Runoff/snowpack/drought news: ‘We really live on snowpack, that’s what it comes down to’ — Richard Ferguson


From the Associated Press (Thomas Peipert) via The Denver Post:

The first impact has been an early paddling season and lower flowing rivers. “We really live on snowpack. That’s what it comes down to,” said Richard Ferguson, a trip coordinator for the Poudre Paddlers Canoe and Kayak Club, which serves northern Colorado.

He said low river flows already have forced him to cancel one trip scheduled in July on the Yampa River. A group outing that had been planned for Memorial Day had to be moved. “A light snowpack means that the peak is very early,” Ferguson said. “What happens is the season just disappears very quickly. What you have, essentially, is no water to paddle in.”

Although he still plans to hit the rapids just about every other week for the time being, Ferguson predicts there won’t be any paddling on the Poudre River by midsummer…

Mage Skordahl, the NRCS’s assistant snow survey supervisor, said the snowpack peaked around March 12, a month ahead of average, and current conditions match those recorded during the record-setting drought of 2002, one of the toughest years for river guides in the state…

Jon Donaldson, co-owner of River Runners, a rafting guide company based in Buena Vista, said, “We’re going ahead full bore like there won’t be an effect.” High water last season — especially in the Royal Gorge area near Cañon City — closed parts of the popular Arkansas River because they were too dangerous to navigate. Donaldson predicts those same sections will remain open the entire season this year, which means the possibility of more trips — and more business.

From the Aspen Daily News (Dorothy Atkins):

Local fishing outfitters are counting on an active monsoon season and a surplus of water from Ruedi Reservoir to keep the stock healthy. [Jarrod Hollinger, owner of the fly-fishing guide company, Aspen Outfitting Co.] is advising locals to follow fishing protocol to protect the stock. Use rubber nets, barbless hooks and be sure to only have fish out of the water for under 30 seconds, said Hollinger…

Low-water levels are going to be a boon for the recreational fishing industry in June and July when the river usually peaks. During those months, high-stream flows typically push fishermen upstream where the flows aren’t as powerful. At lower stream flow levels, there are more options available to fishermen, and tourists opt to fish rather than raft.

From the Delta County Independent (Hank Lohmeyer):

As of [Orchard City trustee Jimmie Boyd’s] report last week, Little Gem and Park reservoirs were full and spilling, and most Grand Mesa reservoirs still had ice cover. The town is expected to have 160 to 170 acre-feet of reservoir water available. Orchard City’s water utility used 120 to 125 acre-feet in 2002, Boyd said. That will leave some 40 acre-feet for the town to rent to valley irrigators.

From the Colorado River District via the Delta County Independent:

However, unlike 2012, Colorado reservoirs this year are relatively in good shape, although Green Mountain, Ruedi, Taylor Park, and Aspinall Unit reservoirs on the Western Slope stand a good chance of not filling.

Those assessments of the state of water reserves was delivered to the Colorado River District board of directors meeting in April.

The report included the following points:

• Wolford Mountain Reservoir has already filled.

• The net effect is that water storage in 2012 puts water users in a better position than 2002, although supplies will have to be closely gauged and steps taken to mitigate anticipated shortages.

• Entities holding contracts in Ruedi Reservoir will be receiving a letter asking if they have excess water to pledge in a pool for use by irrigators if needed this year.

• The Colorado River District itself will be dedicating water it holds in Ruedi, as well as supplies in Wolford Mountain Reservoir to the pool.

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