Ruedi Reservoir won’t fill | AspenTimes.com
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Ruedi Reservoir won’t fill

Because of hot, dry weather, Ruedi Reservoir won't fill to capacity this year, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. (Mark Fox/The Aspen Times)
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Hot, dry weather this spring and summer will prevent Ruedi Reservoir from filling to capacity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.”We’re not going to fill up Ruedi this year. We’re going to get really close,” bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb said.She downplayed the significance of the shortage. She said the reservoir will fill to between 97,000 and 99,000 acre feet rather than the 101,000-acre-foot capacity. There is plenty of water for recreation and for the bureau to meet its obligations to entities that have purchased water, Lamb said.But a Fryingpan Valley resident and bureau watchdog contended the agency ignored signals that it would have trouble filling the reservoir.

“To me, there’s no question that they totally blew it this year,” said Bruce Gabow, who is a member of the Aspen Yacht Club and sails on the reservoir.Gabow said he brought up his concerns to bureau officials numerous times in May and June about their ability to fill the reservoir. He said he was assured that bureau officials knew what they were doing.Ruedi participated in a coordinated release of water in May with other reservoirs in the state to benefit endangered fish on the Colorado River in Grand Junction. For about one week the reservoir released its highest level of water in 11 years. The agency’s water managers were also concerned about creating enough storage space in Ruedi to make room for what had been a higher-than-average snowpack in the upper Fryingpan Valley for most of the winter.”Back in March when we started projections for the runoff year, we had record levels,” Lamb said.

But the dry spell most of Colorado has experienced in March, April, May and June drastically altered March’s high runoff projections. In June, for example, Aspen received about one-quarter inch of rain. Evaporation cut into the snowpack, and typical spring rains haven’t aided streamflow into the reservoir as anticipated.The bureau shortened the time it released peak amounts of water for the endangered fish. Originally, the program was scheduled to last for two weeks. It lasted closer to one week. Gabow said he felt releases remained too high after that program concluded in late May.”The thing that really upsets me is they kept dumping [water] after the coordinated release,” he said.In addition to releases, bureau water managers have to contend with diversions. About 56,000 acre feet has been diverted from the Fryingpan’s headwaters to east of the Continental Divide so far this year, according to bureau data.

Lamb said the water level will remain high enough through the summer to serve Ruedi’s three boat ramps. The Dearhammer campground’s public ramp at the east end of the reservoir and the Aspen Yacht Club’s private ramp require a water level of 92,000 acre feet to be functional. The Ruedi public marina on the west end remains in service to a much lower level.Lamp said Dearhammer and the yacht club were originally projected to remain in water through September. That will be reduced by a week or two since the reservoir won’t fill, she said. It could be reduced further if drought conditions persist, Lamb said. Senior water rights in the Grand Valley could place a “call” on water, which would require Ruedi to start releases in early July.Gabow said the reservoir “looks bad” when it starts emptying early. It has a bathtub ring around its edge. The lower level also has a detrimental effect on sailing and other uses, he said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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