Ruedi Reservoir drained to half-full level to make room for spring runoff |

Ruedi Reservoir drained to half-full level to make room for spring runoff

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen CO, Colorado

BASALT”Ruedi Reservoir has been drained to about half of its capacity as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation makes room for a high level of spring runoff.

The reclamation bureau has cranked up water releases from the Ruedi dam throughout the late winter and spring. The release into the Fryingpan River is currently about 330 cubic feet per second, according to agency spokeswoman Kara Lamb.

The water level in the reservoir is at about 55,000 acre feet ( the water needed to cover one acre to the depth of one foot – approximately 325, 851 gallons ). Ruedi holds 110,600 acre feet, although the federal agency figures the practical capacity is closer to 102,000 acre feet.

Contrary to some suspicions, this isn’t the historic low level. Lamb said the reservoir level dropped to about 46,100 acre feet in March and April of 2003. But the differences are immense, she noted. Back then, the water level was depleted because the inflow was so low during the draught of 2002. Now, the agency is purposely lowering the level to make way for the above average runoff.

Snowpack is measured in three places in the upper Fryingpan Valley by another federal agency. The readings at those sites ranged from 9 percent to 93 percent above average yesterday.

“The snowpack up the Fryingpan basin is impressive … though, we’re starting to see some changes,” Lamb wrote in an e-mail to people interested in Ruedi Reservoir operations. “It looks like that upper-elevation snow is starting to melt. The flow into Ruedi has started to come up a bit and the reservoir has essentially stopped dropping, even though we haven’t changed our release. That means, if this trend continues, we’ll be decreasing our releases pretty soon and start filling the reservoir again.”

The current water level in the reservoir is below the U.S. Forest Service boat ramp located just above the dam. The hope is the water level will increase enough to allow use of that ramp by Memorial Day weekend, Lamb’s e-mail said.

Officials from the reclamation bureau will be in Basalt Monday, May 12, to discuss Ruedi Reservoir operations. The public is invited to the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at Basalt Town Hall.

The annual operations meeting will feature discussions of how water management this spring and summer will affect water levels in Ruedi and on the Fryingpan River. The 2007 operations will be reviewed and question-and-answer session will be held.

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