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2017-4-13 McPhee Release Update


2017 McPhee Release Update


April 13, 2017:  MCPHEE DOWNSTREAM RELEASES CONTINUE AT +/- 1,200 CFS through the weekend, but high pressure has set up and if weather patterns stay warm and sunny we will schedule higher releases.  See below for more detail about future anticipated changes.


Summary:  The near term forecast looks sunny and warming.  The higher runoff started today, Thursday, and the reservoir elevation started up again this morning.  We plan to not exceed McPhee elevation of 6920 through the end of April.   The April forecast did not change quantity, but the recent storms have delayed the timing.  We continue working on various scenarios to achieve multiple goals including:  optimum flows of 1,900 – 2,000 CFS, high flows of 2,500 – 4,000 CFS and continue releases through Memorial Day weekend.   We still expect to release around 250,000 AF that will make McPhee releases last approximately 60 days.  More detail below.


Continue to watch the releases below McPhee at and the gages linked below.


The sunny warming weather finally brought increasing inflows this morning, a few days later than anticipated.  Continued warm & dry weather should continue higher inflow that may be accelerated by newest layers of dust.  Once the reservoir elevation starts climbing we will adjust releases to maintain 6920 by the end of April.  The current driver will be how long the current high pressure ridge remains over the 4 Corner region.  A small low pressure system may hit our mountains next week, but may be deflected north.  The higher inflow is raising the reservoir elevation that in turn should trigger higher releases in the ”Optimum” range of 1,900 to 2,000 CFS later this month.


We still plan for the higher boating releases, 2,500 to 4,000 CFS, in early May and will give 2 weeks’ notice hopefully next Thursday.  It still looks like we will reach appropriate trigger elevations in the first half of May and hope to solidify our schedule next week on the optimum flows followed by the higher boating releases.


After the higher release peak, downstream flows will vary, but remain boatable, to raise the reservoir elevation ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.  2017 Operations are still forecast to release 250,000 AF downstream over a minimum of 60 days taking us to Memorial Day weekend.   Final release rates over Memorial Day will depend on how April & May inflow comes down and final April – July runoff volume.



Several Notices:

SLICKROCK:  Slickrock put-in/take-out access will happen on private property downstream of Hwy 141 bridge (bridge crosses Dolores River) about 200 yards past bridge on river left.  Look for small flagging in bushes on left.  DO NOT use the old boat ramp on river right upstream of bridge.  That is private property and is not accessible this season.  Additional info about Slickrock access here from DRBA:

BEDROCK BRIDGE:  The temporary equipment bridge (the low clearance one) was removed Thursday afternoon March 30. No intermittent closures are expected for a week or two. When a more definitive start date is available CDOT will provide notice.  Please see their website at  and look for signs, spotters and other guidance from the contractor, SEMA Construction, when the intermittent closures are active.


American Whitewater also provides good information about this year’s rafting opportunities and details for boaters at


DOVE CREEK PUMPHOUSE ROAD:  Please be careful of heavy traffic in and out of the Dove Creek Pumps launch site.  The road narrows and trucks with trailers cannot pass each other at certain points.  Consideration of others and patience are appreciated here.


Rico Gage:


Dolores Gage:


McPhee Elevation & Capacity:


Dolores below McPhee:


Slickrock Gage:


Bedrock Gage:


Ramp down is not currently expected until early June, but that schedule could change depending on continued spring weather.  The snow on the ground that is starting to melt will carry us through the first 45 days.  When the Dolores Inflow matches the McPhee outflow on the way down a last peak we will start ramping down.  From 800 CFS down we cut back to 600 over 24 hours and then hold for 24 hours.  This pattern repeats through 400, then 200 then down to 75 CFS and we’re done.  Ultimately you will have 4 days from 800 CFS to below 400 CFS when the releases start down.