#Runoff news: Big expectations for the Arkansas River this season

From KRDO.com (Katie Spencer):

“We’re definitely looking at high water this year,” said Dennis Wied, the owner of Raft Masters.

Wied said he has high expectations for this season.

“This is going to be one of those epic kind of years where the real high water enthusiasts will be out in numbers,” Wied said.

Water flows are about 1,200 cubic feet per second in the Arkansas River right now, but rafting officials say they’re expecting that to grow three times as the snow continues to melt.

Arkansas River Basin High/Low graph May 22, 2017 via the NRCS.

CPW puts a $20 bounty on Northern Pike at Green Mountain Reservoir

Northern Pike graphic via The Hook and Hackle Company.

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

A cash-based incentive offered by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board encouraging anglers to catch northern pike at Green Mountain Reservoir resumes this year on May 25. Initiated in 2016, the reward program encourages anglers to participate directly in ongoing efforts to remove the illegally introduced predators from the reservoir.

CPW biologists say the presence of the predatory fish in Green Mountain is a significant concern. In addition to the potential impacts to fish in the reservoir, if they escape and take up residency downstream in Gold Medal sections of the Blue and Colorado rivers, sportfishing opportunities for trout could see negative consequences. If the predatory fish eventually reach federally listed critical habitat in the Colorado River, they would prey upon the state’s endangered native fishes – the Colorado pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail.

“Northern pike are aggressive predators with big appetites and if their population continues to grow in Green Mountain Reservoir, that will likely have profound impacts to local fisheries in the future,” said CPW’s Jon Ewert, aquatic biologist from Hot Sulphur Springs. “This is beneficial in several ways. Anglers can catch a predatory fish and earn some money, it helps us protect fishing here, and helps with our native fish recovery efforts as well.

According to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, the presence of predators like northern pike and smallmouth bass in native fish critical habitat significantly increases the difficulty of delisting the endangered fishes.

“We all have an interest in making sure our waters are managed appropriately and we encourage the angling public to stay involved,” said Ewert. “We had excellent response last year, and we expect anglers will be eager to take advantage of this opportunity again this year.”

To participate, anglers must bring their northern pike to the Heeney Marina along with their driver’s license and fishing license.

CPW will keep fish heads for analysis, returning the body of the fish to the anglers. Anglers not wishing to keep northern pike can donate their catch to the Marina for later distribution.

Anglers are encouraged to catch and keep as many smallmouth bass and northern pike as they desire, unless special regulations are in effect on specific waters.

For more information, contact CPW’s Hot Sulphur Springs office at 970-725-6200, or Heeney Marina at 970-724-9441

To report illicit stocking or any other illegal wildlife activity anonymously, anglers can call Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648.

For more information about fishing in Colorado, visit the CPW website.

#ColoradoRiver: 24th annual Summit County State of the River meeting recap #COriver

Brad Udall via CSU Water Institute

From The Summit Daily News (Kevin Fixler):

[Brad] Udall, a distinguished climate researcher, was on hand as the keynote speaker for the 24th annual Summit County State of the River meeting hosted by the Blue River Watershed Group and Colorado River District. The yearly gathering to discuss the season’s snowpack, local reservoir operations and health of the headwater region’s water bodies was highlighted by Udall’s research on how rising temperatures are a contributing factor to significant reductions in river flows.

The study, conducted with Jonathan Overpeck, a renowned hydrology expert and the director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, points to climate change today producing below-average flows out of the Colorado River. From 2000 to 2014, it resulted in 19 percent less water than the 100-year average, despite relatively consistent precipitation levels, as also ultimately occurred during the most recent winter after some slow beginnings.

“As many of you know, we started out the year in a very poor way and all of a sudden it went like gangbusters in almost the whole Rocky Mountain region in December into January,” said the Colorado River District’s Jim Pokrandt. “Then the spigot turned off.”

Those massive snowfalls in December and January created hope of an especially strong water year, but an abrupt drop-off thereafter soon resulted in below-average totals approaching April. As of May 1, snowpack in the Upper Colorado River Basin was only just ahead of a typical year following disappointing precipitation in the months of March and April. The late-April snowstorms rescued what would have otherwise been a below-average snowpack.

Across the state, totals are now in line with average years, but it’s a matter of arguing over what could have been. Udall thinks his research definitively shows the culprit.

“It doesn’t take a lot to figure this out,” he said. “It’s due to higher temperatures. This does not bode well for the future.”

Colorado recorded its hottest March on record based on 123 years of data, at almost 9 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal. Whether you believe it comes down to the unseasonable heat — or what may be causing it — the fact is the snow rarely arrived to Summit County during that month.

The science is more complex than warmer temperatures simply preventing precipitation from transforming into snow, though conditions also need to be right for that to happen. The hydrologic cycle dictates that the atmosphere holds on to 20 percent more water for every 5 degree increase in temperature. Evaporation, where liquid is turned into vapor, is taking place as the thermometer rises as well. A similar process happens with plant life that prevents water molecules from ever touching the ground, and — also combined with a lengthening growing season due to climate change — eventually less water is forming in our major waterways.

That all said, these types of water levels on the Colorado River are not unprecedented, with the 15-year drought between 1953-67 as a similar period. Those lower flows were based on a lack of precipitation, though, not heightened temperatures as they are presently. Add in growing demands on the river in what several speakers last week called “a pretty good water year,” with precipitation historically flat as well as swelling populations, and suddenly we’re staring down the subsequent depletion of a stock used in Colorado for drinking, recreation, crop irrigation and export to several other western states rooted in federal law.

“We’re in a long-term situation where demand on the resource exceeds the supply,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District.

Udall remains optimistic we can still dig our way out of this hole, to put water levels on crucial western rivers like the Colorado back where they should and need to be. It will require a concerted effort, he said, to reduce greenhouse gases through a paradigm shift away from past methods that are outdated, and by way of current technologies. The longer we wait, he added, the bleaker our water future will be.

“It’s warming,” Udall said of the climate in his closing remarks. “We’re the cause. It’s serious. We’re sure, and we can fix it.”

Greg Hobbs: Ruedi Reservoir and Dillon Reservoir May 5, 2017

Greg Hobbs just can’t stay in the city.

Ruedi Reservoir (Fryingpan River) west of the Divide from upstream through the reservoir

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Dillon Reservoir (Blue River) looking east to the Divide south around the reservoir to the west at Frisco)

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Greg Hobbs

Breckenridge: “…without infrastructure, this community stops” — Tim Casey

This beautiful pattern emerges in clouds when two different layers of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds.  Where the two layers meet, another 'sheer' layer is created that becomes unstable due to the changes in speed. Pictured are Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds recently seen over Colorado Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3301225/What-caused-strange-clouds-form-Colorado-Scientists-explain-weather-pattern-creates-ocean-sky.html#ixzz3qSbT51xB  Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
This beautiful pattern emerges in clouds when two different layers of air in the atmosphere are moving at different speeds. Where the two layers meet, another ‘sheer’ layer is created that becomes unstable due to the changes in speed. Pictured are Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds recently seen over Colorado
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3301225/What-caused-strange-clouds-form-Colorado-Scientists-explain-weather-pattern-creates-ocean-sky.html#ixzz3qSbT51xB
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From the Summit Daily News (Kailyn Lamb):

Brown & Caldwell, a construction consulting firm, reviewed the estimate the town received from Moltz Construction in 2016. The estimated cost of $53 million for the new water plant was a surprise to the council during their October budget retreat, causing them to table a final decision. Staff from Brown & Caldwell stated at the January council meeting that the Moltz estimate was thorough and only had slight variances from their own.

“Without water, without sewer, without fire, police, etc., without infrastructure, this community stops. This is, I think, the fundamental purpose of government, is to provide this type of infrastructure,” said Tim Casey, a member of the town’s water task force.

In order to pay for the plant, Breckenridge is working with the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority. The organization is giving the town a 20-year loan with an estimated interest rate of less than 2 percent, said Brian Waldes, the director of finance for the town. Water rent for the town will continue to rise at the previously scheduled rate of 5 percent per year. Waldes said that the town is not anticipating any additional increases. The money from water rent funds will be used to pay the water plant loan.

The plant, which will be located north of the town off of Highway 9, will have a restroom that is accessible from the recreation path located in the area. There will also be a station to fill water bottles.

James Phelps, the interim director of public works, said that the delay in final approval from the council set back the construction timeline for the new plant. Right now the town is working on getting the required permits, a process that could take six months. Phelps said that preparation for the water plant should start around June. The plant will likely be finished in 2020…

Planning for the new plant was largely about getting ahead of water demand for the town. Breckenridge’s current facility, the Gary Roberts Water Treatment Plant, was built in 1971. With only one source of water, the town is vulnerable to drought or other natural disasters. If the plant breaks down, the town would be without an alternative water source.

“We’re discreet. In other words, we’re not hooked into any other town’s … water system,” Waldes said. “If our water system goes down for whatever reason, be it a natural disaster or mechanical failure, there’s no other water plant that can help us.”

Phelps said that once the new water plant is complete, it will enable the town to shut down the Gary Roberts plant temporarily for repairs and general maintenance.

As the demand for water grows with the population, Kim Dykstra, the director of communications for Breckenridge, said that water conservation is still one of the town’s main goals. Phelps added that the new plant could allow the town to expand its service areas to homes that have been getting water from wells, potentially taking dependency away from a water source that may eventually run dry.

Casey also mentioned that because the plant takes water from a diversion of the Blue River, it leaves water in the river, which is another environmental benefit.

The plant comes from years of planning from both the task force as well as the from the feasibility study. But the town was able to build the plant due to past council members obtaining water rights as far back as 1883, Phelps said. It helped to keep the town steps ahead.

Whither the invasive mussel prevention at Green Mountain Reservoir?

Green Mountain Dam via the Bureau of Reclamation
Green Mountain Dam via the Bureau of Reclamation

From the Summit Daily News (Kevin Fixler):

It may still be peak ski season, but the time for boating is right around the corner and local officials are at a loss for how to keep up an invasive species prevention program at Green Mountain Reservoir with funding reserves currently bone dry…

Green Mountain, located on the northern end of the county along the Blue River, is considered a relatively high-priority site because of its proximity to the Front Range, and, as a result, large volumes of boaters. It’s why Summit County administrators are ramping up efforts to find financial resources and maintain area boat inspections on the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation-owned reservoir and curb these critters’ arrival…

Green Mountain is much smaller scale, with annual inspection costs that run upwards of $80,000. From 2009-14, the U.S. Forest Service fully funded these watercraft review and decontamination measures based out of the Heeney Marina, but the federal agency was forced to eliminate the program in 2015 due to slashed budgets. Colorado Parks and Wildlife stepped up and paid for the aquatic nuisance species prevention efforts in 2015 and 2016, but recently ran into diminished allocations as well and had to pull out of Summit and focus reserves on only extremely high-risk CPW waters this upcoming summer…

For its part, the Bureau of Reclamation acknowledges awareness of this growing problem, but does not itself conduct or organize recreation or related facilities on the bodies of water it possesses. Instead, it merely authorizes approved activities as managed by partner agencies, such as Larimer County at both Horsetooth Reservoir and Carter Lake in Northern Colorado, and therefore expects those entities to cover these associated costs.

CPW still intends to provide training to staff at Green Mountain’s Heeney Marina in 2017, and do its best to assist with monitoring at a reduced rate. The state agency is also presently in discussions with the Forest Service, as well as other organizations, to see what amount of collaboration might be possible to continue the nuisance species prevention programming in future years.

Meanwhile, at a governmental level, the idea of a bill this legislative cycle requiring a permit in the form of a vessel sticker, say, at a cost of $5 per kayak and $25 per larger boat, has been floated. But as of yet, no one in the General Assembly has stepped up to sponsor such a proposal, even as summer fast approaches.

Calling off kindergarten in the name of water supply

Mile High Water Talk

Relocating Dillon to build a reservoir looks better now than in 1961, says town local turned Denver Water employee.

By Kristi Delynko

It’s said that everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten. But what if you had to skip kindergarten because your school was underwater?

Joel Zdechlik, 1961 Joel Zdechlik in 1961, the year he was supposed to start kindergarten in the Town of Dillon.

While it may sound like one of those unlikely “dog ate my homework” scenarios, Joel Zdechlik spent exactly three days in kindergarten before his school in the Town of Dillon was closed and torn down to make way for Denver Water’s Dillon Reservoir.

Building the reservoir was not a popular decision among the residents of Dillon, including his parents, Zdechlik recalled.

Fast forward 50-plus years. Relations between Denver Water and the Dillon community have turned around. And Zdechlik? He’s been a water distribution manager for the…

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