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Tuesday May 31, 2016
McPhee Downstream Release Update
Note that Rig to Flip, not DRBA, identified & photographed the new boulder upstream of the Dove Creek pumps and notified DRBA to post on their website.
Rafting releases are set for next weekend June 3-5, Friday - Sunday. The releases from McPhee will be a minimum of 800 CFS by early (1:00 AM) Friday morning. Remember it takes a few hours to reach Bradfield & longer to other downstream boat ramps. Releases are scheduled to remain at 800 CFS for all 3 days.
Things cooled down and Dolores inflow slowed more than anticipated over the Memorial Day weekend so we're not starting early. It is apparent that the upper Dolores flows are headed up on the forecasted warm weather to a final June hydrograph peak, pretty standard for the Dolores. More updates later this week as we get more information. The spill could lengthen and flows may vary higher as the reservoir approaches full, 6924, when much more inflow is passed downriver. This remains a fill & spill and will revolve around Dolores River inflow, diversions and reservoir elevation. So after Sunday, operating decisions concerning releases will be day by day and posted on the website.
Remember the ramp down lowers between 800 down to 600 CFS over 2 days, then down to 400 over 2 days and then 2 days to 200 CFS until back at 65 CFS, a 5 1/2 day total ramp down. So when flows start dropping the spill will be ending.
Thursday May 26, 2016
McPhee Downstream Release Update
Friday May 20, 2016
McPhee Downstream Release Update
Spill delayed one week. No spill on Memorial Day weekend; spill now starts the following weekend. The weather has cooled since last weekend and inflows did not sustain last Mondays 2500 CFS inflow rate. Therefore McPhee reservoir is not going to reach the 6922 elevation trigger by Memorial Day. Consequently, we will delay the start of the McPhee downstream boating release one week and McPhee will be spilling on the first weekend in June.
One major driver in this decision to delay is to avoid two small spills. The snow is hanging in the mountains with cooler temperatures and overcast weather. A Memorial Day spill would require ramping down afterwards to fill McPhee and possibly opening up again to pass the second peak of excess inflow, effectively a second spill. Ramping requirements on both ends of two spills take away from the boating flows. Also the desire for longer trips from Bradfield to below the San Miguel confluence probably would have been lost on two small spills. We expect one 10+/- day spill instead of two shorter spills.
Many local boaters have given us valuable input through the Dolores River Boating Advocates (DRBA) and have warned us about several changes downstream since 2011. DRBA has identified a new very large boulder upstream of Dove Creek pumps and that campsites are overgrown. The usual Slickrock put-in, take-out is not available, but an alternative has been developed. See the DRBA website for information on Slickrock put-in and other details about lower Dolores boating conditions at http://doloresriverboating.org/ or follow them on Facebook.
We realize this year has been up and down, but that has been driven by the weather swings and the resulting changes to the inflow forecasts. DWCD contractual first priority requires filling the reservoir for the Dolores Project authorized purposes. Therefore, on these small spill years, the lead time will remain short and vary with changing weather conditions. Long lead time notices on spills are not possible on small inflow years at McPhee.
At this time we believe the benefits of a single combined spill, including a lengthened spill at rafting flows, probably covering two weekends, allowing for higher CFS release, longer trips and less down river congestion, makes this the best current option for quality boating and a full reservoir.
Warmer weather beyond the current 5 day forecast could accelerate the start of the spill by a few days. As McPhee will be full, downstream releases may be highly variable between 1200 to 2000 CFS during this early June combined spill. Releases will be made based on the Dolores River inflow less the Dolores Project diversions all of which will vary with weather and diurnal fluctuations.
McPhee just passed elevation 6915 feet this morning and the climb has slowed to about half a foot per day. We will update again next week and continue giving more specifics about the McPhee spill.
MCPHEE RESERVOIR WATER YEAR 2016 OPERATING PLAN
"This data is provisional and subject to change due to Dolores River inflow, future precipitation, weather patterns, managed release criteria and use
Monday May 16, 2016
McPhee Downstream Release Update
Recent heavy precipitation last week and coming this week puts McPhee back on track for a SMALL & SHORT spill. May mid-month CBRFC Forecast is back up to 245 KAF inflow to McPhee recognizing above average precipitation last week and on-going. Combined with a cool slow start to irrigation season, Mcphee has passed elevation 6912, only 12 more feet until full. Watch the Lake Elevation page for midnight updates. McPhee should hit elevation 6920' next week and we will announce any planned boating releases. A boating release will likely cover the Memorial Day weekend and last 5 - 10 days at 1,000 +/- CFS. Releases could ramp up late next week. Stay tuned for more updates later this week as we assess the full storm affect (CBRFC) and other flow and diversion conditions.
5/5/16 Update: May 1st CBRFC Inflow Forecast drops 15 KAF more, any Managed Release (Spill) is extremely unlikely. Unfortunately even with some snow in the mountains last weekend, the precipitation was less than normal for April and the May 1st forecast dropped an additional 15,000 acre feet. The way that works through the 2016 McPhee operations, we will not fill McPhee and there will be no spill. The runoff just didn't show up as expected in April and McPhee remains 80,000 AF from full or down about 19 feet. We expect runoff to increase rapidly, but so will irrigation. The forecast reflects changed conditions relative to what it looked like a month ago based on precipitation and initial runoff inflows. It would take an extreme wet event, a 10% probability based on the last 30 years of record, like last May to fill McPhee & spill at this point. We will continue to monitor, but will expect the next potential boating release to be in May 2017.
4/26/16 Update: Although the upper Dolores Basin caught some of the April 15 -18 storm, the April overall precipitation fell a little below normal and the Colorado River Basin Forecast Center dropped their most likely (50% probability based on current conditions and 30 year record) by another 20 KAF. That means we need a little help, above average precipitation, over the next month to fill McPhee and make some excess water for a spill. Though the runoff has started and the upper Dolores is running up around a 1,000 CFS we have 3 to 4 weeks until McPhee gets up near full before a spill. So if the runoff comes in higher than currently forecast, we would announce a spill about one week ahead of the start and give ramping days and duration at higher flows of 1,000 to 1,200 CFS, likely about 5 days. It's still shaping up around Memorial Day if it comes at all.
4/13/16 Update: Early April has improved our weather patterns compared to March and brought some new precipitation to the mountains. Last week's warm temperatures started the April runoff and a little rain on snow over last weekend jumped up all the local river flows and snow melt. This can be seen in the Lost Canyon gage into McPhee and the gages downstream of McPhee at Slickrock & Bedrock. All the lower snow, below the 9,000 foot elevation, appears to be melting and running off pretty close to normal patterns. This bump in river flows last weekend appears to be slowing down again, partially due to some cool weather at higher elevations and also partially due to the available lower snow having melted out.
The forecasted weekend storm looks promising and could boost inflow if it hits big in the upper Dolores as forecasts are starting to indicate. We remain working off the April 1 forecasts from the Colorado Basin River Basin Forecast Center (CBRFC). http://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/rmap/wsup/point.php?id=MPHC2 They produce a range of potential runoff probabilities based on future weather conditions through the April to July runoff period based on current conditions and past records. They do not always accurately know all local conditions including the extent of our lower snow pack in the Dolores. They generally have a plus or minus 15% on the McPhee inflows. If runoff falls on the plus side we'll have a spill, no spill if runoff falls on the minus/low side. Next CBRFC forecast should be out on May 3. So we still need 105,000 AF to fill McPhee, at least 30 plus days of runoff, so no spill in early May. Cold, snow vs. rain & clouds vs. sun combined with our small amount of dust on snow will control how fast McPhee fills, but we should have a week's notice before having to spill.
3/5/16 Update: March storms came up a little below average and the snowpack started to melt, then stopped and built back up a few tenths of SWE. The end result was the forecast drifting lower and somewhat flattening at the end of the month.
The 50% Most Probable (MP) Forecast based on April 1 snowpack came in at 250 KAF, while the 70% Forecast came in at 220 KAF. The MP at 250 KAF provides a small managed release (spill) for about a week. The 70% spill will not produce a boating release if it comes down in atypical pattern. We will not plan to start this release until the reservoir elevation is between 6920 and 6922. Today McPhee is at elevation 6895 and we do not expect to reach release levels until late in May. The runoff is just starting and will rise and fall with temperatures. Upper Dolores flows usually hit their peak near May 20, a likely time for us to reach near full if the runoff comes off normally. Temperatures, new storms or dust on snow can all affect the runoff timing.
So a small spill still remains possible. It will not be definite until later in May and will be short, 5 - 10 days max, with about one week's notice before it starts. We will operate as a "fill in spill", and start releases when we approach full at 6924, available on Lake Elevation tab. Runoff timing, early vs. late, along with future weather will drive the specific size and timing of any excess water spilled downstream. We will update again in several weeks close to May 1 as new information, such as precipitation, becomes available.
You can also call 970-882-2164, x5, Ken if you have questions or #1 for the control room for current conditions.
Dolores Gage below McPhee: http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/detail_graph.aspx?ID=DOLBMCCO&MTYPE=DISCHRG
Dolores Gage at Dolores: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09166500
Slickrock Gage: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09168730
Gage at Bedrock: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09169500
Gage near Bedrock: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09171100
DWR Gages Division 7: http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/division.aspx?div=7
DWR Gages Division 4: http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/division.aspx?div=4
You can create your own "My Stations" on the DWR website to monitor all desired gages at once.
The most current releases are available at Division of Water Resources site, Dolores gage below McPhee, http://www.dwr.state.co.us. See more rafting detailed recommendations from our local Public Lands office at http://www.blm.gov/co/st/en/fo/sjplc/recreation/sjdolores.html.
NOTE: Release estimates are approximate and updates will be made available based on emerging weather conditions, in-flow rates and reservoir levels. Future weekly updates will be available at this site.
additional information about rafting on the