Colorado: No doubt, still a drought

Annual State of the River meetings will update residents on water planning

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Receding waters of Dillon Reservoir leave big swaths of shoreline exposed.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — While spring snowfall has brought some relief to small parts of Colorado, the majority of the state is still gripped by one of the worst droughts on record. The southeastern plains and the southwest mountains in particular have experienced a string of dry years, leaving soil moisture well below normal.

Statewide reservoir storage is also near historic low levels, and even with decent spring runoff in a few river basins, water managers will be scrambling to try and refill key s like Dillon and Green Mountain reservoirs. Continue reading

Colorado: Denver Water says drought continues, but backs away from plan to drain Antero Reservoir

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Antero Reservoir, in Park County, won’t be drained.

April snowpack boost is good news for anglers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With a rebounding snowpack, Denver Water officials said this week they won’t drain Antero Reservoir, in Park County, as previously planned.

“Managing water supplies through a drought is an ever-changing process,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “While we are still in drought and need our customers to save water, the recent snow has helped our supply situation. Keeping Antero open will be a benefit to Park County and those who love to fish there. If we drained the reservoir, it would take about three years to refill.” Continue reading

Colorado River water users juggle rights to up storage

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A deal between Xcel Energy and Denver Water and other water users to relax the Shoshone hydorpower water right will enable more storage in Dillon, Williams Fork and Green Mountain reservoirs this spring. Photo courtesy Xcel.

Shoshone hydropower water right ‘relaxed’ in collaborative response to 2-year drought; agreement enables about 20,000 acre feet of additional upstream storage early in the year

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Some key players in the Colorado River Basin have worked together to “relax” a senior water right near Glenwood Springs, enabling more water — about 20,000 acre feet — to be stored in upstream reservoirs.

“We expect to gain about 8,000 acre-feet each in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs as a result of the relaxation,” said Denver Water spokesperson Stacy Chesney.

The 1,250-cfs water right for the Xcel-owned Shoshone hydropower plant dates back to 1902, making it one of the most senior rights on the river.

When Xcel exercises that water right, it affects other water users all the way up the river because it’s administered by the Colorado Division of Water Resources against junior water storage rights in Dillon and Williams Fork Reservoirs, the Colorado River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir and the Bureau of Reclamation’s Green Mountain Reservoir. Continue reading

Colorado: Denver Water to drain Antero Reservoir

Utility will work with wildlife biologists to rebuild fishery when the reservoir is refilled

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Denver Water will drain Antero Reservoir to save water that’s usually lost to evaporation.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Denver Water says it will save some 4,000 acre feet of water by completely draining Antero Reservoir in anticipation of drought conditions. The Park County reservoir was created in 1909 by the first dam ever built on the South Platte River.

Antero has the highest evaporation rate of any reservoir in the Denver Water system, so the utility says it makes more sense to store the water farther downstream, in Cheesman and Eleven Mile reservoirs.

“We’re exploring as many ways as possible to be efficient with our water supply,” said Dave Bennett, water resource manager for Denver Water. “Antero is a drought reservoir designed to provide water to our customers during a severe drought. Moving water from Antero to Cheesman will allow us to make the water available for our customers and reduce evaporation losses to our system.” Continue reading

Colorado: Denver Water announces watering restrictions

Low reservoir storage a serious concern in Colorado

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Reservoir storage across Colorado is 30 percent below average.

SUMMIT COUNTY — With reservoir levels even lower than during the 2002 drought, Denver Water will enact Stage 2 water restrictions effective April 1, limiting outdoor irrigation to two days per week for most customers.

“We’ve never seen conditions like this, and we are concerned about our water supply,” said Jim Lochhead, CEO and manager of Denver Water. “Our reservoirs haven’t been full since July 2011. We need our customers’ help to reduce water use and keep as much water as possible in storage as we move through this year and into the next.” Continue reading

Colorado: Corps of Engineers pushes back decision for Denver Water’s Moffat Collection System expansion project

Concerns about Fraser River environmental impacts remain

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Denver Water seeks to increase diversions from the Fraser River in Grand County.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Denver Water’s plan to divert more Upper Colorado River flows to the Front Range is on hold for at least another year, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week announced that it won’t finalize the environmental study for the Moffat Collection System expansion project until January 2014.

“We had projected a date of January 2013 … It was not intended to be a firm date, but it got presented as a firm date,” said Tim Carey, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office. Continue reading

Colorado: Trouble in trout paradise

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Please click on the image to watch the short video clip.

An exclusive Summit Voice interview with Fraser Trout, a homeless fish seeking some love (and water) in the Colorado River Basin

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The Defend the Colorado coalition’s new video, “Trout in Trouble,” features a lost-looking trout leaving his dried-up streambed in the Fraser Valley to go seek water in the big city of Denver, where he panhandles on the streets with a sign reading, “Anything helps.” A passing motorist gives him a bottle of water that he sprinkles over his head, but the expression on his face tells us it’s not enough.  The video’s message: Denver Water needs to do more to protect the Fraser River from future diversions to the Front Range.

The “homeless trout’s” performance has been hailed for its authenticity and raw power, with Denver’s Westword calling the film reminiscent of Chaplin and Capra.  Others have compared the trout to a young Brando.

Defend the Colorado has offered Summit County Citizens Voice an exclusive interview with the trout. The following is a highly edited transcript. Please click the read more button to check it ou. Continue reading

Summit County snowfall above average in December

Snowpack still lagging behind average and behind last year

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December 2012 snowfall was slightly above average in Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — December snowfall in Summit County was just slightly above average at both official observation sites, with Breckenridge weather watcher Rick Bly tallying 25. 3 inches for the month, just about 3 inches more than the average based on records going back more than 100 years. Continue reading

Colorado: Dillon Reservoir likely to drop another 10-15 feet

Water managers hoping for the best ( a wet winter) and planning for the worst (more drought)

How low will it go? Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — As low as Dillon Reservoir looks right now, the water level was a bit lower in the spring of 2011 as Denver Water prepared for a massive surge of inflow after a record winter.

Currently, the reservoir is about 74 percent full, holding about 190,000 acre feet of water. Historically, it’s about 94 percent of capacity this time of year, according to Denver Water’s Bob Peters. In May 2011, the reservoir dropped to 72 percent of capacity just ahead that year’s runoff season.

Before that, the last time it dropped to anywhere around this level for any sustained period of time was between May 2002 to April 2003, when it bottomed out at 48 percent, Peters said.

Denver Water will continue to draw water throughout the winter, so the reservoir is likely to drop at least another 10 to 12 feet during the next few months.

“We need to balance refill capability between Dillon and Cheesman,” Peters said.

That means another summer of challenging operations for the Frisco Marina, which is already sitting high and dry, unless this winter delivers a monster snowpack leading to well above-average runoff.

Peters said that current inflow into the reservoir from its various tributaries is about 90 percent of average. The power plant at the dam will be generating about half of its  capacity during the coming months, he said.

Colorado: Snowmaking impacts Snake River flows

Massive Snake River snowmaking diversions means tough times for trout after drought summer

This year’s snowpack is well below average and tracking just barely above last year’s.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The most recent snowstorm helped boost the overall Colorado snowpack just a bit, bringing it on par with last year’s level at this time, which is still well below average for mid-November. Statewide, the snowpack was at 57 percent of average, as of Nov. 15, with most West Slope basins between 50 and 60 percent of average. Even the North Platte drainage, which has seen some significant snows in the Never Summer Range, is only at 64 percent of average.

In Summit and Eagle counties, many streams are flowing at or below historic low levels, creating challenges for some ski areas that rely on direct stream diversions for snowmaking. Keystone, for example, has had to dial back its snow guns several times in the past week as the Snake River dropped to a flow of just six cubic feet per second, the minimum required under state regulations. Continue reading

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