Snowpack news: Reclamation projects 73,000 acre-feet through the Boustead Tunnel

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

Winter is growing whiter and whiter in Colorado’s high country, brightening the outlook for a healthy spring runoff. While the normal peak snowpack isn’t typically reached until mid-April, Colorado continues to push the total above that peak already. Snow depths of 6 feet or more with moisture content of 16-18 inches were being reported at elevations over 10,000 feet throughout the state, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service Snotel service. Several places added a foot of snow or more in the last week.

Ski areas also are reporting banner years. In Southern Colorado, Wolf Creek showed a base of 110 inches; Monarch, 93 inches; and Ski Cooper, 77 inches.

As of Tuesday, snowpack was 117 percent of median statewide, with the highest totals in the northern mountain ranges. In the Arkansas River basin, snowfall was 108 percent of median, but ranged from 14 percent of average at the Apishapa site northwest of Trinidad to 156 percent at Brumley, 10 miles west of Twin Lakes.

“We’ve got a lot of snow,” said Rick Sexton, Clear Creek Reservoir caretaker for the Pueblo Board of Water Works. “We’re showing 110-120 percent on all of our snow courses (all located near Leadville).”

The real work for water board crews won’t begin until April, when they start plowing out mountain ditches that bring water across the Continental Divide. But the snow already has caused some problems, including the collapse of the roof on the Sayer-McKee Building on Harrison Avenue in Leadville after a 2 foot snowfall about one month ago.

Projections for the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project, the Arkansas River basin’s largest transmountain diversion, were revised upward to 73,000 acrefeet on March 1, which is 10,000 acre-feet more than a month earlier and 20,000 acre-feet above average. The projection by the Bureau of Reclamation is based on current conditions and assumes normal accumulation of snow in the next two months. As the past two years have shown, the estimate can drop dramatically if it Water managers don’t have a crystal ball, but they’re not expecting a disastrous end to winter this year.

Because levels already have reached the normal peak for the year, the Pueblo water board this week decided to make about 5,000 acre-feet of water available to lease on the spot market.

Precipitation at lower elevations remains about average for this time of year, but farmers are still dealing with a soil moisture deficit from extended drought.

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