From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The monsoon rains in August and September still are boosting flows in the Arkansas River. The winter water storage program began Friday with Arkansas River flows that are above average — an unusual development in a year marked by drought.
“The flows are still good at Canon City,” said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer for the Colorado Division of Water Resources. “We’re still benefitting from the late monsoons, even though we haven’t had any rain for a while.”
There should not be a noticeable drop in Arkansas River readings as the program begins, largely because of the still vigorous flows.
The winter water program allows ditches to store water from Nov. 15-March 15 rather than forcing farmers to irrigate outside the growing season. Water can be stored either in Lake Pueblo, John Martin or reservoirs owned by ditch companies. The amount of water stored depends on weather conditions and can’t be accurately predicted.
On the other hand, releases from upper reservoirs in Lake County will be temporarily cut back slightly during the next week to allow Colorado Parks and Wildlife to work on a project to improve the Helena Ditch diversion structure near Buena Vista. The structure has resulted in rafting deaths in the past, and the state wants to modify it to make a fish passage as well, said Rob White, manager of the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Reclamation is projecting that there will be about 45,000 acre-feet of storage space in Turquoise Lake for Fryingpan-Arkansas Project diversions from the West Slope next spring.
If the winter snowpack is greater than average, more space can be created in Turquoise Lake by running water to Lake Pueblo over the winter months. However, there are no plans to do that as long as river levels stay robust, said Roy Vaughan, manager of the Fry-Ark Project.