10th Annual Ridgway RiverFest this Saturday, June 24, 2017

From email from the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnershiip Coalition:

10th Annual Ridgway RiverFest 20 years in the making

In 1997, when the town of Ridway applied for its first grant to restore the Uncompahgre River in town limits, a group of visionaries imagined the area becoming a river recreation attraction for the community. Little did they know that the restored length of river and the 11-acre park on its west bank would become the site of a major watershed celebration, attracting about 500 people each year for 10-plus years.

The town is celebrating the 10th annual Ridgway RiverFest, a free community festival at Rollans Park (next to the Highway 62 bridge), on Saturday, June 24.

The first riverside celebration was organized by the town government in July 2003 when a Great Outdoors Colorado grant was awarded to the town for major river restoration. But, the official Ridgway River Festival was started by a local nonprofit, the Mosaic Community Project, in 2008. The nonprofit was formed by local mothers hoping to establish a charter elementary school in Ridgway. Though they were unsuccessful, they had lots of energy and wanted to give back to the community so they raised funds through various events and awarded grants to service projects proposed by local students.

The group funded the installation of a bench by local artist Lisa Issenberg next to the river, and a bike rack by Jeff Skoloda by the pedestrian bridge in Rollans Park. The river festival became its signature event from 2008 to 2013. In addition to a watershed education area and nonprofit booths, the festivals featured live music, food vendors, Colorado beers and margaritas, including frozen ones created by Glenda the Blenda bike. The bike had been created by the Mosaic Community Project as a way of raising funds at local events.

Since 2008 until today, the festival has also featured on-river activities and races including hard shell and inflatable boats as well as standup paddleboards. The highlight is the “Junk of the Unc” where competitors race on home-made river-crafts made of all kinds of repurposed materials.

In 2011, the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership, a local group that aims to protect and restore local water resources through collaborative projects, joined in the festival organization. The group was created in 2007 to bring stakeholders together to monitor and improve the water quality in the Uncompahgre River and surrounding watershed, and became a nonprofit in 2013.

The partnership took over the organization of the entire festival in 2014. About half the proceeds from sponsorships, silent auction purchases and drink sales at the festival pay for the entertainment and other expenses, and the other half of the proceeds funds future water monitoring, mine remediation and other related projects.

Part-time staff and volunteer board members have kept it going by enlisting the support of dozens of volunteers and nearly a hundred sponsors each year. Ouray Mountain Rescue Team and local resident Chris Haaland have kept the river races going every year and still volunteer their time to ensure the river activities are safe and fun.

While the same popular festival activities like live music from bluesman Kipori Woods and friends are repeated each year, some special additions have been made to the 10th annual event. The silent auction area, which was initiated a few years ago, has been dubbed the River Rat Marketplace and will offer more great deals than ever on donated products, services and certificates from nearly 50 companies. A Ute flute player will join Ute elder Roland McCook to share their traditional culture. Youth areas will include a River Fairy Forest with four activity stations and a bug science demonstration. Plus, a commemorative mural will be colored by the community, and drinks will be served in reusable, collectible festival cups.

The 10th Annual Ridgway RiverFest will be Saturday, June 24, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For the festival schedule and information, visit http://ridgwayriverfest.org.

Uncompahgre River Valley looking south

Aspinall Unit operations update: 1150 CFS in Black Canyon

Fog-filled Black Canyon via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The spring peak operation has officially concluded. Due to an issue with the power plant at Crystal Dam, the ramp down was forced to end prematurely. As of today releases are being made through the bypass gates at a rate of 2150 cfs. This has put flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon around 1150 cfs. This release rate is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Further adjustments to this release rate may be necessary to manage the remaining runoff coming into Blue Mesa Reservoir.

Aspinall Unit operations update: 4,500 cfs in Black Canyon — @USBR

Sunrise Black Canyon via Bob Berwyn

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The spring peak operation is nearing completion. Releases are currently being made to sustain half bankfull flow levels at the Whitewater gage, as well as to manage the forecasted runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir. Releases from the Aspinall Unit have been around 5,500 cfs during the past week and that release rate will continue through Sunday, June 11th. Flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are currently around 4,500 cfs and can be expected to stay near this level through Sunday, June 11th. Starting on Monday, June 12th flows will begin to ramp down towards the summertime release level. This should result in flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon around 900 cfs to 1,000 cfs once the ramp down is completed on Monday, June 19th.

#Snowpack news: Streamflow up, snowpack down

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the NRCS. Please note that despite the blueness of the basin-filled map much of the snowpack has melted-out. Statewide Snow Water Equivalent left approximately = four inches.

Here’s the Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map.

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map June 4, 2017 via the NRCS.

From The Montrose Daily Press (Katharhynn Heidelberg):

The massive reservoirs that store Colorado River water critical to several states and Mexico run the risk of being drained and so, require careful management.

“We do not want to drain the system,” Eric Kuhn, the retiring general manager of the Colorado River District, told local water users Wednesday.

Kuhn and several others spoke during the Gunnison River Basin State of the Rivers annual public meeting in Montrose.

Kuhn spoke of Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which collectively store 50 million acre-feet of the 60 million acre-feet of stored water from within the Colorado River Basin, and which supply the water needs of multiple states.

Draining down the two lakes would affect everything from several compacts governing water rights between states, to power generation.

The district is developing and implementing contingency plans to “keep enough in our savings account,” Kuhn said. For Lake Powell, that means keeping at least enough in it to generate power — a cushion, but a cushion that’s a little low, he said.

At Lake Mead in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the goal is to equalize; in order to do that, demand must be reduced by a staggering 20 percent.

The contingency plan will help the millions who depend on water from Powell and Mead weather droughts. “If we were to go into drought, we would be prepared,” Kuhn said.

The Colorado Basin is having a good year so far — but not necessarily great, he said earlier.

“It’s a really, really busy time right now on the Colorado River. … We’re trying to figure out how we’re going to live with a developed river,” Kuhn said, but added water rights will be honored as required by legal agreements.

Projected runoff is overall normal: While some parts of the Colorado River Basin are approaching record runoff, others are only hitting average runoff. It’s a good year “but not a great year,” Kuhn said.

The river basin is the lifeblood of farming and municipal uses.

“Every drop of water is used in the Colorado River Basin. … We’re basically at a zero-sum (operation),” Kuhn said.

After agricultural usage, the biggest use of Colorado River water is evaporation, which takes 2 million acre-feet a year — more than all municipal uses combined, he said.

The Gunnison River is a main tributary of the Colorado. The Gunnison River Basin is among those within the Colorado River Basin showing an above-average year.

Bob Hurford, the division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources, pointed to readings from the North Fork, which showed above-average snowpack, while, he said, the Uncompahgre River also showed “another good snowpack year.”

Ridgway Reservoir is 118 percent of seasonal peak, and runoff could extend into July, Hurford said, telling users to expect peak flow above 1,000 cubic feet per second.

“The big dog is the Upper Gunnison Basin. It was a big, big, big year,” Hurford said. The basin is 143 percent of seasonal peak.

Good soil moisture also is helping, as is average to above-average precipitation, leading to an overall good supply for irrigation water in the Gunnison River Basin.

Plus: “You can expect a decent monsoon season again,” Hurford said.

Monsoonal moisture, which usually arrives in July, is critical to growers during hot summer months.

The basin is experiencing an “average wet” category year, said Ryan Christianson, water operations manager for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The federal body manages stored water in the Gunnison River Basin as part of the Aspinall Unit.

The Gunnison Tunnel should be taking on its full amount later in summer, Christianson said.

The meeting wound down with honors for Kuhn’s years of service. State Rep. Marc Catlin, R-Montrose, presented him with beans grown in the Uncompahgre Valley and Russell Stover’s candies, while Colorado Water Conservation Board Director John McClow gave him a basket of “Gunnison Basin goodies” — food and drink items produced thanks in part to river water.

Kuhn and the Colorado River District, said Catlin have “saved this valley” more than once.

Kuhn’s segment of the meeting also was filmed by a PBS crew for inclusion in “This American Land.”

Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

@ColoradoWater “State of the River” meetings #ColoradoRiver #COriver

Yampa/White/Green/North Platte river basins via the Colorado Geological Survey
Gunnison River Basin via the Colorado Geological Survey
Colorado River Basin in Colorado via the Colorado Geological Survey

Aspinall Unit operations update

Aspinall Unit dams

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The May 15th forecast for the April – July unregulated inflow volume to Blue Mesa Reservoir is 825,000 acre-feet. This is 122% of the 30 year average. Blue Mesa Reservoir current content is 681,000 acre-feet which is 82% of full. Current elevation is 7502.4 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 peak flow target is listed below:

Black Canyon Water Right

The peak flow target is equal to 6,427 cfs for a duration of 24 hours.

The shoulder flow target is 831 cfs, for the period between May 1 and July 25.

The May 15th forecast of 825,000 af is now in the Average Wet category and the Aspinall Unit ROD flow targets have changed. Based on the May 15th forecast, the flow targets are listed below:

Aspinall Unit Operations ROD

The year type is currently classified as Average Wet.

The peak flow target is 14,040 cfs and the duration target at this flow is 2 days.

The half bank-full target is 8,070 cfs and the duration target at this flow is 20 days.

The spring peak operation has reached peak release level. The release increase made this morning, May 24th, should result in the first day of flows > 14,000 cfs at the Whitewater gage, arriving by the afternoon of May 25th. Today, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon have reached 11,500 cfs. The current rate of release is planned to continue through Sunday, May 28th. At this time it is projected that there is additional water that needs to be released from the Aspinall Unit to prevent overfilling at Blue Mesa Reservoir, therefore the peak release is continuing to meet more than the 2 day duration target.

@ColoradoRiver: Expanded funding available for agricultural producers to implement irrigation efficiency projects in the Lower Gunnison Basin

Sweet corn near Olathe, CO. Photo credit Mark Skalny, The Nature Conservancy.

The Colorado River District has announced an additional funding opportunity (up to a total of $1.8 million) to support qualifying applicants for planning and implementation of irrigation efficiency improvement projects in the Lower Gunnison Project area. Applications from landowners that address identified resource concerns within the Bostwick Park, Paonia, Smith Fork, and Uncompahgre project areas will be accepted through July 21, 2017, for funding consideration.

This announcement of funding opportunity is an expansion of on-going, cooperatively-managed activities made possible by the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for on-farm improvements, like conversion to pressure-piped sprinklers.

“We are excited to be able to continue to provide this funding that can be used to make our agricultural partners more productive and competitive while helping to meet important water resource management objectives,” explained Dave Kanzer, Project Manager and Deputy Chief Engineer of the River District.

Successful producer-applicants will receive financial assistance to plan, design and install advanced irrigation systems that address identified natural resource concerns. For example, these include projects that improve: 1) water availability (i.e., water use efficiency), 2) water quality (e.g. salinity and selenium loading), 3) soil health (e.g., cover cropping), and 4) fish and wildlife habitat (i.e., projects that benefit water quantity / quality). The Lower Gunnison Project uses an integrated application, contract process and a favorable cost-share ratio.

Interested applicants, landowners, and/or producers are encouraged to attend a Lower Gunnison Project Funding Interest Meeting in their area:

  • Hotchkiss: June 29 (6-6:15 pm light food/refreshments; Main program starts at 6:15 pm). Hotchkiss Memorial Hall, 276 W Main Street, Hotchkiss, CO 81419
  • Montrose: June 28 (6-6:15 pm light food/refreshments; Main program starts at 6:15 pm). Delta Montrose Electric Association (DMEA), 11925 6300 Rd, Montrose, CO 81402

An application and more information can be obtained by visiting the Shavano Conservation District (102 Par Place, Suite #4, Montrose, CO 81401 / Phone (970) 249-8407 Ext. 115) or Delta Conservation District (690 Industrial Blvd, Delta, CO 81416 / Phone (970) 399- 8194). Interested individuals can also contact the Colorado River District at (970) 945-8522 or go to the following website: http://gunnisonriverbasin.org/projects/lower-gunnison-project/

This funding opportunity complies with the rules and regulations of the Natural Resources Conservation Service Environmental Quality Incentive Program and is open to all eligible agricultural producers without discrimination or bias.