From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):
Peak flows on the Arkansas River apparently happened May 18, more than a month earlier than usual. The water levels peaked at 1,870 cubic feet per second, far below the average 2,500 to 3,000 cfs and have fallen to 1,500 cfs…
A deal has been done with downriver farmers and cities to help the whitewater industry get through difficult years like this one — by setting up a reserve of 10,000 acre-feet of water held in Turquoise Lake, Twin Lakes and Clear Creek Reservoir.
CPW officials this week said they’ve notified agricultural water users and federal Bureau of Reclamation operators of the reservoirs that rafting companies probably will need to draw on that reserve to keep the river flowing at a level no lower than 700 cfs — crucial for boating — through Aug. 15.
“They said they will have the 10,000 ace-feet available,” White said. “That feels great. It is invaluable. It is the difference between having a lousy summer and having a good summer.”
Earlier high flows on rivers caused by earlier melting of reduced mountain snowpack — which this year measured as low as 40 percent of normal in some areas — exemplify the changes scientists have linked to a buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere.
“Adapting to climate variability is something we are going to have to wrap our heads around in the future,” American Whitewater president Mark Singleton said Friday in an interview. That group represents boaters nationwide and serves as a central source of statistics on matters such as deaths. (Along the Arkansas River since 1986, only 13 rafting deaths on commercial rafting trips were reported, Singleton said, lauding careful state management of the river under a partnership with the federal Bureau of Land Management.)
“These are all fundamental changes in the river systems,” Singleton said. “And if there’s no water in the reservoirs, there’s no river flow. … What we have seen is these really big swings. In all of our climate systems, we are seeing greater variability.”
From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):
“I think the main stem of the Yampa has peaked,” forecast center senior hydrologist Ashley Nielson said Wednesday. “There is a chance for some rain this weekend, but it would take heavy precipitation over the Yampa and Elk rivers,” to send them to a new level.
That means the Yampa reached its zenith for the season at 12:45 a.m. May 14, when the flow was 2,570 cubic feet per second. If that figure is confirmed, it would be the lowest peak since 2012 when the river topped out at 1,570 cfs on April 27.