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.

John’s excellent EV adventure — Steamboat Springs #CWCSC17

Steamboat Springs camp August 21, 2017.

My campground in Steamboat Springs has charging stations for the tent campers. I was able to connect the Leaf’s trickle charger.

Leaf charging at my camp in Steamboat August 21, 2017.

I was a bit worried on the leg from Kremmling to Steamboat Springs. Highway speeds and a climb really knock down the battery charge. I gained a whole bar (8.33%) of charge coming down the west side of Rabbit Ear’s pass due to the regenerative charging system. Did not have to break once, regenerative charging held the speed limit.

Now I’m on my bicycle until the drive home Friday.

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

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.

@COWaterTrust, @CWCB_DNR, @Nature_Colorado enable Stagecoach releases to bolster Yampa River (again!)

From Steamboat Today (Tom Ross):

Once again this year, the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust and the Colorado Water Conservation Board are collaborating to arrange a release of water from Stagecoach Reservoir to boost lagging flows in the Yampa River under an agreement with dam owner, the Upper Yampa Conservancy District. New this year is the support of The Nature Conservancy.

Last year, conservation releases did not begin until mid-September, but in 2017, with the river already flowing well below normal, water releases from the dam were set at 10 cubic feet per second beginning July 11. But it can’t go on forever this way.

With this year’s release, the role of the Conservation Board, a division of the State Department of Natural Resources, has expanded to include committing to contributing up to $46,692 for water releases. At the same time, the CWCB will undertake the third, and final, approved year to release water into the Yampa. The opportunity cannot be renewed under current law, Water Trust staff attorney Zach Smith said…

This year’s program will forge a new relationship with the Nature Conservancy to carry on the effort when conditions warrant. The Nature Conservancy’s Carpenter Ranch just east of Hayden straddles the Yampa, and for 2017, the global conservation organization has agreed to bring $50,000 to the effort to purchase water releases out of Stagecoach. It will also explore sustainable funding for future years.

Smith said new efforts to bolster the flows in the river during dry seasons could range from seeking ways for the Nature Conservancy and the Water Trust to collaborate on locating new funding sources to perhaps seeking a water source with long-term legal protection.

Upper Yampa Manager Kevin McBride pointed out it’s only because there is a moderate amount of water storage in the upper reaches of the Yampa that mid-summer conservation releases are possible…

Flows in the Yampa have been supplemented with the participation of the Water Trust in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. The Yampa was flowing at 128 cubic feet per second Monday afternoon, 67 cfs below the median for the date…

Water Trust water resources engineer and former Steamboat resident Mickey O’Hara said the return to healthier natural flows in the Yampa this summer “depends on if, and when the monsoons happen.”

Folks battle leafy spurge on the Yampa River

From the Craig Daily Press (Lauren Blair):

A coalition of ranchers and environmentalists, politicians and bureaucrats, and Jimmy-Buffett-loving river recreationalists came together Friday to learn about a quiet scourge overtaking the banks of the Yampa River known as the leafy spurge.

The plant itself looks innocent enough, with little yellow flowers that turn entire sections of river bank into a sea of green and yellow. But the demure-looking weed is extremely aggressive and invasive, and has wreaked havoc in states like Montana and North Dakota, where more than 2 million acres of ranch land have been put out of production due to the noxious weed.

Formed in 2015, the Yampa River Leafy Spurge Project brought together partners in Routt and Moffat counties to tackle the growing infestation, which first took root more than 40 years ago…

The problem has eluded an effective solution for decades, as the conditions unique to river banks challenge all variety of treatments from chemical to biological to mechanical.

The result is that debate continues about how to deal with the destructive plant, and for now, officials have focused on keeping the infestation from spreading…

The project received $30,000 in funding from the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 2016; Moffat and Routt counties each received $10,000 to fund projects to target infestations, and $10,000 went to landowner education and outreach.

Additional county and federal funds also flow towards containment efforts on private, county and federal lands, but for a weed that sends roots as deep as 60 feet down and is able to broadcast its seeds up to 30 feet, as well as send them downriver, available resources have been outmatched.

“For our economy’s sake, from a recreational standpoint, an agricultural standpoint and an environmental standpoint, it’s a big issue,” said Todd Hagenbuch with Natural Resources Conservation Services.

Elkhead Reservoir fish barrier appears to be working as designed

Elkhead Reservoir

From The Craig Daily Press (Lauren Blair):

Installed last September, a net designed to keep non-native, predatory fish at Elkhead Reservoir from entering the Yampa River appears to be fulfilling its purpose, though it may be too soon to tell.

This spring, Colorado Parks and Wildlife conducted its first count of the two species of concern, northern pike and smallmouth bass, in the stretch of water between the net and the spillway, where water leaves the reservoir and enters Elkhead Creek, which feeds into the Yampa.

“In our first sample this spring, we didn’t see any indication that the net was failing,” said CPW Aquatic Biologist Tory Eyre.

The count was taken before the reservoir filled with spring runoff and water began spilling over the spillway. Another count taken this fall, after the reservoir is done spilling, will give biologists an even better idea of how the net is working.

“This is a big spill year,” Eyre said. “When it’s spilling, it can suck trees and other debris through, damaging the net.”

Officials are hoping the net, made of a sturdy polyethylene mesh, will hold up to any debris that gets swept its way, and divers will check and clean the net once a year.

The net is one piece of a multi-pronged approach to protect four species of endangered fish in the Yampa River, the humpback chub, bonytail, Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker…

The net will hopefully keep the predatory fish contained, but with so many factors affecting the species, biologists won’t necessarily be able to determine the precise impact of the net on endangered fish populations…

The life span of the $1.2 million net is only estimated at about seven years, Eyre said, which is why CPW is also hoping to check northern pike and smallmouth bass populations through its new, annual Elkhead Reservoir Fishing Classic.

Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program

Steamboat Springs: Stage 2 watering restrictions remain in place

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

From Steamboat Today:

With the Western Slope under a NOAA heat advisory, the four water districts in Steamboat Springs will continue mandatory stage 2 water restrictions for the remainder of the summer.

“Conditions continue to dry out in our region, and we’re seeing hotter temperatures across Colorado, and in many cases, record temperatures for many areas,” said Frank Alfone, with Mount Werner Water, in a news release.

“As a community, we were able to get a jump on what’s shaping up to be a very hot and dry summer with the early implementation of Stage 2 in May. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation and their support as we head into the heart of summer.”

As part of stage 2 restrictions, home and property owners are allowed to water based on the last number of their street address. Even address numbers water Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, while odd addresses are set for Monday, Thursday and Saturday. There is no watering Wednesday…

In an effort to help reduce use of treated water, the city of Steamboat Springs Parks and Community Service Department is now using non-potable water for irrigation in several parks. Drawn from the river and other sources, non-potable water systems are utilized in Ski Town, Emerald, Memorial, Howelsen, West Lincoln and Heritage parks.