Aspinall Unit operations update: 600 cfs in Black Canyon

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From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Warm and windy conditions have continued to contribute to declining flows in the lower Gunnison River. Model forecasts show river flows at the Whitewater gage dropping around 100 cfs over this weekend, and this accounts for the 100 cfs increase from the Aspinall Unit yesterday afternoon. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be increasing to 600 cfs late this afternoon, Thursday, June 7th.

Current forecasts suggest this will be enough water to keep the Whitewater gage above the 900 cfs target described in the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD) through the end of next week. River flows are projected to continue their decline however, so additional releases may be necessary to maintain flows in the lower Gunnison River as dry conditions continue.

The Colorado River District, et al., file brief in support of the NSAA lawsuit over USFS permit regulations

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From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the Ute Water Conservancy District, the Eagle Park Reservoir Company and the Clinton Ditch and Reservoir Company have joined in the lawsuit with an amicus brief that was accepted by the U.S. District Court of Colorado a few days ago, according the Colorado River District attorney Peter Fleming. The Amicus Brief doesn’t raise new issues, but reinforces the legal points already made by the National Ski Areas Association in its original and amended complaints and serves to make the court aware that the disposition of the case will stakeholders other than the ski industry, Fleming said. “If the Forest Service is allowed to extract these concessions from the ski industry, then potentially the federal government will seek to demand the same or similar constraints from municipal and other water users as most of the headwaters and water sources in the western states arise on federal lands,” the amicus brief states.

At issue is are changes the Forest Service made to the standard permits under which scores of ski resorts in the West run their businesses on publicly owned National Forest lands.

More National Ski Areas Associations coverage here. More water law coverage here.

Glenwood Springs: Council approves the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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From The Aspen Times (John Stroud):

Glenwood Springs City Council voted 5-1 at its Thursday meeting to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The vote came more than a month after the proposal was first presented for council’s consideration.

“It’s unheard of that so many entities are willing to talk about what works for everyone,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said, in favor of signing onto the agreement.

Added Mayor Matt Steckler, “It’s not perfect, but this is something we have been working on for over a year. I don’t see what not signing it is going to do.”

Councilman Dave Sturges dissented, saying he supports the efforts to reach an agreement on the use of Colorado River water. But he felt the agreement fell short in some areas and that the public had not had an adequate opportunity to weigh in.[ed. True, the agreement was hammered out under Non-Disclosure agreements amongst the parties.] “We’re not under the gun to act on this,” Sturges said. “There are still some questions, and I think the public ought to assist us in how we view those questions.”

More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

Salida: 64th Annual First In Boating on the Arkansas (FIBArk) races June 14 – 17

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From The Mountain Mail:

At the request of Colorado State Parks and Arkansas River Outfitters Association, Chaffee County commissioners unanimously agreed to delay placement of a call for water under its boating park water rights until the day before FIBArk. The decision was made at a special meeting May 18.

Because of low snowpack and runoff, the Bureau of Reclamation, in consultation with the Southeastern Water Conservancy District, has been exchanging water from Pueblo Reservoir back to Twin Lakes and Turquoise reservoirs. The increased storage will allow for greater releases of water later in the summer under the Voluntary Flow Management Program that will also benefit boating parks.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The 64th annual New Belgium Brewing-sponsored FIBArk event should draw more than 25,000 people to downtown Salida to witness the races, hear music, eat exotic foods and shop among the arts and craft booths. Events will kick off Thursday with a pancake breakfast, Pine Creek Boater X competition, a raft sprint and raft rodeo.

The festival will again offer some cutting-edge Stand Up Paddling events which sort of meld surfing with paddling. The sport has exploded in popularity in recent years because it gives veteran river rats a way to rediscover the adventure in calmer sections of river. A demonstration of the sport is slated for 5 p.m. Thursday at the Salida Whitewater Park.

This year a Triple Crown challenge will allow athletes to vie for the king or queen title by entering all three stand-up paddling events, including the 1 p.m. Friday freestyle during which contestants can express their creative side and wow the crowd; the 1:30 p.m. June 16 cross event which matches four paddlers in a short sprint race; and the 10:30 a.m. June 17 10-mile downriver endurance race.

Also on tap during the weekend will be freestyle, slalom, rafting competitions and more. Those who aren’t boaters can enjoy the carnival, a 10 a.m. June 16 parade, daily live music performances, foot races, bicycle races and even the 9:30 a.m. June 17 Chain-Drain disc golf tournament to be held in Poncha Springs.

One of the highlights of the weekend is the 5:30 p.m. June 16 hooligan race which brings together a bunch of silly homemade boats and their adventurous crews aiming to be the first across the finish line.

Fountain Creek: Dredge-less sediment removal demonstration project up and running and slurping sediment from the creek

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A mining screw was depositing a steady slurry of about 10 gallons of material per second onto a conveyor belt that stacked sand and gravel into a large pile. The sediment is pumped from the stream through pipes in an effort to clean the channel near the confluence with the Arkansas River. The project also will demonstrate the impact of sediment removal on water quality.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

Drought news: Northwestern Colorado is getting clobbered — D3 area increased by the US Drought Monitor

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the current US Drought Monitor map.

From the Aspen Business Journal:

The snowpack in the Colorado River basin, which includes the Roaring Fork River and its tributaries, has dropped down to 1 percent of average as of June 1, according to a news release from the National Resources Conservation Service. As of the beginning of the month, snowpack levels all across Colorado have dipped into the single digits as a percentage of average and as a percentage of last year. The statewide percentage was just 2 percent of average, with many basins reporting no measurable snow…

The weather patterns that began in March and April—warm temperatures and below average precipitation—continued throughout the month of May. The snowpack across the state is now almost completely melted out. As of June 6, the Gunnison, Colorado, Arkansas, Upper Rio Grande, and combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basins were all reporting no snow, which is unusual for some of the high-country areas. The only SNOTEL site in the state with noteworthy snow remaining is the TOWER site in the Yampa River basin, which is reporting 2.8 inches of snow—just 7 percent of average.

“The mountains just did not receive the spring storms needed to boost this season’s snowpack,” said Philipps. “Our SNOTEL sites recorded below average precipitation in March, April and May throughout the state.” These conditions have contributed to the snowmelt runoff in most basins in Colorado being about a month earlier than normal this year, and streamflow volumes are forecast to be their lowest since 2002.

Meanwhile, the ditches above Fort Collins are sweeping the river today. Here’s a report from the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

A dry winter followed by a record early snowmelt and months of above normal temperatures have all of Colorado in drought conditions, and the Poudre River Basin wasn’t even the hardest hit, after early winter brought significant snows to the northern Front Range. The problem for the Poudre through Fort Collins is that there are no minimum instream flows to protect the environmental and recreational values of the river, according to Gary Wockner, director of Save The Poudre: Poudre Waterkeeper.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

The March to May spring season (5 degrees above average), and the year-to-date are both the warmest on record [ed. for the U.S.]. Taken readings from thousands of stations across the country, many adjusted to account for the influence of nearby urbanization, the temperatures are averaged to get a picture of long-term climate trends.

The warm May temperatures also contributed to the warmest-ever spring season (March – May) on record for the U.S., at 5.2 degrees above the 1901 – 2000 average and 2 degrees warmed than the previous record, set way back in 1910. At this pace, 2012 is likely to become the warmest year on record. Only Washington and Oregon reported below average temps for the month, while Idaho, Montana and Wyoming reported near-average readings. Exceptionally warm readings were reported from the Northeast across the Midwest, into the central and southern plains and as far west as Colorado, which reported its seventh-warmest May.

The spring season (March – May) as a whole marked the largest departure from seasonal norms for any such period in recorded U.S. climate history.