Ruedi Dam operations update

Ivanhoe Reservoir, in the headwaters of the Fryingpan RIver basin. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (James Bishop):

Releases from Ruedi Dam to the Fryingpan River are scheduled to decrease from 350 to 300 cubic feet per second on Monday, September 24 at 8 a.m.

This release rate maintains “fish water” deliveries to the 15-mile Reach for endangered fish species. Routine updates to follow. Feel free to contact me with any questions at jbishop@usbr.gov or by phone at 970-962-4326.

Ruedi releases are bolstering Fryingpan River streamflow

Fryingpan River downstream of Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

While most local rivers are flowing at levels far below average, the Fryingpan is the exception. Releases from Ruedi Reservoir are supplementing low flows downstream, in the Colorado River.

The Bureau of Reclamation controls the amount of water that flows out of Ruedi dam, and announced this week that flows in the Fryingpan will increase to 400 cubic feet per second (cfs), more than double the average.

The increases will mean more water delivered to irrigators with senior water rights in the Grand Valley. It will also provide water to four endangered fish in an area known as the 15-Mile Reach near Grand Junction.

Flows in the Fryingpan River are expected to remain at 400 cfs through the end of September.

@USBR: Releases from #Ruedi Reservoir Increasing September 4, 2018 #ColoradoRiver #COriver #drought #aridification

The dam that forms Ruedi Reservoir, above Basalt on the Fryingpan River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From email from Reclamation (Peter Soeth)

The release from Ruedi will be increased Tuesday morning by approximately 45 cfs. After this change, the flow at the Fryingpan River gage below Ruedi Reservoir will increase from 178 cfs to approximately 223 cfs.

This flow increase was requested by the USFWS to support fish recovery efforts in the 15-Mile reach of the Colorado River.

This release rate will continue until further notice.

#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.

@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.

Basalt: @USBR to Host Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations Public Meeting, August 9, 2018

Ruedi Reservoir. Photo credit Greg Hobbs

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

The Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled the annual public meeting to discuss the Ruedi Reservoir Water Operations for the 2018 water year.

The meeting will be held on August 9, 2018, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the following location:

Roaring Fork Conservancy River Center
22800 Two Rivers Road
Basalt, CO 81621

The meeting will provide an overview of Ruedi Reservoir’s 2018 projected operations for late summer and early fall, which are key tourist seasons in Basalt. Also, representatives of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will give a presentation on the upcoming implementation of the Ute Water Conservancy District lease of Ruedi Reservoir water to the Board for instream flow use in the 15-Mile Reach of the Colorado River. The meeting will include a public question and answer session.

For more information, please contact Tim Miller, Hydrologist, Eastern Colorado Area Office, by phone or e-mail: (970) 962-4394, or tmiller@usbr.gov.

Fryingpan-Arkansas Project via the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District

@CWCB_DNR OKs leases for Ruedi Reservoir water to help endangered fish — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

A map of the Fry-Ark system. Aspen, and Hunter Creek, are shown in the lower left. Fryingpan-Arkansas Project western and upper eastern slope facilities.

From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett) via The Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

The Colorado Water Conservation Board on Wednesday approved two leases of water from Ruedi Reservoir designed to help different types of fish populations in the Colorado and Fryingpan rivers.

For the fourth year in a row the state agency will lease water from the Ute Water Conservancy District to bolster flows in what’s known as the “15-mile reach” of the Colorado River between the Palisade area and the confluence of the Gunnison River in Grand Junction. That stretch of the river is critical habitat for native endangered fish species, including the humpback chub.

This year’s renewed lease agreement will allow the CWCB, which was meeting this week in Glenwood Springs, to release from Ruedi Reservoir 6,000 acre-feet of water held for the Ute Water Conservancy District by the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the reservoir.

At $7.20 per acre-foot, it will cost $43,200 and come out of the CWCB’s species conservation trust fund. The water releases will take place during September and October, according to Linda Bassi, chief of the CWCB’s stream and lake protection department.

“It’s really important for us to be providing water to the 15-mile reach,” Bassi told the directors of the CWCB. “Every drop counts.”

The directors of the CWCB met Wednesday and Thursday as part of their practice of meeting in different parts of the state. On Tuesday, the agency’s board of directors took a tour of Ruedi Reservoir and attended an informational event at the Aspen Yacht Club on the reservoir hosted by the Southeastern Water Conservancy District.

On Wednesday, Bassi described for the directors some of the drastic impacts that low flows can have on fish, including making fish more vulnerable to avian predators, leaving them stranded in small pools or even causing them to get sunburned.

Large diversions on the Colorado River above Palisade that send irrigation water to the Grand Valley, along with other diversions upstream on the river system, can cause the 15-mile reach flows to plummet to detrimental levels.

To help offset the diversions, officials with the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program have set a low-flow target of 810 cubic feet per second this year. The leased water aims to help meet that target.

Since the beginning of July, the flows in the 15-mile reach have fluctuated between about 400 to 500 cfs, well below the target of 810 cfs.

A condition of the lease between Ute Water and the CWCB is that releases from Ruedi will not exceed 300 cfs and will not cause flows in the lower Fryingpan River below the reservoir to exceed 350 cfs, as flows at that level can make it difficult for anglers to wade in the popular fly-fishing river.

The lower Fryingpan on Wednesday flowed at 150 cfs.

WINTER FLOWS IN FRYINGPAN

The CWCB board also approved a lease from the Colorado River Water Conservancy District to increase winter flows on the lower Fryingpan. The proposal was first introduced in May.

The lease will boost the minimum instream flow below Ruedi Reservoir between Jan. 1 and March 31 from 39 cfs to 70 cfs in an effort to prevent the formation of anchor ice.

Low streamflows, combined with frigid temperatures, can lead to ice forming on the bottom of the river. This has a negative effect on aquatic insects, which are food for the brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout that call the lower Fryingpan home.

Under the agreement, the CWCB will pay $65.25 per acre-foot to lease up to 3,500 acre-feet from the River District, for a total cost of $228,775.

The district owns a total of 11,413.5 acre-feet of water in Ruedi, with 7,500 acre-feet of that available for leasing. Of the total the district owns, 5,412.5 acre-feet is to support flows for the endangered fish recovery program.

The proposal to maintain a healthy food source for the “gold medal” fishery’s population of trout was a collaboration between the River District and the Roaring Fork Conservancy, which is based in Basalt.

“We are excited to see [the lease] approved and to partner with the CWCB and the River District,” said Heather Tattersall Lewin, watershed action director for the Conservancy. “It’s really the first lease of its kind.”

DIFFERING COSTS

Although the CWCB board unanimously approved the Ruedi water leases, two board members raised questions about the differing cost per acre-foot for the two projects.

At more than $65 per acre-foot, the River District water costs roughly nine times more than the water leased from Ute Water.

Over the previous three years, the CWCB has spent a total of $194,400 on the Ute Water lease for a total 27,000 acre-feet.

Board member Patricia Wells, who represents the city and county of Denver, said she was trying to reconcile the dramatic difference in price.

Jim Yahn, the current CWCB chair, who represents the South Platte River basin, asked whether CWCB staff had negotiated the cost of the lease with the River District. They did not, Bassi said.

“It struck me, the price difference,” Yahn said.

River District Chief Engineer John Currier explained that earlier this year, in response to the leasing proposal, his organization created a third use-category in addition to its existing categories of agriculture and municipal/industrial: in-channel use.

The River District then decided to market the water at the same price as they do for agriculture use.

“The River District runs a water marketing enterprise,” Currier said. “It’s my job to make sure that enterprise runs in the black.”

Ute Water External Affairs Manager Joe Burtard said the water provider does not try to generate revenue with its leases; instead it simply wants to cover its costs associated with operation and maintenance of the reservoir.

The cost of the River District water didn’t seem to bother board member Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin on the CWCB board. He said the instream flow leases demonstrate the importance of Ruedi as a storage unit.

“I’m delighted the River District bought the water and we have it for use today,” he said.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is collaborating with The Aspen Times and Glenwood Springs Post Independent on the coverage of rivers and water. More at http://www.aspenjournalism.org.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program