#Water-Related Outdoor Recreation in #Colorado Generates Over $18 Billion Annually — The Business for Water Stewardship

In the Gunnison River gorge, CPW Aquatic Biologist Eric Gardunio, holds a whirling-disease resistant rainbow trout. CPW is stocking fish resistant to the disease throughout the state. Photo credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

From the Business for Water Stewardship (Claudia Hensley):

New study finds Colorado’s waterways support over 100,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue across the state

Anew​study​releasedbyB​ usinessforWaterStewardship​todayfoundthat water-related outdoor recreation in Colorado ​produces $18.8 billion in economic output, and contributes $10.3 billion to the state gross domestic product (GDP) overall​. According to the study:

  • 6.7 million people participate in water-related outdoor recreation​ in Colorado annually, whether in the form of hiking, jogging, camping, fishing or other water-related activities on or around Colorado’s waterways.
  • Water-related recreation supports over ​131,000 jobs a​ round the state that provide​ $6.3 billion in household income ​and generate an estimated ​$2.7 billion in tax revenue.
  • “The access to unparalleled outdoor recreation is part of what makes living in Colorado so special. But it’s not only about quality of life — outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the state economy, and Colorado’s waterways are an essential economic engine,” said ​Molly Mugglestone, Director of Communications and Colorado Policy, Business for Water Stewardship​. “Investing in clean and plentiful waterways isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Continued stewardship of Colorado’s waterways is essential to the long-term health of Colorado’s economy, ecosystems, and communities.”

    “The access to unparalleled outdoor recreation is part of what makes living in Colorado so special. But it’s not only about quality of life — outdoor recreation is a cornerstone of the state economy, and Colorado’s waterways are an essential economic engine,” said ​Molly Mugglestone, Director of Communications and Colorado Policy, Business for Water Stewardship​. “Investing in clean and plentiful waterways isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for business. Continued stewardship of Colorado’s waterways is essential to the long-term health of Colorado’s economy, ecosystems, and communities.”

    The study, conducted by ​Southwick Associates​, presents economic contributions based on estimated retail spending in Colorado attributable to time on or along the water spent engaging in one of nine target activities (trail sports, camping, picnicking or relaxing, water sports, wildlife-watching, fishing, snow sports, bicycling or skateboarding and hunting or shooting) across nine river basins (Arkansas, Colorado, Gunnison, Metro, North Platte, Rio Grande, San Juan / Dolores San Miguel, South Platte, Yampa / White Green). Of the nine basins surveyed, the Colorado River mainstem alone generates $3.8 billion in economic output annually and supports 26,768 jobs.

    “We believe it’s critically important to promote the outdoor industry’s importance to Colorado’s economy and our way of life. These figures are staggering, but not surprising,” said ​David Dragoo, founder of Mayfly Outdoors.​ “At Mayfly, we see the impact that recreation and engagement has on our community in Montrose as well as across the state. We think it’s part of our job to help ensure our communities can access and enjoy our rivers and waterways. Protecting river resources is even more important than ever as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    In releasing this study BWS has partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association to promote the critical need to protect Colorado’s rivers and waterways. “Outdoor recreation is a huge economic driver in the state and Colorado is home to many outdoor businesses and to our industry’s largest gathering, Outdoor Retailer, said ​Lise Aaangeenbrug, executive director,​ ​Outdoor Industry Association.​ “While we can’t gather as an industry this summer in Denver, watching the growth of people going outdoors during the pandemic and the release of this important data gives the industry great hope for the future. Protecting our state’s public lands and waterways are more important than ever to provide places to go outside and support the health and wellbeing of our communities.”

    “We know that our great outdoors, including Colorado’s beautiful rivers, are a huge part of what makes our state such a great place to call home, drawing millions of people from around the globe every year and bringing industry and business here. But we can’t stop at enjoying nature – we must also protect it for the future. This study shows how much our state’s economy depends on preserving our rivers. We must continue to protect our quality of life and keep our environment as a top priority,” said ​Kelly Brough, President and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

    A raft, poised for action, on the Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Denver Post (Judith Kohler) via The Broomfield Enterprise:

    The report released Monday by Business for Water Stewardship said 6.7 million people participate in water-related recreation annually, supporting more than 131,000 direct and indirect jobs. That translates to $6.3 billion in household income, $2.7 billion in tax revenue and roughly $10 billion to the state’s gross domestic product, according to the analysis by Southwick Associates.

    “The general message is the importance of rivers, waterways, to our economy,” said Molly Mugglestone, director of Colorado policy for the business organization. “We need to preserve and protect these areas that people want to go to and spend time on.”

    […]

    The report relies on spending data collected by Southwick Associates for the Outdoor Industry Association and a survey that looked at where people recreated. The report includes responses from 1,252 people and targets such activities as swimming, rafting, kayaking and other sports on the water as well as trail running along the water, fishing and wildlife watching.

    The report analyzes statewide data and date for nine river basins in the state…

    The Business for Water Stewardship’s promotion of keeping waterways healthy is a big benefit for the outdoor industry, [David] Dragoo said. “As an industry, we don’t really have any infrastructure, if you will. Our corporate infrastructure is our public lands and our waters.”

    #Runoff news: #BlueRiver reopened

    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

    From The Summit Daily (Sawyer D’Argonne):

    The Summit County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday afternoon that the Blue River had returned to safe conditions would be reopening for recreational activities immediately.

    On June 1, the Sheriff’s Office and the town of Silverthorne were notified by Denver Water that flow levels were rapidly increasing to 1,000 cubic feet per second, presenting safety concerns for river recreationists.

    Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons and Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor decided to temporarily close the river from the base of the Dillon Dam to the Sixth Street Bridge, where the water was high enough to injure someone floating past that point.

    On Tuesday afternoon, the Sheriff’s Office and town got the thumbs up from Denver Water that flow levels on the river had significantly decreased and were once again safe for recreation. At 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Blue River below Dillon Dam was flowing at 301 cfs.

    While the river has opened back up, officials are reminding anyone heading out on the water to use caution. Members of the public are encouraged to review the Summit County Swift Water Safety and Flood Preparedness Guide available on the county’s website. The guide contains information on the history of high water events in the county, along with instructions for building sandbag levees, household checklists, flood insurance information, safety tips for recreating and more.

    A little #whitewater near #CrestedButte

    #Runoff news: Rafting season ready to launch, but #COVID19 worries running high — @WaterEdCO #coronavirus

    Rafters enjoy a day on the Gunnison River near Gunnison, Colo., on May 17, 2020. The Gunnison is flowing at about 80 percent of its normal volume for this time of year. Overall, Colorado’s snowpack is melting faster than usual. Along with lower river flows the presence of COVID-19 is creating challenges for commercial river running companies as well as private boaters. Credit: Dean Krakel/Special to Fresh Water News

    From Water Education Colorado (Dean Krakel):

    With warming temperatures in Colorado’s mountains and spring runoff in full swing, the whitewater boating season should be off to a roaring start.

    But Colorado’s stringent COVID-19 travel and recreation restrictions are forcing commercial rafting companies to create social distance on unruly rivers and face the potential for smaller crowds.

    “The snowpack’s in good shape,” said John Kreski, rafting coordinator for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Arkansas River Headwaters Area. “But the phones aren’t ringing. This is very frustrating.”

    Colorado’s highest flows, as of mid-May, are in the northern part of the state, with the Poudre and North Platte at 100 to 120 percent of normal, according to Aldis Strautins, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

    The upper Colorado, Gunnison, Green and lower Colorado rivers are all flowing at between 70 to 80 percent of normal, while the Arkansas River, from Buena Vista to the Royal Gorge, is flowing at 80 percent of normal.

    Because of an unusually warm and dry April, flows are trending downward in the central and southern mountains.

    The South Platte River and Clear Creek are running at 64 to 70 percent of normal, while the Rio Grande and San Juan River are just 45 percent of normal.

    Northern Colorado rivers, such as the Poudre, will have enough snowmelt to extend flows for boating into late summer. Elsewhere in the state the best floating will occur from May into early July. “Get down into that 70 to 75 percent and you’re looking at a reduced season,” Strautins said. “There’s just not enough snow to extend it.”

    Recreational vehicle: Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Hoping to maximize the early season flows, outfitters are anxiously waiting to see how many visitors will show, according to Bob Hamel, executive director of the Arkansas River Outfitters Association, a trade group.

    “Who’s going to travel? Who’s got money? Will we even be traveling or flying to destinations?” he asked.

    Still, Hamel is hopeful that the state’s waterways can be opened for commercial use by early June, bringing some much-needed economic activity to the state.

    Colorado’s rafting industry is the No. 2 contributor to the state’s recreation economy, behind skiing. Centered on the Colorado, Rio Grande, Arkansas and Platte rivers, it contributed nearly $188 million to the state’s economy, according to a report of the Colorado River Outfitters Association. Visitors spent an average of $135 on a river adventure, including food, lodging, gas and souvenirs.

    These numbers don’t include hundreds of homegrown rafters and kayakers who recreate on Colorado’s rivers or the large numbers of boaters from out of state that bring their own gear to the hallmark waterways.

    How COVID-19 will impact the industry this summer isn’t clear yet, though major changes are underway.

    “Every river floating company will have to adapt their own safety procedures to the kind of trips that they offer,” said Hamel. “A half-day trip down the Taylor River can’t be handled the same as a multi-day trip down the Gunnison Gorge. Some rafts are bigger. Some are smaller. The rafting industry can’t do a one size fits all.”

    One set of COVID-19 rafting guidelines developed by Mark Schumacher, owner of Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colo., includes daily screening of employees, non-touch guest check-in, and hand sanitizer in all office and retail areas.

    In addition, directional signs will guide visitors to wherever they need to go, with group size monitored by employees. The number of people on a raft will be reduced to maintain proper social distancing, with spaced seating and open windows on vans and shuttles, disinfection of equipment after each use, and instructions to clients to bring their own water bottles and food.

    Andy Neinas, a river running veteran with Echo Canyon Outfitters in Cañon City, said the rafting industry is well-equipped to handle the COVID-19 restrictions.

    “All of us are juggling things to make it all work. We’re going to being doing it differently, but nobody does it better than Colorado,” Neinas said.

    Dean Krakel is a photographer and writer based in Almont, Colo. He can be reached at dkrakel@gmail.com.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Alex Zorn):

    According to the National Weather Service, rising temperatures this week led to rising river levels.

    In fact, in the past week, river flows at the Colorado/Utah border have climbed from just over 7,000 cubic feet per second to nearly 13,000 cfs, according to flow data from the United States Geological Survey.

    NWS service hydrologist Aldis Strautins said warmer days and nights helped the snowpack melt in the beginning of the week, resulting in higher river flows.

    “Most sites will stay below any flood concerns. A few areas in the northwest part of Colorado, including the Yampa Basin and some of the smaller rivers, may reach higher levels,” he said. “We’re monitoring it right now.”

    Wednesday’s river flow data for the Colorado River at the Utah border had the river flowing at 12,900 cfs. The average for May 20 at that spot in the river is more than 15,100 cfs.

    #Runoff news: Rivers rising along with the spring temperatures — early peak, or maybe multiple peaks possible — The Sky-Hi Daily News

    From the Glenwood Springs Post Independent via The Sky-Hi News (John Stroud):

    Rivers are rising faster than usual throughout the Colorado and Roaring Fork river watersheds, as warm temperatures have led to early melting of the high-country snowpack.

    Higher river flows have also drawn paddlers to the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park, as the facility officially reopened this week with public health guidelines in place amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic…

    Commercial rafting is on hold until later this month or early June while guidelines are being developed for that and other tourist activities. Private boats are allowed on the rivers, but with social-distancing and other health guidelines in mind.

    The higher river flows are the result of warmer-than-normal temperatures across Colorado’s Western Slope, and the lack of precipitation to add to the mountain snowpack in April, according to Ken Leib, hydrologist with the United State Geological Survey in Grand Junction…

    Leib said the Colorado River could see peak flows earlier than usual if the warmer weather continues, or possibly an early peak and then a second peak in June if temperatures modify.

    After the record snowpack during the winter of 2018-19, the peak flow on the Colorado River below the confluence with the Roaring Fork River in Glenwood Springs didn’t come until July 1, 2019, according to USGS historical data.

    The flow last year topped out at 20,800 cubic feet per second (cfs), at a depth of 9 feet, 8 inches at the Glenwood measuring station.

    Dating back to 1967, the highest peak flow at Glenwood was 31,500 cfs on May 25, 1984. The earliest peak flow came on May 20, 1996, at 18,200 cfs.

    As of Thursday evening, according to realtime USGS data, the Colorado at Glenwood was flowing at 5,150 cfs with a depth of 5 feet, 8 inches — down from the Monday high this week of 6,000 cfs and 6 feet, 1 inch.

    Just above the confluence on the Roaring Fork River at Veltus Park, the flow in the Fork was topping out at 1,200 cfs with a gage depth of 3 feet, 3 inches. The peak flow on the Roaring Fork at that location last year also came on July 1, at 8,960 cfs.

    USGS data goes back to 1906 for that location on the Roaring Fork. The earliest recorded peak came on May 12, 1934, when the flow topped out at 4,100 cfs.

    Pitkin County moves ahead with $1 million river project — @AspenJournalism

    The Robinson Diversion, located just upstream from the boat ramp on Willits Lane has long presented a hazard for boaters on the Roaring Fork River. Pitkin County Healthy Rivers has secured roughly $256,000 in grant money to permanently fix the area. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers board is moving ahead with a nearly $1 million project to fix a problem spot on the Roaring Fork River between old town Basalt and Willits.

    For the past few years, the board has been steadily accumulating grant money to fix the Robinson Diversion, an area known to boaters as Anderson Falls. The diversion is a line of rocks across the river, designed to help water flow into a channel on river right and into the headgate of the Robinson Ditch.

    The spot, just upstream of the small boat ramp on Willits Lane near the FedEx outlet, has long presented a tricky obstacle to boaters, especially at low water.

    And although repairs last April by the ditch company created a much-improved boat channel, the area remains vulnerable to winter ice flows and spring runoff, which could rearrange the rocks. Pitkin County is hoping to fund a more permanent fix.

    The headgate for the Robinson Diversion is located on river right, just upstream from the boat ramp on Willits Lane on the Roaring Fork River. The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Board is moving forward on a nearly $1 million project to fix the Robinson Diversion structure. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    Option A

    Last month, Healthy Rivers board members informally decided to move forward with restoration project “option A” with an estimated cost of $935,000.

    The work, by Carbondale-based River Restoration, would include creating two smaller drops in the river, instead of one large drop, which would still allow water to reach the Robinson Ditch’s headgate. The project also would make some improvements to the diversion structure and result in better fish habitat.

    River Restoration also presented Healthy Rivers with an “option B,” which would modify the existing rocks and extend the drop downstream to make for a more mellow ride in a raft, ducky or kayak. That option would cost roughly $586,000 but would not include fish-habitat work or improvements to the diversion headgate.

    Board members decided to stick with the more complete “option A.”

    “We might be wasting money if we don’t go big on this project,” said Healthy Rivers board member Lisa Tasker. “Going big means finding a solution to the Robinson Ditch rearranging the river bed year after year. One of the biggest goals is to have less equipment get into the river.”

    Pitkin County commissioners have to approve expenditures from the Healthy Rivers board, which is a recommending body.

    Blazing Adventures runs commercial river trips from Snowmass Canyon to just below the Robinson Diversion structure, usually starting in July as spring runoff fades. Owner Vince Nichols said the boat chute last year was a great improvement, but he would welcome a more permanent fix.

    “Our main takeaway would be safety and having a boatable passage,” he said.

    It’s unclear yet whether the Robinson Ditch Co., which owns and operates the structure and headgate, will contribute monetarily to the project, but manager Bill Reynolds said he is in support of fixing the structure.

    “I welcome anything that helps all the boaters, fisherman, all the users on the river,” he said. “And if the ditch company can gain a better structure out there, that will help everybody. It’s a win-win.”

    The headgate for the Robinson Diversion is located on river right, just upstream from the boat ramp on Willits Lane on the Roaring Fork River. The Pitkin County Healthy Rivers Board is moving forward on a nearly $1 million project to fix the Robinson Diversion structure. Photo credit: Heather Sackett/Aspen Journalism

    Rising costs

    So far, Healthy Rivers has amassed $256,216 in grant money for the project: a $171,216 Colorado Water Plan grant, a $45,000 Water Supply Reserve Fund grant — both are state funds from the Colorado Water Conservation Board — and a $40,000 Fishing Is Fun grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

    These are matching grants, with the county currently committed to contributing at least roughly $246,000 toward the project.

    According to Lisa MacDonald, a paralegal in the county attorney’s office, Healthy Rivers has no other grants in the works for the project, but it continues to look for more opportunities and funding. The project is still short of funding by about $430,000, and as time goes on, project costs continue to rise.

    The price tag on the project in 2017 was $800,000. By this year, it had increased to $935,000.

    “(The project) has a large footprint and we have to move the river during construction,” said Quinn Donnelly of River Restoration. “There are so few contractors that do the work, and it’s involved. There is risk involved.”

    To make up the funding gap, MacDonald said the county could seek contributions from Eagle County, the town of Basalt, the ditch company and grants from Great Outdoors Colorado.

    “The board does need to talk about exactly where the rest of that funding will come from,” Tasker said. “We are moving forward and will have discussions about how to cover what our grants do not.”

    Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of water and rivers. This story ran in the March 8 edition of The Aspen Times.

    More #whitewater park work to begin this week in Basalt — The Aspen Times

    An overview of the Basalt whitewater park. There is third wave now in the park, although it’s not as burly as the first two. At least not at 2,500 cfs. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Aspen Times (Jason Auslander):

    Pitkin County will begin construction next week on the latest fix to a whitewater park on the Roaring Fork River in Basalt that some said was too dangerous during high water last summer, sources said Wednesday.

    “The primary goal of the adjustment is to improve high-flow navigation from runoff,” said Quinn Donnelly, an engineer with River Restoration of Carbondale, which designed the park. “(High water) was creating big holes and people were flipping.”

    Contractors next week will begin altering two man-made concrete wave structures in the riverbed to make them less difficult to navigate during high-water conditions, Donnelly said. Crews will move around boulders and create ramps to better flush water through the area and create a wave-train, he said.

    “The goal of this winter’s work is to strike a better balance between the fun surfability of the waves and their high-water navigability,” Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board Chairman Andre Wille said in a news release Wednesday. “The end result will be wave features that are easier for river runners to bypass at high flows.”

    Despite repeated requests Wednesday for how much the project will cost and where the money will come from, a spokesperson for the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board declined to release it. The park was initially built for $770,000 with Healthy Rivers funds, though it’s not clear how much has been spent since then to tweak it.

    This winter’s project will mark the second time the whitewater park has had to be re-engineered because of safety concerns.

    #Colorado rafting team falls short in second attempt at speed record down the #GrandCanyon — The Colorado Sun

    The U.S. Rafting Team has enlisted three veteran Grand Canyon guides in a mission to set a new speed record for descending the Colorado River’s 277 miles through the canyon. The team tested a new raft design last month on the Ruby Horsethief and Westwater canyons, rowing from Loma to Utah’s Dewey Bridge in about nine hours. (Robbie Prechtl, special to The Colorado Sun)

    From The Colorado Sun (Jason Blevins):

    They finished in 37 hours, 55 minutes, missing the 34-hour, 2-minute record set by kayaker Ben Orkin in 2016.

    As the miles and minutes passed, the crew on the customized cataraft was feeling strong and pulling hard on their oars, but their pace slipping.

    “We just didn’t have enough water,” said John Mark Seelig, whose Colorado-based U.S. Rafting Team was joined by three veteran Colorado River guides on Friday and Saturday in a speed-record attempt to descend 277 miles through the Grand Canyon

    As the river dipped to 10,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the crew outraced a pulse of water released from the Glen Canyon Dam upstream, the record slipped away…

    The team of eight arrived at Phantom Ranch, at mile 88, at 11 a.m. on Friday, about 11 hours after they pushed into the Colorado River from Lees Ferry. That was only four minutes off their pace to reach the Pearce Ferry takeout around 10:20 a.m. Saturday. But that was also the peak of the surge released from Glen Canyon Dam. Holding close to a 5 mph rowing speed, the water slowed down with each mile. By midnight, the river had dropped from a daily high of close to 14,500 cfs to around 10,500 cfs

    Speed records have a long history in the Grand Canyon, dating back to 14-day descents in the late 1800s on log rafts captained by adventurers who likely weren’t racing but simply rowing. In 1951 Grand Junction brothers Bob and Jim Rigg set out to purposely set the speed record. They pushed their wooden row boat into the river at Lees Ferry when the river was roaring at 43,100 cfs and finished in 52 hours and 41 minutes. That record stood until 1983, when Kenton Grua, Rudi Petschek and Steve Reynolds caught another flood-stage flow and rowed their wooden dory, the “Emerald Mile,” down the canyon in 36 hours, 38 minutes.

    In January 2016, Orkin, an accountant in Aurora, paddled his carbon-fiber race kayak solo down the canyon, finishing in 34 hours and 2 minutes. That record was even more remarkable considering he flipped in Lava Falls and swam from his kayak, alone and at night.

    The team this weekend had a clean run with zero mishaps.

    Lava Falls: “This, I was told, is the biggest drop on the river in the GC. It’s 35 feet from top to bottom of the falls,” John Fowler. The photo was taken from the Toroweap overlook, 7 June 2010, via Wikimedia.

    “We got our revenge on Lava. The boat was fantastic. Everything and everyone held up perfectly. We ran the lines we wanted,” Seelig said. “The water just wasn’t there for us.”

    Orkin was paddling a narrow, sleek craft that sliced through water. The Emerald Mile was a wooden dory meant to cut through the river. The raft carrying eight — even with a pair of narrow pontoons beneath a lightweight frame — pushes water out of its way. It might not be possible for a raft to set a speed record in the Grand Canyon…

    “OK, if someone was like ‘Hey, I have a permit on this date and it’s going to be this flow’ and we have a crew that is training — that’s a lot of variables — maybe who knows,” Seelig said. “But right now, I’m like ‘No way. Never again.’”

    Map of Grand Canyon National Park via the NPS

    City of Durango plans temporary fix for dangerous rapids at Whitewater Park — The Durango Herald

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    The city of Durango plans to get back into the Animas River this winter to fix human-made rapids at the Whitewater Park that drew criticism for posing too great a risk to boaters during high water last summer.

    Tweaks have been made to the Whitewater Park, which flows along Santa Rita Park, as early as the 1980s. But a full-scale $2.6 million project to enhance the park and build a series of rapids began in 2014 and was finished in 2018.

    The most recent issue, which requires the city to get back in the river in the coming months, started three years ago and is considered separate from the Whitewater Park, which was led by the Parks and Recreation Department.

    In summer 2016, the city’s Utilities Department spent $1 million to build several new features in the river, just above the Whitewater Park, for the sole purpose of diverting more water into the city’s water intake for municipal use on the east side of the river.

    Since then, some members of the boating community have said the new features, which span the entire width of the river, function like low-head dams, one of the most dangerous hazards on a river because of the strong, recirculating water that can flip and trap boats, as well as people.

    And if people fall out at the new drops, they have a long, cold swim through the actual Whitewater Park, which includes several major rapids and water temperatures in the low- to mid-40s…

    This past summer, [Shane] Sigle said the only way to permanently fix the rapids would be to use grout to cement boulders in the river to ensure a safely designed flow. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (which issues permits for work in any waterways) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, however, oppose using grout on river bottoms because it can adversely affect aquatic life.

    City officials have said it’s unrealistic, and costly, to get back into the river every year to move boulders and rocks. But without being able to use grout, options are limited.

    As a result, while long-term solutions are sought, it appears smaller maintenance projects are the city’s only way to make the river safer.

    Jarrod Biggs, assistant utilities director, said the plan is to get in the Animas River as early as February to start the project, which could cost around $140,000 to $160,000.

    Without grouting, though, the river will eventually move the boulders and nullify the improvements the city plans to make this year.

    Durango whitewater park plans

    Grand Junction: Las Colonias River Park update #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Duffy Hayes):

    Since the River Park at Las Colonias now under construction is intended as a true collective asset — it’s not a raging whitewater course on some far-flung stretch of river, where only ardent and expert paddlers could realize the benefits — it certainly fits the community bill.

    “Having done these projects for years around the country, you always think, what makes them popular, what makes them successful, what are all the ingredients that go into these?” Lacy said. “And location is extremely important.”

    Even though previous efforts targeted other Grand Valley locations — Lacy still has concept drawings for projects that never got off the ground in Palisade and Fruita — he knew Las Colonias, where the city’s activation of the former uranium-tainted riverfront is front and center, is the right spot.

    “I kept going, no, this Las Colonias thing — right there — and it’s developing, and it’s near downtown,” [Gary] Lacy recalled. “In the big scheme, all things being equal … that’s the best location.”

    “You need infrastructure, and you need parking and restrooms. You need, ideally, restaurants — everybody gets hungry and thirsty and (wants to) get a beer and all that stuff,” he said.

    “So in the heart of communities is by far the best.”

    As Lacy puts it, river parks need two things — water and gradient. In the case of Las Colonias, you’ve got the biggest river in the state in the Colorado, and surveyors found that there was just enough gradient “for a good project,” Lacy said.

    “We’re not talking world-class whitewater, but to be honest, you look back at the most successful ones, they (don’t have) the big, pounding whitewater that’s intimidating. Rivers and projects are for everyone,” he said. “I mean everyone, from a ducky to kayakers to stand-up boarders, or just people reading a book or having lunch along the river.”

    “Those are the successful (projects), not the ones just for the 2% that are surfing,” he summarized…

    TURNING TOWARD THE RIVER

    It turns out lots of Gary Lacy’s projects are personal.

    The office of his Boulder-based company, Recreation Engineering and Planning, fronts the whitewater park on Boulder Creek that he built in the ’80s.

    The company is in the middle of a multiyear project to improve the river park in Salida, where his dad raced some of the first fiberglass boats in the ’40s and ’50s.

    The Clear Creek Whitewater Park in Golden goes right by Colorado School of Mines, where Lacy’s dad encouraged him to enroll to become an engineer. He discovered his passion for civic and hydraulic engineering there, and built a unique-for-the-time business that initially focused on bike path construction a short time after.

    A quick glance of the REP project list also includes Colorado river parks in Montrose, Buena Vista, Lyons, Steamboat Springs, Vail, Pueblo, Longmont, Florence, Breckenridge, Gunnison and Durango…

    Many of the company’s projects in other parts of the country — like in Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Ohio and Oregon, among other states — involve taking dangerous dams out to create amenities where they were once liabilities. It’s a theme that also includes the rehabilitation involved at the previously tainted Las Colonias.

    “All these communities are now turning toward the river, instead of turning their backs to the river,” Lacy observed.

    Las Colonias Park. Photo credit: The City of Grand Junction

    Public asks Pitkin County for Basalt whitewater park to be safer

    The second wave in the Basalt whitewater park, on June 19, 2019. There is a small sneak far river left, but otherwise, it’s just churning foam. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Heather Sackett):

    Pitkin County needs to make Basalt’s whitewater park safer. That was the refrain from most of those who spoke at Wednesday night’s public meeting.

    “We are not asking for a big change to the kayak park,” said Glenwood Springs resident Elizabeth Bailey. “What we are asking for is a way to get through these monster features.”

    Bailey was among those boaters whose rafts were flipped by the lower wave during some of the Roaring Fork River’s highest flows of the season. Bailey, an experienced rafter, said that because the river pushes boats to the right-hand side of the lower wave feature, there needs to be a boat chute to the right, between the hydraulic that forms at high flows and the river bank.

    Currently, the only way around the wave is a narrow, hard-to-spot “sneak” on the left side.

    The injuries Bailey sustained June 16 sent her to the hospital.

    “For that to happen in a manmade park, there needs to be some responsibility,” she said.

    Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams hosted Wednesday’s meeting at the Basalt Town Hall to gather public comment about the whitewater park’s two consecutive wave features, which some say became dangerous during this year’s high runoff. The lower of the two waves seemed to present the bigger challenge, even for experienced boaters.

    The two structures, built with concrete during the winter of 2016-17, were re-engineered the following winter after complaints that the artificial waves were dangerous. But the low flows of the spring and summer of 2018 did not provide a fair test to see whether the problems had been fixed.

    The features are supposed to create fun, recreational play waves at flows between 240 and 1,350 cfs. The river was flowing at about 2,500 cfs the day Bailey was thrown from her boat.

    An excavator works at low water in the Roaring Fork River to modify the structures in the Basalt whitewater park. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    County committed

    Healthy Rivers Chair Andre Wille said the county’s ultimate goal is to make the best whitewater park they can.

    “We are pretty committed to getting it right,” he said.

    Quinn Donnelly of Carbondale-based River Restoration, the firm that designed the park, led the public meeting and presented a few options for making the lower wave safer. Crews could lower the “wings” on both features, creating a path around the wave on either side, or a channel could be created around the left side of the wave.

    Another idea was to create a “catcher’s mitt” eddy just below the second wave so that boaters who get tossed from their crafts can more easily swim to shore.

    But some said creating a way for boaters to get around the waves didn’t go far enough — the waves themselves need to be made safer.

    “Here you have two terrifying holes,” Kirk Baker said. Baker is the founder of the Aspen Kayak School and is an expert kayaker. “You should not have to go around. You should be able to go through. … You have to fix the hazard you created.”

    Royal Laybourn agreed. Laybourn was also the victim of a flipped boat — he said the wave put him in the hospital.

    “You can’t create a hazard and it doesn’t matter what water level it is,” he said. “You’re under a mandate to correct that. … Let’s just make it so any dummy can roll down through there.”

    The concrete blocks that form the wave in the Basalt whitewater park are visible during low-to-moderate flows. Boaters are asking Pitkin County to make the waves safer after several rafts flipped during 2019’s high water. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Safety first

    Pitkin County chose the site for the whitewater park, which is just upstream from downtown Basalt, in part because it is just above the Roaring Fork’s confluence with the Fryingpan River. That made it a good place to establish a recreational in-channel diversion water right.

    But that part of the river is also steep, Donnelly said, meaning hydraulics will not wash out, but, rather, become bigger as flows increase.

    Any new modifications to the wave features that the county and River Restoration decide on will probably come this winter.

    “We want it to be as safe as possible,” Donnelly said. “It is a river and there are hazards, but this was put in by people and it’s held to a higher standard.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications on coverage of water and rivers. This story ran in the Oct. 17 edition of the Times, as well as in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

    Videos and photos: #ColoradoRiver drone flight, August 2019 — @TheWaterDesk #COriver

    Rafters on the Colorado River near the Pumphouse Recreation Site. Photo credit: Mitch Tobin/WaterDesk.org, Creative Commons

    From The Water Desk (University of Colorado):

    Drone footage is one type of free content we’ll be offering in our multimedia library.

    This page features drone-captured footage and photos of the Colorado River, near Radium, Colorado.

    The imagery shows the Colorado River after it emerges from Gore Canyon, a popular whitewater rafting location that includes some Class V rapids.

    Date: August 13, 2019
    Location: Gore Canyon and the Colorado River, near Radium, Colorado. (map)
    Photographer: Mitch Tobin, FAA Remote Pilot Certificate #4002345
    Organization: The Water Desk at the University of Colorado Boulder
    Rights: Free to reuse under Creative Commons license, with credit to “Mitch Tobin/WaterDesk.org”

    Colorado River Drone Footage August 13 2019 Edit 1: Aerial footage of the Colorado River emerging from Gore Canyon, near Radium, Colorado. Video by Mitch Tobin/The Water Desk.

    Colorado River Drone August 13 2019 Edit 2: Aerial footage of the Colorado River downstream from Gore Canyon, near Radium, Colorado. Video by Mitch Tobin/The Water Desk.

    Check out the photo gallery.

    Fish ladders and boat chutes part of a massive dam rebuild on the #ArkansasRiver — @ColoradoSun

    Homestake Arkansas River Diversion. Photo credit: Colorado Springs Utilities

    From Colorado Springs Utilities:

    Project Overview / Background

    The Homestake Project is a trans-mountain raw water collection, storage, and delivery system co-owned and operated by the cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora, Colo.

    The Homestake Arkansas River Diversion (ARD), between Granite and Buena Vista, Colo., was constructed in 1964 as the original intake for the Otero Pump Station. Water is now primarily withdrawn from Twin Lakes, however the ARD remains an alternate point of diversion. The ARD has deteriorated and requires repair. The ARD was not originally designed as a navigable facility.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) manages the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) which includes the site of the ARD. CPW expressed interest in partnering with Springs Utilities on a rehabilitation project to include a boat chute for downstream navigation as this location is currently considered the only non-navigable reach of the Arkansas River between Leadville and Canon City, Colo.

    The Upper Arkansas River is both one of the most heavily used rivers in the United States for whitewater recreation and is a Gold Medal Trout Fishery. The river is managed to support multiple objectives including water supply and delivery and outdoor recreation.

    The cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs are constructing a rehabilitation project that will replace the intake and diversion, provide a boat chute for downstream navigation, and provide upstream fish passage for spawning of brown and rainbow trout. The project also included improving river safety for recreational users and providing whitewater boat portage. User safety was an extremely important design consideration.

    A physical model was constructed to test and refine hydraulic elements to optimize performance, maximize user safety and meet design guidelines for recreational whitewater for all three components: boat chute, fish passage and the new intake structure.

    The $9 million construction cost of the project is being jointly funded by the cities of Aurora and Colorado Springs. $1.2 million in grants is coming from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Water Conservation Board through grant funding to support the Colorado Water Plan (Water Supply and Demand Gap and Environmental and Recreation Grant Programs). The Pueblo Board of Waterworks is donating the easements necessary to construct and maintain the diversion.

    Here’s a report from Jason Blevins writing for The Colorado Sun:

    But just below the former riverside mining camp of Granite, where a dilapidated dam built in 1964 has long blemished the Arkansas River’s beauty, rebar jutted from concrete blocks, preventing raft passage and spawning trout battled the steep wall of blasted rocks to reach upstream pools.

    “Not a lot of thought went into recreation or fish when this dam was built,” said Ronald Sanchez, an engineer with Colorado Springs Utilities.

    A lot of thought is going into fish and recreation now, as water managers in Colorado Springs and Aurora join the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in rebuilding the diversion that directs water to the Front Range.

    The $9.1 million project will make the entire river from Leadville to Cañon City navigable for rafts for the first time in at least 55 years.

    It’s part of the vast Colorado Springs- and Aurora-owned Homestake Project that brings Eagle River Basin water from the Holy Cross Wilderness to the Arkansas River Basin, through the Homestake, Turquoise and Twin Lakes reservoirs for delivery to the Front Range cities.

    The cities started construction of the Arkansas River diversion in July 2018, creating three distinct channels below a rebuilt intake that serves as a backup water diversion to the Otero Pump station downstream of Twin Lakes Dam. Before the Twin Lakes Dam was built in the late 1970s, the diversion was the original intake that collected and directed water to the Otero Pump station for delivery to Aurora and Colorado Springs.

    One channel is a fish ladder for spawning brown and rainbow trout. Another channel is a spillway to accommodate flood-level flows like the ones that swelled the Arkansas River this spring. And a third is a series of six drops allowing rafts safe passage.

    The project marks a new era of collaboration between the diverse interests on the Arkansas River between Leadville and Cañon City, one of the most recreated stretches of river in the U.S.

    “For me the coolest thing about it is that you have these large water utilities in Colorado going above and beyond to do the right thing for the next 50 years,” said Salida-based whitewater park engineer Mike Harvey.

    Ten years ago, Harvey helped the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area craft a report urging Aurora and Colorado Springs to consider recreation and fish when it came time to rebuild the Granite Dam diversion…

    The Arkansas River accounts for more than $74 million of the $177 million in economic impact created by commercial rafting in Colorado. The 102 miles of river in the Upper Arkansas River Valley also ranks among the 322 miles of Colorado waterways that qualify as Gold Medal Fisheries that can yield a dozen large trout per acre. It also supplies a large percentage of water to Colorado Springs and Aurora via the 66-inch pipeline that runs from the Otero Pump Station.

    Rebecca Mitchell, the executive director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board, said the project exemplifies the collaboration of the Colorado Water Plan, which gathered perspectives from all types of water users in the state to create a policy roadmap for future water planning across the state.

    Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the conservation board provided $1.2 million in funding through Colorado Water Plan grant programs.

    #Runoff news

    A raft, poised for action, on the Colorado River. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From the Colorado River Outfitters Association via The Valley Courier:

    Mid-season Colorado rafting conditions are ripe and there are still plenty of adventures to be had this summer. With late season snow, cooler temperatures, slow runoff and higher water levels dominating most of June, July is bringing more steady water flow levels that promise to run for an extended season into at least early fall.

    Temperatures throughout the state have warmed up, and with flows returning to more moderate levels, rafting trips with professional outfitters are starting to book out. In 2018, Colorado’s commercial rafting companies hosted more than 520,000 rafters over the course of the season, resulting in a nearly $176 million economic impact across the state. Members of the Colorado River Outfitters Association collectively raft more than 30 distinct stretches of river across eight major water basins.

    “Water conditions vary by the river – all geographic areas have different levels of rafting, but we’re anticipating many runs will be open later this season than they have in several years,” said CROA Executive Director, David Costlow. “Durango has family to wild rafting, as does the Buena Vista to Canon City area. The Cache la Poudre outside Fort Collins, the Rio Grande near Creede, all sections of the Colorado and the Taylor near Crested Butte are enjoying consistent and full level flows. Talk with an outfitter of choice and take their suggestions, they know the best route for your preferences.”

    Rafting outside of Glenwood Springs, Winter Park/Steamboat and Grand Junction will continue into the fall; most likely lasting until into October; the traditional close of the regular rafting season. The Animas in Durango should flow through September and the Poudre should have rafting to early September. In some sections, the Arkansas River will flow through September and Clear Creek will be raftable at fun flows to the middle or late August.

    For comparison, last year at this time, some trips were unavailable due the low water levels. This year the steady melt and temperatures have delayed low water and is allowing outfitters to offer a range of moderate level trips for the next several weeks. Except for a few extreme runs, most all sections are available for rafting.

    The Colorado River Outfitters Association (CROA) offers the following tips for both tourists, and locals alike, looking to book a rafting trip this season:

    Raft close to where you are vacationing. There are many types of rafting options out there – if you have a vacation planned, it could be the perfect opportunity to check with an outfitter nearby to see if they have availability. This is a great starting point to get you out on the water. Then, discuss options with them to tailor your trip experience.

    Choose a trip that is appropriate for you. Once you know where you are located either due to a planned vacation or day trip, most outfitters offer a variety of trips from more family friendly options to more extreme adventures, which can be selected based on experience level, fitness and desires for the trip.

    Bring the kids! Rafting can be a wonderful experience for children, and Colorado outfitters offer many trips appropriate for kids. This time of year, some trips allow children as young as four. Still, be sure to verify any age and weight restrictions in place for the given conditions on the trips you’re considering.

    Listen to the guide. Rafting guides are specially trained and experienced, as well as knowledgeable about local history, culture, geology and wildlife.

    Know what to bring and wear. Some items are generally considered standard for any Colorado rafting trip. The outfitter will give you a list of what they have and suggested additional items you may need to bring. For example, an outfitter will have life jackets (PFDs), splash jackets, wetsuits and paddles but suggested items to bring may include quick drying shorts or swimsuits, river sandals or old tennis shoes, sunscreen, lip balm, change of clothes, etc.

    #Runoff news: #Tubing season starts on the #YampaRiver

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    From Steamboat Today (Eleanor C. Hasenbeck):

    The Yampa River has finally fallen to a level that allows for commercial tubing.

    On Monday, the river dropped below 700 cubic feet per second through downtown Steamboat Springs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the flow rate that typically kicks off tubing with commercial outfitters…

    Though lower than it has been all summer, the river is still running quickly, with water temperatures around 60 degrees. The city of Steamboat Springs — and commercial outfitters — recommend wearing a life jacket on the water, even when on a tube.

    #ArkansasRiver streamflow: “We have come down to what we really refer to as the sweet spot” — Andy Neinas #runoff

    Arkansas River headwaters. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From KOAA.com (Bill Folsom):

    The extreme water flow in the Arkansas River through Southern Colorado is finally dropping, It is now half of what it was a month ago. “We have come down to what we really refer to as the sweet spot,” said Echo Canyon Rafting, Owner, Andy Neinas, “So all sections of the Arkansas are open.”

    Through the month of June there was arguably too much of a good thing. Water so high some potential customers staying away. Water was running over 5,000 Cubic Feet Per Second (CFS). Rafting companies agree to avoid certain sections of the river when the water is that high.

    The flow dropped to 2,800 CFS this week. It means all sections of the river are now prime for rafting…

    There is still a lot of snow on mountain peaks that feed water to the Arkansas River. Similar to the extended ski season this year, rafting will likely run longer than normal. Above average flows could continue into September.

    From TheDenverChannel.com (Ryan Osborne):

    We knew the June snowmelt would boost Colorado’s thirsty reservoirs, and now we can see just how much: Statewide, the reservoirs went from 59% capacity at the end of May to 76% at the end of June.

    That still leaves plenty of room for more water, but the reservoirs are now sitting above average, at 105% of the normal capacity…

    The Gunnison River, Upper Colorado River and Upper Rio Grande basins all saw significant upticks in reservoir levels. The Gunnison jumped from 60% to 85%; the Upper Colorado from 67% to 92%; and the Upper Rio Grande more than doubled, from 26% to 54%.

    “It took a little while for the melt to happen (which was generally a good thing to mitigate any flooding concerns), but now that the melt has nearly completed, the streams and rivers are really flowing, and the reservoirs have started to fill nicely,” Russ Schumacher, a climatologist with the Colorado Climate Center in Fort Collins, wrote in an email…

    The Dillon Reservoir is now at 97% capacity, up from 73%. The Blue Mesa Reservoir is now at 84%, up from 54%. Lake Granby is at 91%, up from 64%. The McPhee Reservoir, which was already at 88% capacity, is now full…

    Further down the Colorado River, Lake Powell in southern Utah has seen its levels rise slightly, Schumacher said, but it’s still below average. The levels there should rise as the uptick in Colorado and Utah rivers travels south. But it could take one more wet year to see Lake Powell return to normal levels, Schumacher said.

    The moisture in Colorado has had another benefit: The state is still 100% drought-free. And there’s been even more improvement in that area. The Palmer Drought Severity Index in Colorado , which sat at -0.72 in May, jumped into positive territory, at 2.28, indicating normal levels for the first time since the latter half of 2017.

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    Big water flows remain on the Arkansas River but the level has finally subsided enough for commercial raft trips to return to the Royal Gorge section of the river west of here…

    The high water level advisory was lifted Wednesday after the water level went below 3,200 cubic feet per second for the first time since June 8. The advisories mean commercial rafters voluntarily avoid certain sections of the river because water levels are considered dangerous…

    To put this year’s river levels into perspective, when the water level dipped to around 3,000 cubic feet per second Wednesday, it was well above the average level of 1,730 CFS for this time of year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    The river flow has varied wildly this time of year from a minimum flow of 254 CFS in 2002 to a maximum flow of 4,600 CFS in 1983.

    Salida: Wildwater and Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver National Championships

    Salida water park

    From The Mountain Mail (Cody Olivas):

    The Wildwater and Whitewater Open Canoe Downriver National Championships returned to Salida last weekend, welcoming some of the best boaters in the country with high water.

    “I was very happy with the way everything went,” said Nate Lord, president of Team Colorado Whitewater Racing and race director for the national championships.

    “When I originally put in the special activity use permit, I had very different race courses in mind. When the water came up so high, we had to rethink everything, but we found race courses that were fun and exciting.”

    The high water also ended up being good preparation for some of the younger boaters who will be racing internationally later this summer.

    “Many of the young athletes are also on the U.S. junior wildwater team and will be racing in Bosnia in July,” he said. “We needed to give them a good experience in big water.”

    Developing that junior program has been a focus in recent years, he said. “Even though the water was high, we were able to work on some important skills for the junior athletes. I felt we did a good job building that base.”

    Boaters came from Tennessee, Virginia, Maine, Georgia, Massachusetts, Arizona, California, the Penobscot Nation in Maine and Colorado for the championships.

    Team Colorado, Lord said, “did really well.”

    “Down in Durango there’s a really strong wildwater program,” Lord said. “Cully Brown and Nate Foster dominated the wildwater competition. They are outstanding.”

    Foster won the men’s combined title, which included the classic (downriver) and sprint, while Californian Amanda Creek, who got started paddling at the Dawson School in Lafayette, won the women’s combined wildwater championship.

    Athletes from Maine and the Penobscot Nation dominated the open canoe competitions, Lord said.

    Lord also won the solo open canoe 55-plus championship to represent Colorado…

    The competition was the fifth time Salida had hosted the open canoe nationals, while Lord said the town has also hosted the wildwater nationals “many times.”

    PHOTOS: The 2019 Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival — Cañon City Daily Record

    Click here to view the photo gallery.

    Photo via Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival from 2016

    Ridgway RiverFest June 29- River races, Sugar & the Mint, and more — The Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership

    Sneffels Range Ridgeway in foreground. Photo credit: SkiVillage – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15028209 via Wikiemedia

    Here’s the release from the Uncompahgre Watershed Partnership (Tanya Ishikawa):

    Sweetwater revival: High water and Sugar & the Mint return to 2019 Ridgway RiverFest

    Festival goers and river racers are in for a sweet time this Saturday at the 12th annual Ridgway RiverFest due to high river flows and the return of 2018 crowd-pleasing band, Sugar & the Mint. Plus, Ute cultural presenter Regina Lopez-White Skunk, the River Rat Marketplace (silent auction) with great deals, snow cones by Voyager Youth Program, beer from Colorado Boy Brewery, margaritas from The Liquor Store, and all the food and fun of past festivals will be back at Rollans Park in Ridgway.

    One of the RiverFest’s highlights is the Junk of the Unc homemade watercraft race, at about 1:30 p.m. when competitors build and ride their crafts down a short stretch of Class I river with style, ingenuity and speed. Competitors will be eligible to win as long as they start and end the race on their crafts, and awards are given to fastest, most original design, best use of recycled materials, and best in youth.

    The River Races from the park to the Ridgway Reservoir will be particularly exciting this year with the increased runoff from the record-breaking snowpack this year. River runners are encouraged to come compete in the hard shell, inflatable and stand-up paddleboard categories. The top team that finishes the fastest in each category will be awarded one of the coveted RiverFest trophies, with a new design this year created by Ridgway artist Joann Taplin.

    “The high river flows mean less rocks to navigate around but more large rapids over the top of rocks. We won’t be allowing inner tube entries this year due to the high, swift water and the still very cold temperatures,” said RiverFest Coordinator Tanya Ishikawa. “We welcome kayaks and rafts. Canoes and SUPs are also allowed this year, but we recommend only advanced riders on those due to conditions. Wet or dry suits are also a good idea this year. You can see race rules at ridgwayriverfest.org.”

    Another planned river activity is the Safety Rope Bag toss contest where a “willing victim” hangs out in the middle of the Uncompahgre as contestants attempt to toss a safety rope bag to them, practicing an important river rescue skill. This event as well as the Rubber Ducky Race may be cancelled if conditions are deemed too difficult to keep the “victim” safely in the water or to capture all ducks at the end of the race.

    “The Ouray Mountain Rescue Team will be on boats in the water and on the banks, ready to assist as necessary, but we want everyone to practice safe river etiquette, so we continue our accident-free festival record,” Ishikawa added. “Parents need to watch their children at the river’s edges. Anyone getting in the river must have a PFD (personal flotation device aka life jacket) and helmets are recommended (as well as being required of racers).”

    Besides the river activities, the live band performance from 3 to 6 p.m. is always a highlight of the RiverFest. The 2019 headlining band, Sugar & the Mint from Prescott, Arizona, is being brought back by popular demand. The five-piece band’s music is informed by everything from bluegrass to baroque to current pop and country. It was the first-place winner of the Band Contest at the 2017 Telluride Bluegrass Festival and were invited back to perform at the 2018 Bluegrass Festival. Since then, they have been traveling nationally and recorded a second album.

    Ute Mountain Ute Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk and her father Normal Lopez will provide a cultural presentation from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Lopez-Whiteskunk advocated for land, air, water and animals from an early age, and has traveled extensively throughout the nation presenting and sharing the Ute culture through song, dance and presentations. Lopez, her father who will play flute, has been a student of life and carries great respect for the land, environment and Ute way of life. He learned to make flutes by his grandfather and uncles from the hearts of the cedar trees, has played the traditional style, from his heart. The birds and wind inspire his unique sounds.

    Festival sponsors include Double RL Ranch at Class V and five Class IV sponsors: Alpine Bank, BEP EarthWise Foundation, Ridgway Mountain Market, Town of Ridgway, RIGS Adventure Co., and San Miguel Power Association. The radio sponsor is MBC Grand Broadcasting: 92.3 The Moose, Magic 93.1, KNZZ, 96.1 K-star, The Vault 100.7, 95.7 The Monkey, The Team Sports Radio 101FM-1340AM, and 103.9 The Planet

    Festival information: https://ridgwayriverfest.org

    Waves in Basalt whitewater park still gnarly — @AspenJournalism

    The first wave in the Basalt whitewater park, just below the low highway bridge and the small boat ramp at Fisherman’s Park, can surprise even experienced boaters. And it can flip rafts. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    As the flow in the Roaring Fork River at the Basalt whitewater park has climbed over 2,500 cubic feet per second this week, the park’s two “play” waves, produced by concrete structures embedded in the river, are still proving capable of flipping rafts and sending people for long, cold swims.

    The two structures, built in late 2016 and early 2017 by consultants and contractors working for Pitkin County, were re-engineered last winter after complaints by experienced local boaters that the artificial waves were hazardous.

    But the low flows in 2018 did not provide a fair test to see whether the rearranged waves were still a menace for rafters.

    With the return of more-typical high spring flows, the two waves — meant to be fun to surf at low water and located in a section of river not otherwise considered difficult to run — are showing they can still be a challenge even for experienced boaters.

    The second wave in the Basalt whitewater park, on June 19, 2019. There is a small sneak far river left, but otherwise, it’s just churning foam. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    3 of 9

    On Sunday, three rafts in a group of nine boats piloted by noncommercial rafters, or “private boaters,” flipped in the upper of the two waves.

    Both of the waves have steep drops that lead directly into a nearly riverwide wall of churning foam, save for narrow and hard-to-spot “sneaks” through relatively calm water on far river let, or the left side of the river looking downstream.

    Emergency personnel from the Roaring Fork Fire Rescue Authority responded Sunday to a 911 call about the flipped rafts and numerous people in the river.

    “One of the first boats, if not the first, flipped in that first wave, and it’s a keeper, and it didn’t let them out,” said Robert “Sardo” Sardinsky, a volunteer with the rescue authority and who was downstream of the incident and was relaying the information he was given. “So, all of a sudden, there is a bunch of people in the water. And then, two more rafts flipped. And it sounds like the boats were being held in there.”

    Sardinsky helped retrieve two of the flipped rafts, several miles downstream of the whitewater park, and he also talked with a number of the boaters in the party.

    He said the group included boaters from both the Roaring Fork and Eagle River valleys, and he described them as calm, knowledgeable, experienced and well-equipped, wearing both wetsuits and personal flotation devices.

    “They all appeared to be quite capable,” Sardinsky said.

    The river was flowing through the whitewater park on Sunday at 4 p.m. at about 2,800 cfs, which can be calculated by subtracting the flow of the Fryingpan River from the flow of the Fork as measured downstream of the whitewater park in Emma.

    “In my 30 years with the fire department and swiftwater rescue, it is the most dynamic rescue we’ve had,” he said. “It was the most number of people in river spread out over the most distance. And it’s incredibly fortunate that everyone got out.”

    Sardinsky said about a week before Sunday’s events, a woman he knows had fallen off a paddle board into the first wave, at lower water, and had been trapped in the wave’s circulating hydraulic. The woman escaped by diving down to the bottom of the river, out from under the wave.

    All of the boaters thrown into the river on Sunday either self-rescued or were rescued by their fellow boaters. None of them required emergency personnel to fish them out.

    According to Kyle Ryan, who also volunteers with the rescue authority and was helping to coordinate Sunday’s response, the rafts that flipped were normal-sized whitewater rafts with oar frames, and were not especially small or lightweight.

    “They were normal-looking whitewater rafts,” he said. “And everyone seemed to be pretty well-experienced.”

    Ryan said two members of the rafting party asked to be transported to the hospital, but he said they did not appear to be seriously injured.

    The first wave in the Basalt whitewater park on June 19, 2019, at about 2,500 cfs. Ut can stop, or flip, a raft, and it’s hard to gain momentum before the second wave. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Play wave?

    Also on Sunday, a raft being run as a paddleboat by another group of experienced boaters flipped in the first wave of the whitewater park, throwing six people into the river for a “frigid and scary swim.”

    According to a public post on Facebook by Mary Sundblom, she and the five other boaters, including at least one former raft guide, set out Sunday to paddle from Northstar, east of Aspen, to Glenwood Springs.

    Along the way, they ran the Slaughterhouse section of the Fork below Aspen and the most technical part of the river, as well as the difficult Toothache section in Woody Creek before heading for Basalt.

    She wrote that the group scouted the river before their run, “got intel from longtime river rats,” and had “great lines” and “no swims” through Slaughterhouse and Toothache.

    “Then the Basalt ‘play’ wave got us, flipped the raft, dumping 6 of us in for a frigid and scary swim,” Sundblom wrote. “After floating through some big waves and getting tumbled over some shallow rocks … I was stoked to find myself next to my captain when the boat floated down to us after a few surfs of its own … where he was able to flip it back over and pull my ass in! Such a beautiful feeling of RELIEF!

    “We all made it out just fine, slightly rattled, with a few bumps and bruises, but continued on. That’s how the river goes.”

    Tyler Manchester, who grew up in the valley and has rowed the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon without difficulty, was in the boat with Sundblom on Sunday.

    He said via text on Thursday that “we were told to sneak left, but it came up fast and we weren’t ready. We hit it a little sideways. Definitely got washing-machine tumbled in both (waves), but everyone was flushed immediately.

    “Had to swim upstream to get the boat,” Manchester noted.

    The Basalt whitewater park is located below the low Basalt “bypass bridge,” which crosses the Fork at the junction of upper Two Rivers Road, just upstream of downtown Basalt. Floating beneath the bridge is often dark and spooky, but the current does not usually send boats directly at the bridge’s pylons.

    The whitewater park also can be described as being just below Fisherman’s Park, which has a small boat ramp, across from the entrance to Elk Run and upstream of the 7-Eleven in Basalt.

    An overview of the Basalt whitewater park. There is third wave now in the park, although it’s not as burly as the first two. At least not at 2,500 cfs. Photo credit: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    Watching it

    Pitkin County Attorney John Ely, who has overseen the development of the whitewater park for the county, said Wednesday that he was aware of the recent raft flips, and he’s in touch with the consultants at River Restoration in Carbondale who designed the structures, oversaw their re-engineering and have been keeping a close eye on this year’s emerging waves.

    Ely said he didn’t yet have enough information to determine whether the county needs to ask the consultants to do more work on the structures in the river.

    The county chose the location for the park in large measure because it is just above the Fork’s confluence with the Fryingpan River, making it a good place to establish water rights tied to the wave-producing structures. Such water rights are called recreational in-channel diversion, or RICD, rights.

    County officials have said their highest priority in developing the park was to establish the recreational water rights, which carry a 2010 priority date, and that the resulting recreational experience was a secondary concern.

    The water rights are tied to the design of the structures, which are supposed to create fun, recreational play waves at flows between 240 and 1,350 cfs. The river on Sunday in that section of river was flowing at about 2,500 cfs, which is not unusual for June.

    At higher flows, the wave structures are not necessarily meant to produce fun play waves, but they also are not supposed to produce big keeper waves, either.

    Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times. The Times published this story on Thursday, June 20, 2019.

    #CanonCity #whitewater park expands — The Pueblo Chieftain

    2015 Canon City Wave at 6,000 CFS Freestyle Kayak screen shot from RiverRestoration.org video https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=45&v=OYuk3Rd3CWY

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    The expanded park, affectionately dubbed WKRP-Canon City has been expanded to both the west and east of Centennial Park. In addition to beautification of the river corridor, workers removed existing hazards, stabilized stream banks, improved access points and fish passage, plus enhanced the river for rafting, kayaking, tubing and other in-stream activities. Work was designed and implemented by Scott Shipley’s Design and Engineering firm.

    Shipley, a Lyon-based kayaker, is a three-time Olympian and World Cup slalom kayak champion who is known locally for his prowess as a long-time competitor in Salida’s FIBArk boat races.

    “Canon City has an incredible resource with the Arkansas River running through town,” Shipley said. “We’re thrilled to deliver a whitewater park that gives residents and visitors better and safer access to this iconic river.”

    The river improvement project was led by the local whitewater park committee thanks to funds the group raised along with city of Canon City and Fremont County funds as well as a Great Outdoors Colorado grant and private donations.

    The park initially opened in 2010 along the section of river next to Centennial Park, but work this year has expanded it between the bridge and the old Reddy ice plant, said Ryan Stevens, Canon City’s interim city administrator…

    Unlike other whitewater parks that often suffer flow issues, the Arkansas River boasts predictable flow rates year-round. This balances both the magnitude of the recreational experiences for different user groups as well as the duration, providing attractive flows for users and events later into the season when flows have dissipated in other rivers.

    For the first time, Canon City’s river park will be a draw for slalom paddlers, with boulders strategically interspersed throughout its length to great eddies. S2O Design also incorporated a system that will allow for hanging of slalom gates which can be adjusted for different configurations and flows…

    The whitewater park will be used next Friday and Saturday during the 11th annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival. The festival features a variety of boating events, live music, a running race and more.

    For details about the festival, log onto http://www.royalgorgewhitewaterfestival.com.

    “If someone says they’re not scared, don’t get in their boat” — Christian Wright #DoloresRiver

    Ponderosa Gorge, Dolores River. Photo credit RiverSearch.com.

    From OutThereColorado.com (Seth Boster):

    “You’re all here at a momentous time,” guide Trey Roberts said before the drop. “You’re about to raft a big, famous, rare river.”

    Jeanette Healy of Utah had been waiting 10-plus years for this chance on the Dolores. Doug Nie, a kayaker from Albuquerque, had been waiting even longer. Also here were Rick and Beverly Anderson, a young couple from Albuquerque as well.

    “We figured we could do the Las Animas and Arkansas out in (Buena Vista) any year,” Rick said. “But this is our one chance to do Dolores.”

    Chances have been tough to come by since the 1980s, when the McPhee Dam began trapping the water that Dominguez and Escalante found to be rushing during their 1776 expedition. El Rio de Nuestra Señora de Dolores, they called it — the River of Our Lady of Sorrows…

    Most joyful now are the boaters who had hoped this year’s snowpack would grant McPhee’s occasional controlled “spills.” As of last week, the Dolores Water Conservancy District expected releases to remain at or above 1,200 cubic feet per second through June 23, keeping the river fun until then at least.

    That would mean a rafting season of almost one month here, which seems a short window. But longtime river rats regret to say that’s long for the Dolores.

    Bill Dvorak, who’s frequented the state’s rivers since the ’60s, can’t recall a longer season. He ran the Dolores in 2017; his last time before that was 2009. “Every six to eight years is about when I get on it,” he said.

    And he gets on it almost every floatable opportunity. The Dolores, after all, is easily his favorite river in Colorado…

    Mcphee Reservoir

    Provisions are still vague. Releases are indeed unpredictable, said Michael Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District. The Bureau of Reclamation factors in current reservoir levels with never-perfect forecasts. Then there’s juggling ever-increasing demand: Farmers combine for the largest allocation of the supply, recent spreadsheets show, followed by the downstream fishery, tribe and municipalities.

    “McPhee is a hard-working reservoir,” Preston said. “We use every inch of our active storage capacity to take care of things.”

    […]

    The height of that arch is reached at Snaggletooth, the legendary Class IV rapid aptly named. Swirling eddies are like mouths ready to inhale, the jumble of rocks like jaws ready to chomp.

    From an embankment, we stopped to analyze the beast. And yes, [Christian] Wright was scared. “If someone says they’re not scared, don’t get in their boat,” he said.

    Dolores River watershed

    #Runoff news: Upper #ColoradoRiver reservoir releases planned to bolster streamflow for #endangered fish #COriver

    Katie Creighton and Zach Ahrens both native aquatics biologists for Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) standing on the temporary Matheson screen. The Nature Conservancy and UDWR partnered together to build the structure to allow the endangered razorback sucker larvae to enter the Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve without the predators also coming in. Courtesy & Copyright Katie Creighton, Photographer via Utah Public Radio

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    Entities including Front Range water utilities and the Bureau of Reclamation on Friday began coordinating water releases from upstream reservoirs in a voluntary effort to prolong peak runoff flows in what’s called the 15-Mile Reach upstream of the confluence with the Gunnison River. It’s a critical stretch of river for four endangered fish — the humpback chub, razorback sucker, bonytail chub and the Colorado pikeminnow.

    River flows at Cameo exceeded 20,000 cubic feet per second Saturday. The coordinated reservoir operations are intended to slow the decline of high flows, sustaining those flows for three to five days this week. The first releases from the coordinated program were expected to arrive Monday night; the flows at Cameo earlier Monday were at 18,900 cfs, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

    Strong flows help remove fine sediment from cobble bars that serve as spawning habitat for the fish, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They also help reconnect the river to backwaters where the fish, especially at the larval stage, can find refuge from the stronger river flows, said Don Anderson, a hydrologist with the agency.

    The releases are being made possible by this year’s ample winter snowpack, which means reservoir operators can release reservoir water without risking the ability to fill the reservoirs.

    Anderson said that in some years the releases are coordinated with the goal of raising peak flows to beneficial levels, but this year the peak flows were high enough it was decided that the reservoir water instead could be used to prolong those flows.

    According to a Fish and Wildlife Service news release, under the coordinated operations:

  • The Bureau of Reclamation is increasing releases at Ruedi Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir, with the Green Mountain releases including inflows bypassed by Dillon Reservoir, operated by Denver Water.
  • Denver Water is likely to increase releases from Williams Fork Reservoir.
  • Homestake Reservoir, operated by Colorado Springs Utilities, may participate in the releases after peak flows on the Eagle River recede.
  • The Windy Gap Reservoir and Pump Station, operated by Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, will delay pumping water to Granby Reservoir.
  • The current effort follows reservoir releases by the Bureau of Reclamation earlier this spring on the Gunnison River to boost flows for endangered fish there. In both cases, the efforts are planned in a way intended to keep from resulting in flooding impacts downstream.

    Anderson said the coordinated spring operations on the upper Colorado River started in 1997, and by his count have occurred in 11 years since beginning…

    He said that while the coordinated releases target the 15-Mile Reach, their benefits extend as far as Moab, Utah, improving management of a river floodplain wetlands there that is being used to help in the recovery of razorback suckers.

    Entities including the Colorado River Water Conservation District, Grand Valley Water User Association, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District, Palisade Irrigation District, National Weather Service, Colorado Basin River Forecast Center, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and Xcel Energy also participate in the coordinated reservoir operations effort.

    From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

    The river is flowing so fast right now that people can float the entire 25-mile Ruby-Horsethief stretch in a day — even as few as four or five hours, Baier said. He said his company is running guided one-day trips there right now and he thinks some people are realizing they can float the stretch in a day rather than needing to make reservations for Bureau of Land Management campgrounds.

    In Glenwood Canyon, raft companies currently aren’t running the Shoshone stretch of the Colorado River due to strong flows, as is typical this time of year. Ken Murphy, owner of Glenwood Adventure Co., said that closure might last perhaps a week longer this year than in a normal year. He said the Shoshone rapids have a brand appeal and people want to raft there, but high water provides lots of other good rafting options. Last year, the Roaring Fork River didn’t provide much of a rafting season, but this year is different. While it usually offers good rafting until maybe the first or second week of July, “now we’re going to be on it we hope maybe until August,” Murphy said.

    He said the Roaring Fork offers beautiful scenery away from Interstate 70 and sightings of bald eagles and other wildlife. And rapids that are usually rated Class 2 are currently Class 3.

    “It gives people enough whitewater to get wet but not scare them,” he said.

    Colorado River trips that put in at the Grizzly Creek area of Glenwood Canyon below Shoshone also are heading farther downstream than normal right now, to New Castle, due to the fast-flowing water, Murphy said…

    Murphy said his company also owns Lakota Guides in Vail. He said the Eagle River in Eagle County will be good for rafting for longer this summer due to the big water year, meaning the company can continue offering trips to guests there rather than having to bus them to Glenwood Springs or the upper Arkansas River. He said the Blue River in Summit County also will benefit from a longer boating season.

    Additions to [Durango] Whitewater Park draw concern, criticism from boaters — The Durango Herald

    Durango whitewater park plans

    From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

    As the Animas River approaches peak flow, concerns are being raised that the city of Durango created a hazard when it added two new rapids to the Whitewater Park, resulting in many rafting companies choosing to bypass the park for safety reasons.

    “It’s an unnatural hazard at the entry of the park, and it creates a rafting experience we’re not selling to our guests,” said Alex Mickel, owner of Mild to Wild Rafting & Jeep Tours. “It’s just been unfortunate.”

    […]

    Since the 1980s, the city has made tweaks to the Whitewater Park, which flows alongside Santa Rita Park.

    But in summer 2016, the city spent $1 million to create two new features just above the park with the sole purpose of diverting more water into the city’s water intake for municipal use.

    It’s these new features that are drawing criticism and concern as the Animas River rises to higher-than-normal flows for the first time since the ledges were built. As of Friday, the river had usurped 6,000 cubic feet per second (the Animas usually peaks at around 4,700 cfs).

    “They’re manmade nightmares,” said James Wilkes, co-owner of Mountain Waters Rafting. “They’re just not natural, and it’s very difficult for a raft to pass through it.”

    #Runoff news

    From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Seth Boster):

    In Lake City this week, a small team finished building a deep channel 1,000 feet long — a diversion in case Henson Creek’s banks are breached, said the team’s Michael Davis. Another berm is being built closer to town to protect the historical buildings and unpaved roads.

    Converging streams near Lake City always have posed flooding risks, but this unprecedented threat is seen in aerial photos of new avalanche fields packed with big trees and boulders. The timber is about 300 years old, Davis said.

    “That means they’re coming from areas that have not slid in the past 300 years, and that also means we’re changing the topography of the mountains. So where we once had a dense forest of mature trees that held the snow and the rains, we now have a new slide chute.”

    It’s a slide chute for that debris to come rushing with water down into the creek, potentially building up, clogging and starting a chain of events that people on this side of the San Juan Mountains haven’t dealt with in generations…

    In several basins, about half of the accumulations are waiting to melt…

    San Juan County’s rivers are high enough to create “minor flooding,” [Jim] Donovan said. “But we still have a lot of snow in the mountains, so we’re not assuming anything.”

    […]

    Heading into June, the Colorado Water Conservation Board warned that the delayed snowmelt might heighten the flooding risk, as June is expected to be a wet month statewide. Predicted long-lasting high water, the board said unforeseen conditions, such as sustained warmth or rain, have led to floods even in years of low snowpack…

    Flash flood advisories and warnings have lingered in several parts of Colorado this month. In Huerfano County. fear of washouts and mudslides remain after last year’s major wildfire.

    On the other end of the San Luis Valley, residents of Del Norte and South Fork can’t remember when the Rio Grande looked so high…

    Stretches of the river have been closed to boating and fishing, and RV parks were on voluntary evacuation last weekend. First responders are preparing equipment and sandbags, as in Lake City.

    From CBS4 Denver:

    Pueblo officials restricted access to the Arkansas River Tuesday, one day after a Texas man lost his life farther upstream.

    The river has now been restricted to whitewater canoes and kayaks from Lake Pueblo’s dam east to the Pueblo-Otero County Line by Colorado Parks & Wildlife, the Pueblo Police Department, and the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office. Swimmers, rafters, and innertubers, no matter how well equipped, will be ticketed if they are discovered in the water.

    According to the National Weather Service, the Arkansas River exceeded flood stage early Tuesday afternoon in the town of Avondale just downstream of Pueblo. Minor flooding is occurring…

    Above Lake Pueblo, more snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains is already on its way downhill. The NWS predicts the Arkansas will reach flood stage in Canon City shortly after midnight Friday, and stay above it for at least two days.

    Even farther upstream, rafting companies are voluntarily avoiding three sections of the Arkansas between Granite and Buena Vista, and in the Royal Gorge, following high water warnings.

    From CBS4 Denver (Matt Kroschel):

    The Arkansas River near Salida will welcome thousands of spectators and competitors this weekend to FIBArk (First in Boating on the Arkansas River). Many crowd favorite events, however, have already been scrapped due to rising waters.

    The cubic feet per second reading on the Arkansas on Monday in Salida was measured over 4,000 sending water close to the top of the historic concrete bridge on F Street in downtown. This isn’t even peak runoff flow yet.

    FIBArk announced the list of canceled events which includes the Hooligan Race, the Stand Up Paddle board event on Friday, the SUP Cross on Saturday, and the Crazy River Dog Contest on Sunday — all canceled because of unsafe conditions.

    Screen shot of Gary Pitzer’s Twitter feed June 12, 2019.

    #Runoff news: #ArkansasRiver running very high, commercial rafters are avoiding some reaches

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    High water advisories are in place in Pine Creek and The Numbers, both located between Granite and Buena Vista, as well as the Royal Gorge section of the river just west of Canon City. The advisories mean commercial rafters are voluntarily avoiding those sections of the river because water levels are considered dangerous.

    For example, in the gorge, that cutoff level is 3,200 cubic feet per second. The river initially exceeded that level Saturday at the Parkdale gauge when it hit 3,220, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. By Sunday, the level was 3,720; and on Monday, the level was pushing 4,000 cubic feet per second.

    “I talked to the Board of Reclamation Sunday and the cool weather Sunday helped, but there is still an awful lot of snow up top. They said they are going to have to release additional water from Twin and Turquoise Reservoirs this week and then they should be able to hold steady,” said Rob White, who manages the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area on behalf of Colorado State Parks.

    The Arkansas Headwaters offers access to water ranging from Class II (moderate) rapids to Class V (extremely difficult) rapids so when the water levels exceed the safety cutoffs in some sections, outfitters move their guests into different sections. That means boaters are taking on Browns Canyon north of Salida and the Big Horn Sheep Canyon west of Canon City where high water is ensuring there are still plenty of thrills.

    Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

    From KOAA.com (Zach Thaxton):

    The water keep rising in the Arkansas River, bringing with it the promise of the best whitewater river rafting season in years, but also the threats that come along with deep, cold, fast-flowing water.

    Discharge through Centennial Park now exceeds 4,000 cubic feet per second, or the equivalent force of 4,000 basketball passing a single point per second. “It’s awesome for our tourism, it’s great for the boaters, rafters, and fishermen as well,” said Fremont County Emergency Manager Mykel Kroll. “With the historic snowpack we had in the high country, we’re seeing all of the runoff from that as our temperatures have warmed up.”

    The fast, rough waters are the ideal conditions for swift-water rescue training as well. Members of the Colorado Springs Fire Department heavy rescue team practiced rescues from the foot bridge spanning the river on Monday. “For us rescuers, it’s pretty treacherous water, so we’re just getting some experience in swimming in this water,” said Brian Kurtz, head of the program. “This is a good training day that we can see lots of hydrology, different things that the river is doing, different things that we go through as rescuers, and different ways to put systems across the river so we can safely affect a rescue.”

    The water is also extremely dangerous. “If you don’t have to be in the water right now, don’t be,” Kroll said, “but if you do, make sure you’re prepared, be safe, know how to swim, wear your life jacket, your helmet, have a plan.” Three sections of the Arkansas River — Pine Creek Rapid, Numbers, and Royal Gorge — are under a High Water Advisory, meaning commercial rafting companies are recommended not to run those sections due to dangerous conditions.

    GoPro Mountain Games recap

    Steep Creek Championship 2016 1st Place Alec Voorhees. Photo Caleb Chicoine/Downriver Media

    From The Vail Daily (John LaConte) via The Summit Daily:

    Dane Jackson has been called the world’s best kayaker and, on Thursday, he bested boaters from all over the globe to prove the title true.

    Jackson was the only American man in the top five at the Steep Creek Championship, a timed race down Homestake Creek that doubles as the kick off to the GoPro Mountain Games every year.

    International competitors outnumbered Americans in the women’s event, with only four female competitors completing both of their preliminary round runs through the tight section of class-5 whitewater.

    Adriene Levknecht, of Greenville, South Carolina, was the fastest woman on the day.

    Colorado was well represented in the competition, with Glenwood Springs paddlers Kenny and Dally Kellogg, Peter Farmelo of Silverthorne and Alex Tansey of Kremmling holding it down as the most local kayakers in the 37-person field.

    Tansey said if they had any “home water” advantage, it was the fact that they were already acclimated to the elevation and the cold water.

    “Some of these folks aren’t used to true snowmelt water,” Tansey said. “As cold as cold can get.”

    Traveling to Colorado for the first time from Costa Rica, Arnaldo Cespedes said the water nearly paralyzed him at first.

    “Even though I was wearing a wet suit, I thought that I was going to get frozen,” he said.

    Cespedes said as a result, he didn’t perform as well as he was expecting…

    Paddlers from Chile, Argentina, Canada, France and Norway also competed.

    Second-place Gerd Serrasoles, a native of Catalonia, now calls the Columbia River Gorge home in White Salmon, Washington…

    The Ultimate Mountain Challenge tests competitors across six events of their choosing, with at least one biking and paddling event mandatory. It wraps up on Sunday with the Pepi’s Face Off, also mandatory, which sets a clock to 30 minutes and pits runners against each other in a challenge to see who can complete the most laps up the steep, 40% grade ski run at the base of Gondola One in Vail.

    #Snowpack news: Aspen had snowiest May in two decades — The Aspen Daily News

    The Cascades, on the Roaring Fork River June 16, 2016. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Aspen Daily News (Chad Abraham):

    Last month was the snowiest May in Aspen since 1999, with 20 more inches added to the already substantial snowpack. Meanwhile, forecasters are predicting a wet June.

    Total snowfall for May was four times the average, according to city of Aspen water department figures. It follows the second snowiest March ever recorded — and the records go back to the winter of 1934-35. Only 6 inches fell in April, but with May’s snowfall, the water department has recorded 210 inches thus far, well above the winter average of 155 inches.

    The water department also tallied 3.8 inches of rain for the month, which is double the average. One factor behind the heavy winter and wet spring can be found in the Pacific Ocean, said Erin Walter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

    Winter and spring storms were fueled by weak El Niño conditions that shifted atmospheric rivers laden with moisture farther south than in an average year. (El Niño occurs when, among other conditions, sea-surface temperatures are warmer than average.)

    Unceasing storm systems that usually blanket the Northwest, Alaska and Canada instead inundated California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range…

    he weak El Niño “definitely influenced the track of storms and the general circulation of our low and high pressure systems,” Walter said. “It’s been a very abnormal winter and spring for us.”

    And that may not change anytime soon. Walter said the federal Climate Prediction Center’s one-month outlook for western Colorado, as of May 31, “falls within a 40 percent probability of being above average for precipitation.” The center also is predicting average temperatures for the region.

    While the wet, cool spring has meant little snowmelt and allowed for continued skiing, the Colorado Water Conservation Board and local emergency managers are keeping a close watch on river levels…

    CWCB also cited a forecast for June that indicates a “wet month for the entire state,” and adds that areas downstream of recent burn scars, like those on Basalt Mountain and surrounding environs from the Lake Christine Fire, are at heightened susceptibility to flash floods, and mud and debris flows. The board reminded “individuals and business owners [to] consider, be aware of, prepare for, and insure against flood threats.”

    “It is also important to note that Colorado’s worst flood events have historically occurred from general spring rainfall and summer thunderstorms, which are completely unrelated to snowmelt flooding resulting from mountain snowpack,” the summary says. “For this reason, even residents in areas with lower snowpack should exercise caution in evaluating flood risk.”

    Floods directly related to the melting snowpack are possible but unlikely, and for boaters, “an extended season of high water is a near certainty this year,” the board reported.

    Lower Dolores River will come alive with rapids for at least 10 days — The Cortez Journal

    Ponderosa Gorge, Dolores River. Photo credit RiverSearch.com.

    From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga) via The Durango Herald:

    A 10-day whitewater boating release is planned for the Dolores River below McPhee dam and reservoir, managers said this week.

    The recreational water flows will be let out from Tuesday to May 30 and are scheduled to accommodate boaters over Memorial Day weekend.

    “Timing the release early for the three-day holiday was a big interest for the boating community,” said Mike Preston, general manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.

    Beginning Tuesday, the managed “spill” will increase at a rate of 400 cubic feet per second per day to achieve a 1,200 cfs flow by the morning of May 24. The high flow will be maintained through May 27, then ramp down to 800 cfs through noon May 30. A gradual ramp down over a few days will follow.

    However, the managed release is expected to continue after May 30, but to what extent has not yet been determined, water officials said.

    Winter snowpack that reached 140% of normal is enough to fill McPhee Reservoir and provide the boating release below the dam. Recent cooler and rainy weather in Southwest Colorado has slowed the snowpack runoff, creating uncertainty about the final timing…

    The inflow rate will depend on hard-to-predict temperatures and potential rain in the coming weeks. McPhee is expected to reach full capacity by mid-June, said district engineer Ken Curtis, and all irrigators will get a full supply for the season…

    The 97-mile stretch of the Dolores River below the dam from Bradfield Bridge to Bedrock is revered by boaters for its challenging rapids and remote, red-rock canyon wilderness.

    The three- to five-day Slick Rock-to-Bedrock section through winding Slick Rock Canyon offers a pristine river running experience. The 18-mile, one-day Ponderosa Gorge has convenient access and fills with locals and tourists when the river runs. No permit is required to boat the Dolores River.

    Dolores River near Bedrock

    The expert Snaggletooth Rapid is especially notorious for drenching boaters and occasionally flipping boats. A road along the river accessed from Dove Creek is a popular spot to spend the day watching boaters negotiate the wild hydraulics created by the rapid’s “fangs.”

    […]

    Also this week, temperature suppression flows of 100 cfs were released from the dam to benefit the downstream native fishery. The strategy is to delay the spawning of the bluehead and flannelmouth suckers and roundtail chub until after the whitewater release.

    #ColoradoRiver: Popular State Bridge and Two Bridges sites now under BLM management — The Vail Daily #COriver

    The upper Colorado River, above State Bridge. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From The Vail Daily (Pam Boyd):

    The 17-acre Two Bridges property and 10-acre State Bridge property were acquired by Eagle County in 2011 to improve public access to the river. Additionally, the Eagle County Open Space Program financed improvements at both sites, including boat launches, bathroom facilities, and developed parking areas. During the county’s ownership, the sites were managed collaboratively with the BLM, together with nine existing BLM recreational sites within the Upper Colorado Special Recreation Management Area.

    Sticking to the plan

    While county officials decided eight years ago that it was important to purchase the formerly private parcels for public use, it was never the county’s intention to keep the sites as part of its open space inventory.

    “They always intended to be an interim owner,” said Christine Quinlan of The Conservation Fund. “Everything has now come full circle. The parcels are in the BLM’s hands.”

    “It’s also a win for the county because they have recouped $1.8 million through the sale,” Quinlan added.

    “This sale fulfills our plan to enhance these two recreational properties for the public, while returning funds to Eagle County Open Space for future uses,” said Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. “We are proud of our partnerships to protect land and water while supporting excellent recreation management on the Colorado River.”

    Bipartisan support

    U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton (CO-3) supported Colorado’s request for federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars and helped secure the Congressional appropriations for permanent protection of the State Bridge and Two Bridges properties. Permanently reauthorized by U.S. Congress this winter, LWCF is a 50-year-old bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties — not taxpayer dollars — to acquire critical lands and protect natural resources.

    The State Bridge and Two Bridges properties are heavily used for boating and recreation. The Two Bridges property provides a popular put-in and take-out site on the 10-mile stretch between State Bridge and the Catamount Bridge Recreation Site.

    The conservation of the Two Bridges and State Bridge parcels complemented the previous addition of the 9-acre Dotsero Landing site to the Upper Colorado River Special Recreation Management Area. In 2016, in cooperation with Eagle County and The Conservation Fund, the BLM used similar federal funding to acquire Dotsero Landing, providing continued river access where the Eagle and Colorado Rivers join. Quinlan noted that together, the three river access sites are helping to secure the significant scenic, recreational, cultural, and wildlife resources along the upper basin of the Colorado.

    #Snowpack/#Runoff news: Whitewater enthusiasts are gearing up for the snowmelt season

    Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map March 3, 2019 via the NRCS.

    From The Summit Daily (Deepan Dutta):

    This year’s statewide average snowpack is dramatically higher than any time in the past three years, and currently stands at 113 percent of normal. The pack is also a whopping 58 percent higher than last year’s dry winter, which peaked and melted early, resulting in a shortened season that disappointed many whitewater enthusiasts.

    Brandon Gonski, general manager of Breckenridge outdoor adventure company AVA Rafting & Zipline, said that he and others in the rafting industry have been getting steadily more excited about this upcoming season…

    “The snowpack in the Upper Colorado is at 113 percent, South Platte is at 110, Arkansas at 124,” Gonski said. “That all stacks up to be great news for us overall. There should be plenty of water, especially compared to last year.”

    From The Cortez Journal (Mary Shinn):

    Rain and abnormally warm temperatures this spring could cause serious flooding below the 416 Fire burn scar…

    The area is not expected to see above-average temperatures in March, April and May, he said.

    But every storm is different and the long-range forecast for average temperatures does not rule out periods of warm weather, he said.

    Rain on snow would cause the worst flooding for the Hermosa area during the runoff season…

    Higher daytime temperatures and warm nights could also cause higher runoff, said Butch Knowlton, La Plata County director of emergency management…

    The areas most likely to be affected by high levels of runoff are near or below Dyke Canyon, Tripp Creek and Hermosa Creek, he said…

    Nighttime temperatures below freezing would help moderate the runoff flows, Knowlton said during an Animas River Community Forum on Thursday.

    The forum brought together representatives from government agencies, ditch companies and nonprofits working on flood mitigation.

    Some groups are working on construction projects to divert water and improve flood prediction, but not many projects are expected to be in place before spring runoff.

    In the short-term, La Plata County plans to install temporary temperature and rain gauges that will help predict flooding this spring, said Tom McNamara, emergency management coordinator for the county.

    The county is also working on putting in another temporary radar system during the summer that would help predict monsoonal systems, Knowlton said.

    Flood mitigation on private property is also expected to get started this year, possibly during the summer, said county spokeswoman Megan Graham.

    The county will put out bids for the construction, potentially for several properties at a time, she said.

    “We want to get the work done as quickly as possible, but there are administrative steps that have to be taken,” she said.

    Federal funding will cover 75 percent of the construction on private land through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program. Property owners interested in participating in the program will be responsible for up to 25 percent of the cost, she said.

    Five irrigation companies in the Animas Valley are also preparing for runoff waters that flow into ditches and are carried to areas they would not naturally go, said Ed Zink, the secretary and treasurer for Animas Consolidated Ditch.

    The ditch companies received about $200,000 in grant funding and provided about $100,000 in a local match to fund construction and to help keep ditches clear of silt and debris.

    This spring, Animas Consolidated Ditch plans to put in gates and help direct floodwaters to the Animas River, Zink said.

    From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

    At long last, after several large storms, snow water equivalency (SWE) and precipitation data are reported as being above average for this first time this winter.

    According to a press release craft- ed by Pagosa Area Water and Sanita- tion District Manager Justin Ramsey, the SWE was 26.1 inches as of Feb. 25, while the median was only 25.5 inches.

    With those recent totals, SWE is now 102.4 percent of median, up from last week’s total of 88.9 percent of median.

    “It’s good, we’re all above average now,” Ramsey said in an interview.

    With limited snow in the forecast, Ramsey noted that the SWE levels will probably stay about the same with minimal melting occurring at the Upper San Juan site.

    “But, we’re probably going to drop below 100 percent again because the average always goes up a little bit,” Ramsey said.

    The median and averages are based on data from 1981 through 2010.

    Last week, the SWE was measured at 20.6 inches while the median was listed at 23.2 inches.

    Precipitation currently is 29.5 inches while the precipitation av- erage is 26.9 inches, making the precipitation totals 109.7 percent of median.

    Last week, precipitation totals were only 24.5 inches while the median was 25.4 inches, making the total 96.5 percent of median.

    The Sesquicentennial #ColoradoRiver Exploring Expedition: Say hello to Powell150.org #Powell150 #COriver #GreenRiver


    Click here to go the website. Click here to view all the cool planned events, it should be a hoot:

    Vision and Place

    Human visions have shaped fundamental contours of the sui generis place in western North America called the Colorado River Basin. Diverse and often conflicting, such visions have been held collectively and individually, embodying wide-ranging aspirations and imaginings as to how the basin proper and its vast outlying areas should be inhabited. One-armed Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell was a seminal visionary in this realm—leader of the 1869 Colorado River Exploring Expedition, author of the 1878 Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States, Founding Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Bureau of Ethnology (1879-1902), and Second Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881-1894). It would be difficult to overstate the influence of Powell, his ideas, and successors thereto on the character of the basin. For good or ill, it bears his name with Lake Powell, as just one testament.

    2019 marks the sesquicentennial of Powell’s epic 1869 Expedition down the Green and Colorado rivers—a celebratory occasion for both a Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition (SCREE) and earnest scholarly revisitation of Powell’s legacy. Powell regarded the 1869 Expedition as a journey “into the great unknown.” Yet myriad aspects of how the basin and adjacent environs are currently being inhabited suggest this phrase applies with equal force to the basin’s future and our navigation of it. This basic premise underpins the multi-author volume being prepared in conjunction with the SCREE project—tentatively entitled, Vision and Place: John Wesley Powell and Reimagination of the Colorado River Basin. It is a multi-disciplinary collaboration involving 16 authors, 6 visual artists, and 2 cartographers hailing from the Colorado River Basin states and beyond. The volume aims not only to shed light on Powell’s visionary ideas upon the sesquicentennial, but also to consider the contemporary influence of those ideas in and around the basin, and ultimately to prompt dialogue about what we wish this beloved place to become.

    Click here to go to scroll through the list of contributors. Friend of Coyote Gulch, Patty Limerick, and Amy Cordalis show up as does Robert Glennon.

    The City of Montrose scores $400,000 grant from @CWCB_DNR for Uncompahgre River through town

    River Bottom Park Uncompahgre River. Photo credit: PhilipScheetzPhoto via the City of Montrose

    From The Montrose Daily Press (Andrew Kiser):

    Parts of the Uncompahgre River have become “unstable” and “injured” over time due to past land use practices, leaving some areas packed with landfill material like debris and rubble, City Engineer Scott Murphy said.

    But now, the City of Montrose will be able to refine portions of the river, in part due to a $400,000 grant given to the city by the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The funds come through the Colorado Watershed Restoration Program to enhance the Uncompahgre.

    The grant will begin the first phase of river restoration improvements for 0.65 miles of the Uncompahgre within city limits…

    Additionally, aerial images have shown the river channel has migrated around 400 feet in some places over the past 50 years, Murphy indicated.

    “It’s a pretty unstable breach of the river which is bad for the habibat because once the fish habibat gets established it gets wiped out as the river moves,” he said.

    City of Montrose grant coordinator Kendall Cramer also said the Uncompahgre has experienced flow modifications and encroachment, which has developed a wider channel, bank stabilization issues and a lack of aquatic and riparian habitat.

    “It’s an excellent project that’s going to enhance the river corridor,” Cramer said. “It’ll invest in the Uncompahgre River, which is one of our greatest assets in terms of tourism and recreation.”

    He added the project will fix those problems as well as create better aquatic environments, stabilize the river banks and give the public better access to the water.

    The city is hopeful this project will be the first step in receiving a gold medal fishery designation within the Uncompahgre River, Murphy said. Once completed, this section of the river will join a section of the Gunnison River which connects to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and joins the Gunnison Gorge…

    The project design is being done by Ecological Resource Consultants, which won the bid for it in 2017. The River Restoration Committee and volunteers have helped the project come to fruition and have given input on the design, Cramer said.

    The city anticipates construction to begin in winter of 2019-2020. Due to the river flow, work has to be completed within a four-month timeframe of November to February, when the water is at its lowest point.

    Dolores: Dolores River Boating Advocates annual river permit party on Jan. 25, 2019

    From The Cortez Journal (Jim Mimiaga):

    Connect with boaters, learn about river permits

    The Dolores River Boating Advocates will have their annual river permit party on Jan. 25 from 6-10 p.m. at the Dolores Community Center.

    The event features films, food, drinks, a silent auction with river-themed items and live music by Halden Wofford and the Hi Beams. The Dolores River does not require a permit, but there will information on the regional rivers that do.

    The event is a chance to meet new boaters, plan river adventures and connect with the local river-running community.

    Every year at the Permit Party, a community slideshow of Dolores River photos is presented at the beginning of the event…

    Advance tickets for the permit party and concert are $12, or $15 at the door. Go to the website of the Dolores River Boating Advocates to buy online.

    Eagle whitewater park ready for #runoff

    From The Vaily Daily (Randy Wyrick) via The Aspen Times:

    The river part of Eagle’s ambitious river park is done, and even the fish appear to be happy about it.

    Hobbs Excavating crews recently finished the fourth of four in-river features.

    S2O Design, one of the world’s premier river engineering and whitewater design companies, designed the in-river features.

    “This setting matches the river’s natural morphology and utilizes the existing river channel really well,” said Scott Shipley, the founder and president of S2O Design. “It will surely be a new focal point for the town.”

    […]

    The in-river part of the project took two years to build, but the process started long before that with a feasibility study, then design and a detailed hydraulic modeling. The first two features were built last winter and spring when the water was low.

    Crews were back in the water last fall, and finished the other two river features in late December. The features create waves, eddies, chutes, and drops to play in for anything from tubes to surfing, standup-up paddling and kayaking.

    The park was the first built with S2O’s RapidBlocs that allows the features to be fine-tuned depending on water flows. That will lengthen the boating season in the park…

    S2O also designed the riverbank improvements, and included a bypass channel around the two upper features serving as a recreational safe route and a fish migration pathway, and mid-stream fish channels in the lower section so fish can migrate upstream.

    After Colorado Parks and Wildlife expressed some concerns about fish migration, the two features built this winter were modified, with crews installing concrete half hemispheres to make it easier for the fish to move…

    In 2016 Eagle voters approved a 0.5 percent sales tax to pay for the park and trail improvements. The entire park is scheduled for completion later this spring.

    Sending water to #LakePowell may, or may not, benefit boaters on Green, Gunnison, #ColoradoRiver and San Juan rivers — @AspenJournalism

    A boater, John Dufficy, makes his way down the lower end of the San Juan River toward the take-out, in 2014. Low flows on the San Juan can make exiting the river a tricky proposition due to the growing sandbars, but it’s not clear if potential releases of water from Navajo Reservoir to boost flows in Lake Powell will do much to change that. Photo Credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    Tell experienced river runners that 2 million acre-feet of water — as much water as in 20 Ruedi Reservoirs — is going to be released from reservoirs and sent down the Green, Gunnison and San Juan rivers to boost falling water levels in Lake Powell, and they will likely have some good questions.

    Will peak spring releases from Flaming Gorge Reservoir down the Green River turn Hell’s Half Mile in the Gates of Lodore into a raging maelstrom?

    Will early-spring and late-summer releases out of Navajo Reservoir on the upper San Juan River make it easier to float over the growing sandbars in the river below Grand Gulch?

    Will releases from Blue Mesa Reservoir run down the Gunnison River and into the Colorado River and make it likelier that flows past Skull Rapid in Westwater will stay longer in the “terrible teens,” or at flows over 13,000 cubic feet per second?

    For now, there are no definitive answers to such questions, but one federal official suggests boaters may hardly notice the release of water from the three reservoirs.

    An agreement was approved last week in Las Vegas by the Upper Colorado River Commission that sets up a process for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and New Mexico, and the federal Bureau of Reclamation, to develop a plan to release about two million acre-feet of water from the three reservoirs, but it is, at this point, only an agreement to make a “drought operations” plan, when necessary.

    “The agreement, importantly, doesn’t itself include a plan. Rather, it sets forth a process for establishing a plan based on modeling projections of Powell elevations,” Amy Haas, the director of the UCRC said during a presentation here last week at a meeting of the Colorado River Water Users Association.

    Still, boaters want to know, where might the water come from under such a plan. When it will come? And will it make a difference on the river?

    The answer to the last question, at least, is something akin to “no, not really.”

    “I really don’t think it is going to be noticeable, because we see quite a bit of fluctuation in the upper basin in all of these systems, when we have abundance and when we have drought, and this fits within those bands,” said Brent Rhees, the regional director in the upper Colorado River basin for the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Flaming Gorge, Blue Mesa and Navajo reservoirs, as well as Lake Powell.

    It also says water will be released from all three reservoirs, though not necessarily at the same time, and an effort will also be made to balance hydropower needs.

    The agreement gives regional water managers “sufficient flexibility to begin, end or adjust operations as needed based on actual hydrologic conditions” and retains Reclamation’s current authority to release water as it sees fit, within existing approvals, if there is an “imminent need to protect the target elevation at Lake Powell.”

    (Also, please see related agreements on demand management storage in Lake Powell, a “companion agreement” to an a drought contingency plan agreement in the lower basin, and Exhibit 1 to that agreement).

    A boater, Steve Skinner, makes his way toward Skull Rapid in Westwater Canyon. Future potential releases of water from Blue Mesa Reservoir down the Gunnison River and into the Colorado River could alter flows in Westwater, and boost water levels in Lake Powell. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Back-up buckets

    Flaming Gorge, Navajo and Blue Mesa reservoirs were built, in large part, to serve as backup buckets to Lake Powell, but they have yet to be called upon for such duty.

    Of the three reservoirs, Flaming Gorge is the largest, with a capacity to hold 3.8 million acre-feet of water behind its dam, which is in Utah near the Wyoming border.

    Navajo Reservoir, which is in northern New Mexico, on the San Juan River, holds 1.7 million acre-feet.

    And Blue Mesa Reservoir, one of three dams on the Gunnison River that make up what’s called the Aspinall Unit, holds 940,800 acre-feet.

    Of course, before water can be released from reservoirs, they must have water in them — and that’s no longer a given.

    Today, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, Blue Mesa is only 30 percent full, holding 248,220 acre-feet of water; Navajo is 52 percent full, holding 883,737 acre-feet; and Flaming Gorge is 88 percent full, holding 3.3 million acre-feet. (Please see “teacup” graphic, with current reservoir levels).

    The water to be released, if needed, from the three reservoirs is meant to help maintain a target elevation for the surface of Lake Powell — as measured at the upstream face of Glen Canyon Dam — of 3,525 feet above sea level.

    Today, Lake Powell is at 3,584 feet, or 59 feet above the target elevation. A year ago, the lake was at 3,623 feet, or 39 feet higher than it is today. (Lake Powell is 42 percent full, holding about 10.4 million acre-feet of water.)

    So, if very dry conditions persist in the upper basin and the reservoir level keeps falling more than 30 feet a year, it’s possible that the critical elevation of 3,525 could be reached within two dry years.

    A fleet of rafts makes its way down the Green River toward its confluence with the Yampa River. Future potential releases of water out of Flaming Gorge Reservoir to boost levels in Lake Powell shape the flows on the Green River, although it’s not clear how the releases may change flow levels. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smity

    Scary hydrology

    The most recent 24-month forecast — issued by the Bureau of Reclamation on Wednesday — “projects Lake Powell elevation will end water year 2019 (at the end of September) near 3,571.23 feet with approximately 9.21 million acre-feet in storage,” or at 38 percent of capacity.

    That means by October, Lake Powell is already projected to be 13 feet lower than it is today and only 46 feet above the target elevation of 3,525 feet.

    Nothing physically occurs at Glen Canyon Dam at 3,525 feet, but it’s seen by regional water managers as an alarm bell on the way to the reservoir falling to 3,490 feet, or minimum power pool, which is when water can no longer be sent down intake tubes to the turbines in the dam.

    At elevations below 3,490, when the reservoir is heading toward “dead pool,” it becomes ever harder to release water downstream through the dam’s outlets, which could mean the upper-basin states would fail to meet their collective obligation to send enough water to the lower-basin states (California, Arizona and Nevada) under the 1922 Colorado River Compact.

    Although violating the compact was once seen as a far-off, distant possibility, it’s not seen that way anymore.

    “In water year 2018, unregulated inflow volume to Lake Powell was 4.6 million acre-feet (43 percent of average), the third-driest year on record above 2002 and 1977,” says the Bureau of Reclamation’s latest forecast, issued Wednesday.

    It also says that inflows into Lake Powell have been above average in only four of the past 19 years.

    “The latest hydrology is sobering,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman said last week during remarks at the water conference. “It is time for us to pay attention. We are quickly running out of time.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers water and rivers with The Aspen Times. The Times published this story on Monday, Dec. 17, 2018.

    #GlenwoodSprings close to securing rights for new #whitewater parks — @AspenJournalism #ColoradoRiver #COriver

    Upstream view of the Colorado River at the mouth of the Roaring fork River

    From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

    The city of Glenwood Springs has paddled around the last of several big obstacles in its way to obtaining water rights for three potential whitewater parks in the Colorado River, at Two Rivers Park, Horseshoe Bend and No Name.

    While final approvals are not expected from various entities until late January, the city’s water attorney, Mark Hamilton of Holland and Hart, told a state agency last week that general agreement in the water court case was at hand.

    The proposed water rights are for “boating, rafting, kayaking, tubing, floating, canoeing, paddling and all other non-motorized recreational uses.”

    Glenwood Springs made the crux move in its five-year journey on Wednesday, when Aurora and Colorado Springs signed off on a “call reduction provision” in the city’s proposed water rights decree.

    The provision carves out 30,000 acre-feet from the city’s proposed 2013 water right to allow for future upstream transmountain diversions by the Front Range cities. Glenwood Springs had earlier offered a 20,000 acre-foot carve-out provision.

    The city made another key maneuver on Thursday, when the directors of the Colorado Water Conservation Board agreed to amend a negative 2015 finding on the city’s water rights application, and agreed to settle with the city in water court.

    “Forgive us for being cautious and careful and slow,” said Russ George, who represents the Colorado River basin at CWCB. “This one is not an ordinary [Recreational In-Channel Diversion]. It has its own complications, and overall it had become just a tricky, thorny, complicated project.”

    It was also announced Thursday that the Colorado River District and the town of Gypsum support the settlement in concept and are working on final approvals.

    The Colorado River at Horseshoe Bend, upstream of Glenwood Springs. Colorado Water Parks and Wildlife has let the City of Glenwood Springs know that this is their least favorite of three potential whitewater parks the city is pursuing water rights for, due to the use of the area by bighorn sheep. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Horseshoe Bend lowest priority

    Under the settlement, Glenwood Springs has agreed to consult with Colorado Parks and Wildlife on the location, size, design and construction at the three prospective whitewater park sites, including giving Horseshoe Bend the lowest priority of the three locations because of bighorn sheep in the area.

    “Horseshoe Bend kind of sits in third position for a variety of reasons,” Jay Skinner, an instream flow specialist for CPW, told the CWCB directors on Thursday. “It certainly is our least favorite of the three sites.”

    The Two Rivers Park location is just downstream from central Glenwood Springs, and just above a busy boat ramp at the park.

    Horseshoe Bend and No Name are not far upstream from downtown in Glenwood Canyon. They are on a Class II stretch of river below the Class III-to-Class IV Shoshone run. The highway is separated from the river at Horseshoe Bend, and there is an I-70 rest stop next to the river at No Name.

    The city has previously obtained settlements in the water court case from BLM, CDOT, Denver Water, Ute Water Conservancy District, Grand Valley Water Users Association, West Divide Water Conservancy District and the Glenwood Hot Springs Lodge and Pool.

    “This ends three years of really intense negotiations and collaborations with the applicant (Glenwood Springs) and a lot of work finding compromise and middle ground on this,” Pat Wells, general manager of water resources and demand management at Colorado Springs Utilities, told the CWCB Thursday.

    Aurora and Colorado Springs, as partners in the Homestake storage and diversion project, have a high interest in the city’s claims for flow levels in the Colorado River, as they now intend to build a dam and reservoir on lower Homestake Creek as part of the “Eagle River MOU” project, according to an October report from the attorney of the Colorado River District to the district’s board.

    That project includes diverting 20,000 acre-feet of additional water under the Continental Divide from the upper Eagle River basin. It also includes diverting 10,000 acre-feet of water for Western Slope uses.

    In 2012, the two cities told federal officials “as much as 86,400 acre-feet of water supplies may be developed by completion of the Homestake Project.”

    As such, Aurora and Colorado Springs wanted some protection from Glenwood Springs’ pending water right, which would carry a priority date of 2013.

    The Colorado River at No Name, above Glenwood Springs, and just off of I-70 near the No Name rest stop. This is one of three sites where the City of Glenwood Springs is pursuing water rights for a potential whitewater park. Photo credit: Aspen Journalism/Brent Gardner-Smith

    Protects flows

    The city’s water right would span 183 days, from April 1 to Sept. 30 each year.

    For 137 of those days, the water right calls for a steady flow 1,250 cubic feet per second, which is the same level of flow that the senior Shoshone hydropower right can call for on the river, above the proposed whitewater parks.

    So, for the bulk of the time, the Glenwood’s new water right would make no difference on the river, as it is in the shadow of Shoshone.

    But the city wants to step out of that shadow and call for 2,500 cfs of water for 46 days, from June 8 to July 23. And it could call for 4,000 cfs of flow on five days around the Fourth of July, in order to hold competitive boating events.

    It is in the 46-day high-flow period when the carve-out will kick in, and reduce by about 25 percent the amount of water the city was pursuing.

    “It does limit, significantly, the amount of time that this water right is going to be able to call,” Rob Harris, an attorney representing both Western Resource Advocates and American Whitewater, in support of Glenwood Springs, told the CWCB. “But frankly, that’s the nature of compromise.”

    Harris said the remaining flow levels in the river still work for the whitewater parks.

    “These are the proper flow rates,” he said. “These rates are the rates that stakeholders in the city and in the community have asked for, and balancing that with this carve out is appropriate.”

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism covers rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times, the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, and other Swift newspapers. Both the Times and the Post published this story on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018.

    City of Glenwood Springs proposed whitewater parks via Aspen Journalism

    #Runoff news: High elevation #snowpack and transmountain water should keep #ArkansasRiver mainstem streamflow adequate for boating season

    From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

    “Much of the state experienced lower-than-average snowfall and snowpack,” said Rob White, park manager for the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area which encompasses the Arkansas River from Lake County to Lake Pueblo.

    “Luckily, the Upper Arkansas River Valley and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project area received some of the best snow in the state. This means there should be plenty of water for rafters, kayakers, anglers and all the people who enjoy the Arkansas River,” he said.

    Whitewater enthusiasts, who make the Arkansas River the most rafted river in the state, received more good news this week from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages flows in the river.

    The bureau’s May forecast regarding the availability of water for releases in July and August indicates a minimum of 10,000 acre-feet of water will be available for recreational purposes.

    As part of the Voluntary Flow Management Program, the bureau will use the water to help maintain flows of at least 700 cubic feet per second from July 1 to Aug. 15 which is the peak of the summer vacation season.

    That flow gives the river enough volume to ensure plenty of exciting whitewater rapids for both adrenaline junkies and those seeking a calmer family adventure…

    Last year, close to 50 different commercial outfitters along the Arkansas River provided trips for more than 223,00 guests who tested the mild to wild waters of the Arkansas through Pine Creek, the Numbers, Browns Canyon National Monument, Bighorn Sheep Canyon and the Royal Gorge. That is big business for the Upper Arkansas River Valley, resulting in $29 million in direct expenditures and an overall economic impact of $74.4 million, according to the annual report complied for Colorado River Outfitters Association.

    “The Arkansas continues to be the most popular river in Colorado with a market share of 38.6 percent of all Colorado rafting use. Market share on the Arkansas has been declining, however, primarily due to increased use on Clear Creek and the Upper Colorado,” the report said…

    For more information, visit http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/ArkansasHeadwatersRecreationArea.

    2018 #COleg: Governor Hickenlooper signs SB18-066 (Extend Operation Of State Lottery Division)

    The upper Colorado River, above State Bridge. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

    From Governor Hickenlooper’s office via The Loveland Reporter-Herald:

    Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 18-066 into law Monday, reauthorizing the Colorado Lottery through 2049.

    “The Colorado Lottery is the only lottery in the nation that commits nearly all of its yearly proceeds to outdoor recreation or habitat and wildlife conservation,” Michael Hartman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, said in a press release. “Coloradans can rest assured that their lottery game spending will continue to support the incredible resources that make our state so special, including supporting the capital needs of our state’s great school systems.”

    According to the release, in the last five fiscal years, the lottery has distributed more than $670 million to its four beneficiaries — the Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Building Excellent Schools Today program.

    Since its start in 1983 through fiscal year 2017, the Colorado Lottery has returned to more than $3.1 billion to its beneficiaries.

    The money is distributed 50 percent to the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, 40 percent to the Conservation Trust Fund, and 10 percent to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. GOCO funds in fiscal year 2018 are capped at $66.2 million and funds that exceed the cap will go to the Colorado Department of Education’s Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund, according to the lottery website.

    The current structure of the primary lottery beneficiaries has been in place since 1992, when the people of Colorado voted to the amend the Colorado constitution and create the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund.

    Lottery funds have been used to create and restore hundreds of miles of trails, protect hundreds of miles of rivers, create thousands of jobs, add thousands of acres to the state parks system, create more than 1,000 parks and recreation areas, and protect over 1 million acres of land.

    Under a reauthorization passed by the Colorado Legislature in 2002, the Lottery division was extended 15 years from 2009 to 2024. The new bill adds 25 years, authorizing the lottery until 2049.

    To learn more about where the funds go, visit http://coloradolottery.com/en/about/giving-back.

    Pagosa Springs councillors approve seventh whitewater feature on the San Juan River

    San Juan River from Wolf Creek Pass

    From The Pagosa Sun (Marshall Dunham):

    On Jan. 18, the Pagosa Springs Town Council unanimously voted to engage Wolf Creek Ski Area and Riverbend Engineering to complete a seventh whitewater feature on the San Juan River.

    “Over the past several years, Wolf Creek Ski Area has donated heavy equipment and operators to build six of the seven whitewater features that were planned out many years ago through public input,” explained Town Manager Andrea Phillips to the council. “At this time, they are able and ready to complete the last feature, which is between the 1st Street bridge and Cotton Hole.”

    Phillips stated that the feature would provide challenging condi- tions to kayakers and tubers.

    She added that the project would involve concrete as well as stone work.

    “In the past, the ski area has donated a lot of the equipment and the operators. The town’s covered the fuel costs as well as a pumper truck,” Phillips said. “This go around, the ski area is not able to provide as much of a donation as they have in the past. They’re still providing operators and assisting us with maintenance on our existing items and providing some of the equipment. However, they are asking for the town to step
    up a bit more than we have on this other feature.”

    Phillips went on to explain that $10,000 for construction manage- ment would be allotted, and that it would go to Riverbend Engineering.

    Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers program Basalt Whitewater Park forum recap

    Proposed Basalt whitewater park via the Aspen Daily News

    From The Aspen Daily News ( M. John Fayhee):

    From the get-go, the Basalt Whitewater Park was a balancing act designed to simultaneously enhance the riparian habitat of the Roaring Fork River, slow the flow of runoff, give anglers the opportunity to match wits with fish and provide kayakers and rafters with a means by which they could get their adrenal glands pumping.

    While people seem to appreciate the effort, opinions expressed at a forum organized Tuesday evening by Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers program indicated there is work yet to be done.

    The forum, which took place at the Basalt Library, brought together about 30 river enthusiasts covering the recreational gamut from fisherpeople to hard-core kayakers to boaters with a more recreational bent.

    The consensus seemed to be that the engineers who did the work throughout last winter need to fine tune their efforts.

    “It is more rowdy that we had hoped,” said Quinn Donnelly, a river engineer with Carbondale-based River Restoration, the company that designed and constructed the $800,000 whitewater park.

    According to Donnelly, the park functioned at its best when the water levels went down from their peak of about 3,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) on June 19.

    “At about 700 cfs, the flows worked really well for a wide range of skills,” Donnelly said.

    But, when those water levels were higher, spam was definitely hitting the fan.

    While Donnelly said the upper feature was classified at about Class-3 during the height of runoff, people in the audience begged to differ. One person speculated that the upper feature was closer to class-4, while another said it nudged up to class-5.

    Several members of the audience related takes about spending significant time upside-down and bouncing off boulders while attempting to navigate the man-made rapids.

    Designers busy enhancing Arkansas River features through Cañon City

    Cañon City via DowntownCanonCity.com.

    From The Cañon City Daily Record (Carie Canterbury):

    The plan focuses on the whitewater park between First and Fourth streets, which is a small part of the overall Arkansas River Corridor Master Plan, which also meshes with the Centennial Park Master Plan.

    The overall goal is river beautification by removing concrete debris and other hazardous materials from the site and then recreational and habitat enhancements, said Nathan Werner, a designer and engineer with S2O Design.

    “For recreation, we are creating structures that give the river more character to create more eddies and pools for in-stream users,” he said. “Random boulders and jetties create this recreational enhancement, but they also create fish habitat.”

    Right now the river is largely just uniform with not a lot of velocity breaks, Werner said, so designers are creating a more diverse river.

    The estimated cost of this multi-user, multi-use project is about $700,000, half of which is expected to be funded through a Great Outdoors Colorado grant, said Will Colon, who spearheaded the fundraising and creation of the Whitewater Kayak & Recreation Park. The park, built at a cost of about $450,000, also includes a feature near Black Bridge. The annual Royal Gorge Whitewater Festival since 2010 helps to fund improvements on the river…

    Construction is expected to begin in the fall and winter of 2018, making the area usable in the spring of 2019.

    Yampa River streamflow drops to below average

    Yampa River at Steamboat Springs gage March 1 through September 4, 2017.

    From The Craig Daily Press:

    With the Yampa River flowing well below normal during most of the week preceding Labor Day, the city of Steamboat Springs has closed down commercial tubing in the river where it flows through the city and is asking the public to voluntarily follow suit by refraining from private tubing, paddling SUPs, swimming and fishing…

    It’s not unusual for commercial tubing to be suspended by the first week in September, but the United States Geological Survey was reporting earlier this week that the river had dropped significantly below 100 cubic feet per second, the median flow for the date. Ironically, the stiff rain showers that cooled Steamboat the night of Aug 31 had temporarily boosted river flows by Sept. 1…

    City of Steamboat Water Resources Manager Kelly Romero-Heaney said commercial tubing would not be restored unless river flows return to 85 cfs. But the boost in flows from the rainfall of Aug. 31 is expected to be short-lived; the National Weather Service forecast for the upper Yampa River Valley called for a 20-percent chance of isolated storms the afternoon of Sept. 1, followed by sunny to mostly sunny skies through Sept. 7

    The city and the Colorado Water Trust had been collaborating since earlier this summer on boosting the flows in the Yampa with water procured from the Upper Yampa Water Conservation District’s Stagecoach Reservoir, and that effort will resume.

    Romero-Heaney said efforts to boost the Yampa’s flows will likely continue until early October, when the managers of Lake Catamount, downstream from Stagecoach, begin releasing water as they draws down the reservoir in anticipation of spring runoff in 2018…

    The USGS reported at midday Friday that the Yampa was flowing at 97 cubic feet per second, just below median for the date. The lowest Sept. 1 river flow measured at the Fifth Street Bridge, was the 24 cfs, reported in 1934.

    Clear Creek: August wet weather leads to longer rafting season

    Clear Creek rafting via MyColoradoLife.com

    From The Clear Creek Courant (Ian Neligh):

    Local rafting businesses agree they’ve already experienced a busy and prolonged rafting season in the county, and several rafting companies were still operating in mid-August. However, some have closed for the season.

    Suzen Raymond, owner of Mile-Hi Rafting, pulled her boats out of the water the week of Aug. 14.

    “We’ve quit rafting because the water just got too low for us to raft,” Raymond said, “but overall the season was a really good rafting season for us.”

    Raymond predicts that her business may see a 10 percent jump over last year.

    “It’s a pretty good spike for us every year,” Raymond said. “We traditionally run up a little bit, except, of course, in the drought years.”

    According to the Colorado Outfitters Association, late-season rafting is still going strong across the state including on the upper Colorado River and Arkansas River.

    Brandon Gonski, general manager at AVA Rafting, said the business is already experiencing a longer season on both rivers.

    “Clear Creek tends to end a little earlier, but (as of) Aug. 23, we’re pretty excited that we’ve stayed open this year this late,” Gonski said…

    Gonski said his company has also seen a good year, which he said could be in part attributed to the prolonged season. While the end of the season differs for every company, AVA ended its season last year on Aug. 16.

    #Colorado outdoor recreation and tourism industries have respectively raked in $28 billion and $19.7 billion

    From The Denver Post (Danika Worthington):

    Two reports out this week found that the outdoor-recreation and tourism industries, which often lend each other a hand, accounted for $28 billion and $19.7 billion, respectively, in consumer spending last year.

    And experts in both industries don’t expect growth to taper off soon.

    Neither the Outdoor Industry Association nor the Colorado Tourism Office could say exactly how often tourism and outdoor recreation intersect. But evidence suggests that the two industries are mutually beneficial.

    Of the travelers who visit Colorado in the summer, 52 percent take scenic drives, 46 percent visit a state or national park, and 32 percent hike or backpack, said Cathy Ritter, Colorado’s tourism boss.

    Similarly, Vail’s GoPro Mountain Games brings in 3,300 athletes and 67,000 spectators annually, generating $7.2 million in economic impact, according to the Outdoor Industry Association’s report, out Tuesday.

    That’s not to say the tourism and outdoor-recreation industries rely on each other exclusively. The OIA report found that 71 percent of Colorado’s 5.7 million residents participate in outdoor recreation…

    Outdoor recreation and tourism last year brought in $2 billion and $1.2 billion in state and local taxes, respectively. The state tourism report found that each Colorado resident would have to pay an additional $216 to replace the taxes that visitors kick in each year.

    Outdoor recreation, such as camping, motorcycling and trail sports, directly creates 229,000 jobs and nearly $10 billion in wages and salaries, OIA executive director Amy Roberts said.

    Tourism directly created 165,000 jobs that supply $5.8 billion in wages, according to the tourism office. In comparison, oil, gas and mining accounts for 58,000 Colorado jobs, the OIA report pointed out without citing total wages.

    Since the recession, Colorado has logged a 37 percent increase in total visitation, compared with a 17 percent increase across the U.S. The $19.7 billion in tourism consumer spending is a new high for the state.

    And both Ritter and Roberts expect their industries to grow — outdoor recreation aided by friendly policies, businesses relocating to the state and a strong independent retail sector, and tourism buoyed by the national “Come to Life” marketing campaign that helped grow Colorado’s share of the U.S. tourism market to 3.1 percent from 2.8 percent in a year.

    Steamboat Springs: Lodging tax dollars to Yampa River?

    The Yampa River Core Trail runs right through downtown Steamboat. Photo credit City of Steamboat Springs.

    From Steamboat Today (Scott Franz):

    The city received 14 different proposals for how to best spend a reserve fund of lodging tax money that has been accruing in recent years. They range from a plan to use the money to keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy pace in the summer to adding several public restrooms around town.

    The money, which comes from a 1 percent tax tourists pay on their nightly stays, must be spent on something aimed at drawing more tourists to town. Projects must also enhance the city’s “environmental desirability.”

    A committee appointed by the Steamboat Springs City Council will spend this week grading all of the proposals and coming up with a recommendation.

    It will then be up to the City Council to decide which project is most worthy, or whether the money should be spent at this time at all…

    Yampa River Flow Endowment, Friends of the Yampa, $1 million

    Anyone who uses the Yampa River in the summer would benefit from Friends of the Yampa’s idea for how to spend the reserve lodging tax money.

    The fish would also thank the group too if they could.

    The river advocacy group thinks the money could be well spent on water releases from Stagecoach Reservoir that help keep the Yampa River flowing at a healthy level during the summer.

    The Colorado Water Trust has partnered with the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District in recent years on such water releases.
    The releases help maintain a healthy river and ecosystem during low water years and times of drought.

    “A healthy Yampa River is paramount to Steamboat Springs’ tourism industry,” Friends of the Yampa wrote in its application.

    “Fly fishing shops, tubing outfitters, restaurants, breweries and river property owners depend on healthy river flows.

    The application is a collaborative effort that also includes the Water Trust, The Nature Conservancy and some local business owners.

    Unique agreement supports the longest rafting season on Colorado’s Arkansas River —

    Browns Canyon via BrownsCanyon.org

    Here’s the release from the Arkansas River Outfitters Association via PR Newswire:

    A successful water management agreement on the Arkansas River exemplifies Colorado’s dedication to its natural resources and the visitor experiences they support, according to the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA).

    The Arkansas River Voluntary Flow Management Program helps ensure there is water for whitewater rafting on the river well into August. The cooperative agreement among water users is unique in that it includes recreation in water management decisions.

    AROA is part of the agreement with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and other agencies that not only supports summer flows for whitewater rafting, but also manages water year-round for a healthy fishery.

    The program, which started in 1990, is a model management technique for all other rivers in the American West. It allows whitewater rafting outfitters to offer the longest boating season in Colorado, AROA Executive Director Bob Hamel said.

    “The water program recognizes that recreation is part of our lifestyle, and that its economic impact is important,” Hamel said.

    Whitewater rafting generated $179.8 million in spending among the state’s commercial users last year, according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association.

    The Arkansas River is America’s most popular whitewater rafting destination, hosting nearly a quarter of a million visitors last season and attracting kayakers and private rafters from around the world. The river hosts more than 40 percent of the state’s commercial rafting market, in part due to the longer season, but also because its 100-plus miles of whitewater rapids offer something for nearly everyone.

    Technical boating, mild family float trips, multi-day camping and inn-to-inn rafting, plus standup paddle boarding and kayaking, are popular trips among families and friends of all ages.

    With the mountain towns of Salida, Buena Vista and Cañon City nearby, visitors lengthen their stays and plan additional outdoor fun like horseback riding, ATV tours and hiking the area’s concentration of 14,000-foot peaks.

    More than 100 miles of the Arkansas River was designated Gold Medal in 2014, meaning anglers can expect trophy trout fishing on a long, contiguous river segment that constitutes nearly a third of the state’s Gold Medal miles.

    For information about current water levels and booking a Colorado whitewater rafting adventure, contact an Arkansas River outfitter at http://www.ArkansasRiverOutfitters.org.

    #Runoff news: Low-head dam hazards

    From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Alicia Stice):

    In the past 10 years, more than 15 people have drowned on the river from various accidents. Lopez’s death was the first in years involving a low-head dam.

    These [weirs] dot rivers across the country, including in Fort Collins, where there is one low-head dam every 1.5 to 2 miles along much of the Poudre.

    In Colorado, there is no agency in charge of overseeing safety at these dams. Instead, the Division of Water Resources has a team charged with overseeing the risks associated with large dams at sites such as Horsetooth Reservoir that could pose a hazard if they failed, Colorado Division of Water Resources Dam Safety Chief Bill McCormick said.

    “I think these are some of the most dangerous type of structures we have in the country because most people are unaware of the dangers,” said Bruce Tschantz, a Knoxville, Tennessee, water resources engineer who has studied low-head dams extensively. “People tend to overestimate their ability to overcome the current and underestimate the dangers.”

    General currents upstream and downstream from a low-head dam. Graphic via Bruce a. Tschantz

    In much of the country, low-head dams have been in place for more than 100 years to serve now defunct mills. In Colorado, many of these dams are still active, diverting water into irrigation ditches for agricultural use. While the structures are old, the danger is relatively new.

    “The problem of safety around them is more a recent phenomenon as people are using the rivers more,” McCormick said.

    The dams slow water upstream and divert it away from the main channel. The water that flows over them creates a rapid on the downriver side that mimics the hydraulics of a washing machine. The water can force victims underwater and spin them around, making it nearly impossible to swim back up to the surface.

    “These structures are often very deceiving,” said Kenneth Smith, Indiana Department of Natural Resources assistant director…

    Simple engineering solutions can make low-head dams built today much safer by breaking up the flow of water as it moves over the dam. Solutions could include a set of concrete stairs or large rocks on the downstream side of the structure. In many cases, those solutions could be added to existing dams, but that can be costly, and it can be difficult to track down the owners of these century-old structures.

    Poudre Fire Authority has been in discussions about what might be done to make sure people know about the dangers of the dams, including the possibility of installing signs along the river warning people of where they are.

    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