Aspinall Unit operations update: 1,000 cfs in Black Canyon

July 29, 2014

From email from Reclamation (Erik Knight):

Releases from Crystal Dam will be reduced from 2000 cfs to 1900 cfs on Monday, July 28th at 10:00 AM. Flows in the lower Gunnison River are currently above the baseflow target of 1500 cfs. The weather forecast calls for rain in the basin over the next few days and the river forecast shows flows continuing to increase during this time.

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 1500 cfs for August.

Currently, diversions into the Gunnison Tunnel are 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon are around 1000 cfs. After this release change Gunnison Tunnel diversions will still be 1100 cfs and flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon should be around 900 cfs. Current flow information is obtained from provisional data that may undergo revision subsequent to review.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


@AmericanRivers: Pretty crazy to see this water release over Morrow Point Dam in CO. Could be another 31 yrs before it happens again

June 16, 2014
Morrow Point Dam spilling June 2014 via USBR

Morrow Point Dam spilling June 2014 via USBR


Runoff/snowpack news: Good year to fill storage — if we had it to fill

June 10, 2014
Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

Northern Integrated Supply Project via The Denver Post

From CBS Denver:

Flooding along the Cache La Poudre River damaged nearly two dozen homes and businesses in Greeley last week, and according to officials at the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the Poudre River does not have any dams or reservoirs specifically for flood control. But there is an effort underway to change that.

The Poudre River is full of melted snow — so much so right now that levels are well above average in Larimer and Weld counties, spilling over banks, and flooding homes and businesses.

“We could fill a reservoir in a year like this,” Brian Werner with the Northern Colorado’s Water Conservancy District said.

He points out farmers’ irrigation dams inside the Poudre Canyon, but says water cannot be diverted to those to prevent flooding. He says there is no reservoir along the river because the idea was unpopular in the past.

“I think the general public is more aware when they see these flows and saying, ‘Boy, couldn’t we just store a little bit of that?’ Which is what this proposal does,” Werner said.

Northern Water wants to build two reservoirs off stream that could store water during high flow times. Planners estimate the project would cost $500 million, including $40 million to re-route Highway 287 to make room for Glade Reservoir, and build a smaller one north of Greeley…

But the federal approval process is moving slowly.

“We’ve been working on this in some form for over 20 years, taking some of the flood flows here on the Poudre and storing it,” Werner said.

They do expect to get some news on the status of studies being conducted on the project by the end of this year. It’s unlikely building would start before 2018.

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Ryan Maye Handy):

Several of the reservoirs that feed Northern Colorado are full, or approaching overfull, said Brian Werner, a spokesman for the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, which helps manage the reservoirs. Carter Lake, southwest of Loveland, is full, and Lake Granby near Rocky Mountain National Park is about to overflow, Werner added.

“We wouldn’t have guessed that in a million years a year ago,” Werner said Tuesday. Only a month ago, it was fifty-fifty if the reservoir would spill. “Now it looks like it will spill.”

Horsetooth is just 2 feet shy of being full, the highest the reservoir has been in late May and early June in the past six years.

The reservoir can hold enough to submerge 156,735 football fields in a foot of water. As of June 3, Horsetooth was holding 154,480 acre-feet of water, putting it around 98.5 percent full, said Zach Allen, a spokesman for Northern Water.

But what happens if Horsetooth does get full? The answer, Werner said, is basically “nothing.”

“We can control all the inflows to Horsetooth,” he said. Flatiron Reservoir and the Big Thompson River feed Horsetooth, and Northern Water controls all the outflows and inflows to the reservoir; Horsetooth’s water level can’t get higher than Northern Water wants it to, Werner said…

Lake Granby, on the other hand, is fed with snowmelt straight from the mountains. It’s levels are uncontrollable, and it could spill over any day now, Werner said.

“You can’t control what nature is going to do” with Granby, he added…

Northern Water for years has pursued an expansion of its water storage capacity to take advantage of plentiful water years. The Northern Integrated Supply Project would build a reservoir larger than Horsetooth northwest of Fort Collins. The proposal has drawn opposition from environmental groups and is in a yearslong federal review of its potential environmental impacts expected to be released late this year…

Much of Northern Colorado’s snowpack, around 200 percent of normal levels after an early May snow, has yet to melt, which brings the potential for much more water to come down from the mountains in the coming weeks.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

We have seen the water level at Green Mountain Reservoir rise to the spillway gates as snow melt runoff inflows continue to come into the reservoir. As a result, we were able to increase the release from the dam to the Lower Blue River by 300 cfs today [June 9], using the spillway.

We are now releasing 1800 cfs to the Lower Blue.

From email from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

The weekend went pretty smoothly for runoff here on the east slope of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project. Thunderstorms boosted runoff to the Big Thompson River slightly with inflow into Lake Estes peaking early this morning around 721 cfs. But this is still a downward trend.

As a result, outflow through Olympus Dam to the Big Thompson Canyon dropped today down to about 125 cfs. As we move into the rest of the week, visitors to and residents of the canyon will continue to see nightly flows rise with snow runoff, enhanced some by rain runoff, just as they have seen for the past week.

Deliveries to the canal that feeds Horsetooth Reservoir have brought Horsetooth back up to full. Its water level elevation has been fluctuating within the top foot of its storage between 5429 and 5430 feet. With it back up near 5430, we have curtailed the canal to Horsetooth and increased the return of Big Thompson River water to the canyon at the canyon mouth using the concrete chute. By 5 p.m. this evening the chute should be running around 300 cfs.

The drop off in snowmelt runoff inflows will allow us to begin bringing some Colorado-Big Thompson Project West Slope water over again using the Alva B. Adams Tunnel. We anticipate the tunnel coming on mid-week and importing somewhere between 200-250 cfs.

Once the tunnel comes back on, we will also turn the pump to Carter Lake back on, probably on Wednesday of this week. Carter’s water level elevation dropped slightly during runoff operations. It is around 95% full. Now that Horsetooth is basically full, Carter will receive the C-BT water. Turning the pump back on to Carter means residents around and visitors to the reservoir will see it fill for a second time this season.

Pinewood Reservoir, between Lake Estes and Carter Lake, is seeing a more typical start to its summer season. It continues to draft and refill with power generation as it usually does this time of year. This is also true for Flatiron Reservoir, just below Carter Lake and the Flatiron Powerplant. Both are expected to continue operating this way through June.

That is the plan we anticipate the East Slope of the C-BT to follow the rest of this week, June 9-13. We will post information if there is a major change; but as it stands now, I do not plan on sending an update again until next Monday. The state’s gage page is always available for those wishing to continue watching the water on a daily basis.

From The Crested Butte News (Toni Todd):

Word on the street this spring was that Blue Mesa Reservoir would be bursting at its banks this summer. Predictions were based on official and unofficial reports of above-normal river flows. However, a 2012 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has changed how local dams are operated in wet years, in deference to endangered fish species downstream. This new operational protocol will preclude the reservoir from filling this year.

“The reservoir is now only scheduled to reach a maximum storage of around 80 percent capacity in 2014,” said Upper Gunnison River District manager Frank Kugel. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) began blasting water through Blue Mesa Dam last week, with simultaneous releases happening at Morrow Point and Crystal Reservoirs, a trifecta of water storage and management that makes up what’s known as the Aspinall Unit.

The Record of Decision (ROD) states, “The EIS modifies the operations of the Aspinall Unit to provide sufficient releases of water at times, quantities, and duration necessary to avoid jeopardy to endangered fish species and adverse modification of their designated critical habitat while maintaining and continuing to meet authorized purposes of the Aspinall Unit.”

Given this new norm of operations adapted by the bureau during wet years, will Blue Mesa ever fill again?

“That’s a valid question, since the reservoir often does not fill in dry years due to lack of supply, and now with the Aspinall EIS, it will have trouble filling in wet years,” said Kugel.

“We all signed onto this because we agreed it’s important to save these fish,” said Colorado Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Species coordinator Harry Crocket.

According to the BOR’s website, an update written by hydraulic engineer Paul Davidson, unregulated inflow to Blue Mesa is 126 percent of normal this year, April through July. That’s 850,000 acre-feet of water entering the lake during the runoff months. “This sets the senior Black Canyon Water Right call for a one-day spring peak flow of 6,400 cfs, the Aspinall 2012 ROD target at a 10-day peak flow of 14,350 cfs… Reclamation plans to operate the Aspinall Unit to meet both the water right and ROD recommendations,” said Davidson.

The Colorado pike minnow, bonytail chub, humpback chub and razorback sucker are the fish that stand to benefit. The big flows are expected to improve the fishes’ critical habitat, at a time when the fish will be looking to spawn. Water will inundate otherwise shallow or dry riverbank areas, creating calm, sheltered spots for hatchlings, and heavy flows will wash the larvae into those areas.

The Gunnison River, said Crocket, was “mostly omitted” from the EIS as critical habitat. However, he said, “Historically, it was home to at least a couple of these species.”

“It’s a highly migratory fish,” Crocket said of the Colorado pike minnow. “It’s adapted to this big river system.”

It’s a system irrefutably changed by humans. Critical habitat for the Colorado pike minnow includes 1,123.6 miles of river, to include stretches of the Green, Yampa and White rivers, from Rifle to Glen Canyon, and the Yampa River to its confluence with the Colorado River.

“They [US Fish and Wildlife] did designate critical habitat [from the mouth of the Gunnison] to the Uncompahgre confluence [at Delta],” Crocket said.

The Colorado pike minnow called the Gunnison River home through the 1960s. “After that,” said Crocket, “it blinked out. It’s not been possible for it to be re-colonized.” A new fish passage at the Redlands structure, two miles upriver from the Gunnison-Colorado River confluence at Grand Junction, allows fish to make their way around the barrier and upstream, marking the first time in more than 100 years for those downstream fish to gain passage to the Gunnison.

Meanwhile, upstream, a form of collateral damage resulting from the big water releases at Blue Mesa worries Fish and Wildlife personnel. The number of fish sucked into and blown out through the dam is staggering. The technical term for this is entrainment.
“Bigger water years mean more water through the dam, and more fish entrained,” said Gunnison area Colorado Fish and Wildlife aquatic biologist Dan Brauch. “Certainly, loss of kokanee with those releases is a concern.”

From the Vail Daily (Randy Wyrick):

Water levels and snowpack are 121 percent of normal, with as much as 40 percent yet to melt at some higher elevation areas, according to Snotel data…

Snow water equivalent at the Fremont Pass Snotel site, the headwaters of the Eagle River, had 15.1 inches of snow water equivalent on Friday morning still to melt and run into the river. It hit 17 inches on March 18 and kept piling up until May 17 when it peaked at 25.6 inches. It usually doesn’t melt out until June 18, Johnson said.

Streamflow on the Eagle River in Avon may have peaked on May 30, when the daily mean discharge was 4,110 cubic feet per second, which was 249 percent of median for that date. Thursday’s daily mean discharge was 3,650 cfs, 197 percent of normal for Wednesday.

Gore Creek in Lionshead may have peaked June 4.

“Having 20 to 40 percent of the total snowpack remaining in higher elevations in the Colorado Basin is good overall. It should help sustain streamflows through the month,” [Diane Johnson] said…

Copper Mountain still has 4.1 inches of snow water equivalent. That would normally be melted out by now, Johnson said…

Reservoir storage in the state is running 95 percent of normal and 62 percent of capacity. That, however, depends on where you are.


Crystal Dam spilling June 2014 via The Watch

June 6, 2014


Montrose: Gov. Hickenlooper signs HB14-1030 (Hydroelectric Generation Incentive)

June 6, 2014

microhydroelectricplant

From The Watch (William Woody):

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed House Bill 1030 into law Saturday, near the rushing waters of the South Canal, east of Montrose, where new hydroelectric generation facilities are creating megawatts of power.

The law directs the Colorado Energy Office to work in conjunction with federal agencies to streamline its review of new hydroelectric projects, decrease waiting periods and allow applications to clear federal and state review in as little as 60 days (without violating state environmental regulations).

Republican State House District 58 Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose), who introduced the legislation along with Rep. Diana Mitsch Bush (D-Steamboat Springs), said he first brainstormed about the idea over coffee with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) at the Coffee Trader in Montrose last fall. The law mirrors the federal Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act approved by Congress last year (in conjunction with the Rural Jobs Act introduced by Tipton) and signed by President Barack Obama in August.

Hickenlooper said that although Democrats and Republicans “do not see eye to eye on everything,” this law is a great example of both sides working together to create jobs and boost the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

“This is an obvious opportunity to do something significant right now that has much more potential over the next five to ten years with these small hydro projects,” Hickenlooper said Saturday.

The law allows farmers and ranchers to offset energy consumption by adding hydroelectric generation to their existing irrigation infrastructure, which can take up more than 70 percent of their seasonal operating budget, said Ron Carleton, deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Coram said he and fellow lawmakers were acting as “advocates for agriculture” during the law’s development, and that the partnership between the Delta-Montrose Electric Association and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association is a model for other projects, moving forward.

UVWUA Board President George Etchart said water from the 105-year-old, 5.8-mile long Gunnison Tunnel now has dual roles – both producing electricity and feeding the crops of the Uncompahgre Valley. “The water in this valley is the lifeblood of the this valley,” he said…

A pair of generation stations created onto the South Canal last year by the Delta-Montrose Electric Association are currently generating about five-and-a-half megawatts of electricity, capable of powering about 3,000 homes in the Uncompahgre Valley. At Saturday’s bill-signing, water from the 105-year-old Gunnison Tunnel was moving at about 950 cubic feet per second. Peak flows both plants are expected to produce between seven and seven-and-a-half megawatts. Last year DMEA produced about 16,000 megawatt hours of electricity from the South Canal project…

The Gunnison brings water every year from the Gunnison river through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison to an expansive canal system that feeds 76,000 acres of farmland throughout the Uncompahgre Valley.

The South Canal projects are estimated to remove 270,000 tons of carbon from the environment and produce about 27 million kilowatt hours of electricity. Along with the 3,000 homes powered, the DMEA reports the cost savings from the hydro power drops about $2 million back into the local economy through annual savings.

More 2014 Colorado legislation coverage here.


It’s O-fish-al, Federal Dams Ramp up River Flows to Benefit Endangered Fish on the Gunnison River — WRA

May 29, 2014
Aspinall Unit

Aspinall Unit

From Western Resource Advocates (Bart Miller):

It was a snowy year in the upper Gunnison River basin. With high temperatures this week, snowmelt is accelerating fast. The roar of the river is back. Thanks to a decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation two years ago, river flows now help improve the health of the Gunnison River.

Late last week, spring flows began to ramp up as did releases below reservoirs at the Aspinall Unit, in an attempt to meet target flows that will benefit endangered fish species in the lower Gunnison river. Western Resource Advocates supported the federal decision in 2012 that changed reservoir operations at the Aspinall Unit to increase river flows, and is excited to see the benefits that will result.

”The Bureau of Reclamation is doing a great job under the new reservoir operations plan,” said Bart Miller, Water Program Director at Western Resource Advocates. “This year is a real test of the Bureau’s ability to make good on their commitment to get the river back into balance. So far, they’re passing the test with flying colors.”

The Bureau projects that, on June 2, 2014, flows through Black Canyon will be around 9,000 cubic feet per second (cfs). This will serve key functions like maintaining the river channel in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. In the lower Gunnison River, near its confluence with the Colorado in Grand Junction, flows may reach as high as 14,000 cfs, a target developed by scientists to benefit federally endangered fish.

As WRA posted on a blog last week: “Colorado now has a water-based recreation industry that—on the West Slope alone—is responsible for 80,000 jobs and over $9 billion in revenue each year. We have deeper knowledge of how essential water is for native fish and wildlife species, national parks, and other irreplaceable treasures. We want to continue to provide for resilient and profitable agriculture and communities, but not at the expense of recreation, tourism, and the environment.”

“Improving flows in the Gunnison is emblematic of what should be done in the Colorado Water

Plan and through each river basin’s own water planning: re-assess how we meet the needs of Colorado residents while protecting the environment and a growing river-based recreation economy,” says Drew Beckwith, Water Policy Manager at Western Resource Advocates.

More endangered/threatened species coverage here.


Releases from the Aspinall Unit to Increase Temporarily to Benefit Endangered Fish #ColoradoRiver

May 23, 2014
Black Canyon via the National Park Service

Black Canyon via the National Park Service

Here’s the release from the Bureau of Reclamation (Erik Knight/Justyn Hock):

Reclamation will begin increasing releases from the Aspinall Unit, consisting of Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal reservoirs on the Gunnison River, on May 23, 2014, as required by the Record of Decision for the Aspinall Unit Operations Final Environmental Impact Statement. The increased release will attempt to meet flow targets on the Gunnison River, designed to benefit endangered fish species downstream while continuing to meet the congressionally authorized purposes of the Aspinall Unit.

Beginning on May 23, 2014, flows in the Gunnison River through the Black Canyon will begin increasing at a minimum of 500 cubic-feet-per-second a day resulting in flows through the canyon of around 9,000 cfs on June 2, 2014. Flows will remain at or above 8,000 cfs for 10 days before incrementally decreasing toward a range of 4000 cfs to 5000 cfs by the middle of June 2014.

More Aspinall Unit coverage here.


Aspinall Unit Operation Coordination Meeting, April 24 #ColoradoRiver

April 23, 2014

Apr 2014 Agenda


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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


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