Runoff news: The Cache la Poudre, Colorado and Yampa are closed to tubing

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From The Denver Post (Caitlin Gibbons):

Officials issued partial-use restrictions for the three rivers, which means kayaks and larger rafts can run the Poudre, Colorado and Yampa, but the water was too high and too fast for inner tubes and air mattresses…

Earlier in the week, access points to the Poudre from city- and state-managed or owned property were closed. Kayakers and commercial rafting companies were not affected by the restriction and could still enter the river from their privately owned access points. The closure was enacted after a trained rescue swimmer was trapped by hidden debris while searching for a stranded person…

On Friday, the Arkansas River was under a high-water advisory, but there were no restrictions on use…

Officials in Golden and Boulder were closely watching Clear Creek and Boulder Creek, but no restrictions had been issued. In Clear Creek, Golden police were recommending that tubers and people without safety equipment stay out of the water, police spokeswoman Karlyn Tilley said.

From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Stroud):

While the Colorado River just below Glenwood Springs peaked at more 24,500 cubic feet per second and reached a gage height of about 10.5 feet last Tuesday, the river level has gone down since then. On Friday, the Colorado below Glenwood Springs was running at about 23,000 cfs, with a gage height still around 10.3 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) water data website. “It’s been going down for the last two days,” Anselmo said, adding that it’s hard to predict if the actual runoff peak has occurred yet or not. Given the amount of snowpack still in the high country, most weather observers believe the highest peak is yet to come.

From the Summit Daily News (Janice Kurbjin):

Denver Water’s Bob Steger said inflow forecasts from the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center have dropped since last week from between 185,000 and 219,000 acre-feet during the June 1-July 15 period to between 180,000 and 198,000 acre-feet. Still, tributary creeks and streams are swollen with water. “Because of the reduced inflow forecasts, we need to reduce the outflow to assure that the reservoir fills,” Steger said. “We are currently in the process of reducing the outflow from 1,300 cubic feet per second to 1,100 cfs.”[…]

Despite the security the dam provides to riverbank Silverthorne residents, Denver Water officials announced Friday that it might not be able to prevent flooding on the Blue River below Dillon Reservoir as record-high mountain snowpack continues to melt. Using forecasted inflows and draws through the Roberts Tunnel, “we can do some arithmetic and feel pretty confident that we’re going to fill and spill,” Steger said. He added that he anticipates inflows will keep rising. Water has been flowing into the reservoir at a rate normal for early June at about 1,700 cfs, but forecasters say it could grow dramatically in coming days — possibly exceeding the record of 3,408 cfs set in 1995, the Denver Post reported.

From The Greeley Tribune:

The Poudre River remained high Friday, but water flow levels continued to ease slightly with cooler temperatures. A flow between 3,500 and 4,500 cubic feet per second in Greeley could cause flooding in some areas. Last year’s flooding topped out at 4,770 cfs.

From the Boulder Daily Camera (Erica Meltzer):

City and county officials now expect water levels in Boulder Creek to remain relatively stable until late Saturday or early Sunday.

From Steamboat Today (Matt Stensland):

Forecasters are calling for the high water on the Yampa and Elk rivers to continue for another three to four weeks, creating the opportunity for multiple streamflow peaks. Jim Pringle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said that prediction was stated during a weekly conference call this week with forecasters and emergency managers.

The Yampa is expected to remain steady through the week, but the Elk River was expected to possibly break another record this morning. The U.S. Geological Survey revised its preliminary numbers to show the Elk actually broke the record at 5 a.m. Tuesday with water flowing at 8,250 cubic feet per second, or cfs, and a gauge height of 8.14 feet at the Routt County Road 42 bridge. The forecast Wednesday evening estimated the Elk would reach a depth of 8.2 feet this morning…

The Yampa’s high flow so far this season was 4,820 cfs, set at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday. The record for the Yampa, according the USGS, is 6,820 cfs…

The Tower measuring site located at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass was reporting 150 inches of snow containing 74.4 inches of water Wednesday. That’s down from the May 29 statewide record high of 80.1 inches of snow water equivalent. The site at 9,400 feet on Rabbit Ears Pass was reporting 47 inches of snow containing 27.9 inches of water. The Dry Lake campground site at 8,400 feet was reporting 20 inches of snow containing 11.1 inches of water.

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From the Bureau of Land Management (Shannon Borders):

Effective Wednesday, June 8, the Oh Be Joyful Campground west of the Slate River and BLM Road 3220 (including the Slate River crossing) is temporarily closed to all uses. Undercut banks along the Slate River within the campground are unsafe due to high run-off. Additionally, the flooding caused the Slate River water crossing for vehicles to become unstable and unsafe for public use. The closure is in effect until the area is safe for public use.

From the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

The past several days have brought three peak events on Willow Creek: 1,748 cfs on May 30 and again on June 3, and 1,761 cfs on June 8.

But it’s not over yet. The snowpack at the top of Willow Creek Pass normally peaks in late April, but it’s the beginning of June and we still have more snow up there than the average peak, despite the fact it’s been melting. The forecast calls for cooler weather, which means snowpack will continue to melt – but at a slower, much more manageable rate. Flows are retreating today and will likely hold steady or decline slightly in the next few days. But keep an eye on the skies and thermometers: We are still vulnerable to additional peaking events if there’s a rainstorm or stretch of hot weather.

Our records show that the maximum observed inflow to Willow Creek Reservoir was a daily average of 1,857 cfs on May 24, 1984. In comparison, this year’s three peak flow rates occurred for just a few minutes each; our maximum daily average for 2011 so far was yesterday at 1,652 cfs.

So while we don’t have a flow rate that’s going into the record books, we’re still on track to smash the previous record for the total volume of runoff: 85,300 acre feet from April 1 to July 31 in 1957. This year’s inflows are already 64,600 acre feet, and we still have seven weeks to go!

As the elevation in Willow Creek Reservoir continues to rise, we will pump water into Lake Granby if necessary to help keep Willow Creek Reservoir outflows at or below 1,300 cfs.

From the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District:

When we expect gigantic runoff, we prefer to keep the Adams Tunnel running full blast, because every acre foot diverted to the East Slope creates room for another acre foot of runoff. With that, we lower the possibility of having to make higher releases out of Lake Granby.

But we have two things working against us. First, East Slope reservoirs are nearly full, and soon we won’t have empty space available for Adams Tunnel diversions.

Second, the water rights system limits our options. Northern Water holds decrees for Big Thompson River water, and when those rights come into priority, we are obligated to use that water, not West Slope water, to fill our East Slope reservoirs and make water deliveries.

Yesterday our East Slope decree came into priority and operators reduced tunnel diversions by 40 cfs. Today, even more East Slope water became available and tunnel diversions went down an additional 125 cfs.

The amount of East Slope water available to our decree varies from day to day and depends on streamflow and other water users’ demands. To keep up to date, you can monitor Adams Tunnel diversions as we move through the warm season.

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