Ruedi water-release outlook looks good for anglers |

Ruedi water-release outlook looks good for anglers

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

BASALT – Anglers on the lower Fryingpan River can expect favorable flows starting in late July or early August, but some boaters on Ruedi Reservoir will be high and dry at the same time, according to federal officials who influence water releases.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service anticipates drawing water from Ruedi that will require releases of 120 cubic feet per second late this month or early in August, according to Jana Moohrman, a hydrologist who works on the Endangered Fish Recovery Program on the lower Colorado River. Those releases will continue until about Oct. 15, she said while showing a graph of projections during a presentation at Basalt Town Hall on Thursday night.

The releases for the endangered fish combined with releases for contracted water and bypasses of the inflow will create a total flow of about 200 cfs through late summer and early fall.

“That’s a very good graph for fly fishing,” said Bill Kane, Basalt town manager and an angler.

The lower Fryingpan River is a gold-medal trout-fishing stream.

The program uses a complex formula to determine what water is used from various sources to benefit the endangered fish. Ruedi will contribute 5,000 acre-feet less than it typically does because conditions are so dry this year, Moohrman said.

Nevertheless, the releases from the reservoir will render the boat ramp at the Aspen Yacht Club unusable by early August, according to Tim Miller, water scheduler at Ruedi for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The boat ramp at U.S. Forest Service facilities just past the dam will remain in use almost all season.

Reclamation Bureau officials say there has been a “whiplash” effect with water storage in Colorado the past two years. The snowmelt was above average in 2011 and way below average this year, said Reclamation Bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb. Ruedi Reservoir peaked at 88 percent of capacity this year on June 22. It was the first time in eight years that it didn’t reach 98 percent or more of capacity.

Water releases will draw Ruedi down to about 60,000 acre-feet next winter, Miller said. The bureau will aim to keep releases above the minimum allowable of 39 cfs during the winter.

“There are very few winters where we release (only) 39 cfs,” Miller said.

The lack of snow drastically reduced the amount of water diverted this spring and summer to the Front Range via the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. Only 14,000 acre-feet were diverted from a system that features 16 diversion dams on tributaries to the upper Fryingpan River, according to Lamb. Last year 98,000 acre-feet were diverted, one of the highest volumes ever. The annual average of the past decade is 54,000 acre-feet.

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