Fryingpan to surge from dam release |

Fryingpan to surge from dam release

Scott Condon

Water releases from Ruedi Reservoir are anticipated to shoot up starting June 20 thanks to the warm temperatures and rapid snowmelt, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

“We’re having high inflows and the reservoir is close to full,” agency spokeswoman Kara Lamb said.

The bureau probably won’t be able to release enough water with the typical methods ” through a hydroplant and via large outlet tubes in the dam. So the agency will probably have to use the spillway to release more water.

Lamb stressed that use of the spillway is another form of controlled releases. There is no threat to the dam or downstream residents, she said. While rare, it’s still used periodically during high runoffs.

Ruedi holds nearly 102,000 acre feet of water. As of Friday morning it was at about 98,000 acre feet. The inflow to the reservoir from the upper Fryingpan River is at about 400 cubic feet per second right now.

“This week and next look to be the peak of the snowpack run-off for this year,” Lamb said. It looked like runoff would peak about three weeks ago. Then the weather turned cold and wet.

With runoff surging again, the agency anticipates increasing the releases into the Fryingpan River starting Monday. If inflow remains at 400 cfs once the reservoir is full, the releases will also jump to 400 cfs, Lamb said.

That would more than double the current flow of the Fryingpan. The river was at 150 cfs Friday.

Lamb said the higher flow will help create a “limited flushing flow,” which mimics what nature would be doing if the river wasn’t dammed. However, 400 cfs isn’t close to the flooding level on the Fryingpan ” even with all the development on the river’s edge at Basalt since the reservoir was created in the 1960s.

Malcolm Wilson, who helps oversee the bureau’s operation of Ruedi, said when the river flow reaches 850 to 900 cfs “we’re getting calls of concern from folks.”

Lamb said releases will be “ramped up” through next week. By the week of June 27, the releases will match the inflow. All projections depend on the weather.

“I hate to say anything because we don’t know what the weather’s gong to do,” Lamb said.

She said the bureau is putting out the word on the increased water releases so anglers can plan ahead.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is