Fryingpan-Arkansas Project update: The Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Program is delivering water to the mainstem

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From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

As everyone has likely heard by now, we did haven’t much snow pack this year. As a result, I haven’t had much run-off information to share over the last several weeks. But, now that we are on the brink of summer, I thought a Memorial Weekend update on Fryingpan-Arkansas Project reservoirs and operations might be helpful.

We project that we will be importing below our average amount of water on the Fry-Ark. Typically, the project imports around 54,000 acre-feet of water a year from the upper reaches of the Fryingpan River basin. This year, we project we’ll only divert about 12,400 acre-feet of water.

That said, the Voluntary Flow Program for the Arkansas River is ON.

Today, Twin Lakes is releasing about 30 cfs. to Lake Creek. It has a water level elevation of about 9185 feet–that’s about 75% full. 75% full is actually close to average for this time of year.

Turquoise Reservoir is sitting at a water level elevation of about 9840 feet. That’s roughly 62% full, but Turquoise is usually filling this time of year with west-to-east slope water imports from several different projects. So, this water elevation is about average for May.

Pueblo Reservoir is at a water elevation of 4871 feet. That is roughly 70% full. But, 70% full is a little higher than we would see the reservoir this early in the season. This is because what run-off we did have peaked earlier than it would in a more average snow pack year.

Over on the west side of the Continental Divide, Ruedi Reservoir is slowly filling. Currently, it is at a water level elevation of 7745 feet. That’s roughly 81% full and slightly above average for this time of year. Like the East Slope, the West Slope also saw run-off flows come early this spring. We have maintained a release of 110 cfs from Ruedi to the Fryingpan River and that does not look likely to change for a while.

If you plan to visit one of our reservoirs over the holiday weekend, check out its current operations via our Colorado Lakes and Reservoir website. We have up-to-date information posted there.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The voluntary flow program initiated on the Upper Arkansas River in 1990 seeks to maintain water levels for rafting and fishing interests. One of the chief sources of water is the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which imports water from the Colorado River basin. “Water groups are coming together to make this season work,” said Rob White, Park Manager at the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. The problem is that the dwindling snowpack on the Western Slope is expected to provide little additional water this year.

“If the Bureau of Reclamation doesn’t have the water, it can’t provide it,” said Bob Hamilton, engineering supervisor for the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

Participants in the agreement are Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Trout Unlimited, the Southeastern district, the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Arkansas River Outfitters Association. Reclamation did not sign the agreement, but seeks to time releases from Turquoise and Twin Lakes to meet target levels for the Arkansas River. Those releases also can be determined by large municipal operators — Colorado Springs, Pueblo and Aurora.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here.

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