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Ruedi, willing and able

BASALT A below-average snowpack in the Fryingpan Valley won’t ruin the summer for boaters on Ruedi Reservoir or anglers in the Fryingpan River, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said Thursday.The bureau, which operates the dam at Ruedi, said the reservoir will fill high enough to use boat ramps from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. The sweet spot in the reservoir for use of the Aspen Yacht Club and Dearhammer boat ramps is 85,000 acre-feet. Ruedi marina is usable at lower levels.”It’s looking like a good year for the boat ramps again this year,” said bureau spokeswoman Kara Lamb.The reservoir is expected fill to its capacity of about 102,000 acre-feet by late June or early July, according to the bureau’s projections. It will fill even though inflow of water is expected to be only 89 percent of average because of the low snowpack.The agency’s statistics show that the average inflow was 88,700 acre-feet between 1975 and 2003. This year, it is expected to be 78,900 acre-feet.The inflow spiked earlier this month when warm weather hit, but it is still expected to peak in the second week of June.The bureau altered its usual water management strategy at Ruedi this year to offset the low snowpack. The agency typically uses releases to draw the water level down to about 60,000 acre-feet to prepare for the spring runoff. It allowed the water level to drip just below 70,000 acre-feet this year. Anglers on the Fryingpan River below the dam can expect lower flows than usual in late May and June, Lamb said. In 2006, outflow peaked at 800 cubic feet per second for one week in late May. The bureau coordinated water releases from Ruedi with other reservoirs in the state to benefit riparian areas in the lower Colorado River that are habitat for endangered fish.This year, the agency is forecasting more moderate releases but for a longer time period. One possible scenario has releases of between 300 and 400 cubic feet per second throughout June. If Ruedi participates in a coordinated release program with other reservoirs, releases could top 400 cfs for a short period in July, Lamb said.Either way, anglers benefit this year. Flows of around 800 cfs make fishing difficult because of the high water flow. Anglers say flows in the 300 to 400 cfs range are more manageable.For the record, the Fryingpan River above Basalt really sizzled at this time of year before it was tamed. Spring flows hit 2,200 cfs before completion of the Ruedi dam in 1968, according to the bureau’s records.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.


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