Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation’s winter target for Blue Mesa Reservoir — down to 7490 ft by December 31


From email from Reclamtion (Erik Knight):

Over the last couple months, releases at the Aspinall Unit have been lowered to accommodate maintenance activities at the powerplants at Blue Mesa and Morrow Point reservoirs, as well as for the brown trout spawn. These events have concluded and releases will now be increased to bring the elevation in Blue Mesa Reservoir down to the winter ice target elevation of 7490 ft by December 31st.

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased by 200 cfs on Monday, November 21st. Another increase of 200 cfs is expected to be made the following Monday, November 28th. This will bring the total release up to 1000 cfs. Additional increases will be made in the first days of December to bring the total release from Crystal to 1550 cfs. Since there are no diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel at this time of year, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be in the 1500 to 1600 cfs range after the completion of these release changes.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.

The Colorado River District’s fourth quarterly board meeting summary is available online


Here’s the link to the summary. Here’s an excerpt:

Supply and demand on an imbalanced Colorado River was the theme of the Colorado River District’s Annual Water Seminar held in Grand Junction on Sept. 15, 2011.

Nearly 200 people heard from Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn on his risk manage- ment strategy for guiding future water development; Colorado University School of Law Professor Mark Squillace on the “Rethinking the Future of the Colorado River” project and Colorado River Basin Forecast

Center Hydrologist Kevin Werner who examined the recent big runoff. In addition, Denver Water Director of Planning Dave Little and Colorado River District General Counsel Peter Fleming gave an update on the historic proposed Colorado River Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 34 West Slope water interests.

More Colorado River basin coverage here.

New Colorado Geological Survey study identifies geology as culprit for poor water quality in some headwaters streams


From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Frequently, acid rock drainage from natural sources and mine sites combine to cause severe downstream water quality problems. In these situations it is important to distinguish the natural, or background, water quality so that realistic clean- up goals for water quality can be set.

Peru Creek and the Snake River are a perfect example of this combination. The abandoned Pennsylvania Mine is thought to contribute a significant amount of acid mine drainage to water that is already tainted. As a result, the water downstream is toxic to trout and other aquatic organisms. Various agencies and groups have been wrestling with cleanup scenarios for decades.

The research explains that rocks in parts of Colorado’s mineral belt were altered by intensely hot water circulating in the earth’s crust, often associated with volcanic activity during Colorado’s geologic past.
These hydrothermal alteration changed the composition of the rocks by dissolving some minerals and depositing others.

In the affected areas, the process deposited metal-sulfide minerals, commonly pyrite (fool’s gold), in the rocks. When these rocks are exposed at the surface, they interact with oxygen and the iron sulfide “rusts” to form iron oxide minerals, creating striking yellow, orange, and red colors — similar to the oxidation of metal in an old rusty car.

Acid rock drainage occurs when the sulfur that is displaced by the oxygen combines with water to form weak sulfuric acid. The acidic water then dissolves minerals from the bedrock, often adding significant amounts of dissolved metals to these headwater streams. Natural acid rock drainage has been active in Colorado for thousands, possibly millions of years.

More water pollution coverage here.

Lower Dolores Boating Advocates will hold a public discussion of boating issues and possible changes below McPhee on November 30


From the Cortez Journal:

Everyone who rafts, kayaks and canoes on the lower Dolores River is invited to a presentation by Nathan Fey from American Whitewater at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 30, at the Dolores River Brewery, 100 S. Fourth St. Fey will lead a discussion about the ongoing negotiations with water managers about releases from McPhee dam. All whitewater boating enthusiasts are encouraged to attend to learn more about possible changes for the Dolores River. The event is sponsored by the Lower Dolores Boating Advocates. For more information, contact Jay Loschert at 799-1475.

More whitewater coverage here.

Cloud-seeding: Gunnison County, Mt. Crested Butte, CWCB and the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District ink a deal with North American Weather Consultants for the 2011-2012 season


From The Crested Butte News (Alissa Johnson):

In spite of early concerns that funding for cloud seeding might dry up, Gunnison County entered into an operational agreement with North American Weather Consultants for the 2011-2012 winter season on November 15. With the total bill projected at $95,000, a 3.26 percent increase over last year, the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District came through with a $26,500 contribution. The county will contribute $10,000 and Mt. Crested Butte budgeted $3,000. The Colorado Water Conservation Board will cover $47,500 in matching funds, and the remaining moneys will be collected from a variety of local contributors.

More cloud-seeding coverage here and here.