Each year the Forum Board of Directors recruits a new host community within the Basin to help plan the Forum. This tradition ensures that the Forum broadens relationships throughout the Arkansas Basin, which is spatially the largest river basin in Colorado covering 27% of the State’s area (28,268 sq. mi.). Our goal has been to have the location of the Forum move annually within the Basin.
H2O Radio interviewed Glenn and Kim Schryver, the caretakers of Grizzly Reservoir, just east of Aspen, who access their home through a 4-mile water tunnel under the Continental Divide. Full story: http://h2oradio.org/TwinLakesTunnel.html
The first batch of semen and eggs have been harvested from 158 unique cutthroat trout that now thrive the Roaring Judy Hatchery in Gunnison.
They lived near Canon City a year ago.
In July of 2016, The Hayden Pass Fire started from a lightning strike. In days, with the help of strong winds and dry conditions, it evolved into a 26-square-mile event that forced the evacuation of 140 homes…
Workers from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and the United States Forest Service made what was called “a desperate dash” to Hayden Creek. They waded into the water, temporarily immobilized the fish with a small electric shock, and netted them.
Nearly 200 fish were caught.
They may be the last survivors of a specific species of cutthroat first discovered in the late 1800s.
Ichthyologist David Starr Jordan collected a pair of trout specimens in 1889 from Twin Lakes, near Leadville, according to the CPW. Today, those specimens reside at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.
In 1996, CPW biologists discovered the Hayden Creek cutthroat contain unique genes matching those of the museum specimens.
Of the nearly 200 trout rescued from the creek, 36 were sent to Newlin Creek near Canon City in hopes they would reproduce naturally.
The other 158 were taken to the Roaring Judy Hatchery where, June 12th, spawning operators began.
Seth Firestone, hatchery manager, said roe was stripped from 10 female cutthroat and mixed with milt from 10 males the first day. Action continued June 19 and the staff is hopeful for more success the week of June 26…
From The Aspen Daily News (Curtis Wackerle):
Water management issues on the East Slope mean that the Roaring Fork River will continue to experience natural flows unaltered by diversions beneath the Continental Divide for another week to 10 days, a Pitkin County official said on Wednesday.
On June 14, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. ceased transbasin diversions from Grizzly Reservoir to the South Fork of Lake Creek, which in the weeks prior had been running at about 600 cubic feet per second. With that additional water going down the Roaring Fork toward Aspen, water levels spiked dramatically, from around 300 cfs above Difficult Creek on June 14 to 800 cfs by June 16. The river appears to have peaked at 1,200 cfs above Difficult Creek on Monday.
When the Fork is flowing near or above 1,000 cfs upstream of Aspen, water overtops the banks as the river meanders through the North Star Nature Preserve, creating what some are calling Lake North Star. Boaters this week have been able to float over what is normally acres of grassland between the highway and the foot of Aspen Mountain.
While Lake North Star has been drawing more boaters, higher flows throughout the basin have officials calling on the recreating public to take extreme caution whenever they are in or around rivers.
From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):
Water levels on the Roaring Fork River are expected to rise next week as Twin Lakes Reservoir reaches capacity.
Officials at the Twin Lakes Canal Company expect the reservoir to fill between Tuesday and Thursday next week. That means that the 625 cubic feet per second of water that is typically diverted to the Front Range through a tunnel on Independence Pass will instead flow down the Roaring Fork River.
That, in addition to peaking snowmelt, means flows on the river could nearly triple next week. It is expected that the North Star Nature Preserve will flood. This is healthy for the wetlands.
Officials at the Bureau of Reclamation said releases from Ruedi Reservoir into the Fryingpan River will decrease over the weekend. This reduces the risk of flooding at the confluence of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork in Basalt. Ruedi Reservoir is about 80 percent full.
From TheDenverChannel.com (Oscar Contreras):
Medano Creek is now approaching what’s called “surge flow,” a phenomenon where creek water flows in waves across the sand.
The combination of a sufficiently steep channel, a sandy creek bottom and plenty of flowing water only exists in a few places on Earth, according to the spokesperson, “and Medano Creek is considered the best place in the world to experience surge flow!”
Because of the unusually cold and wet conditions in May, peak flow is occurring a little later than average this year, the spokesperson said.
You can follow detailed creek conditions and forecast flow on the National Park Service website.
The video below, courtesy of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, shows you exactly what happens during surge flow:
ASPEN – The unnatural order of things was restored Tuesday as the Twin Lakes Tunnel began diverting water to the east again from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River, after having been closed for two weeks.
The tunnel was closed temporarily after constraints in water rights required that it stop diverting from the Fork, Lost Man and Lincoln creeks, and other tributaries in the headwaters.
The tunnel under the Continental Divide had been diverting about 620 cubic feet per second (cfs) before diversions were stepped down over a three-day period from June 14 to 16, when the tunnel closed.
The reintroduced native flows down the Fork and Lincoln Creek added noticeable intensity to the river as it made its way through the Grottos, Stillwater and Slaughterhouse reaches near Aspen.
One of the constraints on the legal rights of the tunnel is that when the Colorado Canal in Ordway can divert freely because there is plenty of water in the lower Arkansas River, it cannot demand water from the Roaring Fork.
But the spring runoff has slowed, pinching the supply of water available to the canal from the Arkansas. As such, it can now legally call for water from the Roaring Fork.
“The Colorado Canal is being called out, so we can start diverting the tunnel under the direct flow portion of the right,” wrote Kevin Lusk, the president of the board of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. and a principal engineer at Colorado Springs Utilities, in an email Tuesday.
The other constraint was that the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. had filled its storage allotment of 54,452 acre-feet of water in Twin Lakes Reservoir.
With that “bucket” filled, and the Colorado Canal still in priority, the tunnel had to be closed.
Not all of the water diverted from the Fork’s headwaters goes to the Colorado Canal, however, as the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System, of which the Twin Lakes Tunnel is the key component, now also helps meet water needs in several Front Range cities.
The diversion system is technically owned by the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., which is based in Ordway. But Aurora, Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, and Pueblo own almost all of the shares in the company.
On Tuesday, the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which begins at Grizzly Reservoir on Lincoln Creek, was opened back up and about 200 cubic feet per second began flowing east, primarily from Lincoln Creek and the creeks in Brooklyn, New York, and Tabor gulches.
In response, levels in the Roaring Fork River near Aspen fell sharply.
The river at Difficult Campground, for example, was flowing at 390 cfs at 6 a.m., Tuesday morning, but had fallen to 244 cfs by 8 p.m.
And the measuring gauge on Stillwater Drive, just below the North Star Nature Preserve, showed the river flowing there at 510 cfs at 6 a.m. and at 311 cfs by 8 p.m.
On Wednesday, Lusk said that new calls for water from various shareholders in the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. mean that water from Lost Man Creek and the main stem of the Fork would soon be added to the flow of water being sent east through the tunnel.
Lusk said he expected the tunnel to continue diverting water through the summer.
This marked the second year in a row the Twin Lakes Tunnel was forced to cease diverting due to wet conditions on the east side of the pass.
During most of the time the Twin Lakes Tunnel was closed, diversions continued to flow as usual through the Bousted Tunnel, which sends water east from the headwaters of the Fryingpan River, as well as from Hunter, Midway, and No Name creeks near Aspen.
Around 800 cfs has been flowing through the Bousted Tunnel for most of June.
And according to the Pueblo Chieftain, the total diversion from the Fry-Ark project so far this year is about 51,000 acre-feet of water.
Add that to the approximately 25,000 acre-feet diverted so far by Twin Lakes, and it means about 76,000 acre-feet has been diverted from the Roaring Fork River watershed so far this year, not counting what may have been sent through the Busk-Ivanhoe Tunnel, which also diverts from the upper Fryingpan.
Ruedi Reservoir, by comparison, can hold 102,373 acre-feet.
Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Daily News, and Coyote Gulch are collaborating on coverage of rivers and waters. The Daily News published a version of this story on Thursday, July 30, 2016.
By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism
ASPEN – For the second time in two years the native flows to the upper Roaring Fork River have been restored as the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. has had to curtail its diversions and close the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which since June 6 had been moving 600-plus cubic feet per second of water under the Continental Divide.
After the tunnel was closed Thursday afternoon and the upper Roaring Fork River had regained the natural flow of its two biggest tributaries – Lost Man and Lincoln creeks – the river bounded down the slick granite in the Grottos area and erupted in a frenzy of churning whitewater.
The Grottos on June 13, and on June 16
Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. began diverting the headwaters of the Roaring Fork in earnest this year in late May. It ramped up diversions through the Twin Lakes Tunnel to above 600 cfs on June 6 and kept them in the 610 cfs to 620 cfs range until Tuesday, June 14, when the diversions in the tunnel were reduced by about half.
By Wednesday, flows in the tunnel were around 250 cfs and were turned down to a trickle of 4 cfs by Thursday afternoon.
Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. first reduced the flow of water to the tunnel on Tuesday by letting the natural flow of Lost Man Creek run into the Roaring Fork River again, instead of diverting it to the entrance to the Twin Lakes Tunnel, which begins at Grizzly Reservoir.
The flows of Lost Man Creek added about 250 cfs into the main stem of the upper Fork as it ran past Lost Man campground.
Then on Thursday afternoon, Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. took the next step and closed the tunnel. That sent another 200 cfs or so down lower Lincoln Creek, which runs into the Fork just above the Grottos.
Just after 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Lincoln Creek quickly went from a clear and docile stream that could be easily walked across to a turbid river flowing strong enough to lift a man off his feet.
Lincoln Creek, before and after
The 4-mile long Twin Lakes Tunnel is now expected to remain closed for two to three weeks and the recent hot weather may keep the water rising in the Fork as the last of the high elevation snowpack comes off.
On Friday, a cold and swiftly moving Roaring Fork had risen above its banks in portions of the North Star Nature Preserve, flooding some areas but not to the extent of the high water in June 2015.
Last year on June 18 the Fork reached a peak flow of 1,680 cfs, as recorded by the gauge “Roaring Fork River Near Aspen, CO,” located at Stillwater Drive just east of Aspen proper.
Yesterday at 4:30 p.m., as the tunnel was closed, the Fork at Stillwater was flowing at 597 cfs.
But by midnight, with the strong flow from Lincoln Creek added, the Fork had climbed to 817 cfs.
It then hit a high of 927 cfs at 7:45 a.m. on Friday morning, before falling back to 857 cfs by 2:30 p.m. Friday.
By midday Friday, the swelling river was licking the porch of a small cabin on the banks of the Fork in the Stillwater section, but unlike last year, it had not yet flooded the inside of the cabin and a nearby art studio.
The river, however, had risen high enough to flood portions of the North Star Nature Preserve and other land along the river. So far, the high water had not produced flooding in scale with the dramatic size of last year’s “Lake North Star.”
Turn Tunnel Off
The Twin Lakes Tunnel is the key component of the Independence Pass Transmountain Diversion System, which was constructed in the 1930s and is owned and operated by Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co.
Notably, the company does not own and operate Twin Lakes Reservoir, as it sold the reservoir on the east side of Independence Pass to the Bureau of Reclamation and the reservoir is now managed as part of the Fry-Ark project.
The Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co., did, however, retain the right to store 54,452 acre-feet in Twin Lakes Reservoir, which can hold a total of 147,500 acre-feet, or about a third again more than Ruedi Reservoir.
But under its water rights, after Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. reaches its storage allotment in Twin Lakes Reservoir as it did this week, it has to stop diverting if the Colorado Canal can still divert 756 cfs directly from the lower Arkansas River.
It’s rare that two of the constraints in the water rights held by Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. overlap and it has to stop diverting West Slope water, but it happened last year and again this year.
And both times were a reflection of the high levels of water in the lower Arkansas River basin.
If flows in the lower Arkansas drop, then the Colorado Canal will likely be called out by a senior diverter and Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. can again divert water from the headwaters of the upper Roaring Fork and send it directly to the canal.
The Colorado Canal is near Ordway, CO, where Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Co. is based. Most of the shares in the company are owned by Front Range cities, which receive the majority of the water normally diverted from the upper Roaring Fork.
Tunnel Diversion Graphics
Grottos, Broad View
Grottos, Middle Indicator Rock
Grottos, Lower Indicator Rock
Lincoln Creek, log indicator