#Runoff news: #RioGrandeRiver has been shut down indefinitely from near the headwaters around Creede through Del Norte, down to Alamosa and beyond

Elephant Butte Reservoir back in the day nearly full

From the Associated Press (Dan Elliott):

Last winter brought above-average snowfall to much of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, so an abundance of snowmelt is rushing into the Colorado River, the Rio Grande and other waterways after a desperately dry 2018…

Colorado was blanketed by 134% of its normal snowfall last winter. Utah was even better, at 138%. Southwestern Wyoming received its average amount.

That will put so much water into the Colorado River that Lake Powell, a giant reservoir downstream in Utah and Arizona, is expected to rise 50 feet (15 meters) this year, said Marlon Duke, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages Powell and dozens of other reservoirs.

The reservoir is rising so fast — 6 to 15 inches (15 to 38 centimeters) a day — that the National Park Service warned people to keep cars and boats at least 200 yards (183 meters) from the shoreline to keep them from being submerged overnight.

The influx into Powell will allow the Bureau of Reclamation to send enough water downstream into Lake Mead in Arizona and Nevada to avoid a possible water shortage there. Arizona, California and Nevada rely heavily on the reservoir…

The Colorado River is expected to send more than 12 million acre-feet into Powell this year, 112% of average and a huge improvement over last year, when scant snow in the Rocky Mountains produced only 4.6 million acre-feet for the reservoir. An acre-foot, or 1,200 cubic meters, is enough to supply a typical U.S. family for a year.

The bureau expects to release 9 million acre-feet from Powell to Mead for the fifth consecutive year.

The news is also good for the Rio Grande, which flows from Colorado through New Mexico and then along the Texas-Mexico border to the Gulf of Mexico.

Elephant Butte, a massive reservoir on the Rio Grande in New Mexico, had dropped as low as 10% of capacity, but it could reach 30% this year, said Carolyn Donnelly, a water operations supervisor for the Bureau of Reclamation…

Enough snow is left that the Snowbird ski resort in Utah and Arapahoe Basin and Aspen in Colorado are still open, at least on weekends.

From KOAA.com (Andy Koen):

Downstream in Avondale, the river gauge data show the Arkansas crested a high point of 7.26 feet at around 8:00 p.m. Tuesday. Since then, the level has dropped below the 7 foot minor flood depth threshold and is expected to remain there for the next few days.

“It’s minor flooding, high water, but we’ve got more coming,” said Tony Anderson, a Service Hydrologist witht he National Weather Service in Pueblo. That’s the concern and we don’t know how much or when.”


There are active flood warnings in place until Friday for the Arkansas River in Cañon City, the Rio Grande River near Del Norte, the Saguache Creek in Saguach County, the Conejos and San Antonio Rivers in Conejos County and in the Rio Grande and San Juan drainage basins in Mineral and Rio Grande Counties.

From The Colorado Sun (John McEvoy):

Water is flowing so high and fast that recreational access to the Rio Grande River has been shut down indefinitely from near the headwaters around Creede through Del Norte, down to Alamosa and beyond.

The river hit flood stage in Del Norte Wednesday afternoon, a condition that is forecast to persist at least until Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The situation could worsen if there is a stretch of days with temperatures in the high 70s to 80s, and there could be big trouble if heavy rain falls.

Public safety managers in Mineral and Rio Grande counties worry about the risk to rafters and kayakers who this time of year would typically be plying gentle waters as they wind through the San Luis Valley. They’re also concerned for the emergency personnel who might be called upon to attempt any water rescues…

The situation in Del Norte is emblematic of what’s happening across Colorado as rivers reach their peak after one of the snowiest winters in recent memory. From Vail to Pagosa Springs and Cañon City to Steamboat Springs, authorities are urging people to be aware…

The worst flood conditions on the Rio Grande in Del Norte were recorded in 1911, when the river hit a peak flow of 18,000 cubic feet per second and a crest of 6.8 feet. On Wednesday, the river was flowing at about 7,980 cfs and hit 5.69 feet, according to National Weather Service records.

Del Norte rancher Cory Off — same family, different spread — said the current flooding is a “good way for the river to cleanse itself. It clears channels that have become plugged up because of many years of low water levels and clears out the willows that have grown where they are not supposed to.”

From The Denver Post (Carina Julig):

The National Weather Service in Pueblo has issued a flood warning for southwestern Rio Grande County and Mineral County due to high levels of snowmelt.

The warning will be in effect through 10:30 a.m. Friday…

Cities that are expected to experience flooding include Del Norte, South Fork, Creede and Wagon Wheel Gap.

A chock full Milton-Seaman Reservoir spilling June 8, 2019. Photo credit: Chuck Seest

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Kevin Duggan):

While parts of Colorado are under flood watches, the risk of flooding along the Poudre and Big Thompson rivers is low at this time, officials say.

The Poudre has been rising in recent days, topping 2,000 cubic feet per second, or cfs, on Sunday as measured by a gauge near the mouth of Poudre Canyon. The rise is expected to continue as temperatures warm up this week.

The river was well below flood stage as of Wednesday. Local officials had received no reports of localized flooding, said Lori Hodges, director of emergency management for Larimer County.

But emergency managers are keeping an eye on the situation in anticipation of the Poudre peaking, possibly as soon as Father’s Day, Hodges said. Officials also are monitoring the Big Thompson River…

The Poudre typically sees its highest flows between late May and mid-June. But given the amount of snow in the high country, this year’s peak could be two to three weeks late, said Brian Werner, spokesman for Northern Water.

The river’s average peak flow at the canyon mouth is about 3,000 cfs. Last year, the peak was 2,210 cfs on May 27.

However, there was little snowpack left in the mountains last year.

On Wednesday, an automated weather station at Joe Wright Reservoir near the top of Poudre Canyon measured 29 inches of snow, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service…

Tunnels carrying water from the Western Slope to the Front Range as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project are running full, Werner said. Water levels at reservoirs fed by the pipes will likely stay high into mid-summer, depending on the demand for water.

Carter Lake west of Loveland was 97.4% full as of Tuesday morning, according to a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation website. Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins was at 92.7% of capacity.

From The Deseret News (Amy Joi O’Donoghue):

A trio of northern Utah reservoirs fed by the Weber and Ogden rivers are spilling, and most reservoirs in the state will fill over the next few days as more snow comes off the mountains.

“East Canyon and Echo are spilling as is Lost Creek. Causey Reservoir is a question mark,” said Gary Henrie, a civil engineer and hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s Provo-area office.

Pineview lacks a spillway but instead uses gates to release water. Henrie said they will likely crack the gate at Pineview to release water as it sits at 100 percent of capacity…

This year’s generous water year will even fill Scofield Reservoir, which had dwindled to 35 percent of capacity by October of last year.

Lake Powell, too, is slowly coming up and will fill some more, added Cory Angeroth, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Utah Science Center.

The lake sits at an elevation of 3,591.7 feet compared to 3,612 feet this time last year…

The lake has come up 23 feet from its lowest elevation this year, he said. The National Park Service Tuesday cautioned that with the water rising 6 to 15 inches a day, boaters must make sure vehicles or other gear are far enough away from the shore to avoid rising waters while they are on the lake.

Both the bureau and the geological survey recently partnered together for the first ever 3D mapping and 3D LiDar scanning at Lake Powell to chart its bottom and understand its sedimentation deposits.

When the data is released later this year, it will be the first time the water world has a full understanding of the reservoir’s true capacity, which covers 162,000 surface acres and is fed by the Colorado River.

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