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Snowpack news: No whitewater boating season this year for the Lower Dolores River #ColoradoRiver


From the Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

The runoff forecast into McPhee Reservoir has some good news and some bad news.

As of March 13, snowpack in the Dolores basin was 80 percent of normal. But if no more snow falls by April, then the irrigation supply in McPhee is expected to be about half, said manager Mike Preston.

“More moisture in the next few weeks is critical,” he said.

At the current snowpack level, full-service irrigators are only expected to receive about half their allocated water – 11 inches per acre. When the reservoir fills, full-service irrigators receive 22 inches.

Farmers received 20 inches last year, thanks in part to monsoon rains in summer and fall. In 2013, a very dry year, farmers received 6 inches, or 25 percent of their normal amount if the reservoir fills.

On the brighter side, the National Resource Conservation Service forecasts a 7-in-10 chance that McPhee will fill to 81 percent of capacity. At that level, full-service irrigators would be delivered 20 inches of water per acre.

“Even if there is no more snow, we are better off than 2013,” Preston said. “We’re still speculating. The uncertainty is what happens between now and April.”

It’s questionable whether the reservoir will fill to capacity; NRCS gives it a 50-50 chance.

Because of limited snowpack, there will be no whitewater boating season this year for the Lower Dolores, officials said. A whitewater release below the dam last occurred in 2011.

Narraguinnep Reservoir is almost full, and Groundhog Reservoir has 9,000 more acre-feet than this time last year.

Dolores River near Bedrock
Dolores River near Bedrock

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