Non-native predators could threaten endangered species in Colorado River
Colorado wildlife managers will try to curb expansion of non-native northern pike in Summit County’s Green Mountain Reservoir by paying anglers a $20 bounty for each fish they deliver to the Heeney Marina.
The illegally introduced fish are taking a toll on trout in the reservoir north of Silverthorne and could escape to the Blue River and make their way to the Colorado River. That could add to the challenges of trying to recover four endangered native Colorado River fish species, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Colorado River Basin snowpack and streamflow forecasts now similar to 1977, 2002 and 2012 drought years
FRISCO — Continued drought in the Far West, along with Colorado’s push to develop a first-ever statewide water plan, should be reason enough for Coloradans to take an interest in the state of the Colorado River.
One of the best chances to get a user-friendly update is at the annual State of River meeting, sponsored by the Blue River Watershed Group.
Hands-on water experts will explain how this year’s snowmelt will play out and how that affects operations of Dillon Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir — both for water deliveries downstream and for onsite recreational use.
Revised plan for Green Mountain Reservoir, Cataract Lake area gets provisional OK from advisory group
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — This land is once again your land for free, at least at the popular Cataract Lake trailhead in northern Summit County, where the U.S. Forest Service has been charging a feee to park and hike since the late 1990s.
But last week, a citizen advisory committee voted to a approve a revised recreation plan for the larger Green Mountain Reservoir area, including Cataract Lake, and the new plan ends the unpopular Cataract Lake parking and hiking fee, as well as day use fees at Green Mountain Reservoir. The new plan also reconfigures camping fees to a basic per-site charge, with extra fees for extra cars.
Cooperative releases from headwaters reservoirs will help sustain environmental and recreational values
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — With some of the lowest stream flows on record for this time of year, Colorado water managers are wrangling every last drop and trying to make them all count.
Upstream storage and diversions have exacerbated the low flows resulting from a meager snowpack and early runoff. As a result, water temperatures in parts of the Colorado River recently have already reached temperatures close to 60 degrees, which is borderline dangerous for trout. Those temperature readings were measured at a gage in the Pumphouse area, according to Jim Pokrandt, communications specialist with the Colorado River District.
Average Colorado River flows through Glenwood Canyon this time of year are about 6,000 cfs, but this year, the river has been flowing at less than 20 percent of that, at about 1,100 cfs.
Looking to raise stream flows, the Colorado River District, Denver Water and the Bureau of Reclamation are cooperating under the Shoshone outage protocol, which helps sustain flows along the Colorado River mainstem with water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir, Williams Fork Reservoir and Green Mountain Reservoir — even when Xcel’s Shoshone power plant isn’t exercising a senior water right that historically keeps at least some water in the river during dry seasons and years. Continue reading “Water: Scrambling to sustain Colorado River flows”→
*Editor’s note: Local water experts are writing a weekly series to raise awareness about potential drought impacts of low stream flows and falling reservoir levels. This is the first installment.
By Troy Wineland
“Uncharted territory.” “Driest year on record!” “Seeing things that have never occurred before.”
These were the headlines and quotes in 2002, the last time we experienced conditions comparable to the current dry spell.
Uncharted … The Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Green Mountain Reservoir, placed its “start of fill” call April 1, the earliest possible date and the earliest on record.
The basis? Even assuming above average precipitation this summer, which is not in the forecast, Green Mountain will fall more than 20 feet short of filling this year. This equals a 40,000-acre-foot shortfall in wet water storage.
Driest year … The entire state is experiencing drought conditions to a varying degree, from abnormally dry to extreme drought. Summit County is under severe drought and will remain there, or worsen, without substantial precipitation.
300 cottonwoods to go into the ground at McDonough Flats Campground, at Green Mountain Reservoir
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Reforestation efforts in the high country aren’t focused exclusively on lodgepole pines these days. In one of the first big projects of the year, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado will coordinate the May 19 planting of 300 cottonwood trees at the McDonald Flats Campground in Heeney, 15 miles north of Silverthorne.
Cottonwoods are iconic trees in Colorado’s riverside zones. They’re an incredibly important part of the riparian ecology, providing habitat for cavity nesting birds like rare Lewis’ woodpeckers and stabilizing soils along rivers and lakes. Being adapted to growing near Colorado’s fast-flowing streams, new cottonwood trees can grow from a sprig or a branch that breaks off and gets stuck in some sand or riverside cobbles. Continue reading “Summit County: Tree-planting volunteers needed”→
Bureau of Reclamation starts filling the reservoir April 1, the earliest date possible
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Green Mountain Reservoir is unlikely to fill this year, even though the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is already staking its claim to Blue River water with the earliest “start of fill” on record.
The reservoir at the north end of Summit County is a key piece of the regional water supply puzzle, helping buffer the Upper Blue when senior water rights holders downstream on the Colorado call for water, at Xcel’s Shoshone power plant in Glenwood Canyon and irrigation in the Grand Valley, for example.
Green Mountain Reservoir is currently about 43 feet below its maximum level and BuRec has shut the valve on outflows below Green Mountain Dam. Currently, only about 75 cubic feet per second are flowing past the dam and into the Blue River. Those low flows will likely persist until senior water rights holders down stream call for water from the reservoir. Continue reading “Colorado: Green Mountain Reservoir not likely to fill this year”→