

More Animas-La Plata Project coverage here and here.

Durango: The Southwestern Water Conservation District hosts their 16th Annual Children’s Water Festival

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From The Durango Herald (Dale Rodebaugh):

The festival, sponsored by the Southwestern Water Conservation District, brought students from La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan and Montezuma counties. Twenty-three stations, among which students rotated, each presented a different aspect of people’s relationship with water…

Students also learned about water safety, the danger of invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels, why native Colorado trout are planted in streams and lakes and why wetlands are important. The presentations were made by members of the local, state and federal agencies, private organizations and businesses.

More education coverage here.

Southern Delivery System update: Colorado Springs Utilities inks the final contracts with the Bureau of Reclamation

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From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Debbie Kelley):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday signed final contracts with Colorado Springs Utilities, the city of Fountain, Pueblo West Metropolitan District and the Security Water District, Kara Lamb, a Bureau spokeswoman said Friday. “All of the issues have been resolved, and the construction of the pipeline can go forward,” she said…

Construction for the pipeline’s first phase is expected to cost $880 million, plus financing costs of 40-year bonds, Rummel said. Utilities issued $180 million in Build America Bonds in September, to pay for construction for this year and 2012. Water rate hikes will help fund the project. Two 12 percent increases, one of which took effect in January, have been approved so far. The connection to two new man-made reservoirs, Upper and Lower Williams Creek reservoirs, is in a future phase and expected to raise the cost of the system…

The final sign-off by participants comes after a 60-day public comment period for 38-year storage, conveyance, and exchange contracts. The period ended April 25.

More Southern Delivery System coverage here and here.