McPhee Release Update for Wednesday May 22, 2019

The managed release for Memorial Day weekend has begun. Today, McPhee is releasing 400 CFS downstream as it ramps up to 1,200 CFS by the morning of Friday May 24th at a rate of about 400 CFS/day. The 1,200 CFS flows will be maintained through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of Memorial Day weekend. On the morning of Tuesday May 28th, flows will ramp down to 800 CFS and will remain there through noon on Thursday May 30th, when releases will begin to ramp down to 200 CFS at the standard ramp-down rate of 100 CFS/day. This pause in the spill is a reaction to the lower-than-predicted inflows McPhee has been receiving as a result of the cold weather, and is planned in order to give the reservoir a chance to fill, as McPhee cannot simultaneously fill & spill on these current low inflows, and McPhee must be filled during the runoff season. When McPhee gets closer to full, we can better manage the forecasted inflow error, which is currently at +/- 40,000 AF.  We have a 70% probability – based on current volumetric inflow forecasts – of having excess water later in June. The current 10 day forecast indicates below normal temperatures and high chances for rain, which pushes the “re-open” date to between June 9th – 16th, though that date is subject to updated forecasts and has not been confirmed yet.

We will continue monitoring conditions with the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center (CBRFC) and will continue to post updates as the forecast changes to give as much notice as possible, primarily on Mondays and Thursdays (this post on Wednesday May 22nd will serve as the post for Thursday May 23rd) with any new information and decisions.

Nominally, that completes today’s update; however, for those interested in learning more on the current decision sequence, please read on.

The May 1st forecast originally had more volume coming into McPhee than storage space available, so on May 3rd we tried to foreshadow releases starting before Memorial Day.  Many people planned on that announcement.  As we talked to the forecasters, we learned that the weather pattern of closed lows that made all this extra wet cool weather recently were highly unpredictable. By May 15th we saw the snow pack was going to hang in the mountains and that we would miss projected reservoir elevation targets, but accommodated Memorial Day anyway.  About 190 KAF has come down already this season, and while we know water is still up there, we do not know if there is 160,000 AF left or 190,000 AF left or exactly when it will come down, both of which will determine how much excess water is available to spill. Therefore, we decided to continue with an announced spill over Memorial Day and some fish monitoring flows afterwards with the potential to have to shut down the spill after those monitoring flows.  Since last Friday May 17th the Dolores River flows have dropped from 2,900 CFS to 1,000 CFS. Continuing the spill after the 30th would likely cause a loss in reservoir elevation. We will have to ramp down after May 30th. The 10 day weather forecast remains below average with chance of clouds & rain which can both slow the melt.  When we get into some more predictable sunny weather and river inflows increase, which usually happens in June, we should be able to continue spilling any excess water.

Also, there has been a statement floating around about this year being at “300% of snowpack”, and this has caused some confusion. What this means is that, for this day of the year, May 22nd – when most of our SNOTELS have traditionally melted out to zero – we are three times as high as we have been on average for this day in previous years. It does not mean that the current remaining snow is a record amount compared to the traditional snowpack peak dates, which are around April 1st of most years. It only means that what snow we have is lingering longer than normal.

If you have questions, the best way to address DWCD is through the “Contact” page of this website. Otherwise you can try calling 970-882-2164 extensions 5, 1 or 6.

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

Monday May 20, 2019 McPhee Release Update

Today’s update is largely unchanged from lats week’s. McPhee continues to release temperature suppression flows of about 100 CFS downstream on top of the current fishery releases, bringing the total releases to approximately 140 CFS. These flows will run until the beginning of the managed release or “spill”, which will start after noon tomorrow, Tuesday May 21st. Releases will increase at a rate of about 400 CFS per day in order to achieve releases of 1,200 CFS by the morning of Friday May 24th. This rate will be maintained through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of Memorial Day weekend. On the morning of Tuesday May 28th, flows will ramp down to 800 CFS and will remain there at least through noon on Thursday May 30th.

Due to the active low pressure patterns that continue to attenuate inflows into the reservoir, McPhee is not filling at the anticipated rate. As a result, the spill may be temporarily shut down around the end of the month in order to allow the reservoir to fill before beginning releases again. When this would begin and how long it would last depends largely on what the inflows do in the next several days.

There is still a significant amount of uncertainty associated with both the modeled runoff volumes and the weather forecasts. Like the last two weeks, inflows into McPhee continue to fluctuate in reaction to the varying low-pressure systems moving over the region. This uncertainty makes planning the managed release particularly challenging and is expected to continue into the known future. It is impossible at present to determine the length, volume, and timing of the release after May 30th. There is a good chance that inflow forecasts may stabilize in early June with the possibility of a high-pressure ridge settling over the area, freeing inflows to follow more traditional and predictable runoff patterns.

As always, managers are monitoring conditions and are in regular communication with the CBRFC. Managers will continue to post updates on Mondays and Thursdays with any new information and decisions.

DWCD and the USBR have been working together in communication with representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Dolores River Boating Advocates, and American Whitewater in order to optimize the spill to achieve both recreational and ecological goals within the constraints of project operations, maximizing downstream opportunities while satisfying the regular operational goals of the Bureau, the District, and McPhee Reservoir.

 

If you have questions, the best way to address DWCD is through the “Contact” page of this website. Otherwise you can try calling 970-882-2164 extensions 5, 1 or 6.

 

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

Tuesday May 14, 2019 McPhee Release Update

Today, McPhee will begin running temperature suppression flows of about 100 CFS downstream in support of the fishery – this will be on top of the current fishery releases of 40 CFS, bringing the total releases to approximately 140 CFS. These flows will run until the beginning of the managed release or “spill”, which will start on Tuesday May 21st. Releases will then increase at a rate of about 400 CFS per day in order to achieve releases of 1,200 CFS by the morning of Friday May 24th. This rate will then be maintained through Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday of Memorial Day weekend. On the morning of Tuesday May 28th, flows will ramp down to 800 CFS and will remain there at least through noon on Thursday May 30th. The managed release is expected to continue after May 30th for an undetermined period of time and at undetermined flow rates.

There is still a significant amount of uncertainty associated with both the modeled runoff volumes and the weather forecasts. While almost all of the low snow in McPhee’s drainage basin has melted out, there is still a substantial amount of high-elevation snow (above 9,500 ft) remaining. Like last week, inflows into McPhee continue to fluctuate in reaction to the varying low-pressure systems moving over the region. This uncertainty makes planning the managed release particularly challenging and is expected to continue into the known future. It is impossible at present to determine the length of the release after May 30th. There is a good chance that inflow forecasts may stabilize in early June with the possibility of a high-pressure ridge settling over the area, freeing inflows to follow more traditional and predictable runoff patterns.

As always, managers are monitoring conditions and are in regular communication with the CBRFC. Expect the next website update early next week, when managers will begin posting regular updates twice weekly, as information comes in and the spill evolves.

DWCD and the USBR have been working together in communication with representatives from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Dolores River Boating Advocates, and American Whitewater in order to optimize the spill to achieve both recreational and ecological goals within the constraints of project operations, maximizing downstream opportunities while satisfying the regular operational goals of the Bureau, the District, and McPhee Reservoir.

 

If you have questions, the best way to address DWCD is through the “Contact” page of this website. Otherwise you can try calling 970-882-2164 extensions 5, 1 or 6.

 

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

 

Wednesday May 8, 2019 McPhee Release Update

Today’s message is largely unchanged from the last update. McPhee continues to rise rapidly. Inflows have slowed some with the low snow running out, but the reservoir elevation continues to increase by about a foot per day. Current near-term weather forecasts have a low pressure system settling over southwest Colorado through the coming week, and the cooler weather may slow down inflows more, increasing uncertainty in the forecast.

McPhee should still be approaching full the week before Memorial Day, which likely will start the 2019 “spill” (managed release).
Managers are monitoring weather conditions and are in regular communication with the CBRFC. The next website update will be early next week. After that, plan on regular updates on Mondays and Thursdays, as well as with any significant changes.

For planning purposes at this stage, the spill looks to last 3 -4 weeks, though the length and volume of the spill remain unknown.  Although the start may vary by a few days, the first half of the spill is still more certain than the second.

Friday May 3, 2019 McPhee Release Update with PS

A quick update on current conditions. McPhee continues to rise over a foot per day, while diversion demands remain very low. The tremendous low snow below 9,000′ has generated most of the runoff and inflows to date, while keeping much of the irrigated lands from drying. The upper elevation snow had just started to melt when the last stormed slowed or stopped the high elevation melting, added a few more inches and practically stopped the irrigation diversions briefly.

This sunny weekend should start the melt back up, then NOAA’s CBRFC is watching a closed low for late next week that will drive the next cool off that slows the runoff. After that low, they expect increasing sun and snow melt to return.

What all this means is McPhee should be close to full the week before Memorial Day, which likely will start the 2019 “spill” (managed release).
We hope to have a clearer picture and post an update next Wednesday afternoon.

PS:  For planning purposes at this stage the spill looks to last 3 -4 weeks, but we hope to clarify that next week.  Although the start may vary a few days, the first half is more certain than the second.

Friday May 3, 2019 McPhee Release Update

A quick update on current conditions.  McPhee continues to rise over a foot per day, while diversion demands remain very low.  The tremendous low snow below 9,000′ has generated most of the runoff and inflows to date, while keeping much of the irrigated lands from drying.  The upper elevation snow had just started to melt when the last stormed slowed or stopped the high elevation melting, added a few more inches and practically stopped the irrigation diversions briefly.

This sunny weekend should start the melt back up, then NOAA’s CBRFC is watching a closed low for late next week that will drive the next cool off that slows the runoff.  After that low, they expect increasing sun and snow melt to return.

What all this means is McPhee should be close to full the week before Memorial Day, which likely will start the 2019 “spill” (managed release).

We hope to have a clearer picture and post an update next Wednesday afternoon.

2019 McPhee Release Update

April 23, 2019:  The Dolores River Basin reached peak snowpack at the beginning of April, and since then, the melt has begun in earnest. The annual runoff into McPhee Reservoir has started in turn, and is tracking well with historic median Dolores River flows. McPhee is now growing over a foot in elevation per day, with 44 feet to go before reaching full. April brought below average precipitation, but has been compensated for by the near record snowpack levels. It is still unclear how much last fall’s dry soil moistures will affect the runoff volume.

With all that said, the CBRFC’s forecasts have stayed near 420 KAF for the April through July runoff season. That volume is expected to produce some excess water that will be released for raftable downstream flows; however, the large volume remaining to be filled in McPhee pushes any managed “spill” releases back to around late May or early June.

Managers continue to monitor all changing conditions to confirm the forecast and projected runoff volumes. As the runoff season progresses, the accuracy of the forecasted inflow volumes that drive the spill continues to improve. Based on the lack of information on upcoming conditions and public input, it has not yet been confirmed whether there will be Memorial Day releases. Managers expect to be able to provide a couple weeks’ notice prior to any spill releases based on rising McPhee elevations and near-term CBRFC forecasts. We should receive a forecast update around May 6th, and we’ll follow up with another website update near May 8th.  Please follow all the details at the links below:

Dolores River at Dolores Gage:

https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?cb_00045=on&cb_00060=on&cb_00065=on&format=gif_default&site_no=09166500&period=30&begin_date=2019-04-16&end_date=2019-04-23

McPhee Reservoir Elevation:

http://www.dwr.state.co.us/Surfacewater/data/detail_graph.aspx?ID=MCPRESCO&MTYPE=ELEV

Note that the large flows below McPhee at Slickrock and below are coming from all the low elevation snow melting out of Narraguinnep Canyon, Disappointment Creek and other small tributaries.  Similar large flows sourced from low snow are currently helping to fill McPhee at twice the rate of the Dolores River inflows alone.  It remains unclear how many weeks of higher flows will be sustained by the low snow volumes.

2019 McPhee Release Update

April 4, 2019:  Following the record snowfalls of early March, which substantially increased the runoff forecasts for McPhee, late March was drier than predicted by CBRFC, which tempered the official forecast by April 1st. Despite this, chances for a managed release are still over 50%.

Currently, the local SNOTEL sites are averaging 155% of the median snowpack for the beginning of April. The sites have already shown some sign of melt, indicating that the runoff is beginning. According to the CBRFC, looking forward, we’re moving into a wetter, more active period in terms of precipitation. Their model currently predicts both a weak storm system coming in Saturday and a more robust storm system around Tuesday to Thursday next week. These storms will likely reduce temperatures and slow the melt to some degree. They anticipate average to above-average precipitation during the next two-week period, though these storms are expected to influence the runoff more through reduced temperatures and increased cloud cover than through any increase in precip.

McPhee is still near the bottom of its active pool, and due to the large volume which must be restored, any spill would not start until mid to late May and could last from 1 to 4 weeks.  At most of 2 months out, this leaves some time still to monitor and plan.

The Bureau of Reclamation has set a public meeting on April 18th at 7:00 PM at the Dolores Community Center to discuss the managed release and operations. The next update will be around April 22nd after the next CBRFC mid-month forecast. For the next few weeks, releases below McPhee will remain at 40 CFS for the downstream fishery.

2019 McPhee Release Update

March 20,2019:  The record snowfalls of early March have pushed forecasts up 50% driving the chances of a McPhee managed release, “spill”, over 50%.  Based on current low storage any spill would not start until mid to late May and could last from 2 to 4 weeks.  That leaves it almost 2 months out to monitor and plan.  Reclamation will set a public meeting in mid-April that we will post here ahead of time.  Next update will be around April 5 after the new CBRFC forecast. For the next few weeks releases below McPhee will remain at 40 CFS.

2019 McPhee Release Update

Thursday March 7, 2019:  McPhee is currently releasing 40 CFS for the downstream fishery. Releases in April will be planned later in March using CBRFC’s mid-month runoff forecast.

The CBRFC runoff forecasts for the McPhee basin have been growing rapidly through the season, and have surpassed the historical average runoff. More, the current snowpack is already greater than the historical average according to the SNOTEL sites in the basin. While it is still unlikely that there will be a spill (or managed release) in 2019, there is currently estimated to be a 10-15% probability of a small “fill-and-spill” type release occurring later during the runoff season this year, around late May at the earliest. Please note that this possibility is predicated on the continued higher-than-average precipitation as a result of the active atmospheric conditions this season as well as an average runoff pattern in the Dolores River basin.

We will continue to monitor conditions and will update this page in April with preliminary downstream release projections for the 2019 Water Year.

CBRFC Website: https://www.cbrfc.noaa.gov/wsup/graph/front/espplot_dg.html?year=2019&id=MPHC2