Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #runoff #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

From email from Reclamation [May 6, 2020] (Elizabeth Jones):

Green Mountain Reservoir is decreasing release to the Blue River. Green Mountain Dam will adjust release from 1,450 cfs to approximately 150 cfs in multiple adjustments over the next three days. Green Mountain Reservoir is discontinuing release for support of the Coordinated Reservoir Operations Program. No main stem Colorado River water rights administration is in effect. Green Mountain Powerplant will use all release for power generation while exercising the 1935 Direct Flow Hydropower Water Right. Green Mountain Reservoir is storing water under the 1935 First Fill Storage Right.

If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Thank you.

Elizabeth E. Jones | Public Affairs | Bureau of Reclamation | Missouri Basin Region | 406.247.7607

Map of the Blue River drainage basin in Colorado, USA. Made using USGS data. By Shannon1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69327693

The delicate dance of Dillon Reservoir during spring #runoff — @AspenJournlism #snowpack

Dillon Reservoir in Summit County is the largest reservoir in the Denver Water system, holding more than 257,000 acre-feet of water when it’s full. With two outlets — the Blue River and Roberts Tunnel — Denver Water officials say it’s complicated to operate. Photo credit: Denver Water via Aspen Journalism

From Aspen Journalism (David O. Williams):

Denver Water officials increased the release of water from Dillon Reservoir into the Blue River to about 400 cubic feet per second in the first week of May as inflow held steady at about 500 cfs through Monday, May 11. The latter number is expected to steadily rise as spring runoff picks up.

The current forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Colorado River Basin Forecast Center estimates as of May 11 that there is 146,000 acre-feet of water — in the form of snowmelt — that will flow into Dillon Reservoir through July 31. There’s currently 17,500 acre-feet of space in the reservoir, according to Denver Water, so about 128,500 acre-feet will flow out of the reservoir either to the Blue River or Roberts Tunnel by July 31, with an estimated 13,000 acre-feet through the tunnel.

All of these complex calculations are the first steps in a delicate dance Denver Water performs each spring to balance public safety with Denver’s water needs, recreation, hydroelectric demands and obligations to downstream senior water-rights holders.

“Dillon is our biggest reservoir and one of our more complicated to operate,” said Nathan Elder, water resources manager for Denver Water. “Most of our other reservoirs only have one outlet, but Dillon’s got both the outlet to the Blue and the outlet to the Roberts Tunnel, which provides water to the East Slope and down the North Fork (of the South Platte River) to Strontia Springs Reservoir and then to our customers.”

The Roberts Tunnel, finished in 1962 about the same time the old town of Dillon was relocated to its current spot and the Dillon Dam was built, is a 23-mile concrete conduit that diverts water from the Blue River basin on the Western Slope to the South Platte Basin on the Front Range to supply more than 1.4 million Denver Water customers.

Colorado transmountain diversions via the State Engineer’s office

This system is what’s known as a transmountain diversion — one of many that bring water from the Colorado River basin on the west side of the Continental Divide to the state’s population center on the Front Range. What it’s not, Elder said, is a way to avoid dangerous spring-runoff flooding.

“We can’t use Roberts Tunnel as a flood-control option,” he said. “So we’re very careful about the amount of water we take from the West Slope over to the East Slope. And when we use the Roberts Tunnel, we can only take it over to the East Slope if it’s put towards the demand. We can’t just dump it over there to prevent flooding or high flows below Dillon.”

The 2014 Colorado River Cooperative Agreement places a 400,000 acre-foot limit on Blue River water stored in existing or future Denver Water storage facilities on the Front Range.

There are more than 1,000 properties in regulatory floodplains in Summit County, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and quite a few of them are along the Blue as it makes its way northwest through Silverthorne and toward its confluence with the Colorado River near Kremmling.

The Blue River travels north-northwest through Dillon Reservoir to its confluence with the Colorado River near Kremmling. Each spring Denver Water performs a delicate balancing act to accommodate flows from snowpack runoff. Photo credit: Denver Water via Aspen Journalism

Snowpack melting

This time of year, as snowpack begins to melt into local tributaries — the Blue, Snake River and Tenmile Creek all feed Dillon Reservoir from the south — Elder and his team closely monitor snowmelt forecasts and weather reports to coordinate with local officials to prevent flooding.

“Denver Water has worked with the town over the years to release water from Dillon Reservoir at rates between 50 cfs and 1,800 cfs,” said Tom Daugherty, Silverthorne’s director of public works. “They have done a very good job of doing that. Denver Water attends our local meetings concerning snowmelt runoff and inform us of what they expect.”

FEMA designates 2,500 cfs as a 10-year flood level just below Dillon Dam, while 3,350 cfs there would be a 100-year flood level. The amount of runoff pouring into the reservoir varies widely, depending on weather conditions and snowpack, from a low inflow of 410 cfs in the drought year of 2012 to a high of 3,408 cfs in 1995.

The amount of snowpack on the Front Range and rate of melting due to high temperatures or rain events also impacts when Denver Water turns on the Roberts Tunnel and how much water it takes out of Dillon Reservoir. The Blue River Decree dictates that Denver Water needs to keep as much water on the Western Slope as possible and can take water only to meet demand.

“Last year was a good example of that,” Denver Water spokesman Todd Hartman said. “We had so much snowpack on the Front Range that we just didn’t need the Roberts Tunnel water and couldn’t take it because of that demand issue.”

That resulted in higher flows on the Blue below the dam last runoff season.

“It got up to around 1,900 cfs, and we didn’t actually turn on the Roberts Tunnel until the second week in August last year,” Elder said. “That’s after everything on the East Slope filled, and we started dipping into that storage and streamflow dropped off on the East Slope.”

This year, there’s a similarly healthy snowpack above the reservoir and also decent snowpack on the Front Range, but temperatures have been higher and the spring runoff season hasn’t been nearly as wet and cool as last year.

“We have a Snotel (snow telemetry) site on top of Hoosier Pass, which is extremely important for monitoring that basin and for forecasting, and it’s still at 121% of normal right now,” Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist Karl Wetlaufer said in early May. “It looks like it did actually have a net accumulation through April and is just really just starting to turn around and melt out now over the last few days with this warm weather.”

The Natural Resources Conservation Service produces snowmelt forecasts used by Denver Water, which also taps into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast center.

Based on information from Snotel sites, snowpack above Dillon Reservoir peaked at 127% of normal. The forecast center’s inflow outlook for Dillon Reservoir is 104% of average, and the forecast from the Natural Resources Conservation Service was 107% of average.

The first priority for Denver Water is to fill the reservoir to meet customer needs, but it also tries to minimize high flows out of the reservoir via the Blue River and maintain water levels so that the Frisco and Dillon marinas can operate from June through Labor Day. Elder said the minimum operating level for both Dillon and Frisco marinas is 9,012 feet in elevation.

The goal, Elder said, is to get the reservoir to that level or higher by June 12. On May 11, the surface level of the water in the reservoir was at 9,010 feet. The reservoir is full when the elevation of the water, as measured on the dam, is 9,017 feet, which is 257,304 acre-feet of water. At 9,010 feet, the reservoir is holding about 236,232 acre-feet of water.

Release too much and too early — to avoid high flows and flooding downstream — and Denver Water runs the risk of missing the chance to fill Dillon for use by its customers later in the summer season as well as keep the reservoir full for a long boating season. And then there are the downstream hydroelectric factors and calls by senior water-rights holders.

An inspection team leaving the 23-mile Roberts Tunnel east portal in Park County in 2016. The tunnel, which diverts water from the Blue River to the Front Range is inspected every five years. Photo credit: Denver Water via Aspen Journalism

Senior water rights

While the Blue River Decree does not have a volumetric limit on how much water Denver Water can take out of Dillon Reservoir through the Roberts Tunnel to meet its customer needs, the Roberts Tunnel right is from 1946 and is junior to Green Mountain Reservoir and Shoshone Power Plant rights, which limit the ability of Denver Water to divert. The Roberts Tunnel right is for 788 cfs, which is not a storage right but instead a direct-flow right.

So if Green Mountain gets toward the end of its fill season and hasn’t filled and Dillon has diverted, then Denver Water owes water to Green Mountain. Green Mountain Reservoir, located on the Blue River in northern Summit County, was created specifically to compensate the Western Slope for diversions to the Front Range as part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

Then on the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon, well downstream from where the Blue feeds the Colorado at Kremmling, there’s Xcel Energy’s Shoshone Generating Station hydroelectric plant — which has one of the most senior water rights on the main stem of the Colorado River. A 1902 right draws 1,250 cfs of water downstream to meet the plant’s needs. During dry times of the year, such as late summer, the power plant often places a “call” on the river, meaning junior diverters upstream — including Denver Water — must stop diverting so that Shoshone can get its full allocation of water.

Elder said Denver Water wants to fill Dillon Reservoir quickly enough each spring before any potential Shoshone call. If a call came before Dillon was full, Denver Water would have to release water from Williams Fork Reservoir in order to keep water in Dillon Reservoir. However, Williams Fork can hold only 96,000 acre-feet of water.

“We want (both reservoirs) to fill quick enough that we fill both before that Shoshone power plant call comes on and before the senior call comes on the river, but not too quick that we fill before peak runoff where we get in those high-flow situations,” Elder said. “So it’s a real balancing act there. You’re balancing elevations for marinas, downstream water rights, filling the reservoir safely and then also any potential releases you may need to make from Roberts Tunnel.”

Aspen Journalism, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by its donors and funders, covers water and rivers in collaboration with the Summit Daily News and other Swift Communications newspapers. This story ran in the May 17 edition of the Summit Daily.

@USBR is prepared for releases from Green Mountain Reservoir for the #ColoradoRiver “15-mile reach” if needed to prevent dryups

The 15-Mile Reach is located near Grand Junction, Colorado

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

Though it’s looking like it won’t be needed, officials have been standing by with 6,500 acre-feet of water set aside in Green Mountain Reservoir in Summit County. They’re ready to release it if needed in order to avoid what’s referred to as an “April hole” in rivers flows in the Colorado River between Palisade and the river’s confluence with the Gunnison River.

That stretch is known as the 15-Mile Reach, a focal point for protecting flows for the sake of endangered fish in the Colorado River. If flows fall too low between where irrigation water is diverted and the Gunnison flows boost water volume, endangered fish can be left more vulnerable to predators, reduced habitat and potentially less food availability.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Four endangered fish — the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker — are the focus of recovery efforts in the Colorado River and its tributaries in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

A court case and operating policy at Green Mountain, which is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, have resulted in establishment of a 66,000-acre-foot historic users pool there that is available to irrigators, municipal and other water users to replace water that otherwise wouldn’t be available to them due to calls by holders of senior water rights.

Victor Lee, a Bureau of Reclamation engineer, said that as part of another court case, it was decided that when the pool isn’t needed for those other uses, it could be used to augment flow in the 15-Mile Reach, for the sake of the fish. The pool is the largest single source of water for boosting flows in that reach, with 40,000 or 50,000 acre feet sometimes available for that purpose, he said.

Typically that water has helped boost flows in late summer and early fall, but over the last few years its use has been expanded to include the startup of the irrigation season when needed.

Lee said usually that startup can occur without excessively drawing down flows in the 15-Mile Reach. But the “April hole” can develop in circumstances such as when there’s little rain and a cold snap halts the beginning of spring runoff flows.

In recent years user pool managers including the Bureau of Reclamation, irrigators and state started considering how they might use, in April, water they didn’t deliver the prior fall. Last year they went a step further, decided to intentionally hold over some of the water that normally would have been released in the fall and keep it available for use this spring if need be…

The Government Highline Canal, near Grand Junction, delivers water from the Colorado River, and is managed by the Grand Valley Water Users Association. Representatives from the Grand Valley Water Users Association invited members of the Front Range Water Council to discuss demand management, but the FRWC declined. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

The goal is to keep flows in the 15 miles at 810 cubic feet per second or more. On Monday the stretch had flows of about 1,440 cfs, but the Grand Valley Irrigation Co. was expected to begin diverting the same day, and the Grand Valley Water Users Association had begun increasing diversion. Lee has been consulting regularly with irrigation entities, weather and runoff forecasters and reservoir managers. While he thinks the flows in the crucial stretch will fall to 850 cfs, it looks like they will increase from there as temperatures warm and more moist weather arrives, likely making it unnecessary to augment flows to bridge the gap before spring runoff season begins in earnest.

Green Mountain Reservoir, on the Blue River between Kremmling and and Silverthorne, was built for Western Slope interests. Photo/Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Mountain Town News.

@USBR: Decreased Releases from Green Mountain Reservoir

Green Mountain Reservoir. Photo credit: Panoramio

From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

This evening, 17 September, 2018, we at Reclamation adjusted releases from Green Mountain Reservoir to the Blue River from 525 to 475 cubic feet per second (cfs). Releases will remain at 475 cfs until further notice.

Feel free to contact me with any questions at jbishop@usbr.gov or by phone at 970-962-4326.

#ColoradoRiver District to release water for Grand Valley irrigators, Fryingpan and Roaring Fork will benefit

Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The Colorado River District has agreed to boost water levels to help fish in the Roaring Fork River watershed while also conserving water for use by local irrigators later in the season and improving the chances for boosting flows this fall for endangered fish.

The action also could help protect water quality in the case of anticipated ash in waterways due to expected flooding and debris flows resulting from the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt.

The river district is releasing water from Ruedi Reservoir above Basalt to boost flows in the Fryingpan River and Roaring Fork River to help reduce water temperatures to benefit trout. Low flows and warm temperatures in western Colorado have led to Colorado Parks and Wildlife urging anglers to avoid fishing later in the day on numerous western Colorado waterways due to the stress trout currently are facing.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation approved the river district releases last week. They are expected to range between 50 and 100 cubic feet per second.

River district spokesman Zane Kessler said the water to be released is owned and managed by the river district’s enterprise…

The water technically is being delivered downstream for Grand Valley irrigation needs but is creating environmental benefits on its way there. The water otherwise would have been delivered from Green Mountain Reservoir south of Kremmling.

Kessler said the Ruedi releases will allow for conserving a part of what’s called the historic users pool at Green Mountain Reservoir for use later in the season, which would benefit Grand Valley irrigators. The releases also increase the chances that, despite it being a dry year, that pool can be declared to have a surplus. That surplus could then be delivered in September and October to what’s known as the 15-Mile Reach, a stretch of the Colorado River in the Grand Valley where the flows would benefit endangered fish.

“This has never been done before,” Kessler said of the flow agreement. “But we’ve rarely seen river levels like this before either.”

The potential for easing the impacts of ash flow also could be felt in the Grand Valley. There is concern that ash flows could force the Clifton Water District to suspend use of Colorado River water. Area water providers have an agreement to help each other in meeting short-term water needs should that kind of emergency situation arise, but doing so this year would further deplete drought-stressed supplies.

Kessler said retaining some Green Mountain Reservoir water for release later in the year also could benefit recreational uses of the Upper Colorado River.

Meanwhile, the river district is taking another step aimed at helping ensure that benefiting fish in the Roaring Fork Valley doesn’t harm fish on the Colorado River upstream of the Roaring Fork confluence. The district is currently delivering what Kessler called “fish water” from Wolford Reservoir north of Kremmling into the upper Colorado River because it is having to lower the reservoir’s water level in preparation for doing some work on the dam there.

Heeding science in managing the #ColoradoRiver — The Mountain Town News #COriver

Eric Kuhn has retired as manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, but he believes he has an important message about the Colorado River. Photo credit: Allen Best/The Mountain Town News

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

A time of big pivots for Colorado water — with yet another reckoning to come

Eric Kuhn is now retired as general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, but he may be working on the most important project of his career, a book.

In that book, working with John Fleck of Albuquerque, he’s trying to make the case that science should not be ignored in figuring out how to manage the Colorado River during the 21st century—as it was when Congress approved the 1922 compact governing allocations among the seven states, Indian tribes, and, somewhat more fuzzily, Mexico.

Kuhn was honored recently in Glenwood Springs by his staff and others from around Colorado for his 37 years of work.

Trained as an electrical engineer, Kuhn had been a naval office on a nuclear-powered submarine before pursuing a career in nuclear power plants. But even in 1981, he could see that nuclear power wasn’t going in the right direction. When he noticed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal for a position at the Glenwood Springs-based water district, he applied.

Obviously, he got the job, moving from energy to water, from California to Colorado.

It was sharp pivot in Kuhn’s life. And Colorado since 1981 has also pivoted hard in very fundamental ways in its conversations about water.

Tom Alvey, who grows fruit and operates a packing shed in Hotchkiss, credited Kuhn with providing transparency and “getting the facts right” during his time as general manager of the Colorado River Water Conservation District, beginning in 1996.

Bill Trampe, who owns a ranch that sprawls between Crested Butte and Gunnison, lauded Kuhn for having “the foresight to see where we were headed and what we needed to do to be effective in protecting water for the Western Slope.”

Peter Fleming, the river district’s general counsel, testified to Kuhn’s “highly intellectual approach to negotiations.” As arguments and counterarguments were waged at one session, said Fleming, he observed Kuhn scribbling into a notepad. Peering over his boss’s shoulder, he said, he saw numbers. What did they represent? “He was calculating complex integers,” Fleming discovered. In that scribbling could be seen a larger lesson.

“He wasn’t disinterested in what was going on,” said Fleming. “He just knew that the timing wasn’t right for him to offer what would inevitably be a good solution.”

Denver Water’s Jim Lochhead was also at the gathering in Glenwood, just a few blocks from where he had for many years staffed the “Aspen office” of one of the state’s leading law firms. Lochhead drew attention to Kuhn’s influence beyond Colorado’s traditional Eastern Slope versus Western Slope schisms to the broader seven-state Colorado River Basin. There, Kuhn’s voice about preparing for a warming climate has become influential.

“He is collaborative. He is innovative. He thinks about different solutions. He listens. He tries to find the common ground,” said Lochhead, now chief executive of Denver Water, an agency that provides water to 25 percent of all Colorado residents.

A time of pivots

Nobody, however, spoke directly to the giant pivots in water politics, policies and problems in the 37 years since Kuhn arrived in Colorado.

One of the largest pivots had already begun in 1981. The federal government had spent most of the 20th century building the giant dams, canals and other hydraulic infrastructure in the West. In Colorado, the greatest ambition was evident in the gigantic transfer of water from the Colorado River headwaters near Grand Lake to the benefit of farmers in northeastern Colorado. It’s called the Colorado-Big Thompson Project.

The transfer—some would call it a heist — was opposed on the Western Slope, of course. One result of the compromise was a 1937 state law that created the river district and charged it with “conservation, use and development of water in the Colorado River and its principal tributaries in Colorado.” It covers 15 counties, including Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle. Southwestern Colorado has a similar district.

Another outcome was federal construction of Green Mountain Reservoir, on the Blue River north of Silverthorne. The dam had immediate benefits to the Western Slope, helping regulate flows to the benefit of farmers around Grand Junction. Much later, the regulated flows were crucial to providing water for endangered fish species in the Colorado River.

Green Mountain Reservoir, on the Blue River between Kremmling and and Silverthorne, was built for Western Slope interests. Photo/Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District via The Mountain Town News.

A later enterprise, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, hewed to the same template: It diverts water from the Roaring Fork drainage to farmers in southeast Colorado. For this, the Western Slope got Ruedi Reservoir. It was completed 50 years ago.

More projects were proposed, but in 1977 President Jimmy Carter announced they wouldn’t get funded. Westerners bristled and ridiculed Carter as a peanut-farmer in rain-drenched Georgia who didn’t understand the West. Ronald Reagan, arriving at the White House in 1981, was heralded as a Westerner who would right things. He only went half-way: Locals would have to come up with half the money for their dams and diversions. For most projects, it wasn’t nearly enough.

The Colorado River originates in Rocky Mountain Natonal Park and soon descends into the bucolic loveliness of Middle Park. Photo/Allen Best

Kuhn noted that during his time, two of the five projects on Carter’s hit list in Colorado were eventually built, if not to the sizes originally envisioned. One of them, Ridgway Reservoir (originally called Dallas Divide), provides hydroelectricity that is part of Aspen Electric’s 100 percent renewable portfolio.

Altogether, however, the river district during Kuhn’s time had a hand in building five smaller-size reservoirs. Wolford Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling, by far the largest, is two-thirds the size of Ruedi. It was built in co-operation with Denver Water.

The River District under Kuhn also worked with Denver Water on other projects. But when Kuhn started work in Glenwood Springs, the relations were rocky. Denver wanted to build a giant dam in the foothills southwest of the city. Two-thirds of the water behind the Two Forks Dam was to have come from the Western Slope, primarily Summit County. Water was to go to Denver’s fast-growing suburbs.

Kuhn had been assigned to represent the river district on a task force appointed by then-Gov. Dick Lamm, to help sort through the controversy. The Western Slope task force aligned with the environmental community and together they conceded need for a small Two Forks as well as expanded diversions from Winter Park area for an enlarged Gross Reservoir west of Boulder. In exchange, the task force said, Denver needed to commit to greater water conservation. Denver Water’s leaders, confident of their rightness to the point of cockiness, refused.

The drama was cut short in 1991 when the administration of President George H.W. Bush vetoed the project, which was to be on federal land, based on environmental impacts.

Kuhn points out that the levels of conservation the Western Slope and environmentalists asked of Denver were much less than what has actually occurred. Denver Water now uses the same water for roughly double the number of people it did in 1990. The default expectation of ever-more water supplies has been shattered.

“You have this decoupling of municipal growth and water use, and we really didn’t see that coming in the early 1980s,” Kuhn said in an interview last week.

Denver, Aspen and other communities have been part of a national trend of declining per-capita use of water that may be far from over. It’s a simple matter of economics. Wringing the sponge of water conservation is cheaper. More expensive is buying water from farms on the Great Plains, but it’s still cheaper than developing new supplies.

The Colorado River wends its way through southern Utah and, at Glen Canyon, is impounded into Lake Powell. Photo/Allen Best

Still being debated is how much water Colorado has to develop out of its entitlement, under compacts governing the Colorado River. As with Two Forks, a notion that the solution to water shortages is to build more dams and divert more still lingers. It assumes water remains available. A state report issued several years ago concluded that Colorado had as much as 1.5 million acre-feet of water in the Colorado River to develop.

Kuhn scoffed at that estimate. He said then that no more than 150,000 acre-feet remained—and, quite possibly, not even that. Even allocations for existing water uses are questionable because of the dangling uncertainty of the warming climate.

After rummaging around climate change science beginning in about 2000, Kuhn became increasingly vocal through published papers and other work about the need to recognize the profound implications of a warming climate on water supplies in the Colorado River and the demands.

“I was just reading some of the work that was coming out in the early 2000s, and it’s largely proven to be generally correct,” he said last week. “I am surprised how quickly it has come on, because there is so much noise in the system,” he added, referring to the inherent variability of weather, both temperature and precipitation. “Even from one year to the next there can be a lot of noise.”

A cloudy crystal ball

What this means exactly for Colorado is still hard to say. There’s still too much uncertainty about impacts to justify significant infrastructure investments at this time, according to even Denver Water. Kuhn agrees.

“It will take a long time to see how that pattern (of change) sets up,” he said.

Climate modeling suggests—but with low confidence—less snow and precipitation for southern Colorado and more for northern Colorado. The Elk Range between Aspen and Crested butte can be seen as a divide between that wetter and drier future.

“If I were in the southwest, in Durango, I would be a heck of a lot more concerned than if I were in Steamboat Springs, based on what we know now—but it’s still a guess,” he said.

Just inside the Mexican border, at San Luis Rio Colorado, nothing remains of the Colorado River except for its sandy bed. Photo/Allen Best

For the broader Colorado River Basin, though, Kuhn expects less water in the Colorado River as it flows into the Grand Canyon past Lees Ferry. In this, last winter was a harbinger of the future. There are profound implications for how the seven states of the Colorado River Basin – plus Mexico—move forward.

And that is the big idea for the book now being written. In it, he and Fleck point to a report issued before the Colorado River Compact was formally adopted by Congress in 1928. The framers of the compact had assumed 16.4 million acre-feet average flows in allocating the waters among the seven basin states — with more yet due Mexico. In fact, flows during 20th century proved to be somewhat less, about 15 million acre-feet. The report provided accurate evidence of lesser flows beginning in 1875 and, more circumstantially, to 1850.

In other words, it was wishful thinking to assume so much water — and based on what is known about global warming, it’s fair to assume even less water in the 21st century. Through the first 14 years of the century, according to the research of Brad Udall and Jonathan Overpeck, flows have declined 19 percent.

“It’s a story about ignoring inconvenient science,” Kuhn said of the book. “If you had accepted the science, it would have made the political job [of apportioning the waters] much more difficult.”

It’s a story from a century ago, he said — but one fully relevant going forward.

For more of Kuhn’s thinking about the future of the Colorado River, see brief white paper: “Tne Upper Basin is Watching.”

@USBR approves “coordinated” approach to increase #ColoradoRiver streamflow in the Grand Valley #COriver

Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

From The Aspen Times:

The Colorado River District is working with state and federal water managers to increase flows in the Fryingpan River by as much as 100 cubic feet per second (cfs), helping trout in the watershed survive warm temperatures while supplying water for downstream irrigation needs in the Grand Valley.

Anticipated releases are expected to range between 50 cfs and 100 cfs and will be coordinated between the River District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase flows in the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers downstream from Ruedi Reservoir.

“This should significantly benefit flows below Ruedi Reservoir,” said John Currier, chief engineer for the district. “We expect that the supplement flows may also help to mitigate water-quality problems anticipated from fire-related ash and debris flows stemming from the Lake Christine Fire on Basalt Mountain.”

Technically, the water will be delivered downstream for Grand Valley irrigation needs while creating environmental benefits as it flows downstream. Green Mountain Reservoir releases will be reduced by an equal amount in order to conserve storage for late-season releases, which in turn will be needed to help endangered fish near Grand Junction.

The coordinated approach was given final approval by the Bureau of Reclamation on Monday. In order to boost Fryingpan levels while the plan awaited approval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented a 50 cfs release from its dedicated endangered fish pool in Ruedi on Friday. Those flows were supplemented by 30 additional cfs Monday, bringing the flow in the Fryingpan to 200 cfs.

Both Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs contribute water to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. In this case, the changed water release plan will benefit trout below Ruedi while endangered fish still receive water from upstream Colorado River reservoirs.

Increased flows of cold water out of Ruedi should also help to alleviate some stress on trout fisheries in the watershed brought on by higher-than-normal water temperatures. Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced voluntary fishing closures earlier this month on sections of the Colorado and Roaring Fork rivers.

2018 #COleg: HB18-1008 Mussel-free Colorado Act status update

Photo via Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

Should the non-native quaggas infest the [Green Mountain Reservoir], millions in taxpayer money will be spent to ensure they do not clog or damage water infrastructure, as well as to prevent destruction of the aquatic ecosystem and the associated recreational fishing industry.

The danger posed by this critter is so high that Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, Summit County and other agencies are combining efforts to make sure the quagga does not wind up ruining the reservoir as it has other water bodies in Colorado.

Legislatively, a bill called the “Mussel-Free Colorado Act” dedicated to eradicating quagga and zebra mussels is well on its way to becoming state law. The bill requires boat owners to purchase an aquatic invasive species sticker on top of their regular boat registration to fund mussel prevention measures.

County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier has been following developments at the reservoir intently since last August, when the Bureau of Reclamation discovered quagga veliger, or larvae, in the reservoir. At the time, Stiegelmeier said she was furious with the lack of federal funding to pay for boat inspections preventing mussel infestation in the first place.

“Other reservoirs like Dillon Dam and Wolford are taken care of by the responsible dam owners,” Stiegelmeier said. “They pay for regular boat inspections before they get in the water, as they should. But the federal government reservoirs always contract out recreation and claim it’s not their job to making sure boats aren’t contaminated before they launch.”

DECONTAMINATION

Federal authorities were put on high alert and finally turned their attention to Green Mountain once mussel larvae was detected. Stiegelmeier said that it will be a much more expensive endeavor to try to ward off infestation after it starts.

“Once a reservoir is infested, the feds wind up having to pay many times as much to deal with the infestation,” she said. “Once the adult mussels get in there you can’t get rid of them. We have a huge number of reservoirs, like Lake Powell, that are infested. It costs an enormous amount of money to get mussels off the dam infrastructure, and it absolutely destroys the aquatic ecosystem.”

While samples at Green Mountain have come back clean since the initial detection, Bill Jackson, head of the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District, said that concern over quagga is far from over…

Jackson said that to prevent the infestation, the Forest Service and other agencies will monitor water at Green Mountain for at least three years — the maximum amount of time quagga need to fully develop. The agencies are also working to divert all incoming boat traffic to a single launch point at Heeney Marina, where they can be centrally inspected and decontaminated before reaching the water. Jackson said that one major risk factor for contamination was how many boats were previously launched from unauthorized areas along the shoreline.

“We had a lot of motorboat launches into the reservoir without proper inspection and decontamination,” Jackson said. “We’ve really been trying to make sure that we got on that right away to prevent folks from doing that.”

Jackson said that the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which gets some of the water from the reservoir, helped in providing rocks, boulders and other implements to block off the known boat entry points. He also said that signage will be put around the reservoir directing boat owners to proper launch points where they will be inspected and decontaminated before hitting the water.

In the months leading to boating season, Jackson said that a major collaborative project will be taking place to improve the inspection and decontamination process at Green Mountain.

The Bureau of Reclamation and other partners will help Heeney Marina to improve its boat launch facilities and parking to accommodate the large amount of boat traffic being funneled there. The Forest Service will do its part by allowing modifications to the marina’s permit for construction there, as it operates on Forest Service land.

The project will also require Summit County to help by closing down and improving the county roads leading into and out of the reservoir, as well as introducing more signage. Details of the project have yet to be released in full to the public, but Jackson said a press release is forthcoming.

Jackson added that they needed the public’s help in preventing contamination.

“If folks are not getting their boats inspected, that doesn’t help anyone, and we wind up dealing with the aftermath of cleanup efforts. Prevention is where we want to be.”

Jackson said that boat owners can help by following a three part procedure: Clean, drain and dry.

Click here to view the list of the West’s worst invasive species according to the Western Governors’ Association.

#Colorado congressional delegation sends quagga SOS to Zinke et al.

Green Mountain Reservoir via Reclamation.

From The Denver Post (Jesse Paul):

Nearly every member of Colorado’s congressional delegation has signed a letter to the Trump administration asking for help with the emerging crisis of tiny invasive mussel larvae found in Green Mountain Reservoir…

“We urge you to respond rapidly, deploy available resources and work with the state and local communities to prevent this initial detection from growing into a full infestation,” the delegation wrote to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “A rapid response is critical during the window of opportunity immediately after the detection of invasive species.”

The letter, dated Thursday, was signed by Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet, as well as Reps. Diana DeGette, Scott Tipton, Doug Lamborn, Jared Polis, Ed Perlmutter and Mike Coffman.

Rep. Ken Buck, a Weld County Republican, did not sign the letter.

“As a headwater state that is currently free of adult invasive mussels, the detection of invasive mussel larva poses a tangible threat to our economy,” the letter said. “The Department of Interior has recognized the importance of preventing invasive mussel infestations in western headwater states, such as Montana where larva was identified in late 2016 and resources were deployed to the Columbia River Basin.”

Zinke is from Montana.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said his agency has drawn more than 100 samples from Green Mountain Reservoir since the larvae were detected. “All of these samples have come back negative for all aquatic nuisance species including quagga mussels.”

[…]

Tiny mussel larvae, known as veligers, have been found in Colorado before. Lake Pueblo, for instance, tested positive for them in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Biologists, however, have never found an adult zebra or quagga mussel in any Colorado lake or reservoir.

Lake Powell, which straddles Utah and Arizona, has been ravaged by a mussel infestation since veligers were detected in late 2012 and four adult mussels were found on a boat that had been pulled for service in March 2013.

Boats and other watercraft can quickly spread the invasive species. Colorado wildlife officials have said the veligers found in Green Mountain Reservoir likely hitched in on a boat that had been in water outside the state.

State lawmakers during the past legislative session cited the threat of invasive mussels as one reason why they voted down a proposal to allow sea planes on Colorado’s bodies of water, saying they could act as long-range vehicles for the species.

Quaggas on sandal at Lake Mead

State and federal agencies find evidence of quagga mussel veligers in Green Mountain Reservoir

Here’s the release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (Lauren Truitt):

Monitoring finds Evidence of Quagga Mussel Larvae in Green Mountain Reservoir

State and federal officials have confirmed the presence of invasive quagga mussel larvae, known as veligers, in Green Mountain Reservoir located in Summit County along Hwy 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling.

On Aug. 18, as part of a state and federal initiative to monitor aquatic nuisance species in the state, specialists with the Bureau of Reclamation first confirmed the presence of the veligers, initially through microscopic analysis followed by DNA testing. An independent laboratory contracted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife confirmed Reclamation’s findings. It is unknown if the veligers were dead or alive at the time of detection.

CPW immediately increased monitoring of the reservoir for all life stages of quagga mussels. Through a partnership with the Denver Aquarium, CPW’s volunteer ANS scientific scuba dive team surveyed the reservoir last Friday and did not find any evidence of invasive mussels. No adult zebra or quagga mussels have ever been found in Green Mountain Reservoir or anywhere in the state of Colorado, although eight different reservoirs in Colorado have been temporarily suspect or positive for mussel veligers since 2008.

“Although this is very troubling, it’s important to keep in mind that the reservoir is not considered infested, a designation given only to bodies of water that have extensive and reproducing adult populations,” said Elizabeth Brown, invasive species coordinator for CPW. “At this point, Green Mountain Reservoir is only considered ‘suspect,’ not positive. A body of water can be considered ‘positive’ only after a second independent specimen collection is obtained and the genetics confirmed by two independent laboratories, which has not yet occurred.”

Officials are most concerned about the possibility that the presence of veligers could eventually lead to a major infestation. This would put the reservoir’s hydroelectric power generation, water quality, drinking water delivery and recreation at risk.

“This is an unfortunate discovery, and something we have been working very hard to prevent,” said CPW Director Bob Broscheid. “It shows why we need a robust inspection program. As more and more people move to or visit Colorado and use our water resources for boating, we must continue to work hard to prevent the spread of these harmful invasive species. We cannot overstate how serious this is.”
All ballast boats, inboard and inboard/outboard engines must have a green seal in between launches or decontamination may take place prior to launching. Boaters are encouraged to inspect their own boat between every use and make sure it is clean, drained, and dry.

The State of Colorado requires boats to be professionally inspected if:

  • a boat has been in any body of water that is positive, or suspect for ANS
  • a boat has been in any body of water outside of Colorado
  • a boat will be entering any water body where inspections are required
  • Officials are unsure how the veligers entered the water but suspect a boat that visited an infested body of water in another state may have become contaminated, then launching illegally into Green Mountain Reservoir.

    “This situation demonstrates the importance of following the law and going through the required inspection and decontamination process upon entering and exiting bodies of water,” said Reid DeWalt, Assistant Director Wildlife and Natural Resources with CPW. “We could face the possibility of a very harmful infestation that could cause severe damage to the reservoir and its infrastructure.”

    The watercraft inspection and decontamination station at Green Mountain Reservoir is operated by the Heeney Marina and funded by a partnership between CPW and the U.S.Forest Service. The station has now begun implementing containment protocols which means that every boat has to be inspected when exiting the reservoir and will be issued a seal and blue receipt. If a boater leaving Green Mountain Reservoir intends to launch in a different water body, their boat must be decontaminated before launching by a certified professional.

    Cooperation with Colorado’s mandatory inspection and decontamination program has proven successful to stop the movement of harmful invasive species, such as quagga mussels, into new waters. Public awareness and participation is the best weapon in the prevention of invasive species. Invasive mussels severely endanger our water supply for drinking water, hydropower, agriculture, recreation and natural resources.

    “It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of our natural resources,” said Karn Stiegelmeier, Summit County Commissioner. “This news is certainly difficult to hear with the amount of effort and diligence we have put into the ANS program on the reservoir. We will continue working alongside our partners to make sure we educate residents and visitors of the importance of decontamination of boats before and after they are on a body of water. This can be prevented, but we need everyone’s participation.”

    Boaters are reminded to take the simple precaution of making sure that they clean, drain, and dry their boat every time they go boating. Due to financial constraints the state does not have additional inspectors that can be sent to assist with boat inspections at Green Mountain. Going into a holiday weekend state and federal officials are asking for the public’s help to prevent invasive species.

    “We know this is an extra step for those who have come out to enjoy recreating on the lake, but staying vigilant has proven to be effective throughout Colorado,” said JT Romatzke, NW Region Manager with CPW. “We need to make sure we are balancing our recreation with the integrity of our water resources.”

    For more information about zebra and quagga mussels, please visit: http://cpw.state.co.us/aboutus/Pages/ISP-ANS.aspx.

    #Runoff news: Coordinated releases for #ColoradoRiver endangered fish #COriver

    From the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via The Los Alamos Daily Post:

    Coordinated releases from a series of Upper Colorado River Basin reservoirs began Saturday, June 3, and are anticipated to continue through this week as part of the Coordinated Reservoirs Operations Program.

    The US Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District as owners and operators of upper Colorado River reservoirs have mutually agreed to modify their operations to benefit the endangered fish of the Upper Colorado River Basin.

    The Coordinated Reservoir Operations (CROS) program was established in 1995 as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. The purpose of the Coordinated Operations is to enhance spring peak flows in a section of the Colorado River upstream of Grand Junction, Colo. Determined to be critical to the survival of four endangered fish species: the Humpback Chub, Razorback Sucker, Bonytail and the Colorado Pikeminnow. The higher peak flows remove more fine sediment from cobble bars that serve as spawning habitat for the endangered fish. In years with sufficient snowpack, surplus inflows to the reservoirs can be passed downstream to benefit these fish without impacting reservoir yields or future beneficial water uses.

    Coordinated Reservoir Operations were most recently conducted in 2016, 2015 and 2010. In 2011 and 2014, wet conditions caused streamflows in certain areas of the basin to approach or exceed levels associated with minor flooding, so CROS was not performed. In 2012 and 2013, reservoirs did not have surplus inflow to contribute due to extremely dry conditions.

    Managers of the reservoirs completed a conference call June 2, agreeing to voluntarily run the program this year. Planned reservoir operations as of June 2 are described below. Release and flow amounts are approximate. Most reservoirs will step up releases over the next several days, hold at a constant rate for 3-7 days, and then wind down releases.

    Green Mountain Reservoir, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, will increase releases from 418 cubic feet per second (cfs) to powerplant capacity of around 1400 cfs. Releases from Green Mountain include inflows bypassed by Dillon Reservoir, operated by Denver Water, that will be increased by approximately 100 cfs during CROS.

    Denver Water also operates Williams Fork Reservoir, which is releasing 200 cfs. Releases will likely increase to approximately 600 cfs over the coming week to bypass increasing inflows.

    Willow Creek Reservoir, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, is releasing 90 cfs. Releases will increase this week to roughly 600 cfs by curtailing pumping operations to Granby Reservoir and bypassing those inflows instead.

    Wolford Mountain Reservoir, operated by the Colorado River District, is passing inflows of 350 cfs. Outflows will be increased to around 600 cfs for approximately five days.

    Ruedi Reservoir, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation, is releasing 182 cfs and will increase releases to approximately 600 cfs over the next few days.

    The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) will incorporate these planned reservoir operations into their streamflow forecasts. Based on weather forecasts and planned reservoir operations, flows in the Colorado River near Cameo (upriver of Palisade, Colo.) are anticipated to be approximately 14,000 – 17,500 cfs, June 7 through June 12, with the highest flows Thursday or Friday June 8 or 9. Flows in the forecasted range are still below defined “bankfull” and flood stages for the area.

    More detailed information about forecasted streamflows in the Colorado River basin are available from the CBRFC website at http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov. A map-based interface allows viewing of hydrographs detailing recent, current and anticipated flows.

    For more information, contact Don Anderson, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, at 303.236.9883, donald_anderson@usfws.gov, Michelle Garrison, Colorado Water Conservation Board, at 303.866.3441, ext. 3213, michelle.garrison@state.co.us or James Bishop, Bureau of Reclamation, at 970.962.4326, jbishop@usbr.gov.

    The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program is a cooperative partnership of local, state and federal agencies, water developers, power customers and environmental groups established in 1988 to recover the endangered fishes while water development proceeds in accordance with federal and state laws and interstate compacts.

    From The Summit Daily News (Kevin Fixler):

    Through both natural and man-made activities, the area’s waterbodies will ramp back up to seasonal heights this week. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration anticipates the Colorado River and its primary Summit County tributaries will reach their highest 2017 levels this Wednesday, June 7.

    The volume-based flow rates, measured as cubic feet per second, on North Tenmile Creek, for example, will rise from about 600 to 900 cfs and the Blue River north of Dillon should grow in the next two days by another couple hundred cfs from its present 600. To offset forthcoming supply, Denver Water, which owns and oversees Dillon Reservoir, stated that it plans to up flows from Dillon Dam into the Lower Blue River from its Monday total of 380 cfs to 600 no later than Tuesday morning, and between 1,400 and 1,800 cfs by the end of the week.

    “The snowpack up on the mountain, it’s now warmed up and is starting to come off,” said Jim Pokrandt, spokesman for the Colorado River District, a public policy agency that closely monitors the region’s major waterway. “It’s fast water, but shouldn’t flood anybody out. All streams will be quicker-paced than people are used to, but the flooding is not the danger.”

    […]

    North of Silverthorne, additional releases at Green Mountain Reservoir also allow the Bureau of Reclamation to increase power plant capacity and generate more electricity. Those levels could reach approaching 1,400 cfs from the current 418.

    Estimating that 40 percent of the winter’s snowpack still remains above Dillon, Denver Water is comfortable increasing the flows from Dillon Reservoir into the Lower Blue River that ultimately head to northern Arizona’s Lake Powell. That result is threefold, preventing wasteful overflow of the reservoir, maintaining ideal recreational heights on the lake, as well as fulfilling the demands of Lower Basin states based on senior water rights.

    “Our experts are monitoring conditions carefully with the goal of ending runoff season with a full reservoir,” Matt Wittern, Denver Water Summit County liaison, wrote by email. “That way, we’re able to meet our customers’ needs while providing locals and tourists alike with valued summer recreation activities that have a positive impact on the local economy.”

    A standup surfer in the Arkansas River at Salida during Fibark, the river celebration held in late June. Photo/Allen Best

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Where spring runoff has been something like average—and where it hasn’t

    Spring runoff of the Yampa River likely peaked on May 14 this year as it flowed through northwestern Colorado. That makes it an anomaly in the precipitation-dripping mountains of the West.

    In most other locations, the peak runoff—the time when the largest volume of water in rivers occurs as winter’s snow melts—more normally occurs in early June after temperatures finally warmed. This year looks to be more or less normal, despite a trend to earlier runoff in many locations during the last several decades.

    “The Yampa did have an early runoff, and that was the result of the warm temperatures and below-average snowpack,” said Ashley Nielson, senior hydrologist with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City, when interviewed last week by Mountain Town News. The Yampa, she noted, will probably rise again in the next week or so, if not to the same high mark.

    But elsewhere, the show is now, not a month ago. Peak runoff of the Green River was expected this week or next. It originates in the Wind River Range of west-central Wyoming. Unlike the Yampa, that basin still has a significant snowpack. That was also reported to be the case in Jackson Hole, at the headwaters of the Snake River. The snowpack there was 181 percent of average in late May, not a record but “up there,” in the words of one water official cited by the Jackson Hole News&Guide.

    Peak runoff in the upper Colorado River at its headwaters along the Continental Divide in Colorado was also expected to occur in early June.

    Winter had wild swings: barren until late fall, then torrents of snow in December and January. Temperatures were unseasonably warm in February and almost hot in March. It looked like an early runoff everywhere. Then May turned cold and snowy.

    What explains the Yampa’s aberrant behavior? Karl Wetlaufer, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver, said the peak snowpack in northwestern Colorado arrived about a month earlier than usual. That snowpack around Steamboat Springs occurred on March 12, compared a more typical April 10.

    Instead of mid-May for the Yampa, he says that rafters floating through Dinosaur National Monument more often experience the highest water flows of the year in early June.

    The Dolores River in southwestern Colorado on Memorial Day in 2009. Photo/Allen Best

    Flows in the Animas River through Silverton and Durango have had some “pretty wild swings,” Wetlaufer says. The Arkansas River has been slow to get started with runoff.

    The Snake River of Wyoming and Idaho has a very different story than the Yampa, with around 200 percent of snowpack this year. The Snake originates in Jackson Hole and picks up water from the Big Wood River, which originates in the Sawtooth Mountains above Ketchum and Sun Valley, before joining the Columbia at the Idaho-Washington border.

    “My takeaway is that this year is pretty normal” in terms of timing, says Bruce Anderson, the senior hydrologist at the Northwest River Forecast Center, in Portland, Ore. It was cooler and wetter in spring, but the big story was the amount of precipitation that fell during winter. “We are hugely above normal for precipitation.”

    In the Tahoe-Truckee area of California’s Sierra Nevada, the snowpack was among the deeper ones on record after three bad drought years and then a so-so winter in 2015-16. Snowfall this winter was not a record, but it was a record for total precipitation. Being somewhat lower and closer to the coast than Colorado, the Sierra Nevada gets more rain during winter. This year it got a lot of rain.

    Colorado, too, had rain on snow, which is not unprecedented. But it happened frequently this winter. The result was telling for travelers on I-70 who crossing Vail Pass.

    “In general, there was less snow than you would expect,” says Klaus Wolter, a research scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder.

    Were those rain on snow storms of this past winter a result of accumulating greenhouse gas emissions? Wolter told Mountain Town News that thinks this is “probably partially climate change.”

    Wolter, whose focus is empirical climate research, using statistical methods to solve climate problems, is reluctant to pin climate change on much of what we have seen this year. True, he says, one storm during May left 42 inches of fresh snow in the foothills above Boulder, a storm unprecedented since the 1920s. As extreme as that storm was, proving causality is difficult, he says.

    A scientist in Oregon also shared the difficulty of proving causality. John Stevenson of Oregon State University told the Idaho Mountain Express in Ketchum that it’s “really difficult to judge any one year” to be a result of rising global temperatures.

    “That’s one of the challenges we run into in the science world where people say, ‘Oh, it’s climate change.’ We’re not at the point where we can take any one random event and say it’s climate change.”

    That said, his 2015 study concluded that the point each spring when half of the water year’s streamflow had run off was occurring an average 1.9 days earlier per decade.

    But more extreme events are happening with greater frequency, said Mark Davidson, director of conservation initiatives with The Nature Conservancy. He pointed out that the Big Wood River has had two 100-year floods in the last 15 years.

    Warm temperatures in the Ketchum and Sun Valley area were 6 to 13 degrees warmer than normal for early May, producing a flood in the Big Wood River that peaked on May 8. It was regarded as the largest in 101 years of recorded history, reports the Idaho Mountain Express.

    But more warm weather was producing another surge in early June that threatened to surpass that peak of a month before, the newspaper reported last week.

    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.

    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.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 700 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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

    From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    Green Mountain Reservoir continues to release 700 cfs to the Blue River to meet water delivery obligations. It is expected to continue for at least the next couple of weeks. Green Mountain Reservoir release includes storage water to support the Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, contract obligations and replacement water for the Colorado River Collection System.

    #ColoradoRiver: Gov. Hickenlooper endorses Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — @DenverWater #COriver

    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism
    The dam that forms Gross Reservoir, located in the mountains west of Boulder. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

    Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has officially endorsed Denver Water’s proposed Gross Reservoir Expansion Project as a model for achieving a balanced approach to environmental protection and water supply development through an inclusive and collaborative public process.

    The endorsement follows the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s issuance of a Section 401 Water Quality Certification on June 23, 2016, which ensures compliance with state water quality standards. The certification confirms that Denver Water’s commitment to extensive mitigation and enhancement measures for the project will result in a net environmental benefit.

    “The state’s responsibility is to ensure we do the right thing for Colorado’s future, and this project is vital infrastructure for our economy and the environment,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “The partnerships and collaboration between Denver Water, the West Slope and conservation organizations associated with this project are just what the Colorado Water Plan is all about.”

    The Gross Reservoir Expansion Project — also known as the Moffat Collection System Project — will strengthen Denver Water’s system against drought and climate change by nearly tripling the capacity of Gross Reservoir, located in Boulder County.

    “Colorado is a growing and dynamic state,” said Denver Water CEO Jim Lochhead. “Denver Water has the critical responsibility to sustain over 25 percent of the state’s population and the majority of our economy for decades to come.”

    Since 2003, Denver Water has been involved in federal, state and local permitting processes to evaluate the proposed project and develop ways to not only mitigate identified impacts, but also to enhance the aquatic environment and the economy of Colorado. The 401 certification — one of the major regulatory requirements — recognizes and builds upon other existing Denver Water agreements such as the landmark Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, Learning by Doing cooperative effort and the Grand County Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan.

    “The Denver metropolitan area is tied to the economic and environmental health of the rest of the state, and Denver Water is committed to undertake this project in a way that enhances Colorado’s values,” said Lochhead.

    Denver Water expects to secure all of the major permits for the project by the end of 2017. The estimated cost of the project is about $380 million, which includes design, management, permitting, mitigation and construction.

    Visit http://grossreservoir.org to read more about the project and http://denverwaterblog.org for videos with voices from a few of the many project supporters including, Gov. Hickenlooper, Western Resource Advocates, Trout Unlimited, Colorado Water Conservation Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    Here’s a post from Brent Gardner-Smith (Aspen Journalism) dealing with the subject but with a West Slope angle.

    #ColoradoRiver: Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #COriver

    Green Mountain Dam via USBR.
    Green Mountain Dam via USBR.

    From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    Green Mountain Reservoir is planned to reach maximum fill on July 5. On June 29, Green Mountain Reservoir had 1.4 ft of remaining capacity. Releases to the Blue River are forecasted to stay between 800 and 900 cfs. The current weather forecast has extensive precipitation in the region. If Green Mountain Reservoir was to fill early due to the precipitation, releases from Green Mountain could change rapidly. Once full Green Mountain Reservoir will need to pass all inflow to maintain a safe water surface elevation.

    You can check the reservoir elevation at http://www.usbr.gov/gp-bin/arcweb_gmtr.pl.

    Silverthorne: 22nd annual State of the River recap

    Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
    Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From the Summit Daily News (Ali Langley):

    Summit’s Blue River Basin recorded snowpack near the 30-year average, and the six speakers at the 22nd annual State of the River meeting on Tuesday, May 5, stressed that local residents should feel fortunate that the headwaters community was spared the immediate water supply problems others are facing around the West.

    “Everybody has Blue River envy,” said Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River District. “You’re the sweet spot this summer.”

    However, the event’s speakers also emphasized the coming impacts of long-term drought and overconsumption on Summit and other communities that supply the majority of the West’s water.

    Kuhn said major water players including Denver Water, which owns and operates Dillon Reservoir, are for the first time loudly prioritizing certainty of water supplies over development because they are worried about their future abilities to deliver water to their current customers…

    County Open Space director Brian Lorch and Blue River Watershed Group board treasurer Jim Shaw said restoration projects on the Swan River northeast of Breckenridge and the Tenmile Creek east of Copper Mountain are moving forward with success.

    Summit County water commissioner Troy Wineland said Summit’s snowpack didn’t quite reach average this winter, according to data from the Blue River Basin’s four SNOTEL measuring sites. Half of the snowpack arrived in November and December, and it was gone at lower and middle elevations by the end of March, which was unusually dry and warm.

    Runoff started sooner this year, and Tenmile Creek flows in early April were five times greater than average, Wineland said. He predicted peak runoff will occur in early June depending on the weather.

    On Monday, May 4, Wineland said Old Dillon Reservoir achieved its first complete fill of 303 acre feet. The reservoir is jointly operated by the county and the towns of Silverthorne and Dillon, and it was stocked with golden trout from California that Wineland said should mean good fishing in the next year or two.

    Wineland stressed the role that Summit residents can play in shaping the state’s first-ever water plan, which will outline Colorado’s water policy priorities for the next 50 years and will be handed to the governor in December…

    Bob Steger, water resources engineer with Denver Water, said his calculations of Summit snowpack included data from Fremont Pass, which is why he measured Summit’s snowpack as above average but “nowhere near the snowpack that we had last year.”

    The Blue River Basin may be the only basin in the state that peaks above average, and Denver Water’s No. 1 priority of filling Dillon Reservoir “should be no problem,” he said. “We’re only two feet from full right now.”

    It should be a great summer for boating as well as rafting and kayaking below the dam, Steger said. “The fishing will eventually be good, but if you don’t like high water you probably better stay out until sometime in July.”

    He answered a question about Antero Reservoir in Park County, which Denver Water will empty this summer ahead of repairs to the 100-year-old dam. The phase that requires draining the reservoir should be done by the end of 2015 with refilling beginning next spring. Steger also said Denver Water is still working on a permit to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.

    Ron Thomasson, a hydrologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation who oversees Green Mountain Reservoir operations, said runoff flows won’t be high enough this year to allow coordinated reservoir operations that would protect endangered fish on the Colorado River.

    Peak flows must be between 12,900 cfs and 23,000 cfs to do that, and the current forecast is for 9,600 cfs, he said…

    Kuhn presented last and detailed continued threats facing Lake Powell and Lake Mead operations.

    “We’re going to have to cut back our uses,” he said, “after 100 years of develop more, develop more, develop more.”

    Lake Mead could likely see its first shortage next year or in 2017, he said, and “bad things happen when Lake Mead and Lake Powell get drained.”

    Allowing Lake Powell’s water level to fall below the amount needed to generate electricity would lead to dramatically higher utility bills costs, the elimination of funding for the important environmental programs funded by the hydropower revenue noted above that protect current and future water use in Colorado.

    If Colorado and the other Upper Basin states violate the 1922 Colorado River Compact and fail to provide enough water to Lower Basin states, the West could be fighting over water in lengthy court battles and Colorado could be forced to prohibit some water uses.

    Western states could lose control of water to the federal government, Kuhn said, and Colorado would likely lose power in management of the Colorado River and water in the state.

    When asked about building an interstate water pipeline to solve some shortages, Kuhn said water managers have discussed pipelines of absurd lengths and he doesn’t think that method will work.

    “To expect that we can export our problems to somebody else, I just don’t see that somebody else will willingly accept them,” he said.

    Runoff/snowpack news: Good year to fill storage — if we had it to fill

    Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post
    Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

    From CBS Denver:

    Flooding along the Cache La Poudre River damaged nearly two dozen homes and businesses in Greeley last week, and according to officials at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Poudre River does not have any dams or reservoirs specifically for flood control. But there is an effort underway to change that.

    The Poudre River is full of melted snow — so much so right now that levels are well above average in Larimer and Weld counties, spilling over banks, and flooding homes and businesses.

    “We could fill a reservoir in a year like this,” Brian Werner with the Northern Colorado’s Water Conservancy District said.

    He points out farmers’ irrigation dams inside the Poudre Canyon, but says water cannot be diverted to those to prevent flooding. He says there is no reservoir along the river because the idea was unpopular in the past.

    “I think the general public is more aware when they see these flows and saying, ‘Boy, couldn’t we just store a little bit of that?’ Which is what this proposal does,” Werner said.

    Northern Water wants to build two reservoirs off stream that could store water during high flow times. Planners estimate the project would cost $500 million, including $40 million to re-route Highway 287 to make room for Glade Reservoir, and build a smaller one north of Greeley…

    But the federal approval process is moving slowly.

    “We’ve been working on this in some form for over 20 years, taking some of the flood flows here on the Poudre and storing it,” Werner said.

    They do expect to get some news on the status of studies being conducted on the project by the end of this year. It’s unlikely building would start before 2018.

    From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

    Several of the reservoirs that feed Northern Colorado are full, or approaching overfull, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the reservoirs. Carter Lake, southwest of Loveland, is full, and Lake Granby near Rocky Mountain National Park is about to overflow, Werner added.

    “We wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years a year ago,” Werner said Tuesday. Only a month ago, it was fifty-fifty if the reservoir would spill. “Now it looks like it will spill.”

    Horsetooth is just 2 feet shy of being full, the highest the reservoir has been in late May and early June in the past six years.

    The reservoir can hold enough to submerge 156,735 football fields in a foot of water. As of June 3, Horsetooth was holding 154,480 acre-feet of water, putting it around 98.5 percent full, said Zach Allen, a spokesman for Northern Water.

    But what happens if Horsetooth does get full? The answer, Werner said, is basically “nothing.”

    “We can control all the inflows to Horsetooth,” he said. Flatiron Reservoir and the Big Thompson River feed Horsetooth, and Northern Water controls all the outflows and inflows to the reservoir; Horsetooth’s water level can’t get higher than Northern Water wants it to, Werner said…

    Lake Granby, on the other hand, is fed with snowmelt straight from the mountains. It’s levels are uncontrollable, and it could spill over any day now, Werner said.

    “You can’t control what nature is going to do” with Granby, he added…

    Northern Water for years has pursued an expansion of its water storage capacity to take advantage of plentiful water years. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build a reservoir larger than Horsetooth northwest of Fort Collins. The proposal has drawn opposition from environmental groups and is in a yearslong federal review of its potential environmental impacts expected to be released late this year…

    Much of Northern Colorado’s snowpack, around 200 percent of normal levels after an early May snow, has yet to melt, which brings the potential for much more water to come down from the mountains in the coming weeks.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We have seen the water level at Green Mountain Reservoir rise to the spillway gates as snow melt runoff inflows continue to come into the reservoir. As a result, we were able to increase the release from the dam to the Lower Blue River by 300 cfs today [June 9], using the spillway.

    We are now releasing 1800 cfs to the Lower Blue.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The weekend went pretty smoothly for runoff here on the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thunderstorms boosted runoff to the Big Thompson River slightly with inflow into Lake Estes peaking early this morning around 721 cfs. But this is still a downward trend.

    As a result, outflow through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon dropped today down to about 125 cfs. As we move into the rest of the week, visitors to and residents of the canyon will continue to see nightly flows rise with snow runoff, enhanced some by rain runoff, just as they have seen for the past week.

    Deliveries to the canal that feeds Horsetooth Reservoir have brought Horsetooth back up to full. Its water level elevation has been fluctuating within the top foot of its storage between 5429 and 5430 feet. With it back up near 5430, we have curtailed the canal to Horsetooth and increased the return of Big Thompson River water to the canyon at the canyon mouth using the concrete chute. By 5 p.m. this evening the chute should be running around 300 cfs.

    The drop off in snowmelt runoff inflows will allow us to begin bringing some Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope water over again using the Alva B. Adams Tunnel. We anticipate the tunnel coming on mid-week and importing somewhere between 200-250 cfs.

    Once the tunnel comes back on, we will also turn the pump to Carter Lake back on, probably on Wednesday of this week. Carter’s water level elevation dropped slightly during runoff operations. It is around 95% full. Now that Horsetooth is basically full, Carter will receive the C-BT water. Turning the pump back on to Carter means residents around and visitors to the reservoir will see it fill for a second time this season.

    Pinewood Reservoir, between Lake Estes and Carter Lake, is seeing a more typical start to its summer season. It continues to draft and refill with power generation as it usually does this time of year. This is also true for Flatiron Reservoir, just below Carter Lake and the Flatiron Powerplant. Both are expected to continue operating this way through June.

    That is the plan we anticipate the East Slope of the C-BT to follow the rest of this week, June 9-13. We will post information if there is a major change; but as it stands now, I do not plan on sending an update again until next Monday. The state’s gage page is always available for those wishing to continue watching the water on a daily basis.

    From The Crested Butte News (Toni Todd):

    Word on the street this spring was that Blue Mesa Reservoir would be bursting at its banks this summer. Predictions were based on official and unofficial reports of above-normal river flows. However, a 2012 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has changed how local dams are operated in wet years, in deference to endangered fish species downstream. This new operational protocol will preclude the reservoir from filling this year.

    “The reservoir is now only scheduled to reach a maximum storage of around 80 percent capacity in 2014,” said Upper Gunnison River District manager Frank Kugel. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) began blasting water through Blue Mesa Dam last week, with simultaneous releases happening at Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs, a trifecta of water storage and management that makes up what’s known as the Aspinall Unit.

    The Record of Decision (ROD) states, “The EIS modifies the operations of the Aspinall Unit to provide sufficient releases of water at times, quantities, and duration necessary to avoid jeopardy to endangered fish species and adverse modification of their designated critical habitat while maintaining and continuing to meet authorized purposes of the Aspinall Unit.”

    Given this new norm of operations adapted by the bureau during wet years, will Blue Mesa ever fill again?

    “That’s a valid question, since the reservoir often does not fill in dry years due to lack of supply, and now with the Aspinall EIS, it will have trouble filling in wet years,” said Kugel.

    “We all signed onto this because we agreed it’s important to save these fish,” said Colorado Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Species coordinator Harry Crocket.

    According to the BOR’s website, an update written by hydraulic engineer Paul Davidson, unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa is 126 percent of normal this year, April through July. That’s 850,000 acre-feet of water entering the lake during the runoff months. “This sets the senior Black Canyon Water Right call for a one-day spring peak flow of 6,400 cfs, the Aspinall 2012 ROD target at a 10-day peak flow of 14,350 cfs… Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to meet both the water right and ROD recommendations,” said Davidson.

    The Colorado pike minnow, bonytail chub, humpback chub and razorback sucker are the fish that stand to benefit. The big flows are expected to improve the fishes’ critical habitat, at a time when the fish will be looking to spawn. Water will inundate otherwise shallow or dry riverbank areas, creating calm, sheltered spots for hatchlings, and heavy flows will wash the larvae into those areas.

    The Gunnison River, said Crocket, was “mostly omitted” from the EIS as critical habitat. However, he said, “Historically, it was home to at least a couple of these species.”

    “It’s a highly migratory fish,” Crocket said of the Colorado pike minnow. “It’s adapted to this big river system.”

    It’s a system irrefutably changed by humans. Critical habitat for the Colorado pike minnow includes 1,123.6 miles of river, to include stretches of the Green, Yampa and White rivers, from Rifle to Glen Canyon, and the Yampa River to its confluence with the Colorado River.

    “They [US Fish and Wildlife] did designate critical habitat [from the mouth of the Gunnison] to the Uncompahgre confluence [at Delta],” Crocket said.

    The Colorado pike minnow called the Gunnison River home through the 1960s. “After that,” said Crocket, “it blinked out. It’s not been possible for it to be re-colonized.” A new fish passage at the Redlands structure, two miles upriver from the Gunnison-Colorado River confluence at Grand Junction, allows fish to make their way around the barrier and upstream, marking the first time in more than 100 years for those downstream fish to gain passage to the Gunnison.

    Meanwhile, upstream, a form of collateral damage resulting from the big water releases at Blue Mesa worries Fish and Wildlife personnel. The number of fish sucked into and blown out through the dam is staggering. The technical term for this is entrainment.
    “Bigger water years mean more water through the dam, and more fish entrained,” said Gunnison area Colorado Fish and Wildlife aquatic biologist Dan Brauch. “Certainly, loss of kokanee with those releases is a concern.”

    From the Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

    Water levels and snowpack are 121 percent of normal, with as much as 40 percent yet to melt at some higher elevation areas, according to Snotel data…

    Snow water equivalent at the Fremont Pass Snotel site, the headwaters of the Eagle River, had 15.1 inches of snow water equivalent on Friday morning still to melt and run into the river. It hit 17 inches on March 18 and kept piling up until May 17 when it peaked at 25.6 inches. It usually doesn’t melt out until June 18, Johnson said.

    Streamflow on the Eagle River in Avon may have peaked on May 30, when the daily mean discharge was 4,110 cubic feet per second, which was 249 percent of median for that date. Thursday’s daily mean discharge was 3,650 cfs, 197 percent of normal for Wednesday.

    Gore Creek in Lionshead may have peaked June 4.

    “Having 20 to 40 percent of the total snowpack remaining in higher elevations in the Colorado Basin is good overall. It should help sustain streamflows through the month,” [Diane Johnson] said…

    Copper Mountain still has 4.1 inches of snow water equivalent. That would normally be melted out by now, Johnson said…

    Reservoir storage in the state is running 95 percent of normal and 62 percent of capacity. That, however, depends on where you are.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update #ColoradoRiver

    Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey
    Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Work at Green Mountain Dam has wrapped up and it is time to start increasing releases again. Here is the schedule for bumping up over the weekend and Monday. By Monday afternoon, we should be releasing about 900 cfs to the Lower Blue River.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014
    5:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 550 cfs to 600 cfs.
    10:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 600 cfs to 650 cfs.

    Sunday, April 27, 2014
    5:00 p.m – Increase the reservoir release from 650 cfs to 700 cfs.
    10:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 700 cfs to 750 cfs.

    Monday, April 28, 2014
    7:00 a.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 750 cfs to 800 cfs.
    11:00 .m. – Increase the reservoir release from 800 cfs to 850 cfs.
    4:00 p.m. – Increase the reservoir release from 850 cfs to 900 cfs.

    “…the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts” — Allen Best #ColoradoRiver

    Denver Water's collection system via the USACE EIS
    Denver Water’s collection system via the USACE EIS

    Another independent journalist covering water issues is Allen Best purveyor of The Mountain Town News. Here’s an analysis of the recent agreement between Denver Water, Trout Unlimited, and Grand County for operating the Colorado River Cooperative agreement. Here’s an excerpt:

    Located at the headwaters of the Colorado River, the waterways of Grand County have become the poster child for aquatic death by a thousand cuts…

    Called the Mitigation and Enhancement Coordination Plan, the agreement between Denver Water, Grand County, and Trout Unlimited proposes to govern Denver’s incremental diversions through the Continental Divide known as the Moffat firming project. However, according to the architects of the deal, it should also serve as a model in the ongoing dialogue as Colorado’s growing metropolitan areas look to squeeze out the final drops of the state’s entitlements to the Colorado River, as defined by the Colorado River compact of 1922 and other compacts.

    “It is a demonstration of a new way of doing business that should be a model as Colorado talks about meeting its water gaps (between demands and supplies),” says Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water.

    “Instead of platitudes or politics or parochialism, you need to do it by sitting down and working together and dealing with the issues,” he adds…

    There are skeptics, unable to explain this strange alchemy in which a river can in any way benefit from having less water, as the agreement insists can be the case.

    Among those withholding enthusiasm is Matt Rice, the Colorado coordinator for American Rivers. He points out that the agreement covers just 4 of the 32 creeks and streams trapped by Denver Water in the Fraser Valley and the adjoining Williams Fork. Too, like too many other similar programs, the data collection begins after permits are awarded, not before, which he thinks is backward.

    In short, while Denver is careful to talk about “enhancements,” he thinks it falls short of addressing full, cumulative impacts.

    Cumulative impacts are likely to be a focal point of federal permitting. While the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have a voice, the vital 404 permit must come from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The parties to the new agreement have asked that their agreement be incorporated into the permit…

    A far greater financial cost to Denver specified by the agreement is the agency’s commitment to forfeit up to 2,500 acre-feet annually of the city’s added 18,700 acre-foot take.

    Based on the firm yield of the water and Denver’s rate for outside-city raw water to customers, this commitment is valued at $55 million.

    Denver will make this water available for release into the creeks and rivers, to keep water temperatures colder and hence more hospitable to insects and fish. The water can also be used for flushing, to mimic what happens naturally during spring runoff, scouring river bottoms, to clear out the silt that clogs the spaces between rocks where mayflies and other insects live – and upon which fish feed…

    A final environmental impact statement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected in late April. The federal agency can also impose conditions of its own making. They would be included in a record-of-decision, which is expected to be issued in late 2015.

    A permit from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is also needed. Boulder County insists it also has say-so over enlargement of Gross Reservoir, an assertion contested by Denver Water.

    In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must award a permit for revised hydroelectric generation at Gross.

    At earliest, expansion of Gross could start in 2018 and be ready to capture spring runoff in 2022…

    The agreement represents a new wave of thinking about impacts of water diversions. The older way of thinking was demonstrated in the Colorado Big-Thompson project. Financed by the federal government, it gave the Western Slope a one-time package, Green Mountain Reservoir, between Kremmling and Silverthorne, to serve Western Slope needs, particularly the farmers near Grand Junction who need water for late-summer fruits and produce. The agreement did not cover a more recent problem seemingly caused by the diversion, algae that obscure the clarity of Grand Lake.

    The most recent of of the new agreements since the 1990s provides more living, breathing elasticity. The foundation for the new agreement was announced in 2011 but not finalized until recently. Called the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement, it sharply restricts Denver’s ability to develop new water sources on the Western Slope and also calls for Denver to provide both water and money to address problems in the Vail, Breckenridge and Winter Park areas.

    Then, in 2012, came agreements addressing the ambitions by five cities along the northern Front Range to increase the take of spring flows at Windy Gap, similar to what Denver wants to do at the Moffat Tunnel.

    The Windy Gap settlement introduced adaptive management, an idea gaining favor in management of rivers of the West for several decades. The essential idea of Learning by Doing, the program embraced for both Windy Gap and the Moffat projects, is that it’s impossible to know exactly what to do in advance…

    “In the past, you’d build a project, do the required mitigation and move on. That’s no longer the case. Denver Water is committed to a new way of doing business – one that approaches water management in a way that is collaborative and as beneficial to West Slope interests as possible. The partnership we’ve created through Learning by Doing is permanent. Our commitment is t o work with Grand County, Trout Unlimited and all the partners in Learning by Doing in an ongoing manner permanently into the future.”

    More Denver Water coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: Scaling back to 550 cfs by Monday #ColoradoRiver

    greenmountainreservoir

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We’ll be scaling back releases from Green Mountain over the weekend and then plan to maintain the lower release rate through next week. By Monday, April 21, we should be releasing about 550 cfs to the Lower Blue. The reduction in releases is due to some regularly scheduled maintenance. Property owners downstream of the dam have planned some channel work to correspond with the maintenance.

    Releases will begin stepping back tomorrow, Saturday. We will go from 750 to 700 cfs around 8 p.m tomorrow evening. On Sunday, we will do two changes: the first at 4 p.m. from 700 to 650 cfs. The second around 10 p.m. from 650 to 600 cfs. On Monday, we will drop down one more time around 6 a.m. from 600 to 550 cfs.

    Releases will go back up the following weekend of April 26.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 710 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #ColoradoRiver

    greenmountainreservoir

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Currently, we are releasing about 710 cfs from the dam to the Lower Blue River. The reservoir is at a water level elevation of about 7890 feet–that’s roughly 60 feet below full, or roughly 38% of its total content.

    You will see the reservoir water elevation continue to drop for about another month. The current snowpack above the Blue River Basin is around 140% of average for this time of year. I’ve been asked how this compares to snowpack numbers for the 2011 season on the Blue River. In 2011 in April we were closer to 150%. We continue to keep an eye on the snowpack conditions, fluctuating inflows, and the water level elevation and adjusting releases as necessary. It is likely the 710 cfs release rate will remain in place well into next week.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    ‘Denver-West Slope water agreement finally final’ — Glenwood Springs Post Independent #ColoradoRiver

    Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera
    Moffat Collection System Project/Windy Gap Firming Project via the Boulder Daily Camera

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent (Hannah Holm):

    Denver can take a little more water from the Colorado River’s headwaters to increase the reliability of its system, but won’t develop any new transmountain diversions without West Slope agreement and will help repair damage from past diversions.

    Those are some of the key provisions in the Colorado Cooperative Agreement between Denver Water and 42 West Slope water providers and local governments from the Grand Valley to Grand County.

    The Colorado Cooperative Agreement covers a whole suite of issues related to Denver’s diversion of water from the Fraser and Blue River drainages, tributaries to the Colorado River. In October, with little fanfare, this historic agreement received its final signatures and was fully executed. It took five years of mediation and nearly two years of ironing out the details with state and federal agencies, against a backdrop of decades of litigation, to get to this point.

    According to material from the Colorado River District’s latest quarterly meeting, the agreement, “is the direct result of Denver Water’s desire to expand its Moffat Tunnel transmountain water supply from the Fraser River in Grand County and to enlarge Gross Reservoir in Boulder County.” This project is expected to divert, on average, approximately 18,000 acre feet/year of water beyond the average of 58,000 acre feet/year it already diverts, which amounts to about 60% of the natural flow in the Fraser River at Winter Park.

    Under the agreement, the West Slope parties agreed not to oppose the increased Moffat Collection System diversions, and Denver Water agreed not to expand its service area and not to develop new water projects on the West Slope without the agreement of the resident counties and the Colorado River District. The agreement also includes dozens of other provisions designed to limit water demands in Denver and address water quality and flow conditions in the Colorado River and its tributaries. Here’s a sampling:

    Denver will contribute both water releases and several million dollars for a “learning by doing” project to improve aquatic habitat in Grand County. The project will be managed by representatives from Denver Water, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited and other water users.

    Denver will not exercise its rights to reduce bypass flows from Dillon Reservoir and its collection system in Grand County during droughts unless it has banned residential lawn watering in its service area.

    Diversions and reservoirs operated by both Denver Water and West Slope parties will be operated as if the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon were calling for its (very senior) water right, even at times when the plant is down. This is important for recreational and environmental flows in the river, as well as for junior water users downstream from plant.

    Denver Water will pay $1.5 million for water supply, water quality or water infrastructure projects benefiting the Grand Valley, and $500,000 to offset additional costs for water treatment in Garfield County when the Shoshone call is relaxed due to drought conditions.

    A similar agreement is under development between West Slope entities and Northern Water, which currently diverts about 220,000 acre feet/year of water from the Upper Colorado River to the Front Range through the Colorado Big Thompson Project. Like the Colorado Cooperative Agreement, the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement trades West Slope non-opposition to increased transmountain diversions for mitigations to address the impacts of both past and future stream depletions.

    Both the Colorado Cooperative Agreement and the Windy Gap Firming Project Intergovernmental Agreement have been hailed as models of cooperation. Meanwhile, East Slope – West Slope tensions continue to mount over how the Colorado Water Plan, currently under development, should address the possibility of additional diversions of water from the West Slope to meet growing urban demands on the Front Range. These agreements demonstrate that such tensions can be overcome, but also that it could take more time than allowed by the 2015 deadline Gov. Hickenlooper has set for completion of the Colorado Water Plan.

    Full details on the Colorado Cooperative Agreement can be found on the River District’s website, under “features” at http://www.crwcd.org/. More information on the Colorado Water Plan can be found at http://coloradowaterplan.com/.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 250 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

    greenmountainreservoir.jpg

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Just a quick note to let you know that today [Friday] we bumped up releases to the Lower Blue to 250 cfs.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 200 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

    greenmountainreservoir.jpg

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Yesterday [ed. July 9], we saw demand come up just a little bit and bumped releases up to about 150 cfs. Today, after the morning conference call between upper Colorado River Basin operators, it was determined we should bump up another 50 cfs. That means the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue is now at 200 cfs.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    Colorado River Basin: Denver Water, et al., are operating under the Shoshone Outage Protocol

    shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

    Here’s the release from Denver Water (Stacy Chesney/Travis Thompson):

    Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

    The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

    The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs.)

    Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

    Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

    The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.
    The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

    As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

    “This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

    “Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”

    ‘In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later’ — Eric Kuhn #codrought #coriver

    shoshoneglenwoodcanyon.jpg

    Here’s the release from the Colorado River District (Jim Pokrandt):

    Two back-to-back, drought-plagued winters in Western Colorado have triggered an agreement to “relax” a senior water rights call on the Colorado River at the Shoshone Hydro Plant to allow water providers to store more water this spring, a move that benefits Denver Water and the West Slope.

    The Shoshone Hydro Plant is owned by Xcel Energy and is located in Glenwood Canyon. Its senior 1902 water right of 1,250 cubic feet a second (cfs), when called, is administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights upstream that include Denver Water’s Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir.

    The agreement “relaxes” the call to 704 cfs when river flows are low, or takes a Shoshone call totally off the river when flows are rising, which is the current situation. This practice gives the upstream juniors water rights holders the ability to store water once the spring runoff begins in earnest. Currently, the Colorado River is flowing through Glenwood Canyon at about 825 cfs. (The long-term historical average for this date is about 1,150 cfs).

    Two tripping points activate the agreement: when Denver Water forecasts its July 1 reservoir storage to be 80 percent of full or less, and when the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center predicts spring runoff flows at Kremmling in Grand County will be less than or equal to 85 percent of average. Currently, the reservoir forecast is 74 percent full on July 1 and the Kremmling forecast is 60 percent of average.

    Denver Water has already enacted its Stage 2 Drought Restrictions to limit outdoor water use and enact other conservation measures.

    The winter of 2012 was the fourth worst on record in the Colorado River Basin and 2013 has been tracking just as poorly. The only improvement between the two winters occurred in March 2013 as storms continued to build snowpack. By this time in 2012, runoff was already under way.

    The relaxation period is between March 14 and May 20, in deference to boating season on the river and irrigation needs in the basin.

    As for the water that Denver Water gains by the relaxation, 15 percent of the net gain is saved for Xcel Energy power plant uses in the Denver Metro Area and 10 percent is delivered to West Slope entities yet to be determined by agreement between Denver Water and the Colorado River District.

    “This is a statewide drought, and we all need to work together to manage water resources for the health and safety of our residents, our economic vitality and the environment,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO/manager of Denver Water. “The Colorado River Cooperative Agreement and the Shoshone Outage Protocol are great examples of the partnership between Denver Water and the West Slope to do just that. Last year, even though the CRCA was not yet in effect, Denver Water released water to the river even though the Shoshone Power Plant was not operating and the call was not on. This year, under the Denver Water-Xcel Energy agreement, the Shoshone call will be relaxed.”

    “Relaxing the Shoshone water right in this limited way benefits the West Slope as well,” said Colorado River District General Manager Eric Kuhn. “It might make the difference between having a full supply at Green Mountain Reservoir and not having a full supply. In a year like this every extra drop of water we can store now will help us later.”

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations: Reclamation starts filling the reservoir for 2013 #coriver

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Today, April 1, 2013, we have officially started to fill Green Mountain Reservoir. Last year, the start of fill was declared about one week earlier than this year.

    Currently, we are releasing around 55 cfs to the Lower Blue River. The reservoir water level elevation is about 7891 feet–roughly 50 feet down from completely full, or 39% of its total content capacity. The water level should now steadily begin to rise.

    To track Green Mountain water levels and releases, please visit our website. It is updated every night at midnight.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir is 40% full #coriver

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Shoshone power plant water right call came off the Colorado River today [March 29, 2013]. As a result, we were able to cut back releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue River. Over two installments, we reduced releases from about 125 cfs to 60 cfs. The first change was made at 11:30, dropping the release to about 100 cfs. The second change was made at 3 p.m. and dropped the release to 60 cfs.

    Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 40% full. The reduction in releases should noticeably slow the draw on the reservoir.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 195 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #coriver

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Today, March 14, we are upping the releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We’ve got to keep downstream water rights whole, what we call “owing the river,” so we’re cranking releases up by about 40 cfs.

    The first change was at 10 a.m., pushing releases from 155 cfs to 175 cfs.

    The second change will be at 3 p.m. today, pushing up from 175 to 195 cfs. We’ll hold at 195 cfs until further notice.

    Meanwhile, current inflow to the reservoir is around 130 cfs. Releases from the dam continue to slowly drop the water level of Green Mountain. There is a good chance the slow decline will continue until June, when snow melt run-off typically begins. Of course, much remains to be seen with the weather this spring and the condition of snow pack in the Blue River Basin.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 130 cfs in the Blue River below the dam #coriver

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Today, February 13, we are decreasing the amount of water being released from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are dropping from 170 cfs to about 130 cfs over two changes. The first reduction was at 3 p.m., dropping the flows in the Lower Blue from 170 to 150 cfs. The second change will be at 5 p.m., dropping the release from 150 to 130 cfs. The reason for the change is to balance releases from the dam with inflow to the reservoir. Inflows to Green Mountain dropped today when Denver Water decreased the release to the Blue River from Dillon Dam. The 130 cfs release and flow in the Lower Blue will continue for a while. I will let you know when there are more changes.

    More Blue River Watershed coverage here.

    Green Mountain Dam update: 190 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Today, we adjusted releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River again.

    The reason for the change was three-fold: increases in downstream contractor demand, increase in inflow, and increases in the amount required to compensate for the Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions upstream on the Colorado River out of Granby Reservoir.

    As a result, this afternoon we bumped releases up by 40 cfs. Flows in the Lower Blue are now around 190 cfs.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Just a quick message to let you know that the Shoshone Power Plant came back on-line today [December 19]. As a result, we bumped up our releases to about 150 cfs today around noon.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 130 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    This morning [November 13], before noon, we cut back the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are now releasing about 130 cfs.

    We’re doing our best to balance inflows and outflows. Inflow to the reservoir via the Blue River has been declining over the past week, so that’s part of the reason for our change. But, we are also voluntarily participating in the Shoshone Outage Protocol–helping with Colorado River flows below the power plant just east of Glenwood Springs. So, with that in mind, we are matching our outflow to the inflow, plus 30 additional cfs.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 270 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    Earlier this afternoon [October 9], we reduced releases from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River by about 50 cfs. The reason for the change is because inflows to Green Mountain Reservoir continue to decline. We are doing our best to balance inflow and outflow at the reservoir. The change was made around 1 p.m., dropping releases from 320 to about 270 cfs.

    More Blue River Watershed coverage here and here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 370 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    Update: From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    This morning [October 2] around 9 a.m., we made an adjustment to the release from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue, dropping it back by 50 cfs from 370 to 320 cfs.

    The reason for the change is to keep in balance with both declining inflows to the reservoir and the declining Colorado-Big Thompson Project diversions that occur further upstream on the Colorado River, out of Granby Reservoir.

    Additional changes are possible, depending on downstream demands and weather. But, there is a slight possibility the 320 cfs could hold through the weekend.

    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    This morning, Monday, Oct. 1, we saw releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue River bounce back up. Substitution releases from Williams Fork and Wolford Mountain reservoirs decreased today by a total of about 160 cfs. Green Mountain is now releasing that water to its downstream customers. As a result, flows in the Lower Blue increased from 210 to 370 cfs.

    More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

    Colorado-Big Thompson Project update: Lake Granby at 63% of capacity

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    As we move into fall, operations on the Colorado-Big Thompson Project start to shift gears a little bit.

    I mentioned earlier this week that the pump to Carter has gone off for the season. Water we were sending up to Carter, we are now taking over to Horsetooth to begin bringing that water level up a little bit as we start to get ready for next year. This is good news for Horsetooth as it is currently just over 30% full.

    We could still see some more demands come out of both Carter and Horsetooth in late September and well into October, but right now, the water level elevation at Horsetooth has started to gain, just a little bit and the water level at Carter has held fairly steady. It remains just above 50% full. We are currently delivering around 500 cubic feet per second to Horsetooth.

    Pinewood Reservoir is back to more average operations, fluctuating with power generation down at the Flatiron Power Plant.

    Similarly, Lake Estes has maintained a typical operation schedule as we continue to bring C-BT water over from the West Slope, generate hydro-electric power and deliver the water to Horsetooth. We are no longer releasing project water through Olympus Dam to the canyon. We are bypassing what is natively in the Big Thompson River on through Lake Estes down the river. That’s been about 50 cfs all week this week.

    With the diversion from the West Slope still on and the Adams Tunnel running, the water level elevation at Granby will continue to go down. That is typical for this time of year, but more noticeable than in years past because of the heavy draws the entire C-BT system has seen this summer due to drought conditions. As a result, Granby is around 63% full.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson coverage here.

    Colorado River Cooperative Agreement implementation at hand

    Here’s a short report from the Associated Press via The Columbus Republic:

    Colorado’s largest water utility and more than 30 western slope providers are expected to begin implementing an agreement balancing the Denver-area’s demand for water with the needs of mountain communities as early as next month. According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel a project spokesman said Tuesday a few more signatures are needed.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

    Final Preliminary Alternatives Development Report on Grand Lake Now Available

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    Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Bureau of Reclamation has finalized its Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope Collection Preliminary Alternatives Development Report that addresses concerns of water clarity at Colorado’s Grand Lake. The report is available at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    “The Department of the Interior is prioritizing efforts to improve water quality conditions in Grand Lake,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle. “The Bureau of Reclamation, Interior’s water management agency, is committed to protecting the aesthetic values of Grand Lake and maintaining a secure water supply for its customers. We recognize the problem and are working hard with state and local leaders to understand the causes and find appropriate solutions.”

    Grand Lake is part of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project’s West Slope collection system, which diverts water under the Continental Divide to Colorado’s East Slope and Front Range. A proposed state of Colorado water standard for the lake is scheduled to take effect in 2015. The Preliminary Alternatives Development Report is the first step toward improving water quality in Grand Lake in an effort to meet this state standard and improve this resource for its many uses. Four alternatives are considered in the report ranging from ceasing pumping during the summer season to building a bypass for project water to be delivered to the East Slope. The viability of each alternative is evaluated for a number of measures.

    Reclamation continues to collaborate with water and power customers, stakeholders in and around Grand County, citizens groups around Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir, recreation managers at affected water bodies and other local, state and federal agencies.

    The final Alternatives Development Report has been provided directly to stakeholders and posted to Reclamation’s website for the general public. Next steps include the Technical Review, which begins this fall and completes in fall 2013, and will examine the technical and financial feasibility of the alternatives presented in the Alternatives Development Report.

    To download the report in PDF, please visit www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 330 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We have another change at Green Mountain Dam. As has been typical the last six or so weeks, we are seeing operational changes at the dam about every three to four days.

    In collaboration with other reservoir operators, we continue to follow Mother Nature’s storms, adjusting releases as we go. Recent rains have boosted flows in the Colorado River slightly, so we have been asked to cut back our releases from the dam to the Lower Blue.

    Around 11 a.m. today, August 13, we cut back by 50 cfs, to about 330 cfs. The Lower Blue River should now be running at about 330 cfs.

    More Colorado-Big Thompson Project coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 380 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    After the weekly coordination call today, we have made another change at Green Mountain Dam. We have dropped releases down to about 380 cfs in the Lower Blue River. Green Mountain Reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of about 7915 feet, or roughly 60% full. Considering the reservoir only got to an elevation of 7928 feet this year, that means it has dropped about 13 vertical feet since late June.

    Reclamation bumps releases at Green Mountain and Ruedi reservoirs

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    As we continue to balance inflows and outflows with the demands downstream along the Colorado River, we have adjusted releases from both Green Mountain and Ruedi Dams today [August 6].

    Green Mountain has increased by about 40 cfs to 405 cfs.

    Ruedi has increased 30 cfs to 225 cfs.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 365 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    After the coordination call [yesterday], it was determined that the afternoon rainstorms are no longer contributing much to the Colorado River Basin. As a result, we have spent the day bumping releases from Green Mountain Dam to the lower Blue River back up.

    We bumped up by 60 cfs earlier this afternoon and are increasing releases another 65 cfs this evening. The resulting flow in the lower Blue River will be around 365 cfs.

    I appreciate you all being patient with our changes this summer. We, like other reservoir operators, are doing our best to chase what inflows there are to keep our rivers in the Colorado River Basin in good stead during this very hot and dry season.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 315 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    The Upper Colorado River Basin has received more rain. As a result, contributions from Green Mountain have been curtailed by another 50 cfs. That means the release to the lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam is now about 315 cfs.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 365 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    At about 7 this morning, July 25, we cut back releases to around 365 cfs. The flow in the lower Blue River below Green Mountain Dam will remain at 365 cfs until the next change.

    There has been some recent rain in the upper Colorado River Basin and the river’s flows are up slightly. As a result, we cut back on Green Mountain’s contributions to the river system. We, the State, and other reservoir operators will continue responding to Colorado River flows as best we can throughout this water year. So please be aware that there will likely be additional changes.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 540 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    After yesterday’s Colorado River coordination call, we made adjustments to the release from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. We are now releasing about 540 cfs.

    As you all likely are aware, flows in the Colorado River continue to decline. In response, we have bumped our releases up another 50 cfs from 490 to 540 cfs.

    The reservoir is currently at a water level elevation of 7920 feet above sea level, about 30 vertical feet down, or roughly 65% full.

    It’s likely the 540 cfs will remain in place through the weekend.

    More Blue River watershed coverage here.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 370 cfs in the Blue River below the dam

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We continue to make adjustments to our releases based on the cooperative efforts of the larger water operators’ community on the Upper Colorado River. Currently, we are releasing about 370 cfs from Green Mountain Dam to the Lower Blue River. There could be additional changes over the weekend.

    Green Mountain Reservoir operations update: 150 CFS in the Blue River below the dam #CODrought

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    From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

    We have begun our weekly coordination calls for reservoir operations across the upper Colorado River basin. Flows in the Colorado River are rapidly declining, as most of you know. As a result, we are upping releases from Green Mountain to the Lower Blue today in two phases. By late this afternoon, we’ll be releasing 150 cfs.

    The road across the dam has also reopened as the bridge work is nearly complete.

    For more information on Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, please visit our webpage.

    More Green Mountain Reservoir coverage here and here.

    Glenwood Springs: Council approves the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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    From The Aspen Times (John Stroud):

    Glenwood Springs City Council voted 5-1 at its Thursday meeting to sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. The vote came more than a month after the proposal was first presented for council’s consideration.

    “It’s unheard of that so many entities are willing to talk about what works for everyone,” Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said, in favor of signing onto the agreement.

    Added Mayor Matt Steckler, “It’s not perfect, but this is something we have been working on for over a year. I don’t see what not signing it is going to do.”

    Councilman Dave Sturges dissented, saying he supports the efforts to reach an agreement on the use of Colorado River water. But he felt the agreement fell short in some areas and that the public had not had an adequate opportunity to weigh in.[ed. True, the agreement was hammered out under Non-Disclosure agreements amongst the parties.] “We’re not under the gun to act on this,” Sturges said. “There are still some questions, and I think the public ought to assist us in how we view those questions.”

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

    The Denver Post editorial board weighs in on the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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    From The Denver Post:

    One of the linchpins is that Denver Water, which serves more than 1.3 million customers on the Front Range, gets approval for the expansion of Gross Reservoir near Boulder. The utility needs the project so it may ensure adequate water for customers on the northern edge of its service area…

    The agreement calls for Western Slope parties to not oppose — and in some cases support — the Moffat Collection System project, which includes the reservoir expansion.

    More Colorado River Cooperative Agreement coverage here.

    Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties sign the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement

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    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

    Gov. John Hickenlooper presided over a ceremonial signing of agreements among Denver Water, Grand and Summit counties and the Clinton Ditch & Reservoir Co. on Tuesday in Hot Sulphur Springs.

    More Colorado River basin coverage here.