2017 McPhee Release Update
April 3, 2017: McPhee releases continue at 1,200 CFS for this week.
Summary: After a cold opening weekend, DWCD will continue releasing 1,200 CFS below McPhee until the runoff starts climbing again later in April. A new forecast comes out this week that we will combine with the early runoff to run a new operating plan. We still expect to release around 250,000 AF that will make McPhee releases last approximately 60 days. The next paragraph goes into more detail.
See updated Slickrock and bridge notice below.
Continue to watch the releases below McPhee at http://www.dwr.state.co.us/SurfaceWater/data/detail_graph.aspx?ID=DOLBMCCO&MTYPE=DISCHRG and the gages linked below.
The “ripe” snow pack that sent an extra 30,000 to 40,000 AF down in March continues to receive more snow, but the runoff has stopped climbing with the recent cloud cover and cooler weather. We expect runoff to start rising again later this week, then stall, and then re-start next week. Consistent sunny weather will eventually settle in and rapidly increase inflow. The snow pack became isothermal (ripe) several weeks ago, which means it all reached 32 degrees and is ready to melt. As snow is a good insulator the snow pack will stay ripe and only needs the energy, sunny and warm, to start melting again at all elevations.
The inflow forecast volume from the CBRFC does not appear to be dropping, but has come down early. Therefore we still expect to release around 250,000 AF of water that should yield 60 or more boating days above 800 CFS depending on the release rates, to have a lower flow and longer or higher flow and shorter boating season. The current 1,200 CFS releases are one way to save some water quantity to increase flows later in the spill season when the weather is warmer. Delaying the jump to 2,000 CFS should also extend the spill. Other operating decisions around release rates that reflect the actual runoff conditions may likewise shorten or lengthen the season beyond our absolute control.
The McPhee operating plan must balance or trade off actual runoff rates with diversions, downstream release rates and how long to extend the spill. The inflow forecast continues to evolve over April and May even as the runoff is coming down and will continue to force changes to the spill for safety or other operational reasons. Currently we expect to reach 2,000 CFS releases later in April and still intend to run higher 4,000 CFS releases later in spring, but are still adjusting McPhee release plans to the changing runoff received to date and projections for the next four months. We will post the next update Thursday April 6 that should reflect any impacts from the April 1st forecast from CBRFC.
SLICKROCK: Slickrock put-in/take-out access will happen on private property downstream of Hwy 141 bridge (bridge crosses Dolores River) about 200 yards past bridge on river left. Look for small flagging in bushes on left. DO NOT use the old boat ramp on river right upstream of bridge. That is private property and is not accessible this season. Additional info about Slickrock access here from DRBA: www.doloresriverboating.org
BEDROCK BRIDGE: The temporary equipment bridge (the low clearance one) was removed Thursday afternoon March 30. No intermittent closures are expected for a week or two. When a more definitive start date is available CDOT will provide notice. Please see their website at https://www.codot.gov/news/2017-news/march/caution-to-boaters-near-co-90-bedrock-bridge-low-bridge-in-place-through-april-8-intermittent-river-closures-begin-mid-april and look for signs, spotters and other guidance from the contractor, SEMA Construction, when the intermittent closures are active.
American Whitewater also provides good information about this year’s rafting opportunities and details for boaters at http://www.americanwhitewater.org/content/River/detail/id/385/.
DOVE CREEK PUMPHOUSE ROAD: Please be careful of heavy traffic in and out of the Dove Creek Pumps launch site. The road narrows and trucks with trailers cannot pass each other at certain points. Consideration of others and patience are appreciated here.
Rico Gage: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/uv?09165000
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
Ramp down is not currently expected until early June, but that schedule could change depending on continued spring weather. The snow on the ground that is starting to melt will carry us through the first 45 days. When the Dolores Inflow matches the McPhee outflow on the way down a last peak we will start ramping down. From 800 CFS down we cut back to 600 over 24 hours and then hold for 24 hours. This pattern repeats through 400, then 200 then down to 75 CFS and we’re done. Ultimately you will have 4 days from 800 CFS to below 400 CFS when the releases start down.