POSTED BY KEN CURTIS ON MAY 4, 2017
Thursday May 4, 2017: McPhee release is at 4,000 CFS today and runs Friday & Saturday, until the start of Sunday at 12:00 AM, then ramp down starts at 800 CFS per 24 hours until we hit 800 CFS on May 11.
The May 1st inflow forecast dropped again. McPhee releases may not make it to Memorial Day near the end of May. Boatable releases (800 CFS minimum) will last through the afternoon of Sunday May 21. We will need to fill McPhee at that point. More detail on future weekend, May 13-14 & 20-21, release rates as we get closer.
The next weather system (a closed low pressure system) currently off the California coast is confusing the CBRFC forecast. It may reach our area and could provide the necessary moisture to extend rafting through the end of May. The mid-month forecast should show up on May 15 or 16. There is significant snow left, but inflow models continue to drop. We will continue to provide updates and may extend boating releases beyond May 21st as McPhee fills and runoff forecasts firm up.
2017 Release Planning: This 2017 release and boating season on the lower Dolores is unique for several reasons: high reservoir levels coming into spring of 2017, large snow-packs in mountains, and an early start to the runoff from the mountains. The conditions in 2017 have given us a rare opportunity to provide a range of flows in the river and to achieve a more natural peak flow release of 4,000 CFS for several days. With input and monitoring work from diverse stakeholders on the Dolores River Native Fish Monitoring & Recommendation Team, providing different flow levels on the river is helping to test and achieve multiple ecological/habitat objectives set forth in a collaborative plan that was originally approved by local stakeholders in 2014. Providing a range of flows to test and meet ecological objectives also provides excellent boating conditions, including the ability for recreational users to experience the Dolores River at different flow levels in the same year. With the remaining water, we will fill the reservoir (ensuring security for water users) and – as much as possible – provide releases that meet boatable flows. Memorial Day and June boatable flows are at risk and may or may not happen. We will know more about Memorial Day and June as we approach those dates. We understand the frustration in this uncertainty, and we are consistently working to manage flows and reservoir levels to meet all stakeholders’ needs and will continue to provide information here that allows boaters to best prepare for Dolores River boating trips.
BOATABLE RELEASES ARE 800 CFS – 1,900 CFS
OPTIMAL RELEASES ARE 1,900 – 2,100 CFS
HIGH RELEASES ARE 2,100 CFS AND GREATER
New Notice: The CDOT bridge work at Bedrock construction proceeds and may need to schedule short closures soon. Please monitor updates at the CDOT website:
Continue to watch the releases below McPhee at http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/detail_graph.aspx?ID=DOLBMCCO&MTYPE=DISCHRG and the gages linked below.
BLM: Conditions on the river, especially below Gypsum Valley, have been reported as very dry and risk of campfires getting out of control is a serious concern. Last year’s grasses are dry and not yet replaced by green spring growth. Additionally, spring winds are picking up. PLEASE use extra caution when camping in the river corridor. Keep any cooking fires small. As always, use your fire pan and blanket. Select an area for your fire pan that is away from dry fuels. Monitor the wind. Ensure your fire is cold before going to bed. Have water and a shovel at hand at all times. Thank you and have a safe and enjoyable trip!
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 and other information here from Dolores River Boating Advocates: www.doloresriverboating.org
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 https://www.codot.gov/news/2017-news/march/caution-to-boaters-near-co-90-bedrock-bridge-low-bridge-in-place-through-april-8-intermittent-river-closures-begin-mid-april 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 http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/385/.
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: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09165000
Dolores Gage: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09166500
McPhee Elevation & Capacity: http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/detail_tabular.aspx?ID=MCPRESCO&MTYPE=ELEV
Dolores below McPhee: http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/detail_graph.aspx?ID=DOLBMCCO&MTYPE=DISCHRG
Slickrock Gage: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09168730
Bedrock Gage: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09171100
Ramping Down: As McPhee approaches full, we attempt to start ramping down McPhee downstream boating releases when the Dolores inflow matches the total McPhee diversions and releases. 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 diminishing.