Ruedi water release boost to help fish
BASALT ” Extra water will be released from Ruedi Reservoir this week with the intention of helping four endangered species of fish on the Colorado River without endangering humans in the Roaring Fork Valley.
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced Wednesday it will increase the water releases from Ruedi from the current level of nearly 400 cubic feet per second (cfs) to just shy of 850 cfs by Sunday. The releases will be boosted in 50 cfs increments morning and evening, according to Carlos Lora, a water resources engineer with the bureau.
The higher releases come just after rivers and streams in the area reached a high point of the spring runoff season thus far on Wednesday morning. Water levels from runoff were expected to decrease in the next few days because of cooler temperatures. Aspen didn’t make it out of the 50s for a high Wednesday and conditions were cloudy. Snow was forecast for elevations above 9,500 feet Wednesday night.
Nevertheless, greater releases could fray the nerves of people living along the rivers after water reaches the banks Wednesday. Lora said the reclamation bureau will monitor weather forecasts and streamflow projections to avoid flooding.
“I don’t think there will be any problems for anyone,” he said. “If we start causing problems, we will cut back the releases.”
Reclamation bureau officials have said in the past that flooding on the Fryingpan River isn’t an issue in Basalt until the level reaches close to 900 cfs.
Water releases from Colorado reservoirs will be coordinated to create high water on the Colorado River near Grand Junction for the fish recovery program. The goal is to create high flows on the Colorado River without causing flooding, Lora said.
The high flows improve the habitat for the pikeminnow, humpback chub, razorback sucker and bonytail; Colorado natives that haven’t fared well since humans built dams. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is supervising the fish recovery program. It has a contract with the Bureau of Reclamation for water from Ruedi to help with the recovery.
In past years, water releases were coordinated from the Dillon, Green Mountain, Williams Fork and Wolford Mountain reservoirs as well as Ruedi, as part of the program. It couldn’t be determined Wednesday if all the reservoirs are participating this year.
Lora said the change in the water levels of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork rivers will be hard to perceive on a daily basis, but more visible over the course of four days. By Sunday’s peak release, the Fryingpan River will be up about 8 inches higher than it was right below the dam, he said.
Basalt and Pitkin County emergency management officials have been told about the increased water releases.
The peak release will continue into Monday, when officials supervising the fish recovery program will confer with the bureau and plan strategy, Lora said.
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