River District boosts flows in Roaring Fork, Fryingpan Rivers in effort to reduce pressure on Green Mountain Reservoir
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The Colorado River District is working with state and federal water managers to increase flows in the Fryingpan River by as much as 100 cubic feet per second, helping trout in the watershed survive warm temperatures while supplying water for downstream irrigation needs in the Grand Valley.
Anticipated releases are expected to range between 50 and 100 cubic feet per second, and will be coordinated between the River District, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase flows in the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers downstream from Ruedi Reservoir.
“This should significantly benefit flows below Ruedi Reservoir,” said John Currier, chief engineer for the district. “We expect that the supplement flows may also help to mitigate water quality problems anticipated from fire-related ash and debris flows stemming from the Lake Christine fire on Basalt Mountain.”
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Technically, the water will be delivered downstream for Grand Valley irrigation needs while creating environmental benefits as it flows downstream. Green Mountain Reservoir releases will be reduced by an equal amount in order to conserve storage for late-season releases, which in turn will be needed to help endangered fish near Grand Junction.
The coordinated approach was given final approval by the Bureau of Reclamation on Monday, July 30. In order to boost Fryingpan levels while the plan awaited approval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service implemented a 50 cubic feet per second release from its dedicated endangered fish pool in Ruedi Reservoir on Friday, July 27. Those flows were supplemented by 30 additional cubic feet per second on Monday, bringing the flow in the Fryingpan to 200 cubic feet per second.
Both Ruedi and Green Mountain Reservoirs contribute water to the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. In this case, the changed water release plan will benefit trout below Ruedi Reservoir while endangered fish still receive water from upstream Colorado River reservoirs.
Increased flows of cold water out of Ruedi should also help to alleviate some stress on trout fisheries in the watershed brought on by higher-than-normal water temperatures. Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced voluntary fishing closures earlier this month on sections of the Colorado and Roaring Fork Rivers.
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.