Aspinall Unit update: Erik Knight — ‘The bottomless well of snowmelt and precipitation continues to hold inflows into Blue Mesa Reservoir above all predictions’

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Click on the thumbnail graphic to the right for a screenshot of the Crystal Dam Spill in 2009.

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

While this may appear to be an accidental resend of yesterday’s notice, it is in fact another notice of a release increase for the Aspinall Unit. The bottomless well of snowmelt and precipitation continues to hold inflows into Blue Mesa Reservoir above all predictions. Maybe one day inflows will actually decrease but it certainly wasn’t yesterday. Therefore releases from Crystal Dam will be increased by a total of 400 cfs over the next 2 days. This increase will be done in 200 cfs increments, one this afternoon, Thursday, July 14th, and one early Friday morning, July 15th. Flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are expected to increase from 2950 cfs to around 3350 cfs by Friday, July 15th. This change will put Crystal Dam at full powerplant and bypass releases. Any further increases will mostly likely result in a spill at Crystal Dam. This is not expected to occur but there is a possibility if inflows continue at their current level.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Releases from Lake Granby to increase

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Recent rain storms and the tail end of snow melt run-off continue to produce high inflows into Lake Granby. As a result, we and Northern Water have been increasing releases from Granby Dam to the Colorado over the last few days. Today, releases are going up again, by about 300 cfs. We will soon be releasing upwards of 2200 cfs. The reservoir is just about full with only two and a half feet to go. Rain on the East Slope has reduced the need for diversions from the West Slope. As a result, more water must be released at the dam.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Just a quick heads up: late last night/early this morning, releases from Olympus Dam were scaled back by about 100 cfs. We are now releasing around 575 cfs from the dam to the lower Big Thompson River. Even though we have had some higher inflows from the recent storms, we are still capturing priority water (east slope run-off) in the C-BT project and using it to generate hydro-power and top off Horsetooth and Carter reservoirs. As a result, we have cut back diversions from the West Slope through the Adams Tunnel. With the tunnel low and the east slope water being taken through the system, we are able to reduce releases to the canyon a little bit.

More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

New water system for Silt Mesa could cost rate payers $26 million

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From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (John Colson):

Fewer than 40 percent of property owners in the Silt Mesa area are interested in hooking up to a proposed $26 million domestic water distribution system in their neighborhood, according to a consulting engineer. The primary reason for the lack of interest is likely to be money, said Dan Cokley, of the Schmueser Gordon Meyer engineering firm…

Silt Mesa is an expanse of meadows and hills north of Silt and south of the Grand Hogback. Most residents currently use wells for their household water, although about 5 percent must haul water. The area is not served by the Silt municipal water systems, and the conservancy district is working to figure out a way to get reliable water service to roughly 800 properties. County officials agreed to help pay for the feasibility study in partnership with the district, which currently provides irrigation water to the Silt Mesa area within the district’s boundaries. The study is projected to cost between $75,000 and $90,000, and the county has contributed $50,000 toward the effort, with the proviso that the BOCC be kept up to date on the study’s progress. The proposed system would draw from nearby Harvey Gap Reservoir to feed a water treatment and delivery system estimated to cost $26 million.

The water district was formed in 1957 to conserve and develop water resources within its boundaries. It operates Rifle Gap and Harvey Gap reservoirs, with related pipelines and other facilities, primarily to deliver irrigation water to farms and ranches.

More infrastructure coverage here.

Lake Pueblo: Monitoring finds mussels persist in Pueblo Reservoir

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Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Wildlife (Randy Hampton):

Recent testing has confirmed the ongoing presence of quagga mussel veligers at the reservoir at Lake Pueblo State Park. Although no fully developed mussels have been found at the reservoir, the presence of veligers, the microscopic offspring of adult mussels, does indicate that mussel reproduction is occurring.

Testing originally found a zebra mussel veliger in Pueblo Reservoir in 2007. Monitoring also detected both quagga and zebra veligers in 2008 and 2009. No veligers were found in 2010. The most recent quagga mussel veliger was collected during routine sampling in May and was confirmed by microscopy and DNA testing conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The results were reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologists on July 6.

Colorado’s early detection program is designed to find juvenile, free-floating, veligers in the water before adult populations become apparent. Reservoirs in other states have shown that it may take many years for an invasive mussel population to establish a large reproducing adult colony. Lake Cheney in Kansas had a positive veliger detection followed by several years of negative results, before the population size was large enough to appear on the shorelines.

“Our annual monitoring program confirms that the invasive mussels are persistent in Lake Pueblo,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Through the mandatory boat inspection program, we will continue to stress that boaters clean and fully drain their boats before leaving Lake Pueblo State Park to help limit the spread of these invaders.”

Like all of the popular boating waters in the state, Lake Pueblo State Park has a thorough inspection process for boats that enter the reservoir. Because of the presence of quagga and zebra mussel veligers at Lake Pueblo State Park, boat owners are also required to have their boats inspected and possibly decontaminated on exit from Pueblo Reservoir.

All boats that have launched on any Colorado lake or reservoir where mussels have been detected, including Lake Pueblo, are required to pass an inspection before launching at a new location. In addition, out-of-state boats and resident boats that go out-of-state and return to Colorado must pass a state-certified inspection for aquatic nuisance species prior to launching in any Colorado lake, reservoir or waterway.

“Mandatory boat inspections have proved successful in other states at stopping the spread of invasive mussels,” said Gene Seagle, invasive species coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We want to ensure that boats coming from other states are being inspected prior to launching anywhere in Colorado. It’s also extremely important that containment efforts continue on the reservoirs where mussels have already been detected.”

Inspection facilities also check trailered watercraft at 27 other state parks and 84 other locations outside of the state parks system. Boaters can also get boats pre-inspected and green sealed at Parks and Wildlife offices in Denver at 6060 Broadway, Grand Junction at 711 Independent and in Hot Sulphur Springs at 346 Grand County Road 362. Hours and days of operation at inspection stations vary so boaters should check times and dates in advance at or by visiting an individual state park page at

In addition to the state’s inspection and decontamination program, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will continue its effort to educate boaters to stop the spread of aquatic nuisance species in the state. A series of short, easy to understand videos on how boaters can prepare for inspections is available at under the “Boating” tab. Boat owners can find more information about preventing the spread of aquatic nuisance species at

“Educating boaters about mussels and how to inspect their own vessels is an important part of our effort to prevent the further spread,” said Brad Henley, Park Manager at Lake Pueblo State Park. “We greatly appreciate the continued support and cooperation of the boating public.”

Quagga and zebra mussels are non-native species introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1970’s, probably through the ballast water from an eastern European port where the mussels are native. In the last 23 years, the mussels have spread from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and into the western United States, damaging beaches, aquatic life, municipal water systems and hydroelectric facilities. There is currently no known way to rid a water of the mussels without significant environmental damage, so prevention is the best alternative. The fingernail-sized mussels attach to anchor lines and boat hulls and their microscopic veliger young can be transported in any water transported on a boat or in a bait bucket.

Aquatic nuisance species, such as zebra and quagga mussels, rusty crayfish, New Zealand mud snails and numerous invasive water plants and weeds can create a number of ecological and economic problems due to their rapid reproduction. Because invasive mussels attach to hard surfaces like concrete and pipes, they can clog pipelines at reservoirs and lakes, boat engines, fish ladders, hydropower turbines and municipal water delivery systems.

More coverage from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Veligers, the larval form of the clamlike creatures, were confirmed last week after microscopic and DNA testing by the Bureau of Reclamation from routine sampling of the reservoir in May. No fully developed mussels have been found, but the presence of offspring suggests they are breeding in the reservoir or upstream…

The mussels are most commonly spread from one lake to another when boats are not properly cleaned. They can live for weeks outside a water body in the wet areas of a boat. Colorado began a statewide response to zebra and quagga mussels in 2008 by stepping up boat inspections and educating boaters about the need to inspect clean and dry boats when moving them from one lake to another. Boat washes for suspect craft also were installed at several lakes, including Lake Pueblo…

The mussels damage beaches, water-supply pipes, hydroelectric generation equipment and aquatic ecosystems. Once a population becomes established, there is no known way to eradicate it, so prevention is seen as the most effective way to contain the threat.

More invasive species coverage here and here.

Runoff/precipitation news: The Twin Lakes and Boustead tunnels are still running nearly at capacity

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Reclamation operates the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which so far has brought over 78,300 acre-feet, about 150 percent of average. May 1 projections were that 94,200 acre-feet will be brought over, and that is still on course because the Boustead Tunnel continues to run near full capacity. The Twin Lakes tunnel, the Arkansas Valley’s other major transmountain diversion, also is running nearly full, which is unusual for mid-July…

In fact, Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Aurora’s accounts in Twin Lakes are full, so they are running water to Lake Pueblo, where they have excess-capacity accounts. Aurora also is storing water in Holbrook Lake under a contract with the Holbrook Canal.

Despite heavy demand for agricultural water this spring, Lake Pueblo water levels began increasing slightly this week. “We have plenty of space in Pueblo Reservoir,” said Alan Ward, water resources administrator for the Pueblo Board of Water Works.

The Pueblo water board has about 47,000 acre-feet of water in storage at four reservoirs, and its water rights still are producing more. That’s not a record, but is getting close to the 52,000 acre-feet in storage in June 2010…

Arkansas River flows at Parkdale, west of the Royal Gorge, began increasing Friday and stayed around 4,000 cubic feet per second until Wednesday, when they dropped slightly. About 550 cfs is attributable to the municipal transfers from Twin Lakes to Lake Pueblo, with the rest of the high levels caused by steady afternoon rains in the mountains and continued snowmelt.

From The Denver Post (Joey Bunch):

Sirens blared and Boulder residents were ordered away from [Boulder] creek as a 4-foot surge of water rolled into town Wednesday night, part of another wild weather night in Colorado. The Front Range, from Pueblo to Wyoming, roiled amid thunderstorms, lightning, hail and flooding for the second night in a row — and the eighth straight day of heavy rain. Most parts of the metro region have recorded at least three times their normal rainfall for this point in July…

Storms produced another 2 inches of rain in parts of Elbert County late Wednesday afternoon, not far from where nearly 5 inches caused “the worst flooding in a decade” Tuesday night…

The city’s official weather monitor at Denver International Airport has recorded 2.12 inches of July rain through Tuesday. The average at this point in the month is 0.80 inches, according to weather records. Some parts of the city have seen more than 5 inches, according to individual rain gauges. Denver has received 11.83 inches so far this year. The normal amount for this point is 8.89 inches.

If you live in the Metro Denver area and you think it’s been wet click here for a screenshot of the 21-Day rainfall map from the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District. The closest station to Gulch Manor reads 4.57 inches in the last 21 days.

From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The Bureau of Reclamation reservoir [Carter Lake] west of Berthoud is completely full, and officials expect Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins to be full within 10 days — conditions not seen for at least seven years. “There’s a whole generation of boaters that haven’t seen Carter Lake this full and definitely not this full this long,” said Dan Rieves, visitor services manager for the Larimer County Department of Natural Resources…

Most of the water is from the Western Slope and carried to Larimer County through a system of pipes, tunnels and the Big Thompson River. This year, though, heavy snowpack and rain have lessened the amount of water pulled from the Western Slope because more runoff is available, said Dana Strongin, spokeswoman for Northern Water, the water conservancy district based in Berthoud…

Horsetooth is not as full as Carter, but it was reported at 93 percent full Wednesday. The reservoir rose 10 feet in 30 days and should be full within another 10, officials said.