Aspinall Unit operations update

April 11, 2014

aspinallunitdescription

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) will be diverting an additional 100 cfs through the Gunnison Tunnel Monday morning, April 14th. At the same time, releases from Crystal Dam will also be increased by 100 cfs, from 850 cfs to 950 cfs. After this change, the total flow through the Gunnison Tunnel should be about 500 cfs, which should leave about 450 to 500 cfs in the Gunnison River downstream of the tunnel.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: The Uncompahgre Water Users are calling for water #ColoradoRiver

April 8, 2014
Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

Gunnison Tunnel via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) will be diverting an additional 100 cfs through the Gunnison Tunnel tomorrow morning Tuesday, April 8th. At the same time, releases from Crystal Dam will also be increased by 100 cfs, from 750 cfs to 850 cfs. After this change, the total flow through the Gunnison Tunnel should be about 400 cfs, which should leave about 450 to 500 cfs in the Gunnison River downstream of the tunnel.


Aspinall Unit update: 350 cfs in the Black Canyon #ColoradoRiver

March 17, 2014
Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Fog-filled Black Canyon of the Gunnison

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows in the Gunnison River have dropped to ~350 cfs today to accommodate the sonar mapping exercise at the Crystal Dam stilling basin.

Maintenance and testing of both power generators at Blue Mesa Dam will also start today – this is scheduled to be finished within 10 days. During this time there will be no power generation at Blue Mesa Dam. In order to minimize the amount of bypass water at Blue Mesa Dam, releases at Crystal Dam will remain at 300 cfs until the Blue Mesa power plant is back online. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will continue to be around 350 cfs until further notice.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 800 cfs in the Gunnison River below Crystal Dam #ColoradoRiver

March 9, 2014
Aspinall Unit via The Denver Post

Aspinall Unit via The Denver Post

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The March 1st runoff forecast for Blue Mesa Reservoir projects 850,000 af of inflow between April and July which is 126% of average. This represents a 35,000 af increase from the February 15th forecast.

Considering the wet conditions and increasing forecast, releases at Crystal Reservoir will be increased by 200 cfs on Friday morning, March 7th. This will bring releases and river flows up to 600 cfs. Then releases will be increased another 200 cfs on Monday morning, March 10th which will bring river flows up to 800 cfs.

On Monday, March 17th releases at Crystal will be reduced to 300 cfs for the day to accommodate an inspection of the stilling basin below Crystal dam. Flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will begin to drop to 300 cfs on Sunday before returning back to 800 cfs by Tuesday, March 18th.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 400 cfs through the Black Canyon

February 19, 2014
Black Canyon via the National Park Service

Black Canyon via the National Park Service

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Due to the increasing forecasts for spring runoff into Blue Mesa Reservoir, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are now set at 400 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: Gunnison Tunnel diversions off until spring

October 31, 2013
Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit via The Denver Post

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

With the end of the irrigation season upon us, diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel have been shut down for the winter as of yesterday, October 30. Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced to 300 cfs today, October 31, at 11 AM. This will leave 300 cfs in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon for the winter months.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Localized rainfall is less important to the overall water equation than a good winter snowpack #COdrought

October 5, 2013

US Drought Monitor October 1, 2013

US Drought Monitor October 1, 2013


From The Crested Butte News (Seth Manning):

Even during rainfall events over the summer that would double the amount of water in the valley’s rivers and streams overnight, often the amount of water in the reservoirs remained largely unchanged. According to Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District general manager Frank Kugel, that’s what happens after two years of below-average precipitation.

Kugel told the Gunnison County Planning Commission at a meeting on Friday, September 6 that there were several peaks in the amount of water in Blue Mesa Reservoir over the summer, with some dramatic drops in between. He also said the localized rainfall is less important to the overall water equation than a good winter snowpack.

“The entire Gunnison River basin got less than a quarter of its normal inflow but the good news is that much of that inflow, percentage-wise, came from the East River and Taylor. Those are the two biggest contributors as far as basin inflows, percentage-wise,” Kugel said. “As grim as it looked we were actually doing better than some of our other neighbors in other basins. In the end there was a significant volume above what we had last year. That’s the good news.”

The bad news is that after two consecutive years of below-average precipitation in the winter months, Blue Mesa isn’t going to recover anytime soon and, Kugel said, will probably drop lower than it was at the end of last year.

“We’re anticipating by late October it will hit a low point. Likely not as low as 2002, but close,” Kugel told the Planning Commissioners. “So it’s going to be a long look out from the Lake City Bridge to where the lake actually starts.”

Even the heavy rains and snow that have swept across the Western Slope throughout September have yielded only modest gains in stored water, with Blue Mesa holding steady at 350,000 acre-feet.

And while the Gunnison River, the East River and Ohio Creek have all shown tremendous, temporary spikes in streamflow this summer, even doubling in size over night, Kugel said the years of drought have drawn down aquifers to a point where they can easily absorb any amount of water dropped during a rainstorm…

But through some litigation and inter-basin agreement, the UGRWCD has made great strides in securing the water already in use in the Gunnison Basin. Now it’s focused on providing the state with a clear plan for the basin’s water as part of the governor-initiated State Water Plan.

“Our number-one priority at this point is to protect existing uses within the basin, be it by overdevelopment from here or particularly to any export to other basin,” UGRWCD board member George Sibley told the commissioners. “We want to make sure we’re operating and managing our existing resources as effectively as we can and are prepared for other circumstances that may have dramatic impact on how much water is available.”

To accomplish that, the UGRWCD hired Lakewood-based Wilson Water Group—with a $200,000 grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board—as a contractor to help develop a water-use plan for the entire Gunnison Basin that will be submitted to the state for consideration as part of a statewide water plan to be drafted over the course of 2014.

At the same time, the UGRWCD is trying to keep information about the valley’s water supply flowing, through manual snowpack observations that are under threat of being defunded by the National Resources Conservation Service.

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 550 cfs in Black Canyon

August 3, 2013

fogfilledblackcanyonofthegunnisonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Due to the continuance of precipitation throughout the Gunnison River basin, flows in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, have remained above the Aspinall Unit ROD baseflow target of 890 cfs. Scattered rainfall is forecast to occur over the basin during the next week, which will hopefully keep streamflows at or above their current levels.

Therefore, in order to conserve some storage in the Aspinall Unit, releases from Crystal Dam shall be decreased by 50 cfs (from 1,600 cfs to 1,550 cfs) at 8:00 am, Saturday, August 3rd. This will bring flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon down to around 550 cfs.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 1600 cfs in Black Canyon

July 17, 2013

blackcanyoninnercanyonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Rainfall over the last week has helped keep river flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage well above the baseflow target of 900 cfs. Currently flows are over 1,200 cfs and the weather forecast is showing a good chance for a continuation of rain storms into the weekend.

Therefore releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced by 100 cfs (from 1,700 cfs to 1,600 cfs) today, Tuesday July 16, at 5:00 pm. This will bring flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon down to around 600 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 700 cfs in the Black Canyon

June 25, 2013

crystaldamspill052009.jpg

Even with the recent increase in releases from the Aspinall Unit, the forecast for flows on the lower Gunnison River continues to decline. Without additional water, flows at the Whitewater gage are again expected to approach the 900 cfs baseflow target by this weekend.

In order to meet the environmental commitments set forth in the Aspinall ROD, releases from Crystal Dam shall be increased again, starting at 8:00 am on Wednesday, June 26, by 100 cfs (from 1,600 cfs to 1,700 cfs). This will increase flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to around 700 cfs. At this level, flows in the canyon will be above the Black Canyon Water Right peak flow target of 685 cfs. Flows through the canyon are expected to remain at this level for the foreseeable future.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: Releases from Crystal Dam bumping up 100 cfs to

June 22, 2013

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

Click on the thumbnail graphic for project background.

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The forecast for flows on the lower Gunnison River continues to decline as the last remaining snow melts away. Even with the additional water released from the Aspinall Unit yesterday, it appears that flows on the Gunnison River as measured at the Whitewater gage will again recede towards the 900 cfs baseflow target by next week.

In order to meet the environmental commitments set forth in the Aspinall ROD, releases from Crystal Dam shall be increased again, starting at 8:00 am on Sunday, June 23, by 100 cfs (from 1,500 cfs to 1,600 cfs). This will increase flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to around 600 cfs

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit update: 500 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge

June 19, 2013

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Flows at the Whitewater Gage on the Gunnison River near Grand Junction have declined to a point where additional releases from the Aspinall Unit are necessary to maintain environmental commitments. Tomorrow morning (Thursday the 20th) releases from Crystal Dam will increase by 200 cfs bringing flows to 500 cfs in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge. An additional increase will likely take place next Wednesday the 26th, but we’ll send out a notice prior to that time with more details.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: The Black Canyon Water Right one day peak flow target is 685 cfs #COdrought

May 31, 2013

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree)

Based on the May 1st April-through-July runoff forecast of 335,000 ac-ft for Blue Mesa Reservoir, the Black Canyon Water Right one day peak flow target is 685 cfs. Today’s flow through the Black Canyon is 300 cfs.

Due to the dry conditions and low Blue Mesa Reservoir content, the Whitewater baseflow target for June and July is 900 cfs. Current flows at Whitewater are around 1600 cfs. As tributary flows to the Gunnison diminish, and Whitewater flows approach 900 cfs, Reclamation will increase releases to attempt to maintain the target at Whitewater. We will provide as much advanced notice as possible regarding these release changes. We anticipate this operation will allow the Black Canyon one day peak target to be met sometime in the latter part of June, however, if insufficient, we intend to supplement releases with additional power releases as necessary to meet the target. We will keep you updated as things progress.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit update: Blue Mesa is expected to reach 7465 feet in elevation (400,000 af) at the end of June

May 2, 2013

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

Click here to read the notes from the recent operations meeting. Here’s an excerpt:

Precipitation in the Gunnison Basin in October and November, 2012 was well below 50% of normal; December precipitation was near normal. January precipitation was in 70-90% range and February dropped to 50-70%. Conditions improved in March and April with April precipitation at 150% of average to date. March and April temperatures have been below average which delays the runoff.

As of April 23rd, snowpack in the Gunnison Basin is 83% of the long-term average for that date. The current inflow forecast to Blue Mesa for April through July is 50% of the long-term average.

Blue Mesa content is now 340,583 af and has gained only 13,000 af through the winter. April 2012 content was around 533,000 af.

As of April 15th, the forecasted April-July inflow to Blue Mesa is 340,000 af, down from 370,000 af in January. 2013 falls in the Dry Year category and would be expected to be exceeded in 93% of years.

If this inflow forecast is maintained, it would represent the 5th lowest inflow since Blue Mesa was constructed (1977, 1981, 2002, and 2012 were lower).

The Black Canyon National Park peak flow will be based on the May 1 forecast; if the present forecast is maintained the peak would be 973 cfs. However, the drought provision in the water right (based on prior dry year and low Blue Mesa content) reduces this peak to 697 cfs. It is expected this flow will be achieved through normal operations; however a small increase may be necessary if conditions dictate otherwise.

Flow Recommendations call for a 900 cfs peak at Whitewater in a Dry Year based on the present forecasted inflow. Base flow targets at Whitewater are 890-900 cfs from May- August in this type year.

Under most probable conditions, Blue Mesa is expected to reach 7465 feet in elevation (400,000 af content) at the end of June which is 54 feet short of filling. By the end of the year, Blue Mesa is predicted to be 6 feet lower than the 2012 end of the year elevation.

Black Canyon flows January to April were around 300 cfs and may increase to 400-500 cfs in the summer. A peak of around 700 cfs will occur. Changing conditions always have the potential to affect these early predictions.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: Diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel bumped to 600 cfs #ColoradoRiver

April 11, 2013

fogfilledblackcanyonofthegunnisonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

A recent flow measurement by the USGS has shown us that the Gunnison River below the Gunnison Tunnel is currently running around 375 cfs. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users could use more water to keep up with irrigation demands. Therefore, tomorrow morning, April 11th, diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel will increase by 75 cfs or so, leaving 300 cfs in the Gunnison River below the Gunnison Tunnel. There will be no change to Crystal releases. After this increase in diversion, flow in the Gunnison Tunnel should be around 600 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Grand Junction: Aspinall Unit operations meeting April 25

April 8, 2013

gunnisontunnelnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users began diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel [last] week. Consequently, releases from Crystal Dam are about 750 cfs, the Tunnel is currently diverting about 400 cfs, with the balance through the Canyon/Gorge. Reclamation plans to continue to operate in accordance with the Aspinall Operations Record of Decision and to allow the Black Canyon Water Right to be met. As the Tunnel increases diversions over the next few weeks, mild fluctuations in the Gunnison River in the Canyon/Gorge may occur.

The April 1 Blue Mesa forecast for unregulated April through July runoff is 315,000 ac-ft which is 47% of average. The April Operations Meeting will be held on April 25th in Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office, 2764 Compass Drive Suite 106, beginning at 1:00 p.m.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit operations meeting recap: Forecasted April-July inflow to Blue Mesa is 370,000 acre-feet #coriver

January 28, 2013

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Participation: This meeting was held at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose. Attendees are noted on the distribution list located at the end of these notes. Handouts and presentations are available for review at:

http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/water/rsvrs/mtgs/amcurrnt.html

Purpose of Meeting: The purpose of operation meetings which are held in January, April, and August is to gather input for determining upcoming operations of the Aspinall Unit (Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal Reservoirs). This input is used in Reclamation’s development of specific operations for the Aspinall Unit and for the overall 24-month study (www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/studies/index.html) for operation of Reclamation projects in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes plans for Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, and Navajo Units, as well as the Aspinall Unit. Operation of the Aspinall Unit considers forecasted inflows to the reservoirs, hydropower and flood control needs, existing water rights, minimum instream flows, target elevations for reservoirs; flow needs and flow recommendations for endangered fish and other resources; recreation; and other factors. In addition, the meetings are used to coordinate activities and exchange information among agencies, water users, and other interested parties concerning the Gunnison River.

Handouts provided included data on 2012 operations; inflows to the reservoirs for 2012; and projected most probable, minimum, and maximum inflow forecasts for 2013; and potential operations for 2013.

The Fish and Wildlife Service flow recommendations for endangered fish were completed in 2003 and a final Aspinall Operations EIS and Record of Decision have been completed. Therefore operations to meet the flow recommendations have begun. In addition, the water right for the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park has been quantified and adjudicated. These operation meetings are used to discuss proposals for long-term operation plans to address these and related resource management issues.

Operations:

General: Blue Mesa Reservoir capacities are described in meetings as follows: The reservoir holds 940,700 acre-feet (af). Active capacity is 748,400 af; inactive capacity is 81,100af; and dead storage is 111,200. Live capacity is the active plus inactive, which totals 829,500af. Discussions during operation meetings use live capacity.

Gunnison Basin Reservoirs: In 2012, Paonia and Silver Jack were the only Reclamation reservoirs to fill because of the limited runoff; and similar conditions are predicted to occur in 2013. Presently Taylor Park is 53% full; Ridgway 66%; Paonia 7%; and Silver Jack 19%. Inflow forecasts for 2013 are 63% of average to Ridgway; 60-65% to Taylor Park and 65% in the North Fork basin.

2012 Operations: The actual April through July inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir was 206,000 af, the third lowest since 1937. The years 1977 and 2002 were lower. The April-July runoff at the Whitewater gage near Grand Junction was only 18 percent of average. Maximum content of Blue Mesa in 2012 was 543,000 af in April. Based on the May 1, 2012 inflow forecast to Blue Mesa, the Black Canyon National Park water right called for a 1-day peak of 814 cfs, which was met by an 845 cfs peak at the end of June. Flow Recommendations for endangered fish called for a 900 cfs peak in 2012 at Whitewater and this corresponded to the 900 cfs baseflow target for June and July which was met.

Black Canyon flows from August-September, 2012 were in the 600 cfs range and lowered to 320 cfs in October and remained there for the rest of the calendar year.

Flows at Whitewater Gage held up well through the fall eventually dropping to around 750 cfs in late December.

2013 Operations: Precipitation in the Gunnison Basin in October and November, 2012 was well below 50% of normal; December precipitation was near normal.

As of January 23rd, snowpack in the Gunnison Basin is only 62 % of the long-term average. (We would need 138% of average for the next 5 months to reach an average year). The inflow forecast to Blue Mesa is now 55% of the long-term average.

Blue Mesa content is now 327,000 af and has gained only 2,000 af through the winter.

As of January 15th, the forecasted April-July inflow to Blue Mesa is 370,000 af which is considered a Dry Year category and would be expected to be exceeded in 92 % of years.

If this inflow forecast holds true, it would represent the 5th lowest inflow since Blue Mesa was constructed (1977, 1981, 2002, and 2012 were lower).

Black Canyon National Park peak flow will be based on May 1 forecast; if the present forecast is maintained the peak would be 1016 cfs. However, a drought provision in the water right (based on the previous dry year and low Blue Mesa content) reduces this peak to 768 cfs.

Flow Recommendations call for a 900 cfs peak at Whitewater in a Dry Year based on the present forecasted inflow. This again, is equal to the baseflow target of 900 cfs for June and July.

Under most probable conditions, Blue Mesa is expected to reach 7476 feet in elevation (480,000 af content) which is 43 feet short of filling.

Average monthly Black Canyon flows during January through April are expected to be around 300 cfs and then increase to 500-650 cfs in the spring and summer.

It should be noted that snowpack conditions can change significantly after January and projected operations should be considered preliminary at this time.

Weather Forecasts: The National Weather Service projected some precipitation in the short-term but below average in the 8-14 day period. Last fall El Nino conditions were projected but did not materialize. Conditions are now near neutral and historically such conditions have resulted in a wide range of precipitation conditions; however, below average precipitation for the remainder of the winter is possible.

Above average temperature conditions are projected for the basin for the remainder of the winter (however, valley inversions may make you think otherwise).

Drought conditions in the Gunnison Basin are expected to persist.

Special Flow Requests: None.

Reports:

State Engineer: In 2012 the Uncompahgre River was under call upstream from the M&D Canal beginning May 2. The Gunnison River gage at Gunnison reached record low flows. The North Fork basin and Grand Mesa water conditions were very low and carryover in private reservoirs is very low.

CRWCD: Discussing possible drought response with some of the large senior water right holders. State of the Gunnison River meetings will be held again this year: June 3 in Montrose and May 13 at Colorado Mesa University.

Upper Gunnison District: Lake San Cristobal work has been completed which increases available storage by 950 af.

National Park Service: Despite projected low reservoir levels, should still be good recreation opportunities at Blue Mesa.

Trout Unlimited: Relief Ditch Diversion restoration work is 35% complete and should be done by end of March. Will provide safer boat passage and improved diversion operations.

Delta County: Because of 2012 and 2013 dry conditions, very concerned with fire conditions this year. Noted that Larimer County was under Red Flag condition today.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Dan Kowalski has accepted a research position with CPW and his replacement has been selected.

Power Office: Normal maintenance of Aspinall dams and powerplants underway. No special projects.

UVWUA: South Canal hydropower project is under construction and some power may be produced this summer. Fish deterrent at the Gunnison Tunnel entrance has been completed and will be operated in 2013.

Western: Generation limited to 6 hours per day at Morrow Point and Blue Mesa. Crystal is generating using the 300 cfs release. Anticipates purchasing lots of energy this year due to dry conditions; prices are not too high this year. Had a high flow event at Glen Canyon; the high releases will be compensated with lower releases. Requested that National Park and endangered fish peaks be coordinated into one peak operation.

FWS: In January, the FWS proposed the Gunnison Sage Grouse as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Comments on Federal Register notice are due March 12. Holding public meetings.

Tri-County: Ridgway is 15,000 af lower than January average. Releasing 30 cfs to preserve storage and will remain at 30 cfs until Uncompahgre Project needs water. Hydropower project is under construction and may produce some power by end of year.

BLM: 2012 was fairly slow year in the Gunnison Gorge…low flows make rafting very technical. Noted increase in fishing and recreation downstream from the North Fork confluence.

USGS: Gunnison River at Gunnison will now record water temperature.

Snow and Avalanche Center: One dust event last November 9th. Snowpack very low on study sites.

Next Meeting: April 25th at Reclamation’s Office in Grand Junction.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit: Next operations meeting January 24

January 12, 2013

curecantibluemesa.jpg

From email from Reclamtion (Dan Crabtree):

The January Aspinall Operations Meeting will be held on January 24th, 2013 at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose, Colorado. The meeting will begin at 1:00 p.m. Discussion will include a review of 2012 operations and a preview of the coming year’s operations.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 300 cfs in the Black Canyon

October 2, 2012

crystaldamspill052009.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Gunnison River flows at the Whitewater gage continue to stay above 1000 cfs and are forecast to remain that way for the upcoming weeks. The baseflow target for endangered fish, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 790 cfs for the month of October. With tributary flows continuing to support flows in the lower mainstem of the Gunnison River, now seems like a good time to reduce releases from the Aspinall Unit to save the limited storage remaining in Blue Mesa Reservoir. Therefore releases at Crystal Dam will be reduced today, October 1st, by 150 cfs. This will bring flows on the Gunnison River within the Black Canyon down from 450 cfs to 300 cfs. Flows at the Whitewater gage are expected to decline towards 800 cfs after this release change.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation started banking water Monday for next spring, squeezing releases from Crystal Dam.

Officials with the Aspinall Unit on the Gunnison River reduced flows down the river by 150 cubic feet per second, an amount that will cut flows on the river through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from 450 cfs to 300 cfs.

“We’ll be down near minimum flows as the river goes through the park,” said Erik Knight, a hydrologist with the bureau’s Grand Junction office.

The bureau usually begins restricting flows Oct. 1, but this year it also has to factor endangered fish downstream into its management of the river.

Tributary flows are contributing enough water to the river below the Gunnison Forks that the river was running at 1,000 cfs at Whitewater.

The change will reduce flows at Whitewater to about 800 cfs.

The bureau is hoping to end December with about 315,000 acre-feet of water stored behind Blue Mesa Dam.

The maximum wintertime storage is 581,000 acre feet and, “We’re well below that,” Knight said.

“We’re just hoping for next springtime” to swell the reservoirs again.

Paonia Reservoir, which is used for irrigation, will begin filling this November.

It generally fills each year and is expected to do so again this winter and spring, Knight said.

“It’s the bigger reservoirs where we have a problem,” he said.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit update: 400 cfs in the Black Canyon

September 29, 2012

blackcanyoninnercanyonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

With the recent rains, flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage are well above the September baseflow target of 890 cfs. Short term forecasts predict flows will stay above 1000 cfs while the baseflow target for October drops down to 790 cfs. Considering all this, releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced on Saturday, September 29th, with the intention of maintaining 400 cfs in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon (down from the current flow of 480 cfs).

In the next couple weeks, decreasing irrigation demands will result in less diversion into the Gunnison Tunnel which may necessitate changes at Crystal Dam. Releases may be reduced further in light of the lower Whitewater gage baseflow target for October if rainfall and tributary flows continue to support flows in the lower mainstem of the Gunnison River.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


The Water Center at CMU is hosting a water law seminar and a tour of the Uncompahgre Valley

September 14, 2012

gunnisontunnelnps.jpg

From Colorado Mesa University (Hannah Holm) via the Grand Junction Free Press:

The Water Center at Colorado Mesa University is pleased to announce two exciting opportunities to learn about water in our region: An eight-hour “Water Law in a Nutshell” class Sept. 21, and a water tour of the Uncompahgre Valley Sept. 25. Both events are open to the general public.

• “Water Law in a Nutshell” – Friday, Sept. 21, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Do you have some understanding that senior water rights have priority over junior water rights in Colorado, but get a bit confused when people start talking about augmentation plans and conditional water rights? Are you a little fuzzy on the difference between a ditch share and a water right? And would you like to understand all of this a whole lot better? If so, then this course is for you.

The Water Center at CMU will host “Water Law in a Nutshell,” presented by Aaron Clay, attorney at law and former 26-year Water Referee for the Colorado Water Court, Division 4. This seminar will cover all aspects of the law related to water rights and ditch rights as applied in Colorado. Subject matter includes the appropriation, perfection, use, limitations, attributes, abandonment and enforcement of various types of water rights. Additional subject matter will include special rules for groundwater, public rights in appropriated water, federal and interstate compacts and more.

This seminar is open to all interested persons. Fee is $89; $113 for .5 graduate in-service credit. The course has also been pre-approved for eight hours of Continuing Legal Education credit. For more information or to register, see http://www.coloradomesa.edu/eso/WaterLaw.html or call the Water Center at 970-248-1968.

• Uncompahgre Valley Water Tour – Tuesday, Sept. 25, 7:30 a.m.-5 p.m.

Over 100 years ago, a tunnel was drilled from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to carry water from the Gunnison River to the Uncompahgre Valley. The water flowed, and a rich diversity of farms flourished.

In an all-day tour Sept. 25, you can learn about this fascinating history and see how the valley is responding to newer challenges: The opportunity to develop hydropower from canals, the need to control the levels of salt and selenium leaching from farmland into the Uncompahgre and Gunnison rivers, and the need to get more precise with irrigation when water supplies dwindle.

The tour will start and finish at the Bill Heddles Recreation Center at Confluence Park in Delta, and is being co-hosted by the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association, the Delta-Montrose Electric Association, and the Water Center at CMU.

The tour will begin with a presentation on the history of water development in the Uncompahgre Valley by Steve Fletcher, manager of the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association. Stops will include the South Canal hydropower project, which is currently under construction; the Ironstone diversion on the Uncompahgre River; a ditch lining project on the EC lateral; Randy Meeker’s farm; and David Harold’s farm. Meeker employs sprinkler irrigation, and Harold uses a drip system.

The tour is open to anyone who is interested. The $40 fee includes transportation, breakfast and a picnic lunch at the Mountain View Winery near Olathe. For more information or to register, see http://www.coloradomesa.edu/watercenter/UncompahgreTour.html or call the Water Center at 970-248-1968.

More education coverage here.


Reclamation to collect core samples at Blue Mesa Dam

September 5, 2012

bluemesa.jpg

Here’s the release from Reclamtion (Justyn Hock):

Bureau of Reclamation drilling crews will be working on the crest of Blue Mesa Dam, starting on September 12, 2012, and continuing through about October 2, 2012. Workers will drill three sample holes and install instrumentation in one of the holes to monitor the dam.

The information gleaned from the core samples and instrumentation will be used by Reclamation for consideration of short and long-term performance of the dam related to dam safety and security measures. Studies like these are an ongoing effort by Reclamation to protect the public investment in water and hydropower projects. To varying degrees these, and similar tests, occur on all Reclamation dams throughout the West.

The work will have minimal impact to travel across the dam via Colorado Highway 92. Knowing that this roadway is one of Colorado’s most scenic routes, connecting the north and south rims of the Black Canyon, workers will maintain one lane of traffic throughout the drilling operation. There will be warning signs and stop lights on the approaches to both ends of the dam to control traffic. The delay in any direction should be less than five minutes. Fall activities relying upon Highway 92, including hunting, camping, and scenic viewing of the fall colors, should not be impacted by the drilling work.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Western Slope interests are, ‘better off at the table than on the menu’ — Bill Trampe

August 13, 2012

unionpark.jpg

Here’s a profile of Rancher and water wonk, Bill Trampe, written by Jennifer Bock running in the Grand Junction Free Press. From the article:

Although water is probably more essential to his livelihood than many of us in the Gunnison Basin, Trampe admits that his philosophy on keeping water in the Gunnison Basin has changed over the years.

When Arapahoe County proposed the Union Park project, Trampe recalls that the local sentiment was “not one drop” and no one dared stray from that strict line in the sand.

Today, Trampe thinks that Western Slope interests are “better off at the table than on the menu” when it comes to talking to the Front Range and others about West Slope water. Trampe’s philosophy is tied to real life experience: He has spent the last seven years negotiating with the Front Range to develop the Colorado River Water Cooperative Agreement.

Perhaps characteristic of a rancher’s outlook, Trampe is both hopeful and frustrated when it comes to resolving Colorado’s water disputes.

He believes, as many do, that big, transmountain water projects simply won’t be able to provide enough firm yield to satisfy Front Range interests. In statewide water planning discussions, Trampe has been a proponent of addressing this problem through risk management — the idea that the state must have a comprehensive way to evaluate and guard against the potential consequences of failing to meet water delivery obligations to downstream states as it considers new diversions out of the Colorado River Basin.

More Gunnison River Basin coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit update: Next operations meeting Thursday

August 6, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

This is a reminder that the next Aspinall Operations meeting will be held this Thursday, August 9th at the Elk Creek Visitor Center at Blue Mesa Reservoir starting at 1pm.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: Black Canyon streamflow between 500 and 600 cfs

July 26, 2012

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage continue to fluctuate with the periodic rainfall. Reclamation intends to meet the flow target of 900 cfs at the Whitewater gage through the end of July. The target will drop to 890 cfs starting August 1st. Releases from Crystal Dam will continue to cause flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to fluctuate between 500 cfs and 600 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: Monsoon moisture helps streamflow in the Gunnison River #CODrought #monsoon

July 16, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The rain came through this weekend and flows at the Whitewater gage have now reached 1400 cfs. Rain is expected to continue today and then taper off by Wednesday. Diversions at the Gunnison Tunnel are also decreasing by 50 cfs this morning. In order to further water conservation in the Aspinall Unit reservoirs, we will match the tunnel decrease from Crystal Dam plus an additional decrease of 100 cfs because of the higher flows at the Whitewater gage. After this change, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should drop to about 520 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 620 cfs in the Gunnison River through Black Canyon #CODrought

July 15, 2012

gunnisonblackcanyon.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Even with the last couple release increases at Crystal, flows in the Gunnison River at the Whitewater gage are still below the 900 cfs target. Therefore releases at Crystal Dam will be increased by another 50 cfs today, July 13th. Hopefully with some help from rainfall over the weekend, this will be enough to push flows back up to the target level. This operation should cause flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon to increase to about 620 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 500 cfs in Black Canyon

July 6, 2012

blackcanyoninnercanyonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

The Gunnison Basin is finally receiving some measurable precipitation from the monsoonal conditions. In order to take advantage of it and conserve storage in the Aspinall Unit, Reclamation will be decreasing releases from Crystal Reservoir by 100 cfs this afternoon. Following the change, flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge will be about 500 cfs. With the current flow forecast, the target flow of 900 cfs at the Whitewater gage should be maintained or exceeded through this weekend and beginning of next week. However, releases will likely increase again next week as the monsoonal flow dissipates.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 640 cfs in Black Canyon

July 3, 2012

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

Flows at the Whitewater Gage have consistently remained above the 900 cfs target. Consequently, releases from Crystal were reduced yesterday by 50 cfs. In addition, it appears there is a strong possibility of thunderstorms over western Colorado later this week. Therefore, it is likely releases will be further reduced by another 50 to 100 cfs in the next few days. Currently flows in the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge are about 640 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here and here.


Colorado Water 2012: The Gunnison River Basin is home to Colorado’s largest reservoir — Blue Mesa

July 3, 2012

gunnisonriverbasin.jpg

Here’s the latest installment of the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Frank Kugel details water operations and facilities in the Gunnison Basin. Here’s an excerpt:

The Gunnison Basin is home to the largest body of water entirely within the state of Colorado, Blue Mesa Reservoir, which has a capacity of 940,000 acre-feet (830,000 acre-feet active capacity). It is the primary storage component of the three reservoirs comprising the Aspinall Unit. Morrow Point Dam is the middle structure and its primary purpose is production of hydropower. Crystal Dam creates a stabilizing reservoir for the variable flows produced by Morrow Point Dam releases. Below Crystal lies the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River National Park…

The Bureau of Reclamation has a number of other storage projects in the basin, in addition to the Aspinall Unit reservoirs, including Taylor Park on the Taylor River, Ridgway on the Uncompahgre River, Silver Jack on the Cimarron River, Crawford on the Smith Fork of the Gunnison, fruit growers on Current Creek and Paonia on Muddy Creek, tributary to the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

One of the first projects developed by the Bureau of Reclamation was the Uncompahgre Project, which provides irrigation water for a variety of crops in the Uncompahgre Valley between Colona and Delta. A key component of the project is the Gunnison Tunnel, a 5.7 mile long tunnel that diverts water from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and discharges it into a series of canals in the Uncompahgre Valley. The tunnel has a 1913 water right for 1300 cfs and supplies some 60% of the irrigation water for the 76,000 acres under the project.

Taylor Park Dam was constructed in 1937 to provide supplemental irrigation for the Uncompahgre Valley. Taylor Park Reservoir has a capacity of 106,230 acre feet. The 1975 Taylor Park Exchange Agreement allows for transfer of storage downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir to provide the Gunnison Tunnel with a more readily available source of irrigation water. An additional benefit of this exchange was the flexibility to make releases in time and amount that would benefit recreational and agricultural users in the Upper Gunnison basin.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 700 CFS in Black Canyon

June 13, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Tributary contributions to the Gunnison River have continued to decline and it appears the last gasps of snowmelt have reached the rivers. Once again, the gage at Whitewater is forecast to drop below 900 cfs before this weekend. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon have been increased to 700 cfs as of late this morning, Wednesday, June 13th.

Current forecasts suggest this will be enough water to keep the Whitewater gage above the 900 cfs target described in the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD) for a period that is hopefully longer than one week. River flows are projected to taper off more slowly as we exit the runoff period and enter into summertime baseflows.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: 600 cfs in Black Canyon

June 9, 2012

gunnisonblackcanyon.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Warm and windy conditions have continued to contribute to declining flows in the lower Gunnison River. Model forecasts show river flows at the Whitewater gage dropping around 100 cfs over this weekend, and this accounts for the 100 cfs increase from the Aspinall Unit yesterday afternoon. Therefore flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be increasing to 600 cfs late this afternoon, Thursday, June 7th.

Current forecasts suggest this will be enough water to keep the Whitewater gage above the 900 cfs target described in the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD) through the end of next week. River flows are projected to continue their decline however, so additional releases may be necessary to maintain flows in the lower Gunnison River as dry conditions continue.


Aspinall Unit operations update: Releases from Crystal Dam to bolster streamflow in Black Canyon of the Gunnison River

June 6, 2012

blackcanyoninnercanyonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be increasing to 500 cfs tomorrow, Wednesday, June 6th , in response to decreasing flows in the lower Gunnison River. Pursuant to the Aspinall Unit Operations Record of Decision (ROD), the flow target in the lower Gunnison River, as measured at the Whitewater gage, is 900 cfs for June and July. Flows are forecasted to drop below this level by the end of the week without additional releases from the Aspinall Unit. Therefore releases from Crystal Dam will be increased by 100 cfs late afternoon on Wednesday, June 6th.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Gunnison State of the River meeting June 4

June 1, 2012

westernstatecollegegunnisongreetingsfromus50.jpg

From the Colorado River Water Conservancy District website:

Mon., June 4, Gunnison County State of the Rivers, Student Center Ballroom at Western Colorado State University, Gunnison: 10 a.m., tour of the Aspinall Unit Reservoirs; 4 p.m. Gunnison Basin Roundtable Meeting: 6:30 p.m. Public Reception; 7 p.m. Snowpack and Streamflow levels and predictions for the summer; 7:20 p.m. Aspinall Operations Update; 7:40 p.m. a History of Construction at the Aspinall Unit; 8:15 p.m. the 75 Year History of the Colorado River District with author George Sibley.

More Gunnison River basin coverage here and here.


Uncompahgre River: Work begins on $22 million South Canal hydroelectric generation project

May 28, 2012

southcanalhydroelectricsitethetelluridewatch1.jpg

From the Montrose Daily Press (Will Hearst):

Ground was officially and symbolically broken Friday along Montrose’s South Canal just below the outflow of the Gunnison Tunnel for a $22 million hydroelectric project…The project will actually consist of two sites separated by a little more than a mile. The sites were selected from five identified more than 20 years ago as having a gradient steep enough to efficiently generate power without requiring a dam. From those two sites, DMEA will produce more than 6,000 kilowatts of power, which converts to 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity — enough to power more than 3,000 homes.

More hydroelectric coverage here and here.


Reclamation Releases a Record of Decision for Aspinall Unit Operations

May 8, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office announced today the release of the Record of Decision for the Aspinall Unit Operations Final Environmental Impact Statement.

The ROD outlines how Reclamation will operate the Aspinall Unit, consisting of Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal dams and reservoirs on the Gunnison River, to avoid jeopardy to downstream endangered fish species while continuing to meet the congressionally authorized purposes of the unit.

“This record of decision is a culmination of an extraordinary effort by a diverse group of interests and a major step in ongoing efforts to recover the Colorado River endangered fish,” said Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, Anne Castle. “The careful attention that has been given to meeting the goals of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, as well as working within the constraints imposed by flood control and meeting existing water rights, ensures that the operations under the ROD are sustainable and appropriate.”

The operations outlined in the ROD will provide higher spring flows and protect the base flows in the Gunnison River. In addition to avoiding jeopardy, the goal of the operational modifications is to assist in the recovery of the endangered fish species, while continuing to meet the needs of agriculture, recreation, and sport fisheries.

The ROD is available on Reclamation’s web site in Environmental Documents). If you have questions, please contact Steve McCall at 970-248-0638 or Dan Crabtree at 970-248-0652.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations meeting summary: Blue Mesa won’t fill this season

May 3, 2012

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The meeting notes from the Aspinall Unit Operations Meeting have been posted to the website and are available at the following link:

http://www.usbr.gov/uc/wcao/water/rsvrs/mtgs/amcurrnt.html

Below is a summary of our April 26, 2012 meeting to coordinate Reclamation’s operation of the Aspinall Unit. The meeting was held in Reclamation’s Grand Junction Office. Significant items discussed included:

· Blue Mesa April through July inflow is predicted at 315,000 acre feet (af) based on April 15 data; in January the prediction was 450,000 af. The 315,000 af represents a dry category year and results from low precipitation over the last 4 months. This low level of inflow would be expected to be exceeded in 96-97 percent of years. In contrast, last year the inflow was 893,000 af, representing a moderately wet year.
· Blue Mesa Reservoir is not predicted to fill and releases from the Aspinall Unit to the Gunnison River will be lower than normal.
· Based on this April 2012 forecast, the Black Canyon National Park water right would call for a 1 day peak of 937 cfs and Flow Recommendations for endangered fish would call for a 900 cfs peak at Whitewater.

The forecast for runoff into the Aspinall Unit is expected to continue to drop which will result in a change to the Black Canyon National Park water right peak flow target. Currently river flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are 390 cfs. Operations during the summer months will primarily be dictated by downstream demands.

If you have any suggestions on improving the operation meetings or summaries, please let us know. The next operation meeting will be on Thursday, August 9th at the Elk Creek Visitors Center on Blue Mesa.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: Inflows to Blue Mesa revised to 330,000 acre-feet, 49% of average

April 4, 2012

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The April 1st forecast for spring runoff to Blue Mesa Reservoir has been issued and the numbers keep dropping. This forecast now predicts 330,000 acre-feet of runoff between April and July, which is 49% of average. Warm and dry conditions have caused the forecast to drop 90,000 acre-feet since the mid-March forecast. The monthly runoff distribution also shows an increase in the April runoff volume while all other months decrease, indicating an early runoff. For comparison, this forecasted runoff volume is lower than every year’s runoff volume since 2000 except for 2002.

Given this information, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be dropping to 400 cfs today, Wednesday, April 4th, as diversions through the Gunnison Tunnel increase.

Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to allow the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River one day peak flow target to be met. Under the current forecast this target is approximately 960 cfs. The final determination of the spring peak target will be made upon issuance of the May 1st forecast by CBRFC.

Using the current forecast the peak flow target at the Whitewater gage is 900 cfs. Reclamation expects this flow target to be met in conjunction with the spring peak flows in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River.

As a reminder, the April Aspinall Operations Meeting will be held in Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office, Grand Junction location, on April 26th beginning at 1:00 p.m.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: Deliveries through the Gunnison Tunnel to start on Monday, spring has sprung

March 16, 2012

gunnisontunnelnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

For those that work in an office all day and haven’t noticed, it has become quite warm outside. It appears spring has arrived and with that, it is time for the Gunnison Tunnel to start diverting water. The Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association (UVWUA) plans to start tunnel diversions on Monday, March 19th. Initially diversions will start at 200 cfs. At this same time the UVWUA will need to complete some repair work on the apron of the diversion dam. This will require flows in the Gunnison River be reduced to approximately 400 cfs so that no water is spilling over the diversion dam. Work on the dam apron will be completed by the end of Tuesday, March 20th. At this time, Crystal Dam will increase releases by 100 cfs while the Gunnison Tunnel continues diverting 200 cfs. The resulting flow in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be around 500 cfs.

Gunnison Tunnel diversions may increase later in the week of the 19th and releases at Crystal will be increased accordingly to maintain the 500 cfs flow in the Gunnison River.

Under the current forecast, Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to allow the Black Canyon of the Gunnison one day peak flow target of approximately 2,200 cfs to be met; the timing of which is unknown at this time.

As a reminder, the April Aspinall Operations Meeting will be held in Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office, Grand Junction location, on April 26th beginning at 1:00 p.m.

Please contact Dan Crabtree or Erik Knight at the Bureau of Reclamation with questions regarding this operation.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Reclamation Releases Final Aspinall Unit Operations Environmental Impact Statement

March 7, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation’s Western Colorado Area Office announced today the release of the final Aspinall Unit Operations Environmental Impact Statement. The purpose of the EIS is to outline Aspinall Unit operations to avoid jeopardy to downstream endangered fish species while continuing to meet the congressionally authorized unit purposes. In general, new operations will provide higher spring flows and protect base flows in the Gunnison River. Reclamation will not make a decision on the proposed action until at least 30 days after release of the FEIS. After the 30-day public review period, Reclamation will complete a record of decision which will state the action to be implemented and discuss all factors leading to that decision.

If you have questions or need additional copies of the final EIS, please contact Steve McCall at 970-248-0638 or Terry Stroh at 970-248-0608. The final EIS is also available on Reclamation’s web site.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Blue Mesa Dam: ‘The reservoir took away small communities, family homes, fishing resorts, a way of life’ — Delta County Independent

March 4, 2012

bluemesadamopeningceremony1965deltacountyindependent.jpg

From the Delta County Independent (Kathy Browning):

This winter the museum has had eight presentations on pioneer families and others who made a difference in the community. Two more presentations are scheduled. On March 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the museum, Danny Cotten will give a presentation on sawmills on Black Mesa and in the Crawford area and also the Diamond JO cattle outfit in the 1880s. April 21 at 1:30 p.m., Ross Allen will talk about the Allen family and their influence on the area.

David Primus, Gunnison author and historian, gave a presentation, “Beneath Blue Mesa.” The dam was completed in 1965 on the Gunnison River about 30 miles west of Gunnison, 30 miles east of Montrose and within 1-1/2 miles of Sapinero.

Primus shared what it was like before the dam and reservoir were created. There were homes, hotels, fishing resorts, train service, bridges and cattle ranches in the small towns that were in the area. To make the area ready for the new dam and reservoir, those hotels and homes were moved or burned to the ground. Bridges were left standing and are now beneath a mountainous amount of water. The slide show featured a final cattle round up, trains connecting people and commerce, a group of boaters and fishermen and women who called themselves the Gunnison Navy and the grand opening ceremony for the Blue Mesa.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Reclamation To Issue a Lease of Power Privilege Permit for a Proposed Hydropower Project on the South Canal Near Montrose

March 3, 2012

southcanalhydroelectricsitethetelluridewatch1

Here’s the release from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Steve McCall/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation announced today that it will issue a Lease of Power Privilege to the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association to develop hydropower resources on the South Canal, a feature of Reclamation’s Uncompahgre Irrigation Project.

Reclamation will issue the LOPP based on the final environmental assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the proposal. These documents have been completed in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act to address the effects of the construction and operation of hydropower facilities.

Federal policy encourages non-federal development of environmentally sustainable hydropower potential on federal water resource projects. The LOPP will ensure that the development of hydropower is consistent and compatible with existing operations and purposes of the Uncompahgre Project.

The final EA and FONSI are available on Reclamation’s web site or a copy can be obtained by contacting Steve McCall at (970)248-0638.

More coverage from Katharhynn Heidelberg writing for the Montrose Daily Press. From the article:

“It’s big news for us and big news for the Western Slope,” said Tom Polikalis, DMEA spokesman. “This will be the first utility scale project undertaken” by DMEA…

Plans are to construct two power houses on the South Canal, starting with a location at the far eastern end of Miguel Road. A second power house is to be built about 1.5 miles downstream on the canal’s “third” drop. When the project is complete, and depending on canal flows, DMEA expects to generate 6.5 to 7 megawatts — enough for 3,000 homes. (A megawatt is 1,000 kilowatts.)

More hydroelectric coverage here.


Blue Mesa Reservoir may be home to a pre-1922 water bank for Front Range suppliers in case of a Colorado River Compact call

February 12, 2012

uppercoloradoriverbasinstatesultimatum09011925denverpost.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The Arkansas Basin and Gunnison Basin roundtables are collaborating on a project to see whether water from pre-1922 water rights in the Gunnison River basin could be banked in Blue Mesa Reservoir as a hedge against a Colorado River Compact call…

A call could affect transmountain diversions like the Colorado-Big Thompson project, Denver Water’s diversions, Twin Lakes and the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project because they rely on post-1922 water rights. There also could be an impact on Western Slope water rights claimed after 1922…

The joint roundtable group plans to meet again on March 19 and report on the progress of the water bank plan at the meeting of the Colorado Water Conservation Board the following day, [Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District] said. There also are questions about whether Blue Mesa Reservoir can be operated for water bank storage, but the state should develop a specific proposal before that can be explored, Broderick said.

More IBCC — basin roundtables coverage here.


Aspinall Unit operations update: Flows in the Black Canyon around 600 cfs, forecasted inflows to Blue Mesa — 450,000 acre-feet

February 9, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The February 1st forecast is out and the prediction is still for 450,000 acre-feet of inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir during the April-July runoff period. This represents 67% of the current 30 year average. In response to the continuing dry conditions, releases at Crystal Dam will be reduced by 200 cfs on Wednesday, February 8th. This will bring releases down to 600 cfs and with no Gunnison Tunnel diversions, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should also be around 600 cfs.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation is forecasting 450,000 acre-feet (67% of 30 year average) of inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir

January 10, 2012

curecantibluemesa.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

The January 1st forecast is out and the prediction is for 450,000 acre-feet of inflow to Blue Mesa Reservoir during the April-July runoff period. This represents 67% of the current 30 year average. In response to this dry forecast releases at Crystal Dam will be reduced by 300 cfs on Wednesday, January 11th. This will bring releases down to 800 cfs and with no Gunnison Tunnel diversions, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should also be around 800 cfs…

As a reminder the next Aspinall Operations meeting will be held on Thursday, January 19th, at 1:00 p.m. in Montrose at the Holiday Inn Express. We have tentatively scheduled a presentation by Vern Jetley, a retired Reclamation photographer who will be talking about the construction history of Blue Mesa dam/reservoir.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Montrose: Aspinall Unit operations meeting January 19

January 3, 2012

aspinallunitdescription.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Dan Crabtree):

As of midnight December 26th, Blue Mesa Reservoir reached the icing target elevation of 7490.0 feet. Due to the dry conditions over the last month and early arrival at the icing target, it is appropriate to begin conserving reservoir storage in case the drying trend continues. As a result, releases from the Crystal Dam will be gradually reduced from 1500 cfs to 1100 cfs over the course of the day (December 28th).

Also, please mark your calendars for the next Aspinall Operations Meeting which will be held on January 19th at the Holiday Inn Express in Montrose, Colorado beginning at 1:00 p.m. We have tentatively scheduled a presentation by Vern Jetley, a retired Reclamation photographer who will be talking about the Blue Mesa area prior to construction of the project. Should be interesting.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Colorado Parks and Wildlife reports a good Kokannee salmon spawning run this season at Blue Mesa Reservoir

December 11, 2011

kokannesalmonrunusda.jpg

From the Summit County Citizens Voice (Bob Berwyn):

Colorado Parks and Wildlife collected 11 million eggs from kokanee salmon running out of Blue Mesa Reservoir this fall. The record harvest will ensure that Colorado Parks and Wildlife will have adequate supplies for stocking 26 reservoirs around the state with salmon fry next year. But biologists say much more work needs to be done before they declare the population of kokanee salmon in the 9,000-acre reservoir recovered. Kokanee numbers have declined precipitously during the past 10 years as the population of predatory lake trout boomed, knocking the fishery out of balance. “One good spawning run does not mean we’ve fixed the problems,” said John Alves, senior aquatic biologist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s southwest region. “Blue Mesa is critical for our statewide kokanee program and the fishery is out of balance. There is no quick fix.”

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: Reclamation’s winter target for Blue Mesa Reservoir — down to 7490 ft by December 31

November 21, 2011

aspinallunit.jpg

From email from Reclamtion (Erik Knight):

Over the last couple months, releases at the Aspinall Unit have been lowered to accommodate maintenance activities at the powerplants at Blue Mesa and Morrow Point reservoirs, as well as for the brown trout spawn. These events have concluded and releases will now be increased to bring the elevation in Blue Mesa Reservoir down to the winter ice target elevation of 7490 ft by December 31st.

Releases from Crystal Dam will be increased by 200 cfs on Monday, November 21st. Another increase of 200 cfs is expected to be made the following Monday, November 28th. This will bring the total release up to 1000 cfs. Additional increases will be made in the first days of December to bring the total release from Crystal to 1550 cfs. Since there are no diversions to the Gunnison Tunnel at this time of year, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will be in the 1500 to 1600 cfs range after the completion of these release changes.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 600 cfs in the Black Canyon next week — target level for the brown trout spawn

October 12, 2011

blackcanyoninnercanyonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

As per normal fall reservoir operations, releases from the Aspinall Unit will be decreased over the next few weeks in response to the seasonal shutdown of the Gunnison Tunnel and the brown trout spawn. Gunnison Tunnel diversions were decreased by 100 cfs yesterday so releases from Crystal will follow this and make an additional 100 cfs reduction today, October 11th. This total reduction of 200 cfs will bring Crystal releases down to 1600 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon down to 850 cfs by the end of today. This year’s river target level for the brown trout spawn will be 600 cfs which will be reached sometime within the next week.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit update: 950 cfs in the Gunnison River through Black Canyon

October 3, 2011

blackcanyoninnercanyonnps.jpg

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Currently flows in the Gunnison River through the canyon are about 950 cfs. We expect no changes to this flow rate until mid-October when flows will be reduced to accommodate the brown trout spawn. River flows should be around 600 cfs during the time of the spawn. This will continue until the conclusion of the spawn in mid-November at which point flows in the river will increase to around 1000 cfs. Flows through the Black Canyon may increase again in December as releases from the Aspinall Unit will most likely need to be higher than 1000 cfs to lower Blue Mesa Reservoir to the Dec 31st winter target elevation.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 889 other followers

%d bloggers like this: