Summit County: Dillon Reservoir outflows boosted again

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The Blue River near flood stage near Silverthorne.

Blue River running high through Silverthorne

Staff Report

FRISCO — Flows in the Lower Blue River, below Dillon Dam, are going up again.

With snowmelt speeding up under warm and sunny skies, Denver is boosting the outflow to 1,800 cfs to avoid a scenario where Dillon Reservoir spills at a level that causes outflows to go over that level.

That’s exactly what could happen without upping controlled releases now, Denver Water spokesman Matt Wittern said via email.

“Our experts predict that, if we maintained 1,700 cfs outflow and inflows remain around 2,400, Dillon Reservoir would be full and spilling within a week,” Wittern said. That could bring excessive flows and the potential for flooding below Dillon Reservoir.

Wittern said Denver Water is estimating the remaining snowpack in the Blue River as equivalent to between five and seven inches of water near Hoosier and Fremont passes.

That snow is melting fast, with no letup in sight. Inflows from runoff into Dillon Reservoir averaged 2,467 cfs Tuesday, which was well above current and planned outflows. And those inflows aren’t expected to drop below 1,700 cfs in the next seven days, which means Dillon Reservoir will continue to fill quickly, at the rate of about six inches per day. As of Wednesday, the reservoir was 3.25 feet below capacity.

Wittern also explained that Denver Water can’t legally divert water through the Roberts Tunnel if it’s not needed.

“Right now water levels are very high on the South PIatte River, eliminating this action as an option,” he said.

Troy Wineland, state water commissioner for the Blue River, said property owners in the Lower Blue who face flooding risks can prepare by perusing Summit County’s High Water Preparedness” manual which includes instructions on sandbag preparation and placement, as well as free sand / bag supply locations.

Wineland also said water users in the Lower Blue should be aware that higher flows will push more water through diversions, possibly over-topping in irrigation ditches.

May precipitation breaks records in southern Colorado

Wet spring boosts streamflow forecasts

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Miracle May?

Staff ReportFRISCO — Statewide precipitation was more than twice the average, federal water watchers said in their June update. The rain and snow, along with cool temperatures at higher elevations, delayed the onset of runoff and boosted streamflow forecasts for the summer. “This substantial addition of moisture, both in the form of snow and rain have notably increased water supply forecasts across the state from a month ago,” said Brian Domonkos, the Colorado snow survey supervisor for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

Colorado: Big flows expected in Blue River

Good news for boaters

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Healthy streamflows and good boating in the Blue River Basin. @bberwyn photo.

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Blue River snowpack still growing.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Late-season storms have helped boost snowpack in the Blue River to near last year’s level, promising healthy runoff and flows in Summit County, according to Denver Water.

The effects of the steady barrage of spring storms is already showing up the Lower Blue River, where flows are increasing due to increased releases from Dillon Reservoir, according to Denver Water, which won’t be diverting water through the Roberts Tunnel until mid-July at the earliest. Continue reading

Drought disaster declared in northwest Colorado

USDA declaration opens door for emergency aid

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Staff Report

FRISCO — While spring snow and rain have slightly eased Colorado water woes, the situation is more serious in the northwestern part of the state, where three large rural counties have been designated as a contiguous disaster areas due to drought.

Senator Michael Bennet announced the designation today, saying that the U.S. Department of Agriculture declaration makes farm operators in thise counties eligible to be considered for federal assistance, including Farm Service Agency emergency loans.

“Producers on Colorado’s western slope have faced drought conditions that are damaging their goods and hurting local economies,” Bennet said. “These disaster designations will allow farmers and ranchers to access critical assistance to help them deal with any losses to crops or livestock.”

Producers in counties designated as primary or contiguous disaster areas are eligible to be considered for FSA emergency loans. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the disaster declaration to apply for assistance. Local FSA offices can provide affected farmers and ranchers with additional information.

The drought declaration came after a winter of well-below normal snowfall and near-record warmth in the region.

Spring warmth ups fire danger in Rockies

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A dwindling snowpack means increased fire danger. This low spring snowpack in 2012 was followed by a severe wildfire season in Colorado.

‘The next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation’

Staff Report

FRISCO — Early snowmelt and above-average temperatures have upped the fire danger across parts of the Rocky Mountain and high plains region, federal officials said this week, forecasting a more active wildfire season than last year.

“This year we are expecting an average to above-average fire season,” said Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center fire meteorologist Tim Mathewson. “A repeat of a 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2012 historic fire season is unlikely at this time; however, the next several weeks are going to be critical in terms of precipitation.” Continue reading

Climate: Early meltdown for Colorado snowpack

April 1 snowpack the 3d-lowest in 30 years; state preps for low runoff and summer streamflows

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Colorado snowpack started to decline in March, a month ahead of schedule.

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Colorado experienced widespread warmth in March.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado water users need to prepare for below-average spring and summer runoff and streamflow based on the all-important April 1 snow survey, which showed a startling drop in the state’s snowpack since early March.

After tallying readings from automated SNOTEL sites and manual snow surveys, the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service said the water content of the snowpack is just 64 percent of average, down from 89 percent at the beginning of March.

“This is showtime when it comes to hydrological cycle in Colorado,” said state climatologist Nolan Doesken, referring to the fact that the state’s snowpack usually increases significantly in March and April. Continue reading

Loss of northern hemisphere spring snow cover likely to amplifiy overall global warming signal

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More midwinter snow, but faster spring meltout seems to be the new climate norm in the northern hemisphere.

‘As shifts in the timing of meltout occur, we lose an important and relatively stable snowpack reservoir …’

FRISCO —Dwindling spring snow cover in the northern hemisphere could accelerate the pace of global warming, as darker-colored ground emerges earlier in the year, absorbing more of the sun’s heat and intensifying atmospheric warming.

The spring decline is evident despite a trend toward more snow in mid-winter — but June snowcover in the northern hemisphere has been below average 10 years in a row. The downward trend is mainly due to warmer temperatures, not to any big changes in overall precipitation totals, according to the most recent IPCC climate assessment. Continue reading

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