Frying pan flows to stay at 300 cfs for next two to four weeks

The Fryingpan River just above Basalt, flowing at about 300 cfs. While many anglers prefer flows at 240 cfs, the river looks lively and pretty thanks to flows from Ruedi Reservoir meant to help endangered fish in the Colorado River.
The Fryingpan River just above Basalt, flowing at about 300 cfs. While many anglers prefer flows at 240 cfs, the river looks lively and pretty thanks to flows from Ruedi Reservoir meant to help endangered fish in the Colorado River.

By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

BASALT – The lower Fryingpan River below Ruedi Reservoir has been flowing steadily at about 300 cubic feet per second since Aug. 12, when flows were increased by 50 cfs for the benefit of the endangered fish recovery program on the Colorado River below Palisade.

Flows in the Fryingpan are now expected to remain at about 300 cfs – 298 to 302 – at least until mid-September, according to Jana Mohrman, a hydrologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the fish recovery program.

Fly-fishing guides on the Fryingpan River say many of their clients prefer when the river is flowing at 240 cfs rather than 300 cfs, because higher water makes it harder to wade.

But flows may also stay at the 300 cfs level throughout September, Mohrman said. They could be lowered back to 250 cfs, however, if conditions – temperature, precipitation, irrigation return flows, plant growth rates – allow at some point in September.

“We look forward to it and we hope it happens,” Mohrman said of returning to flows of 250 cfs in the ‘Pan.

If favorable conditions do arrive, it could make it easier for Mohrman to reach the targeted flows of 1,240 cfs in the Colorado River near Palisade without the additional 50 cfs from Ruedi that she called for on Aug. 11.

Mohrman manages a pool of “fish water” stored in Ruedi Reservoir that can be released to flow down the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork, and Colorado rivers.

The water from Ruedi contributes to the flows in critical fish habitat in a 15-mile reach of the Colorado River between Palisade and the confluence of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers in central Grand Junction.

But not all of the water coming out of Ruedi Reservoir is fish water.

Of the 298 cfs flowing out of Ruedi Reservoir on Aug. 31, for example, 186 cfs was fish water, 107 cfs was to offset inflow to the reservoir, and about 5 cfs was coming in below the dam from Rocky Fork.

This year, the Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to ask for the release of between 21,412 acre-feet and 24,912 acre-feet of fish water from Ruedi, which can store 102,373 acre-feet of water.

As of Aug. 31, 12,184 acre-feet of fish water had been released from Ruedi Reservoir, leaving between 9,228 and 12,728 acre-feet of fish water yet to be released, according to a “state of the river flow sheet” prepared by the Colorado Division of Water Resources as part of a weekly conference call held by regional water managers about the 15-mile reach.

(The range of how much fish water is left depends on whether the Fish and Wildlife Service decides to use 6,000 or 9,500 acre-feet of water available to it through a contract between the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Ute Water, a water provider in Grand Junction that owns the storage right to 12,000 acre-feet of water in Ruedi.)

At a release rate of 186 cfs a day, there would be enough fish water left in Ruedi for 25 to 34 days of releases, depending on how much water from the Ute Water contract is used.

But Tim Miller, a hydrologist at the Bureau of Reclamation who manages the flows from Ruedi, said the rate of incoming water to Ruedi can vary quite a bit, and when it drops, more fish water is released to hit the proscribed release flows.

As such, nature has another card to play in how many days of fish water are remaining in Ruedi. For example, fish water flows could be higher than 186 cfs and that would reduce the number of potential days of flow.

But the water meant for endangered fish near Grand Junction is also causing some grumbling in another 15-mile reach, the one on the Fryingpan River between Ruedi Reservoir and Basalt.

The Fryingpan River flowing at 298 cfs on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The river is likely to stay at 300 cfs for two weeks, and possibly four.
The Fryingpan River flowing at 298 cfs on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. The river is likely to stay at 300 cfs for two weeks, and possibly four.

Higher flows

Since the flows out of Ruedi were increased by 50 cfs on Aug. 12 from about 250 cfs to about 300 cfs, the manager of Frying Pan Anglers in Basalt said he has been hearing unprompted complaints about the river being up.

“I even heard it twice today,” said Marty Joseph of Frying Pan Anglers, on Wednesday.

While Joseph said he and other local guides on the river would rather see the river at 240 cfs throughout September for their fly-fishing clients, he also said the “hatches are still good and the fishing is great at 298” cfs.

But there could also be other water released from Ruedi beside fish water and base release flows, especially if it gets hot and dry. More water could potentially be released to meet demands for “contract water” held in Ruedi or if a call comes up the river from Grand Valley irrigators with senior water rights.

In any event, local anglers frustrated by the higher flows in the Fryingpan might appreciate knowing that in addition to water stored in Ruedi, the Fish and Wildlife Service also uses water stored in Granby, Williams Fork, Green Mountain, and Wolford reservoirs to help keep the Colorado River flowing at various targeted flows, depending on the season. And that the fish water is needed because of both upstream transmountain diversions and irrigation diversions just above the 15-mile reach.

For example on Aug. 31, at least 550 cfs of water from the Colorado River headwaters was flowing east through tunnels to the Front Range.

And 2,045 cfs was being diverted from the Colorado River above Palisade by various Grand Valley irrigators.

Meanwhile, flows in the 15-mile reach were left at 1,130 cfs on Aug. 31, below the target flow of 1,240 cfs, but still boosted by the fish water from Ruedi.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Daily News, and Coyote Gulch are collaborating on coverage of rivers and water. The Daily News published this story on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016.

High Line Canal draft vision public meetings

Highline Canal Denver
High Line Canal Denver

Here’s the release from the High Line Canal Conservancy:


For the first time, guests can see the initial community-driven vision for the future of the Canal and share feedback

The High Line Canal Conservancy, which is dedicated to preserving the recreational and environmental future of the High Line Canal, is excited to share the dates and locations in Denver, Cherry Hills Village, and Highlands Ranch for “Chapter 3: Our Story,” a series of community open houses dedicated to shaping the future of the High Line Canal. The goal of the open houses is to present the initial vision of the future of the High Line Canal reached by residents and ask the public to share their feedback.

“After two successful rounds of community open houses where we’ve listened to passions, concerns and priorities for the Canal, we’re thrilled to host a third where we will present the draft vision for the Canal. This vision embodies the specific elements of the Canal that the community values, including its natural character, connectedness, and varied sections,” said Harriet Crittenden LaMair, executive director of the High Line Canal Conservancy. “We set up these open houses in communities all along the Canal so that we can hear from as many people as possible, including families, neighbors, and friends of anyone living near the Canal.”

After months of listening to residents share how they envision the future of the Canal, for the first time, the High Line Canal Conservancy team will share its draft shared vision for the Canal, giving the public a chance to respond. Friends, families, and neighbors are welcome!

The vision looks ahead to opportunities to enhance the Canal’s vivid sense of place, rooted in nature and the varied communities through which it passes. It also looks for opportunities for enhancing management and stewardship, ensuring the Canal continues to be a beloved natural refuge for our region for future generations.

The dates and locations of the interactive open houses are:

  • Wednesday, September 7, from 5-8 p.m. at the Kent Denver Dining Hall
    4000 E Quincy Ave., Englewood, CO 80113
  • Thursday, September 8, from 1-1:30 p.m. at the Green Valley Ranch Library
    4856 Andes Ct., Denver, CO 80249
  • Thursday, September 8, from 5:30-8 p.m. at Westridge Recreation Center
    9650 Foothills Canyon Blvd., Highlands Ranch, CO 80129
  • All three sessions will be identical, so guests are invited to drop by the open house most convenient to them and stay for as long as they would like.

    Here’s how to stay updated on High Line Canal project updates:

    ● The High Line Canal newsletter.
    ● High Line Canal’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).
    ● Participate in public meetings
    ● Help us spread the word: Please invite your friends and neighbors to participate too!


    The High Line Canal Conservancy was formed in 2014 by a passionate coalition of private citizens to provide leadership and harness the region’s commitment to protecting the future of the High Line Canal. With support from each jurisdiction and in partnership with Denver Water, the Conservancy is connecting stakeholders in support of comprehensive planning to ensure that the Canal is protected and enhanced for future generations. For more information, please visit

    The latest newsletter from the Water Information Program is hot off the presses

    Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (of course there is a projected image of a map -- this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions by major basin, heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell)
    Greg Hobbs at the 2015 Martz Summer Conference (of course there is a projected image of a map — this one was the division of Colorado into water divisions by major basin, heeding the advice of John Wesley Powell)

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Register for Water 101/202!

    Registration is now open for the Annual Water 101 Workshop and Pilot Water 202 Session on September 22-23, 2016 at the La Plata County fairgrounds in Durango, CO. You can register for the full-day Water 101 ($35), the half-day Water 202 ($25), or both ($50). For a small additional fee, the workshop qualifies for 10 continuing education credits (CEC) for lawyers, as well as CECs for realtors, TUs for water utility personnel, and contact hours for teachers. Colorado Supreme Court Justice Greg Hobbs (retired) will be the keynote speaker both days. Register over the phone at (970) 247-1302.

    FDA bans antiseptic chemicals from soaps; no proof they work — The Denver Post

    Triclosan Molecule
    Triclosan Molecule

    From the Associated Press (Matthew Perone) via The Denver Post:

    Friday’s decision primarily targets two once-ubiquitous ingredients — triclosan and triclocarban — that some limited animal research suggests can interfere with hormone levels and spur drug-resistant bacteria.

    The chemicals have long been under scrutiny, and a cleaning industry spokesman said most companies have already removed the now banned 19 chemicals from their soaps and washes.

    The FDA said it will allow companies more time to provide data on three other chemicals, which are still in a majority of products sold today.

    The agency told manufacturers nearly three years ago that they must show their products are safe and effective. Regulators said Friday the data submitted for the chemicals did not meet federal standards for proving safety and effectiveness.

    “Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs,” Woodcock said in a statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

    The FDA ban comes more than 40 years after Congress asked the agency to evaluate triclosan and dozens of other antiseptic ingredients. Ultimately, the government agreed to publish its findings only after a three-year legal battle with an environmental group, the Natural Resources Defense Council, which accused the FDA of delaying a decision on the safety of triclosan.

    The group cited research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found triclosan in the urine of three-quarters of Americans tested for various chemicals.

    The FDA is now undertaking a sweeping reevaluation of soaps and washes used by consumers and health professionals.

    The American Cleaning Institute, a cleaning chemical association, disputed the FDA’s findings, saying in a statement “the FDA already has in its hands data that shows the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps.”

    The group’s spokesman said companies are planning to submit data on three chemicals currently used by industry: benzalkonium chloride, benzethonium chloride and chloroxylenol. The FDA delayed making a decision on those chemicals for one year.

    The FDA decision does not apply to hand sanitizers, most of which use alcohol rather than antibacterial chemicals.

    Longmont councillors want rate payers to weigh in on paying for Windy Gap supply

    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.
    Map from Northern Water via the Fort Collins Coloradan.

    From the Longmont Times-Call (Karen Antonucci):

    The Longmont City Council has opted to participate in the Windy Gap Firming Project, which would construct a reservoir in order to hold some of the water produced by Longmont’s water rights.

    There are three options to finance Longmont’s projected $47 million portion of the Windy Gap Firming Project — one using all cash and two using variations of debt.

    If the council chooses to pay the $47 million in cash, it would mean initial water rate increases of 13 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018, above the 9 percent increase in both of those years that has already been approved, for totals of 22 percent and 21 percent.

    Or, the council could choose to use $41 million cash and $6 million in debt. This would mean initial rate increases of 8 percent in both 2017 and 2018 above the already approved 9 percent increase in those years. With this option, the city would spend $50.1 million total, including interest, on the project.

    Finally, the council could choose to finance the project with $30.3 million in cash and $16.7 million of debt, it would mean initiative water rate increases of 5 percent in both 2018 and 2019 above the 9 percent increase in both those years. This option would ultimately cost the city $55.8 million.

    For the cash option and the $6 million debt option, the rate increases over 10 years would be similar. The $16.7 million debt option would result in the highest total rate increase over a decade.

    Longmont spokeswoman Holly Milne said that the council asked for the survey and the online comment form because they wanted resident feedback before they make a decision.

    Residents can visit and fill out an online form with their opinion of what the city should do.

    The city is also surveying 3,000 randomly selected Longmont households with a postcard survey. The households chosen will be different than the households that will receive the city’s separate customer satisfaction survey.

    Rico tests the water for uses of geothermal resources — The Cortez Journal

    Rico photo via
    Rico photo via

    From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    The Colorado School of Mines recently completed a preliminary study of Rico’s geothermal resources and presented three potential development options during a town meeting Aug. 25…

    Paul Morgan, senior geologist and geophysicist for the college, reported that surface hot springs in the Rico area have low toxic elements, and have temperatures ranging between 93 and 111 degrees Fahrenheit…

    Becky Lafrancois, School of Mines economics professor and co-author of the study, evaluated the business potential for a small hot-springs spa, commercial-grade geothermal greenhouse, and district-level heating of buildings.

    Ag producers seek info on leasing water rights as Colorado population booms — BizWest

    Photo by Havey Productions via
    Photo by Havey Productions via

    From BizWest (Doug Storum):

    About two-thirds of those holding agricultural water rights in Colorado are interested in learning more about temporarily leasing their water for municipal, industrial, recreational, environmental or other uses, according to a report released Thursday by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

    The report summarized the results of a survey of 250 ag producers.

    The association’s Ag Water NetWORK initiated the survey, which was conducted to better understand the interests, concerns and perspectives about leasing water rights…

    The survey also found:

    • Income diversification was seen as the greatest potential advantage of leasing water;

    • Reduced total delivery was preferred over rotational reduced irrigation as a means of generating water for leasing;

    • There is concern that ag water rights could be put in jeopardy if they are leased for other uses;

    • Acceptable lease rates will vary with location;

    • Ag producers expressed concern about the impact of temporary reduced irrigation on soil quality;

    • Given a choice, respondents preferred leasing their water rights over selling by a 20 to 1 margin;

    • And more research is needed on cropping system and soil quality under reduced irrigation.

    The full report, titled “2016 Ag Water Right Holder Survey Results,” is available online.