2017 McPhee Release Update

Thursday May 25, 2017:  McPhee releases are running 400+/- CFS.  At midnight, start of Friday, releases will continue ramping down to 200 CFS by midnight start of Saturday.  Final ramp down starts midnight Sunday and reaches 75 CFS midday Sunday 5/28.

 Lake elevation is at 6917.2 and finally rising.  McPhee should gain 3’+ over the next 6- 7 days.  Between elevation 6920 to 6922, based on weather forecasts, remaining snowpack, current inflow and the expected inflow, another decision milestone should arrive.  Based on the conditions we see next week, somewhere between Thursday June 1 and Monday June 5 we should be able to provide guidance to the end of the runoff season.  We expect to have a few days notice of any changes as McPhee approaches full.  A combination of remaining snowpack and inflow rates drive how we reach and manage topping off McPhee.

 Recent Drivers for the 2017 Downstream Releases:  Our forecasts have steadily dropped with the drier than normal spring weather.  So, as we enter the second half of May, McPhee lacks 8 feet (34,000 AF) and so it is time to fill.  The chance still exists (coin toss), based on some high pressure systems and runoff timing, that early hot June weather could bring down the remaining snow pack very quickly.  Those conditions could force running a mini “fill & spill” for 4 – 6 days.  We’re watching for those conditions, but should not approach a full reservoir for several weeks that could trigger some additional excess water.  Website updates will be more sporadic, but check back around June 2 if warm weather returns.

As usual early release plans were changed to meet real time weather and runoff conditions.  Given the changing actual conditions we were able to:

  • Advertise ahead & release 4,000 CFS for 72 hours of channel maintenance
  • Provide notice for 7 days of optimal flow releases (1,900 – 2,100 CFS)
  • Sustain boatable releases for 52 days
  • Get CPW downstream to conduct linear native fish monitoring for the first time in 6 years, finishing today

Now the collaborative partners will start evaluating all the data collected down river for future “year in review” public meetings.  The multi-year collaborative efforts on the lower Dolores have led to these release rates and associated monitoring before, during and after the high flow events.  We expect this analysis to confirm beneficial effects for the boating experience and ecological improvements and guide future refinements.   More detail on the 2017 conditions and release schedules is provided below.

2017 Release Planning:  This 2017 release and boating season on the lower Dolores is unique for several reasons:  high reservoir levels coming into spring of 2017, large snow-packs in mountains, and an early start to the runoff from the mountains. The conditions in 2017 have given us a rare opportunity to provide a range of flows in the river and to achieve a more natural peak flow release of 4,000 CFS for several days. With input and monitoring work from diverse stakeholders on the Dolores River Native Fish Monitoring & Recommendation Team, providing different flow levels on the river is helping to test and achieve multiple ecological/habitat objectives set forth in a collaborative plan that was originally approved by local stakeholders in 2014.  Providing a range of flows to test and meet ecological objectives also provides excellent boating conditions, including the ability for recreational users to experience the Dolores River at different flow levels in the same year. With the remaining water, we will fill the reservoir (ensuring security for water users) and – as much as possible – provide releases that meet boatable flows.  We understand the frustration in this uncertainty, and we are consistently working to manage flows and reservoir levels to meet all stakeholders’ needs and will continue to provide information here that allows boaters to best prepare for Dolores River boating trips.

Current Notices:

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 and other information here from Dolores River Boating Advocateswww.doloresriverboating.org

BEDROCK BRIDGE:  CDOT updates 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 .  Also 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.

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

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