Colorado Water 2012: Anglers love the 8 mile reach below Pueblo Dam

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Ron Van Valkenburg):

The waters offer year-round fishing opportunities and are especially important to fly-fishers who pursue trout throughout the winter. Unlike the waters above the reservoir, called freestone rivers, which get jammed with ice in the winter, tailwaters remain fishable for several miles below the dam and reservoir, which provides a constant water source. The quality of the tailwater depends on the depth of the reservoir, water temperatures, the gradients of the stream channel, and the amount of water released from the reservoir.

The greatest advantage to a tailwater fishery is this controlled source of water. Regardless of drought, there is a constant flow with ideal water temperatures, a weed-rich stream bottom with high levels of nutrients, and diverse aquatic insect populations — all key ingredients for growing large, healthy fish.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Barr Lake State Park and Volunteers Celebrate Lake Appreciation Day July 14

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Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

July is Lake Appreciation Month at Barr Lake State Park. To celebrate on Saturday, July 14, Park staff and volunteer crews will collect trash and debris along the shoreline, plant tress. remove weeds and stain boardwalks between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Show appreciation for Barr Lake and volunteer with your family, friends, and/or coworkers! Please R.S.V.P. for groups of five or more by calling the Nature Center at (303) 659-6005. Volunteers will receive free park admission, earn a t-shirt and enjoy a complimentary BBQ lunch sponsored by a grant awarded to Barr Lake from Adams County Open Space Program at 11:30.

Free recreational activities and information booths will be open at the boat ramp between 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., including face painting, canoe lessons, archery range, boat rides, jumping castle, climbing wall and FREE boat safely t-shirts for kids.. Talon, the red-tailed hawk, boating safety mascot for Parks and Wildlife and the Brighton Fire Department will on hand for the fun too.

More South Platte River Basin coverage here and here.

Conservation: Governor Hickenlooper proclaims July ‘Smart Irrigation Month’ #CODrought

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From Colorado Water Wise (Ruth Quade):

Colorado is the first state to proclaim July Smart Irrigation Month thanks to an effort lead by CPS Distributers, Inc., an irrigation distributer with 11 branches in Colorado and Wyoming.

The Irrigation Association first launched Smart Irrigation Month in 2005 and it is gaining traction as stakeholders recognize the impact of efficient irrigation in July and year round. July is typically a peak month for water consumption and warrants attention. Water treatment plants must be designed to handle peak production. By shaving peaks, expensive treatment plant upgrades can be delayed or avoided.

San Miguel River: Tri-State and Montrose County approve water deal

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From the Montrose Dail Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

Monday, commissioners inked an agreement with Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association. The agreement calls for cooperation “in order to further common objectives in appropriating and developing water rights and water resources.” Tri-State withdrew its opposition to the county’s filing on in-stream flow rights on 17 miles of the river. In exchange, the county agreed to provide water to Tri-State, pending need and availability, at a rate to be set by the county. The county moved last year to file its in-stream flow application in advance of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s application. County officials cite a need to secure water rights on the West End for development and growth.

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.

Crystal River: Pete McBride asks, ‘If one of those rivers could talk, I wonder what it would say?’

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Here’s a video, Crystal Voice, about the Crystal River from Pete McBride via Vimeo.

Thanks to Drew Beckwith (@DrewBeckwith) for the heads up.

More Crystal River watershed coverage here and here.

Here’s another video from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation showing irrigation, dams, wild streams, restoration and power generation facilities across the western U.S.

The Colorado Water 2012 July newsletter is hot off the press

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Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s a preview:

The Colorado Water 2012 K-12 Committee has been working hard on a photo contest in conjunction with the international River of Words contest. Students can submit one photo that expresses their point of view that will be judged amongst only other Colorado entries. The winner could have their photo hang in the capitol! The contest has already begun and the deadline is December 1, 2012.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

Drought news: Cañon City may implement stage 2 drought restrictions soon #CODrought

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Click on the thumbnail graphic for the hydrograph for the Arkansas River above Cañon City from earlier today. Here’s a report from Rachel Alexander writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Cañon City’s rights date to Dec. 30, 1863. However, the rights of the Highline Canal east of Pueblo date to Dec. 31, 1861. Officials from the Highline have informed Cañon City officials that if conditions do not change, they will put in a call to the Division of Water Resources to get their water, thus shutting off the diversions of junior water users, such as Cañon City. Hartzman said that could occur as early as next week. “If they don’t get some relief down their way, they’ll be forced to (make the call),” he said.

“That means as long as the priority date is senior to us, then we can’t draw out of the river. We would make a call on our project water and have them do release for us.” The city has about 300 million gallons of water in storage that would be released from either Turquoise or Twin Lakes.

“We’d still stay in business,” Hartzman said. “We would have to ask the folks at that time to really step up the conservation.”

Hartzman said the city probably would immediately move to [stage] two water restrictions, which put in mandatory usage limits. The limits would include when and on what days lawns can be watered.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (David Young):

Taryn Hutchins-Cabibi, drought and climate change technical specialist with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said any industry reliant on water is at risk by the the drought. However, the extent of the impact depends on water rights, especially when it comes to agriculture.

“Any time there’s a long-term, sustained drought it forces water users to think about and prioritize water use, but as of right now storage is pretty good,” she said. “If this drought were to continue, many municipalities would have to reconsider … Virtually all industries are impacted by drought in some way or another.”

Nolan Doesken, state climatologist at Colorado State University, said while Fort Collins and most of Colorado is in an extreme drought, reservoirs are full and the water supply is secure based on enough runoff from the 2010-11 winter…

“This is bad drought at its worst,” he said. “Water supplies and municipal water is doing OK on the shoulders of stored water. It would not do so good without last year using that carryover. The big worry is back-to-back drought years.”

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Here’s a release from Colorado Trout Unlimited asking anglers to take it easy on trout in the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers during this drought:

Trout Unlimited today asked Colorado anglers to voluntarily restrict their fishing on portions of the Colorado River headwaters stricken by drought and high water temperatures. TU is urging anglers to avoid fishing on the Fraser and Upper Colorado rivers during the hottest part of the day, or to fish in Grand County’s higher-elevation lakes or cooler tailwater areas until conditions improve.

“Trout need cold, clean water to survive. The combination of drought conditions, extensive diversions, and record heat is putting enormous stress on fish populations,” said Drew Peternell, director of TU’s Colorado Water Project. “With low flows and high water temperatures, trout populations will be in survival mode this summer. Unless and until flow conditions improve, we’re asking anglers give our fish a break.”

Trout Unlimited’s recommended closure comes on the heels of a similar call by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for anglers to voluntarily limit their fishing on the Yampa River through Steamboat Springs, which recently recorded temperatures of 72 degrees through town. Water temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit can be stressful or fatal to trout. Peak temperatures on the Fraser River near Tabernash have surpassed 70 degrees in recent days. Anecdotal reports indicate that similar high temperatures are found on the Colorado River between Windy Gap and the Williams Fork.

“These problems underscore how important healthy flows are to our rivers,” said Peternell. For years, the Upper Colorado and Fraser rivers have struggled with low flows and stressed habitat due to major water diversions to the Front Range. Two new projects, the proposed Moffat Tunnel and Windy Gap expansions, will add to that stress. “Drought and water diversions have put these rivers in a vulnerable state, and, as anglers, we need to do our part to protect fisheries.”

“We are asking our 10,000 state members and all Colorado anglers to exercise restraint and good sportsmanship in the use of these priceless resources,” said David Nickum, executive director of Colorado TU. “Failure to do so could set back fishing opportunities and the region’s recreation economy for years to come.”

When fish are struggling with elevated water temperatures, it makes them much more vulnerable to hooking mortality when they are caught and released. As long as temperatures remain scorching and streamflows low, “anglers should fish in the cooler hours of the early morning, and bring along a thermometer to check water temperatures regularly,” said Kirk Klancke, president of TU’s Colorado River Headwaters Chapter. “As a simple rule of thumb, when water temperatures rise above 65 degrees, that’s a good time to give the fish a break.”

Anglers can also seek out Grand County’s outstanding higher-elevation lakes and tailwater fisheries that are less affected by heat conditions.

TU plans to step up efforts this summer to educate anglers about the dangers of low flows and high stream temperatures, and the need for proper handling and release of fish.

“Incorrect handling of caught fish can lead to mortality,” said Nickum. “Proper release is always important, and that’s especially true during times of high heat and stress.”

Anglers should avoid playing fish to exhaustion and return fish to the water as quickly as possible. They should also wet their hands before handling fish and avoid overhandling them, which can remove the protective layer of slime on fish. Keep the fish in the water as much as possible. These proper catch-and-release methods can help promote fish survival.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Kristen Lodge):

June typically, however, is characterized by low precipitation and humidity, which has many people wishing for rain. The humidity is low right now since the North American monsoon doesn’t begin until mid-July. The moisture comes up to the Central Rockies but it hasn’t arrived yet, according to Meteorologist Kyle Fredin, of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration headquartered in Boulder.

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

As of June 29, almost half the state (46 percent) was classified as being in extreme drought, with almost all the rest of the state under severe drought conditions. Temperatures running up to 10 degrees above average means moisture is evaporating from soils far faster than it’s building up, and all major reservoirs have dropped below average levels for this date. Nationally, drought conditions reached a dubious milestone, with 72.01 percent of the contiguous 48 states classified as abnormally dry, the most widespread drought conditions on record…

Temperatures have been running between 4 to 8 degrees above average in the southwestern corner of the state and 8 to 10 degrees above average across the rest of the state. At those temperatures, between .3 and .5 inches of moisture can evaporate per day, meaning that any small amounts of rain that fall offer only very short-lived temporary relief. Simply put, evaporation is far outpacing precipitation, which means conditions are getting drier.