Dillon Reservoir near record water level | VailDaily.com

Dillon Reservoir near record water level

Bob Berwyn
Vail, CO Colorado
Brad Odekirk/Summit Daily file photoDillon Dam caretaker Dave Fernandez hikes a short way up from the Glory Hole in 2005. That was the first time in four years water poured over its edge, and it's likely the same thing will happen again this year.

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Boaters could soon be enjoying one of the best seasons in recent years on the lower stretches of the Blue River.

Denver Water will soon start pumping more water out of the Dillon Reservoir. With average snow and rain the next few weeks, the boating season could last for a month. During some recent dry summers, boating the Lower Blue wasn’t even an option.

“Things are looking good, but I said that last year, too,” said Denver Water’s Marc Waage.

If there’s some extra spring moisture, boating in the Lower Blue could last nearly all summer, Waage added.

As of April 1, Dillon Reservoir was 95.6 percent full, only 3.5 feet below the level of the spillway, caretaker Dave Fernandez said.

That’s the highest level for that date since 1984 and the fourth-highest ever, Waage said. Denver Water’s entire storage system is at 90 percent of capacity, the highest April 1 storage figures since Dillon Reservoir was built, he said.

“We actually gained storage during the winter for the first time ever,” Waage said.

Heavy Front Range snows led to record winter stream flows in the South Platte. So the Roberts Tunnel, which carries water from Dillon Reservoir to the Front Range, was off all winter, Waage said.

“Obviously, we’ll easily fill the reservoir,” Waage said.

Right now, the aim is to balance between reducing the risk of flooding downstream from the reservoir and generating high-enough flows for boating and to flush sediments out of the Blue River.

The good news on the water storage front comes despite the fact that March was on the warm and dry side.

“We had 14 days of 50 degrees or warmer,” Fernandez said.

The historic average maximum temperature for the month is about 39 degrees, based on records going back to 1909, but this year, that average soared all the way to 43.1 degrees. And for the second month in a row, the average low temperatures were also well above normal; 13.8 degrees as compared to the historic average of 7.6 degrees.

And snowfall at the Dillon site was only 11 inches for the month, about half the average 22.1 inches, Fernandez said.

Still, the snowpack is holding near average, with the Blue River Basin at Hoosier Pass, Fremont Pass, Copper Mountain and Grizzly Peak reporting between 95 and 100 percent of average.

In Breckenridge, March snowfall totaled 22.5 inches at the downtown location where Rick Bly measures precipitation for the National Weather Service. That’s fairly close to the historic average of 25.6 inches. The March snowfall melted down to 1.79 inches of water, or about 85 percent of the average 1.91 inches.

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