@USBR to host public meeting on Dolores Project 2019 water operations, Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Dolores River, below Slickrock, and above Bedrock. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism.

Here’s the release from the USBR:

The Bureau of Reclamation will host the 2019 operations meeting for the Dolores Project on Thursday, April 18, at 7 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Dolores Community Center, 400 Riverside Avenue in Dolores, Colorado.

“This meeting is a great opportunity for our partners and the public to find out how the 2019 water year is shaping up and to have any related questions answered,” said Western Colorado Area Office Manager Ed Warner.

Meeting topics will include a review of 2018 operations, projected water supplies and runoff for 2019 and the forecasted possibility of a boatable release to the Dolores River below McPhee Dam in 2019.

The meeting will also include presentations and representation from several agencies, including: Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, United States Forest Service, Dolores Water Conservancy District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Dolores River Boating Advocates, American Whitewater and Fort Lewis College. There will be opportunities for questions, comments, and discussion during the meeting.

For more information, please contact Robert Stump at 970-565-7232 or rstump@usbr.gov.

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Ruedi Reservoir operations update

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map April 7, 2019 via the NRCS.

From The Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Scott Condon):

[Tim Miller] envisions Ruedi Reservoir filling during the first half of July, likely around July 4. The reclamation bureau and two other agencies have forecast the amount of water flowing into the reservoir this year at 120 percent to 140 percent of average for April through July.

Miller said one thing that stands out this year is the lower elevation snowpack is so big in the Fryingpan Valley. The Kiln snow telemetry site, at 9,600 feet in elevation, was at 147 percent of median on Thursday.

The Ivanhoe Lake site, at 10,400 feet, was at 168 percent of median. The last comparable snowpacks were in 2011, when winter wouldn’t end.

This year, Ruedi Reservoir is lower than usual for this time of year in the aftermath of the drought of 2018. Extra water was required for fighting the Lake Christine Fire and late-season irrigation.

The reservoir was at about 55 percent full. While that isn’t a historically low level, it is 10,000 acre feet lower than at this point last year and at this point in 2011, Miller said. Having the extra space compared to the big runoff year of 2011 is reassuring, he said.

Miller said he will keep the reservoir level hovering about where it is in anticipation of runoff starting soon.

The outlook for the reservoir is good for boaters because of the high probability it will fill right around July 4, Miller said.

The outlook for anglers on the lower Fryingpan River is less certain. Miller said the outflows from the reservoir will likely be higher from later this spring through July than they were last year. The flows in late summer and into fall will depend on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan for managing the Colorado River near Grand Junction for endangered fish species. Water from Ruedi Reservoir is often used to increase levels on the Colorado River.

The ideal situation this spring and summer would be slow, steady melting of the snowpack, producing a consistent inflow to the reservoir, according to Miller. But he knows Mother Nature will likely throw some curves.

“We never get that” ideal situation, he said.

2019 #COleg: Governor Polis signs HB19-1113 (Protect Water Quality Adverse Mining Impacts)

On April 7, 2016, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the “Bonita Peak Mining District” to the National Priorities List, making it eligible for Superfund. Forty-eight mine portals and tailings piles are “under consideration” to be included. The Gold King Mine will almost certainly be on the final list, as will the nearby American Tunnel. The Mayflower Mill #4 tailings repository, just outside Silverton, is another likely candidate, given that it appears to be leaching large quantities of metals into the Animas River. What Superfund will entail for the area beyond that, and when the actual cleanup will begin, remains unclear.
Eric Baker

From Governor Polis’ office via The Colorado Springs Business Journal:

Governor Jared Polis this week signed a bill to help prevent water pollution from future hardrock mining operations in Colorado.

Rep. Dylan Roberts, whose district was impacted by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill near Silverton, co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Barbara McLachlan.

“This is good for our environment, and keeps a thriving mining industry moving forward,” McLachlan said in an Apr. 5 news release issued by Colorado House Democrats. “We can’t go back in time but we can ensure we have a brighter, safer future and one that protects our precious water.”

HB19-1113 will ensure that when new mining permits are issued, sufficient and secure bonds are in place to ensure cleanup and better protect public health and the environment. The new law will end self-bonding for hardrock mines in Colorado and will explicitly include water quality protection in the calculation for the amount of bonding required. It will also require mining license applicants to set an end date for the cleanup of their operation, so that they can no longer just to do water treatment into perpetuity.

“Mining is a part of our history and always has been. For a long time, it has shaped our economy, our water rights system, and our communities,” Robert said in the release. “However, water is our state’s most precious resource and must be protected. This new law will modernize our hard-rock mining laws to protect clean water and ensure that taxpayers are never left on the hook for a private company’s spills.”

Mining operations have polluted more than 1,600 miles of Colorado rivers and streams, according to the release, and Colorado is one of just seven that allow “self-bonding,” which allows mines to operate with insufficient recoverable assets, leaving taxpayers vulnerable to potential cleanup costs.

Numerous small business owners, rafting outfitters, farmers, local elected officials and others from across western and southern Colorado testified at a House hearing in support of the bill. It passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support.