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Summit County: Dillon Reservoir Ice-off!

The last bits of remnant ice on Dillon Reservoir near the Dillon Amphitheater on May 21.

The last bits of remnant ice on Dillon Reservoir near the Dillon Amphitheater on May 21. Bob Berwyn photo.

Late winter delays melt-off a bit past the average date

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — It took a little longer than normal, but Denver Water’s water managers said Dillon Reservoir finally became fully ice-free on Friday, May 24, exactly the same date as two years ago, in 2011, after one of the snowiest winters on record. Prior to that, you have to go all the way back to 1995 to find a later date (May 30).

Dillon-based reservoir-keepers have been tracking the dates the reservoir freezes over and thaws out completely since 1965 as part of their regular duties. The so-called ice-off date generally falls in the middle of May. In fact, the ice has only lasted into June once — after the monster winter of 1983, when it didn’t thaw until June 7.

The earliest ever full-thaw date was last year, when all the ice was gone by April 18 following all-time record March warmth. 2012 was one of only two years on record when the ice melted in April. The other April melt-off was in 2002, following another severe drought winter.

The earliest Dillon Reservoir has frozen over completely was Dec. 1, 1990, nearly three weeks ahead of the average date, which generally falls right around Christmas. This winter’s freeze-over date was Dec. 26, following two years 2010 and 2011) with unusually late ice-on dates. In both those years, the reservoir froze solid on Jan. 1.

The latest the reservoir has ever frozen over was Jan. 30, 1980, during another infamous warm and dry winter.

Currently, the water level in Dillon Reservoir is rising at the rate of several inches per day, with the Blue and Snake rivers, Tenmile Creek and the smaller tributaries all hovering around peak seasonal flows. As of May 21, the reservoir elevation was 8,989.11 feet, holding about 180,000 acre feet (capacity is 257,304 acre feet). That’s still about 27 feet below full (9,017 feet).

Full list of ice-on & ice-off dates (courtesy Denver Water)

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Outdoors: Forest Service adds ‘new’ trails in Summit County

Some of the "new" trails on national forest lands in Summit County lead to hidden coves along the shore of Dillon Reservoir.

Some of the “new” trails on national forest lands in Summit County lead to hidden coves along the shore of Dillon Reservoir.

Travel management plan update results in some user-created trails becoming an official part of the trail network

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — If you’ve never heard of the Hippo Trail or the Bodhi Trail, don’t feel too bad. Both are newly named trail segments in Summit County that have just recently been formally added to the national forest trail system managed by the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District.

Many of the user-created have been popular with locals for years, but now they’re officially on the map, said Ken Waugh, recreation staff officer for the district.

“Many of these have never been maintained and have not been on District maps,” Waugh said, adding that the Forest Service is making an outreach effort to let hikers and cyclists know about the new trails.

As part of that effort, the Dillon District is preparing Recreation Opportunity Guides for these new trails. The one-page sheets  have a map on one side and information about the trails on the other. When they’re done, they’ll be posted online at this White River National Forest website. Some of the guides are already posted at www.dillonrangerdistrict.com. The guides include directions to the trailhead, mileage, range in elevation, difficulty, and trail highlights. They’re also avaiable at the USFS visitor center in Silverthorne. Continue reading

Summit County’s recpath near capacity on weekends


A new report explores the capacity of Summit County’s popular recpaths.

Report says additional events on busy days could affect safety and enjoyment

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A study by a Durango-based consultant suggests that Summit County’s 55-mile recpath system is nearing capacity on busy summer weekends, especially when casual users share the path with special event participants.

The report also looks at camping, boating and parking at the recreation sites around the reservoir. Read the report here.

The Dillon Dam section of the path alone saw more than 65,000 users in 201o, with more than half of all usage on Saturdays and Sundays, and 70 percent of the usage in June, July and August. In 2010, there were 20 special events on the recpath between mid-July and late August.

“We’re doing all right for now,” said Brad Eckert, with the county’s open space and trails department. The report suggests that more special events could affect the level of service on the recpath. Eckert said data from counters along the path suggest that overall use has been holding steady the past few years, without a clear trend more increased numbers each year. Continue reading

Wildfires: Summit County taking grant applications for fuel-reduction projects


Much of the fuels reduction work around Summit Cove has been completed, but requires ongoing maintenance.

County aims to link defensible spaces across neighborhoods

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —The Summit County Wildfire Council is once again preparing to award grants for residents who want to remove hazardous fuels and reduce wildfire risks around their homes and neighborhoods.

Grant applications will be taken through April 26. The application forms are available online at http://www.co.summit.co.us/extension. Call Dan Schroder at 970-668-4140 for more information.

Wildfire Council grant applicants must also develop a weed management plan with the help of Summit County experts to prevent the spread of invasive plants in treated areas.

Sine 2006, the grant program has awarded about $1.3 million, leveraging additional funds to total $3.3 million for fuels reduction and wildfire mitigation. Locally, about 10,000 acres have been treated. Details on treatment areas are available in an online map book created by the wildfire council. Continue reading

Colorado foresters say no need to spray for pine beetles

Local company continue to offer spraying services, saying some property owners would rather be safe than sorry


Pine beetle populations have dropped to the lowest level in 30 years in parts of the Colorado high country. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While some local property owners report that they’re getting advertisements from local tree spraying companies about protecting lodgepole pines from mountain pine beetles, state officials say there’s no need to apply pesticides this year.

“Mountain pine beetle numbers are the lowest they’ve been in 30 years,” said Ron Cousineau, district state forester for the area covering Summit and Grand counties. “The mountain pine beetle population has crashed … spraying has to be based on an actual threat,” he said. “The current population of pine beetles does not warrant spraying.”

Essentially, the bugs have killed most of the available trees. With very few brood trees remaining, beetle populations aren’t likely to reach epidemic levels again anytime soon. The latest forest surveys showed pine beetle activity on only about 200 acres in Summit County last year, with only a few pockets of trees within those areas affected by the beetles. Continue reading

Colorado: Dillon Reservoir unlikely to fill this year

Denver Water hopes to fill reservoir above 2002 levels


Season to-date snowfall measured in inches, across the Front Range and easternmost Colorado mountain ranges.

As of March 21, statewide snowpack was 77 percent of average.

As of March 21, statewide snowpack was 77 percent of average, according to the NRCS.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Denver Water officials say there’s a glimmer of hope that Dillon Reservoir might come close to filling this summer if there’s above average snowfall for the next few weeks.

With exceptionally wet conditions, the reservoir could reach an elevation of 9,015 feet by July and remain above 9,000 feet through the following spring.

With average spring precipitation, chances of the reservoir filling are less than 50 percent, according to Bob Peters, who released the outlook for Dillon Reservoir operations last Friday (March 22). Under the normal precipitation scenario, Dillon Reservoir would peak at about 9,002 feet in June, about 15 feet below full. All the projections can be affected by variable weather, including spring rain and temperatures.

In both outlooks, the water level would be higher than during the summer of 2002, the last big drought year, when the reservoir peaked at an elevation of 8,993 feet. Peters said the Stage 2 outdoor watering restrictions will help keep water in Dillon Reservoir in the late summer and fall. The utility must also hedge against the possibility, however unlikely, of a third dry year by maintaining as much storage as possible.

Going into the second year of a drought, those forecast water levels are critical for local recreation interests, especially the town-owned Frisco marina, where operations are hampered by low water levels.

Denver Water has been diverting water from Dillon Reservoir via the Roberts Tunnel all winter, and some local residents may be surprised at the water level when the ice melts. By the end of March, the elevation of the reservoir will be about 30 feet below full.


The thick black line represents this year’s snowpack.

The water level should start rising in April when spring runoff starts. Under the average precipitation scenario, Denver Water expects the reservoir level to peak sometime in June at about 9,002 feet, which is still 15 feet below full pool. By the end of summer, the water level would be back where it is now.

Continued drought conditions would have the most dramatic impact on Summit County. Reservoir levels would fall as low as 2002, when dust storms affected surrounding communities and boating access was limited.

With less than average precipitation, Denver Water projects that Dillon Reservoir would only rise about six feet from its current level by June, then start dropping again in July. By the end of the summer, the reservoir could be five feet lower than it is now.

The official spring outlook from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is for warmer and drier than average conditions for the next three months, but so far, March has been delivering average to above-average snowfall and cooler-than-average temperatures.

Summit County: USDA grant to help Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault develop a permanent shelter

Sen. Michael Bennet.

Sen. Michael Bennet.

Local group has been operating safe houses since 1969

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After years of working in rental properties, Frisco-based Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault will be able to buy a spot for a permanent emergency shelter with space for 15 to 18 victims at a time.

The organization will benefit from a $508,000 loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Rural Development, according to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who last month helped secure passage of the federal Violence Against Women Act.

“Organizations like Advocates for Victims of Sexual Assault make our communities safer and stronger by supporting survivors of sexual assault,” Bennet said. “This new permanent emergency shelter will give victims in Summit County a place to find help and begin the healing process.”

“This loan will provide us with a much nicer and larger shelter to better serve the needs of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault here in Summit County,” said the group’s director, Amy Jackson. “In the past, we’ve had to make do with what we’ve been able to piece together with rental properties. The USDA loan will allow us to purchase our own shelter, which is a huge and exciting endeavor for our organization.” Continue reading

Colorado: 2012 Open space efforts in Summit County benefit the Continental Divide Trail

Targeted purchases protect valuable habitat, recreational opportunities


Summit County’s open space program continues to hum along. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Local open space protection efforts in 2012 were partially focused on protecting access to the Continental Divide Trail, running down the backbone of the country from Canada to Mexico.

In 2012, the county purchased 33.5 acres of privately-owned mining claims along the trail, protecting trail access, as well as high alpine tundra habitat for mountain goats, big horn sheep, pika, marmots, and rare alpine vegetation. These parcels may eventually be conveyed to the U.S. Forest Service, as they are surrounded by National Forest. Continue reading

Theft of Summit Stage bus ends with arrest


Joshua Taylor Mock is suspected of stealing a Summit Stage bus at Keystone.

Suspect Joshua Taylor Mock facing serious charges

By Summit Voice

FRISCO —Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies last night arrested 23-year-old Joshua Taylor Mock and charged him with felony kidnapping and vehicle theft after he allegedly stole an unattended Summit Stage bus at Keystone’s River Run village.

Deputies responded to the motor vehicle theft call shortly before midnight (Feb. 28) when passengers on the bus called 911 to report that the bus was being erratically driven up Montezuma Road. A dispatch call described the suspect as a “male in dark clothing and a black balaclava. A sheriff’s office spokesperson said there was no indication Mock was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Continue reading

Global warming: New model helps pinpoint snowfall changes

Polar regions to see more snow; reductions expected most other areas


A new climate model helps pinpoint changes in snowfall due to global warming.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A new climate model suggests snowfall is likely to decline by up to 30 percent in the Colorado mountains, and by up to 50 to 80 percent in other regions of the country.

Most of the globe will see significant reductions in snowfall if atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide continue to increase. Only the polar regions and a few isolated mountain areas are likely to see more snow, according to scientists with the Geo­phys­i­cal Fluid Dynam­ics Lab­o­ra­tory and Prince­ton Uni­ver­sity who analyzed the data.

Car­bon diox­ide has already increased by 40 per­cent from mid-19th century levels. At the current rate of emissions, those levels are likely to double before the end of the 21st century. Continue reading


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