Have local streams peaked?
Ryan Summerlin May 27, 2012
EAGLE COUNTY – Here’s one straight from the irony files:
As of May 24, Gore Creek in the middle of Vail was flowing a bit higher than the same date last year. Of course, there were countless tons of snow still on the hillside a year ago, prompting local officials to worry about another spring of flooding along local streams.
Last year’s streamflows peaked in mid- to late June. This year, local rivers may already have seen their high-water marks, thanks to historically low snowfall in the winter.
Diane Johnson, communications manager for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said people in her office have said Gore Creek through Vail seems to have peaked for the season.
The same is true farther down the Colorado River system. Eagle County Public Works director Tom Johnson has been told the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs peaked earlier in May.
Rivers are running at a relative trickle for this time of year across western Colorado.
In fact, the U.S. Geological Survey’s streamflow map showed just one local stream – Homestake Creek – running above its normal flow for May 25.
Streamflow is important for Eagle County, since there are only a few high-elevation reservoirs for use later in the season. That’s why water managers are keeping a close eye on streamflows.
One of the feds’ flow stations is on the Eagle River just downstream of the Avon wastewater plant. Records for that station have only been kept since 2000, but the chart paints a vivid picture.
The chart puts the May 25 average at just about 1,500 cubic feet per second. This year, the flow rate was just 619 cubic feet per second. That’s better than the 452 cubic feet per second flow rate for May 25, 2002 – the last bad drought year – but it’s not good.
While local emergency managers don’t have to worry about floods this year – except for an occasional flash flood prompted by a sudden downpour – those people are now busy with a different worry.
“We’re going to start weekly fire calls next week,” Johnson said.