Ruedi Reservoir expected to fill, and maybe spill — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

The ungated spillway at Ruedi Dam and Reservoir, which automatically spills water into the lower Fryingpan River should the reservoir ever fill beyond its holding capacity of 102,373 acre-feet.

From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

Those who keep an eye on the lower Fryingpan River, below Ruedi Reservoir, may have noticed that the river’s flow increased this week in three distinct steps.

On Monday, the river was flowing steadily at just about 200 cubic feet per second.

On Tuesday, it stepped up to 250 cfs, and on Thursday, it took another 50 cfs jump, to 300 cfs.

And on Friday, the river jumped another 25 cfs, heading into the weekend flowing at about 325 cfs. (See USGS gage).

The increases in flow were directed by Tim Miller, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation hydrologist who manages water levels in Ruedi and also manages water releases from the reservoir, which is about 14 miles above Basalt.

The water from the reservoir was being released through the dam’s outlet structures, as well as through the hydropower plant at the base the dam, into an area that’s popular with anglers, and large fish, and nicknamed the “Toilet Bowl,” due to its swirling waters.

Miller’s goal is to fill the reservoir by July 4, while avoiding overfilling the reservoir, which would cause water to flow over the dam’s spillway, which does not have a flow-controlling gate, as some spillways do.

The top of the ungated spillway at Ruedi Dam. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

Balancing act

Miller is now balancing some factors beyond his control: the deep snowpack above Ruedi, lingering cold temperatures and varying flow levels in the transmountain diversions tunnels in the upper Fryingpan Basin.

On Friday, Ruedi was 64.6 percent full and holding 66,116 acre-feet of water, according to Reclamation. When full, the reservoir holds 102,373 acre-feet.

But, given the deep snowpack above Ruedi, Miller said “it’s very possible” the reservoir could spill, something that, to his knowledge, has only happened a few times since the reservoir and dam were completed in 1968.

The Ivanhoe snow-telemetry, or SnoTel, site above Ruedi, in the Ivanhoe Creek subbasin, is at 10,400 feet. The site shows there was still 54 inches of snow at that elevation Friday. That’s up from 42 inches a week ago but still below the March 14 peak of 90 inches.

“It just really depends on the weather,” Miller said of future releases into and out of Ruedi.

Peak runoff in the upper Colorado River basin within Colorado is now expected to arrive late, between June 15 and June 25, as more cool weather is in the forecast.

Once water reaches this point on the spillway on Ruedi Dam, it’s heading for the river some 285-feet below.

Not for flood control

Victor Lee, also a hydrologist with the Bureau of Reclamation, made a presentation on Ruedi and Green Mountain reservoirs Monday at the Colorado River Basin roundtable in Glenwood Springs.

He said he expected, because of the snowpack, to see above-average releases out of Ruedi as the reservoir fills and to see above-average diversions through the Boustead Tunnel, which sends water collected by the Fryingpan Arkansas Project diversion system under the Continental Divide to Turquoise Lake, near Leadville.

Since 1972, the Fry-Ark Project has diverted an average of 54,000 acre-feet a year through the Boustead Tunnel, but it’s expected to divert 84,000 acre-feet this year, according to Lee.

On Friday, the tunnel was sending east a relatively modest 38 cfs of water, but it had been sending about 300 cfs on May 17.

Lee also sounded a cautionary note about the rare prospect of Ruedi filling, spilling and sending at least 600 cfs of water down the lower Fryingpan.

“I have to stress that Ruedi is not a flood-control project, and if we get filled, there are no gates on the spillway to stop water from going,” Lee said. “And so, if we’re full, and we fill before peak runoff, there is always that chance that we would have excess flows beyond 600 cfs.”

Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times. The Times published a version of this story on Saturday, May 25, 2019.

“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.

#ArkansasRiver Basin Water Forum recap

Arkansas Valley Conduit Comanche North route via Reclamation

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

Pushing the…administration to continue financial support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit pipeline is a priority, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner told an audience of water district officials here Wednesday.

The 130-mile pipeline — which would run from Lake Pueblo to Lamar — was first authorized in 1962 but was unfunded until 2009, when Congress began authorizing planning funds for the long-awaited project.

Speaking to the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum in Pueblo, the Republican senator said he recently met with officials of the Bureau of Reclamation earlier this month to press the administration to support the pipeline project.

“I won’t let the federal government walk away from its obligation to the communities along the project,” he told the audience of several hundred water district officials at the Pueblo Convention Center.

Most recently, the federal bureau completed a feasibility study of the project.

Headwaters of the Arkansas River basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journlaism

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Peter Roper):

[Colorado and Kansas] are working together now on how to share a river that is lifeblood to eastern Colorado and western Kansas farmers and ranchers, according to experts at the 25th Arkansas River Basin Water Forum here this week.

The states have been to the U.S. Supreme Court seven times since 1902, most often because Kansas officials charged that Colorado was overusing the river. That wasn’t an empty claim, lawyer Matt Montgomery told the audience Thursday.

“The river essentially runs dry every summer near Dodge City because of its heavy use by agriculture in Colorado and Kansas,” he said.

Of course, it resurfaces further east and continues its way to the Mississippi River.

The historic source of the water feud was the fundamental clash in water philosophy. Colorado’s landowners and Legislature believed in an appropriated system of awarding water rights. People with the most senior water rights on the river get water before any junior rights are recognized.

Kansas, which was settled earlier, had a more land-based view. Owning land next to a river granted the landowner automatic water rights. The problem was the Arkansas might be used up before it reached some Kansas landowners.

Also, Colorado farmers were quick to drill wells in the valley. More than 1,000 new ones were installed after World War II, Montgomery said.

When states fight, it’s the U.S. Supreme Court that has primary jurisdiction. The court ordered the two states to reach some accommodation — and they created the Arkansas River Compact in 1949.

John Martin Reservoir back in the day

To help regulate water flow in the river, John Martin Reservoir was built in the 1940s near Lamar.

“But then Lake Pueblo and Trinidad Reservoir were built (in the 1970s), and that triggered the last lawsuit from Kansas, that Colorado was storing too much water,” Montgomery said.

But the two new lakes weren’t the problem; it was the additional wells that were depleting the river, he noted.

Today, the two states monitor the river use — and in Colorado, water courts require augmentation to the river before new wells are added.

Gib Hazard retires after 31 years on Southeastern #Colorado Water Conservancy District Board

Bill Long with Gib Hazard. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

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

The second-longest serving director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board, Gibson Hazard Jr., retired [April 18, 2019] after 31 years of service.

Gibson Hazard Jr., of Colorado Springs, joined the board on April 21, 1988. At his last meeting, fellow board members gave him a rousing send off.

“To put that in perspective, Ronald Reagan was president when you joined the board and gas was 98 cents,” quipped Bill Long, district president. “Since the district was formed (in 1958), we’ve had 72 board members and Gib has served with 47, which is quite an accomplishment. This includes our longest serving board member, (the late) Frank Milenski.”

Hazard served as secretary of the board, and represented El Paso County.

“You worked for the good of the district, which was always important,” Long told Hazard.

Hazard was raised on a ranch in southern Arizona, and graduated from Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He was a founding member of the Colorado Water Protective and Development Association, which is now the largest water augmentation group in the Arkansas Valley.

Hazard also served as manager of the 5,000-acre King-Barrett Ranch and Farm operation in Crowley County before it was sold to the Foxley Cattle Co.

The District presented Hazard an Excellence of Service award.

El Paso County has five members on the 15-member board. Members are appointed by district judges.

Pueblo Dam Hydro plant named for Jim Broderick

Jim Broderick. Photo credit: Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

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

A hydroelectric generation plant at Pueblo Dam was named for longtime executive director Jim Broderick of the district which is building the facility.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board Thursday unanimously passed a resolution naming the plant the James W. Broderick Hydroelectric Power Facility at Pueblo Dam when it is completed.

“Jim always takes a proactive approach through strategic planning and forward thinking in addressing the many and complex challenges that confront the Southeastern District, seeking solutions that are fair and equitable, and that protect and conserve the water resources of Colorado and the Southeastern District,” Board President Bill Long in proposing the resolution.

Broderick has led the team constructing the hydro plant through the initial steps for obtaining a Lease of Power Privilege from the Bureau of Reclamation to the eventual construction.

After obtaining final Reclamation approval to construct the hydro plant in 2017, the District signed a design-build contract with Mountain States Hydro of Sunnyside, Wash. Construction began in September of 2017, and is now substantially completed. Testing of the equipment at the plant is underway, and should be completed in May, when flows on the Arkansas River will increase to optimal levels for power production.

The $20.3 million hydro plant will use the natural flows released from the North Outlet at Pueblo Dam to the Arkansas River without consumption of any water. The plant uses three turbines and two generators individually or in combination to produce up to 7.5 megawatts of electricity at flows ranging from 35 to 810 cubic feet per second.
Based on historic averages, the hydro plant will be able to generate an average of 28 million kilowatt-hours annually, or enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.

The plant was funded by loans from the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the District’s Enterprise Activity.

“This is an important step for the District,” Broderick said. “We envision this as a long-term revenue source for Enterprise programs, such as the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Equally important will be the new source of clean power we have created.”

Power from Pueblo Dam Hydro will be sold to the city of Fountain, and to Fort Carson, through a separate agreement with Colorado Springs Utilities for the first 10 years of generation. For the next 20 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated by the plant.

“We’re very excited,” said Curtis Mitchell, utilities director for Fountain, and vice-president of the Southeastern Board. “This provides us with a source of clean electric power, and it has the added benefit of saving money for our ratepayers.”

Interior of the new Broderick Power Plant. Photo credit: The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

#ArkansasRiver: Southeastern District approves $22.3 million budget

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

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

Southeastern District approves $22.3 million budget

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board of Directors Thursday approved a $22.3 million budget for 2019 that includes payments for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit and the anticipated opening of a hydroelectric generation plant at Pueblo Dam.

Most of the budget comprises pass-through payments to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Fry-Ark Project costs total $8 million, which includes $1.46 million for repayment and $6.54 million for operation and maintenance. An amendment to the repayment contract this year established a fixed rate of repayment, and a maintenance fund for the project. The project includes Pueblo Dam, Twin Lakes, Turquoise Lake and a Western Slope collection system that brings water from the Colorado River basin into the Arkansas River basin.

Fountain Valley Authority payments total $5.36 million. The Fountain Valley Authority includes Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security, Widefield and Stratmoor Hills. Its water supply comes from Pueblo Dam through a pipeline constructed in the 1980s.

The District also will pay $272,382 on behalf of participants in the Excess Capacity Master Contract at Pueblo Reservoir. The contract was established in 2016 to allow participants to store water in the reservoir when space is available.

The budget projects $350,000 for spending in support of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Reclamation has $6.8 million available for AVC-related activities as well.

The $20.3 million hydroelectric plant at Pueblo Dam is expected to come online in early 2019. The plant is nearing completion and was financed with a $17.3 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and a $3 million loan from the District’s Enterprise Fund. Power will be sold to the city of Fountain and Fort Carson through Colorado Springs Utilities. Revenues are expected to total $900,000 in 2019.

The District mill levy for the coming year will by 0.944 mills, which is not substantially different from previous years. The District covers parts of nine counties from the Arkansas River headwaters to the Kansas state line.