Ruedi hit its peak this week
An estimated 47,000 acre-feet of water will be diverted from the upper Fryingpan River basin this year to municipalities and farmers on the Front Range, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
The diversion is significantly above the paltry 14,000 acre-feet that could be diverted last year but still 13 percent below the average annual diversion of 54,000 acre-feet, according to bureau records.
The diversion season from the upper Fryingpan is just about finished, according to Kara Lamb, a spokeswoman for the agency, which manages Ruedi Reservoir’s water.
“The Boustead (diversion tunnel) is running, albeit at a low rate of under 10 cubic feet per second, diverting the last of what is available for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project from the small streams of the upper Fryingpan River Valley,” Lamb wrote in an email. “Once we get to the minimum flow of those small creeks where we have the 16 diversion dams, we will shut down our diversions.”
Law requires that minimum streamflows be maintained in the streams and river. Once that threshold is reached, diversions must cease.
The snowpack melted quickly, so the diversion season is coming to an end. Sailers and anglers might be disappointed to know the water level in Ruedi Reservoir peaked earlier this week. Even though diversions are easing, less water is flowing into Ruedi Reservoir than must be released, according to Lamb. Her email said the bureau increased the release of water by 60 cfs recently to satisfy owners of superior water rights on the Colorado River near Cameo. An additional 50 cfs was released as part of the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Plan. Ruedi Reservoir is under contract to supply more than 10,000 acre-feet of water for that federal program.
The total release from the reservoir combined with Rocky Fork Creek is producing a flow of about 268 cfs in the lower Fryingpan River below the dam, a level that generally pleases trout fishermen.
Ruedi Reservoir peaked around 95,500 acre-feet, or 93 percent of capacity, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The water level started dropping this week because the inflow fell off so drastically. About 120 cfs was flowing into the reservoir Wednesday.
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It might require a little extra preparation, but there’s no need to be afraid of colder months when going out fishing.