Feds revise projection for Ruedi, Basalt flood threat eases
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Friday revised its projection that Ruedi Reservoir will fill to capacity Monday, easing the concerns of Basalt officials about flooding.
A spokesman for the federal agency said the amount of water flowing into the reservoir from the upper Fryingpan River has decreased from Thursday’s level and is projected by the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center to continue dropping through the weekend.
The Pitkin County Incident Management Team was mobilized Thursday to help the Basalt Police Department prepare for possible flooding, monitor river levels and educate homeowners in at-risk neighborhoods about the conditions. The incident management team raised the prospect that water might come over the spillway on the Ruedi dam. That threat has diminished, and the incident-management team will be deactivated. It reported minor flooding in the Roaring Fork Mobile Home Park but no threats to structures.
“We do not anticipate using the spillway on Monday or any days thereafter,” U.S. Reclamation Bureau hydrologist Tom Miller said in an email responding to questions from The Aspen Times. “We operate in a way to avoid using the spillway if possible.”
Sometimes, it can’t be avoided. A small amount of water went down the spillway in 2010 when there was a rapid increase in the water flowing into Ruedi. That’s an undesirable scenario because the releases into the lower Fryingpan River cannot be controlled when the spillway is in use, said Mark Fuller, director of the Ruedi Water and Power Authority for 35 years. The local agency doesn’t manage water at Ruedi but it lobbies on water issues on behalf of local governments.
Miller said the reclamation bureau was concerned earlier this week that inflows to Ruedi would continue to rise as it did in 2010. Recent heavy rains combined with the runoff from melting snow to increase the inflows.
“We were concerned that they would continue to rise as in 2010, up to 1,600 (cubic feet per second),” Miller wrote. “However, inflows only hit 1,300 cfs and have dropped and are back to manageable flows.”
The reclamation bureau’s website page showed inflow dropped to 949 cfs Thursday. The reservoir was at about 97 percent full Friday. The outflow on the lower Fryingpan has stabilized at about 750 cfs, with Rocky Fork, a creek below the dam, contributing to that amount.
“Based on current water inflow and outflow rates, it would take at least eight days for Ruedi Reservoir to fill,” said James VanShaar, acting Resources Chief for the Eastern Colorado Area Office of the Bureau of Reclamation. “We will also continue diverting water from above Ruedi to the Front Range, reducing how much water Ruedi and Fryingpan are having to handle.”
Once the reservoir is filled to capacity, the amount of water flowing in must be bypassed through the dam. In past years, Basalt officials said they were concerned about flooding of low-lying areas when the flow reaches 850 cfs.
While the flood threat has eased, water levels and flows remain high. Public safety agencies in the Roaring Fork Valley are urging anglers and swimmers to avoid the water and for river runners to carefully consider conditions before they enter.
There are three important steps residents can take to be prepared for a flooding emergency. First, create a “go kit” that includes essentials to take with you in the event you need to evacuate your home. Learn what should be in your go kit at http://goo.gl/1xnWAU. Second, monitor the areas in and around your property for changing water conditions. Last, be prepared to self-evacuate if you believe you are in danger. Do not wait for an evacuation notice from a public-safety entity.
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