Water reservoirs begin filling our streams | VailDaily.com

Water reservoirs begin filling our streams

Cliff Thompson

The prevailing fear in the depth of the summer’s drought was water, typically released in winter, would have to be released in the summer and fall – leaving little or none for later. The drought, the worst in 175 or more years, broke with heavier-than-normal rains and snows in the fall and early winter.

Last year, water was released from Eagle Park in November. This year the first release was made Jan. 2.

“I’m pleased with the weather pattern and the snow, and that the streams are staying in good shape,” said Dennis Gelvin, general manager of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, which provides water and sewer services from East Vail to Wolcott. “If we get an extended cold snap, it could impact flows and we could have to make additional releases.”

Water will be released until March.

Two cubic feet per second, or cfs, of water is being released into Gore Creek from the Black Lakes atop Vail Pass; another 2 cfs is being released into he Eagle River from the Eagle Park Reservoir, east of Camp Hale.

The water will help keep the river from freezing, as well as repay a debt incurred when water was diverted by local water users, said Gelvin, who estimated the water debt at 180 acre-feet, or enough water to cover 180 football fields a foot deep.

Water in the Black Lakes is owned by the water district, while water in Eagle Park is owned by a consortium consisting of Vail Resorts, the water district, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority and the Colorado River Water Conservation District.

Now the concern is if there will be enough snow to refill the reservoirs for next season, Gelvin said, adding that up to 800 acre-feet can be released from Eagle Park and 300 from Black Lakes.

“We’re confident of the refill of Black Lakes. If we only use 180 or 200 acre-feet from Eagle Park, our chance of refill is 85 percent,” he said.

Eagle Park started the winter at 80 percent of its 2,013-acre-foot capacity.

The flow of Gore Creek at the Vail water plant is averaging between 10 and 20 cfs, depending on the temperature.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com.

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