“…peak #runoff is in the rearview mirror” — Matt Hildner


From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

While most rivers and streams in the San Luis Valley now have steady flows, peak runoff is in the rearview mirror.

Despite recent years in which high-elevation snowpack has offered some surprises for state officials managing Colorado’s obligations under the Rio Grande Compact, this runoff is looking somewhat more predictable.

Assistant Division Engineer James Heath was in the high country above Rio Grande Reservoir last week to take a look.

“There’s some but it’s not a large snowfield that would have a significant impact on the production of the basin,” he said.

Predictability is a bonus in managing the compact, which has a sliding delivery scale that increases with higher flows on the Rio Grande and Conejos River.

Projected annual flow on the Rio Grande now stands at 700,000 acrefeet, which, if it holds, would call for a delivery of 204,000 acre-feet at the state line. So far this year, 105,400 acre-feet have been delivered to New Mexico.

The Conejos River and its tributaries in the southwestern corner of the valley have separate compact requirements.

Its projected annual flows sit at 305,000 acrefeet and would require a delivery of 112,800 acrefeet by year’s end.

The Conejos has delivered 58,300 acre-feet so far this year.

Since the 1968 settlement of a U.S. Supreme Court lawsuit, Colorado has imposed restrictions on irrigators to make sure compact obligations are met.

Currently, the restriction on the Rio Grande comes in the form of an 18 percent curtailment on the amount of available water. On the Conejos, curtailment is at 28 percent.

Long-term forecasts from the National Weather Service call for a wetter than average June and July but hot and dry conditions in late summer and fall.

From the Vail Daily (Scott N. Miller):

After a warm weekend that saw very high streamflows in places on area creeks and rivers, it looks like the streams have peaked. But those streams will still run high and fast for a while.

According to data provided by the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, Gore Creek and the Eagle River above Avon have hit their peaks for the season. In addition, the snow measurement sites the district uses have either melted completely or are expected to by the weekend.

While the streamflows seem to have peaked — barring a severe thunderstorm or two that could cause isolated flooding — local streams are still running well above their average flows for this part of June.

As of June 12, the Eagle River at Dowd Junction was running at 217 percent of its normal flow for that date. Gore Creek above Red Sandstone Creek was running at 142 percent of normal — median flows over a 30-year period.

The high flows are good news for rafting companies. Sage Outdoor Adventures is the only local company that runs raft trips on Gore Creek. Those trips depend on healthy streamflows, and don’t happen every year.

Weather rules streamflow — heat shrinks high streams more quickly and cool extends flows — but Cole Bangert of Sage said it’s possible the company could be rafting the Gore until the end of June or so.

That will leave the Eagle River, but only for another few weeks, Bangert said.

But while local streams are running fast, Bangert said the Eagle River has some of the “best whitewater in the state.”

“There’s a stretch between Kayak Crossing (in Eagle-Vail) and Edwards that’s 10 miles of Class 3 and 4 rapids — it’s great,” Bangert said.

John Packer is the owner of Fly Fishing Outfitters in Avon. Packer said while local streams are largely too fast to fish, a solid runoff season is a benefit for those who want to cast a fly later this season.

“The runoff cleans out sediment, and stuff that comes off the roads, and moves it out of the system,” Packer said. “It improves aquatic insect habitat, and healthy bugs mean healthy fish.

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