“This year the snow is melting out a little later higher up…I do expect water to be fairly high for the [Ruedi] reservoir” — John Currier

Ruedi Dam. Photo credit Greg Hobbs.

From The Aspen Times (Chad Abraham):

Ruedi Reservoir on Friday was just under 63 percent full as it continues to recover from the recent drought, but the wet, cool spring — more snow and rain is possible today — means there is plenty of snow remaining in the upper Fryingpan River Valley.

Gauges at and near the reservoir show winter is loosening its grip, albeit slowly. The Ivanhoe Snotel site, which sits at 10,400 feet, had a snowpack Friday that is 185 percent of normal for the day, while the Kiln site (9,600 feet) stood at 161 percent of average.

That simply means more snow is locked in at high elevations than normal for this time of the year, said John Currier, chief engineer with the Colorado River District.

“This year the snow is melting out a little later higher up,” he said. “I do expect water to be fairly high for the reservoir.”

Currier predicted Bureau of Reclamation officials, who control releases from Ruedi, to keep flows in the Fryingpan at around 300 cubic feet per second (CFS) for most of the summer. That level, which will increase drastically as snowmelt increases and fills the tub, is preferable for “fisherman wade-ability reasons,” he said. “They are typically going to have to bypass [that CFS rate] because there’s much, much more water during runoff.”

Ruedi being roughly three-quarters full in mid-May is somewhat below normal, said Mark Fuller, who recently retired after nearly four decades as director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority. That’s a sign of both a stubborn snowpack and the reclamation bureau “trying to leave plenty of room for late runoff in anticipation of a flood out of the upper Fryingpan when it gets warm,” he said…

Releases from Ruedi may make fishing the gold-medal waters below the reservoir a bit more difficult when they occur, but greatly aid the river environment in the long term, said Scott Montrose, a guide with Frying Pan Anglers.

Farms get boost in water from Fryingpan-Arkansas Project #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Here’s the release from the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Chris Woodka):

Agriculture received the lion’s share of water from the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project this year, when an abundant water supply is expected to boost Arkansas River flows as well as imported water.

Allocations totaling 63,000 acre-feet were made by the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board on Thursday (May 16), with 48,668 acre-feet going to agriculture, and 14,332 going to cities. The district is the agency responsible for management of the Fry-Ark Project, which is operated by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“This is a remarkable outcome for the Arkansas River basin, given the dry conditions we faced last year,” said Garrett Markus, water resources engineer for the district. “The conditions look favorable during the next three months, when rainfall should add to the abundant snowpack already in the mountains.”

Water users in nine counties benefit from the supplemental water provided by the Fry-Ark Project, ranging from large cities in Pueblo and El Paso counties to irrigation companies in the Lower Arkansas Valley. Fry-Ark Project water accounts for about 10 percent of flows in the Arkansas River annually.

While cities are entitled to more than 54 percent of project water, their accounts in Pueblo Reservoir are relatively full, freeing up additional water for agriculture. Municipal allocations include:

Fountain Valley Authority, 7,353 acre-feet;
Pueblo Water, 2,000 acre-feet;
Cities west of Pueblo, 2,312 acre-feet;
Cities east of Pueblo, 2,667 acre-feet.

In the event of changing conditions – a reduction of precipitation or rapid melt-off of snow – the District initially will release only 28,256 acre-feet of water to irrigation companies until final imports are certain, with the remainder delivered as soon as the expected total is reached. Municipal allocations would not be affected by a shortfall, because they are all below allocation limits.

Another 17,338 acre-feet of irrigation return flows were allocation, and 10,016 acre-feet will be initially released.

Reclamation estimates the project will yield 84,000 acre-feet this year, but deductions from that total are made for evaporation, transit loss and obligations to other water users reduce the amount of water available to allocate.

The Fry-Ark Project imports an average of about 56,000 acre-feet through its collection system in the Fryingpan River and Hunter Creek watersheds above Basalt. Water comes through the Boustead Tunnel into Turquoise Lake, through the Mount Elbert Power Plant at Twin Lakes and into terminal storage at Pueblo Reservoir.

Three-month projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predict cooler and wetter than average conditions for eastern Colorado.

Hualapai Tribe Hopes Water Settlement Finally Happens This Congress — KJZZ #ColoradoRiver #COriver #aridification

Panorama of the Hualapai Mountains taken from Kingman in December 2009. Photo credit Wikimedia.

From KJZZ (Bret Jaspers):

“The Colorado River runs right right behind our backyard on the (border) of our reservation if you look at the map,” said [Damon] Clarke in an interview. “And we don’t get a drop from it. You guys, down there in the Valley, you get tons and tons of water from the river.”

To get access to river water, the tribe is hoping its federal water settlement will finally become law. Earlier this month, Arizona’s congressional delegation sponsored another settlement bill after similar efforts in 2017 and 2016.

If a water rights settlement became law, the Hualapai Tribe would get 4,000 acre-feet of Colorado River water each year…

The current bills, introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate, include:

  • $134.5 million to construct a pipeline bringing most of that water to the reservation, which includes the community of Peach Springs and Grand Canyon West, the tribe’s tourist hotspot;
  • $32 million for operations, maintenance and repairs once the tribe assumes title over the pipeline;
  • $5 million for the Department of Interior to operate it before that time;
  • $2 million for DOI to provide technical assistance to the Hualapai Tribe.
  • But Interior is still against the specific terms of the settlement.

    During testimony in late 2017, Alan Mikkelsen, who was then the deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation, told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that while the Department of Interior generally supports settlements for Indian water rights, “we believe the cost to construct a 70-mile pipeline from the Colorado River lifting water over 4,000 feet in elevation will greatly exceed the costs currently contemplated.” In his testimony, Mikkelsen also worried about litigation.

    Mikkelsen is now senior adviser to DOI Secretary David Bernhardt. Interior declined an interview, but a spokeswoman said via email that the department’s position on the Hualapai water settlement remains the same.

    Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ01), the lead sponsor of the settlement legislation in the House, said the only sticking point is the dollar amount.

    Many Indian reservations are located in or near contentious river basins where demand for water outstrips supply. Map courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

    Aspinall unit operations update: Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an approximate peak content of 795,000 acre-feet

    Blue Mesa Reservoir

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    The May 1st forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 970,000 acre-feet. This is 144% of the 30 year average. Snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin peaked at 143% of average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 384,000 acre-feet which is 46% of full. Current elevation is 7462 ft. Maximum content at Blue Mesa Reservoir is 829,500 acre-feet at an elevation of 7519.4 ft.

    Based on the May 1st forecast, the Black Canyon Water Right and Aspinall Unit ROD peak flow targets are listed below:

    Black Canyon Water Right
    The peak flow target is equal to 7,158 cfs for a duration of 24 hours.
    The shoulder flow target is 966 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25.

    Aspinall Unit Operations ROD
    The year type is currently classified as Moderately Wet.
    The peak flow target will be 14,350 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 10 days.
    The half bankfull target will be 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow will be 20 days.
    (The criteria have been met for the drought rule that allows half-bankfull flows to be reduced from 40 days to 20 days.)

    Projected Spring Operations
    During spring operations, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be made in an attempt to match the peak flow of the North Fork of the Gunnison River to maximize the potential of meeting the desired peak at the Whitewater gage, while simultaneously meeting the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow amount. The magnitude of release necessary to meet the desired peak at the Whitewater gage will be dependent on the flow contribution from the North Fork of the Gunnison River and other tributaries downstream from the Aspinall Unit. Current projections for spring peak operations show that flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon could be over 8,000 cfs for 10 days in order to achieve the desired peak flow and duration at Whitewater. With this runoff forecast and corresponding downstream targets, Blue Mesa Reservoir is currently projected to fill to an elevation of around 7515.5 feet with an approximate peak content of 795,000 acre-feet.

    @USBR makes up to $3 million available for 2019 Water Marketing Strategy Grants funding opportunity

    San Luis People’s Ditch March 17, 2018. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Peter Soeth):

    The 2019 Water Marketing Strategy Grants funding opportunity is now available from the Bureau of Reclamation. This funding opportunity is available to water entities to establish or expand water markets or water marketing activities. Reclamation will make available up to $200,000 for simple projects that can be completed within two years and up to $400,000 for more complex projects that can be completed in three years. Up to $3 million is available for this funding opportunity.

    “The water marketing strategy grants provide entities an opportunity to leverage their money and resources with Reclamation to develop a water marketing strategy to increase water supply reliability,” program coordinator Avra Morgan said.

    The funding opportunity is available at http://www.grants.gov by searching for BOR-DO-19-F006. Applications will be due on July 31, 2019, at 4:00 p.m. MDT.

    Those eligible to apply for these grants are states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts or other organizations with water or power delivery authority located in the western United States or United States territories. This includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands.

    Water markets support the President’s memorandum on Promoting the Reliable Supply and Delivery of Water in the West. They are between willing buyers and sellers and can be used to help water managers meet demands efficiently in times of shortage, helping prevent water conflicts. These planning efforts proactively address water supply reliability and increase water management flexibility. Learn more about water marketing at https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/watermarketing.

    The funding is part of WaterSMART. WaterSMART is a Department of the Interior initiative that uses the best available science to improve water conservation and help water resource managers identify strategies to narrow the gap between supply and demand. For more information on the WaterSMART program, visit https://www.usbr.gov/WaterSMART.

    @USBR bug flows show promise in the #GrandCanyon #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Glen Canyon Dam

    From the Associated Press (Felicia Fonseca) via The Salt Lake Tribune:

    The bug flows are part of a larger plan approved in late 2016 to manage operations at Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back Lake Powell. The plan allows for high flows to push sand built up in Colorado River tributaries through the Grand Canyon as well as other experiments that could help native fish such as the endangered humpback chub and non-native trout.

    Researchers are recommending three consecutive years of bug flows. Scott VanderKooi, who oversees the Geological Survey’s Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center in Flagstaff, said something about the weekend steady flows is encouraging bugs to emerge as adults from the water, which might lead to more eggs, more larvae and more adults. But, more study is needed.

    Researchers also are hopeful rare insects such as stoneflies and mayflies will be more frequent around Lees Ferry, a prized rainbow trout fishery below Glen Canyon Dam.

    The bug flows don’t change the amount of water the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation must deliver downstream through Lake Mead to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. The lower levels on the weekend are offset by higher peak flows for hydropower during the week, the agency said.

    Hydropower took a hit of about $165,000 — about half of what was expected — in the 2018 experiment, the Geological Survey said.

    The agency recorded a sharp increase in the number of caddisflies through the Grand Canyon. Citizen scientists along the river set out plastic containers with a battery-powered black light for an hour each night and deliver the bugs they capture to Geological Survey scientists, about 1,000 samples per year.

    In 2017, the light traps collected 91 caddisflies per hour on average, a figure that rose to 358 last year, outpacing the number of midges for the first time since the agency began tracking them in 2012, VanderKooi said.

    The number of adult midges throughout the Grand Canyon rose by 34% on weekends versus weekdays during last year’s experiment. Intensive sampling one weekend in August showed an 865% increase in midges between Glen Canyon Dam and Lees Ferry, the agency said.

    “For a scientist, this is really great,” VanderKooi said. “This is the culmination of a career’s worth of work to see this happen, to see from your hypothesis an indication that you’re correct.”

    The Arizona Game and Fish Department also surveyed people who fished from a boat at Lees Ferry during the experiment to see if the bug flows made a difference. Fisheries biologist David Rogowski said anglers reported catching about 18% more fish.

    He attributed that to the low, steady flows that allow lures to better reach gravel bars, rather than the increase in bugs.

    Aspinall Unit operations update: 960 CFS in Black Canyon

    Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

    From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

    Releases from the Aspinall Unit will be increased by 130 cfs on Friday, May 3rd. This will bring flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon up to shoulder flow levels, as described in the decree for the Black Canyon water right. The current forecast for the April-July runoff volume for Blue Mesa Reservoir is 970,000 AF of inflow, which is 144% of average. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1050 cfs. River flows are expected to stay above the baseflow target for the foreseeable future.

    Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the baseflow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 1050 cfs for May.

    Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 680 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 830 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be 680 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 960 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.