Slaughterhouse Gage to be Discontinued! HELP!! - Mountain Buzz

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Old 04-25-2015   #1
Blade&Shaft's Avatar
Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado
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Slaughterhouse Gage to be Discontinued! HELP!!

Hey Buzzards -

See the below email from the Lead Hydrographer of the Colorado DNR, Craig Bruner. His message pertains to the water gage at Maroon Creek up here in Aspen, which reflects the water level for the Slaughterhouse section of the Roaring Fork River. About a half-dozen commercial outfitters, along with countless recreational boaters and anglers, rely on this gage to asses current river conditions throughout the year.

The issue on hand has to do with discontinuing high-flow data at levels over 325cfs, citing three reasons for doing so as stated below. The Conservancy is welcoming input on this decision currently, and as river runners we have the opportunity (and responsibility) to voice our opinions and needs here! As both a commercial guide on the Slaughterhouse section, and a recreational kayaker too, I know that not having a daily reference of the water level in this section will be devastating. And scary!

400 cfs is our minimum commercial cut-off for Slaughterhouse, which goes to say that if anything we rely of this gage at any level OVER what the Conservancy may discontinue providing. At levels over 1500cfs, Slaughterhouse becomes consistent and challenging high-level Class IV, and at levels nearing 2000cfs and above, two rapids become mostly Class V (Entrance Exam & Hells Half Mile). Our maximum commercial cut-off is near 2200cfs, largely due to the bridge near the water treatment plant becoming impossible to pass under at such elevated flows. Needless to say, at this level, trips are very intense and stressful - what if we had no idea what the level was, wondering as we negotiate PIA rapid if the boat will be able to get under the bridge or not...

Our job of safely guiding oftentimes unknowing and inexperienced paddlers down this intense stretch of river carries a heavy weight of responsibility; a burden that we gladly accept because we love The River, but a burden that is also widely overlooked and under appreciated. The severity and potential danger of this stretch was sadly illuminated by a fatality there just last summer.

From a mere safety standpoint, access to flow data in this area gives commercial and recreational boaters a reliable and safe way of knowing when the river is simply too high to run safely, or when it's too low to reasonably squeak down. This data provides much more than simple, raw numbers for us; we rely on this data to make gametime decisions that accurately and safely impact anyone participating in any river sport on this section.

I hope our river community, perhaps both locally and non-locally, can shoot a quick email to Craig below and let him know how you value the gage at Maroon Creek. If you have ever paddled the Roaring Fork River, then you know how pristine and beautiful this section is, offering everything from pee-in-your-wetsuit action to scenic wildlife-scoping floats. If you have never paddled up here, then what are you waiting for?! We should have a relatively average runoff up here in the Roaring Fork headwaters and would love to see you on the river.

Let's do our best to keep this gage up and going!!

Thanks in advance,
__________________________________________________ _______________

From: Bruner - DNR, Craig [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 1:43 PM
Subject: Roaring Fork River below Maroon Creek (ROABMCCO) gage operation status

High flow data at the subject gage (discharge exceeding 325 cfs) will no longer be verified for accuracy by measurements due to the following:

-The cableway needed to perform high flow measurements at the subject gage has been condemned.
-Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District no longer requires high flow record data for plant discharge compliance.
-No administrative need for high flow data

Accordingly, high flow measurements will not be performed at this gage to verify the rating. Gage operation/measurements will continue to provide accurate data at flows below 325 cfs (approx. Aug. 1st through April 30th). Discharge transmission will continue through the high flow period this year. The current rating should remain reasonably accurate based on below average snowpack/run-off, and corresponding stable control anticipated this year.

This notification is being sent to provide opportunity for input regarding need for high flow data at this location by other entities. Cableway replacement will be required to maintain accurate high flow data, which will require funding assistance from other entities needing continued operation, as cost estimates for replacement exceed $40,000. Please forward this to other organizations/entities you believe will be impacted by discontinued high flow data, and contact us regarding any questions or concerns you may have. Thank you.

Craig Bruner
Lead Hydrographer
Division 5 Water Resources

P 970-945-5665 x5024 f 970-945-8741
[email protected] | DWR Home

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Old 04-25-2015   #2
Colorado, Colorado
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email sent. Thanks.
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Old 04-25-2015   #3
I'm right 50% of the time
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Email sent. Included Aspen Fire, Mountain Rescue Aspen, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, Colorado Private Boaters Association, Roaring Fork Concervency and Commercial Outfitters . The cost to fix this is estimated $40,000. This is pocket change in the grand scheme of things. A Public / Private partnership should be established to help provide guidance and help secure funding for this. It would be a real headache if this guage is deprecated.
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Old 04-25-2015   #4
Lakewood, Colorado
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It sounds like they will still continue to operate the gage, so you should still be able to get info from it at all flow levels. If the riverbed shifts then you'll start seeing some inaccuracies at higher flows because they wont be going back out to verify stage-discharge at higher flows... but I would imagine that it is going to be useful for many years to come.
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Old 04-25-2015   #5
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what gage?
seems like everytime i look it up, it is wrong. clearly wrong.
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Old 04-25-2015   #6
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Originally Posted by spencerhenry View Post
what gage?
seems like everytime i look it up, it is wrong. clearly wrong.

Is also used by: Riverbrain:US/Colorado/Roaring Fork River/Slaughterhouse

And the only time I have seen it wrong is when it is very cold. As for long term, I think it is best to replace cabeling as per the PR and know that it will be good for many years to come.
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Old 04-26-2015   #7
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
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Don't you mean its not going to be discountinued, its just not going to be verified for accuracy? Maybe you should alter the title of this thread.
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Old 04-27-2015   #8
Denver, Colorado
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The title of the post is wrong. Perhaps the poster and other folks do not understand how gauges work.

The gauge will still work and will still be online. The gauge will measure river stage (height of water level) and a correlation called a rating table will be used to show the cfs that ties to that height. All this note is saying is that they will no longer make high flow measurements of cfs flow, and will no longer update the rating table correlalation. So over the years, the actual cfs in the river and the reported cfs might drift apart, but high will still be high, and low will still be low.

What that means is... in normal years... maybe nothing. Guage is really close. No issue. In a big flow year, if the river bottom changes, the gauge height to cfs relationship could be changed. This could mean that 1000 cfs now feels like 1200 cfs. You will know if the river is min/low/med/high. And you will get all the data online. Not that every gauge is an estimate that has an undertainty range and its larger than you think. Just because the gauge says 689 cfs doest mean that the gauge call tell the difference between 689 and 688.

For those looking for more info....

A gauge measures the height of the water call "stage". When boaters refer to 4ft or 3 marks on the stick gauge, they are relating gauge height. To get cfs flow from river stage, a rating table is built. To build a rating table, a technician measures river flow at multiple gauge heights and builds an equation for the relationship between height and flow. To measure the flow, river depth and velocity is measured at multiple points across the channel and an equation is used to calculate cfs flow.

For a small creek or low water, a technician can wade across the creek to measure the depth and velocity. For a swift moving stream or a large river, technicians typically use a cable across the river so that they can drop measuring equipment in the river. This is why a typical gauge consists of the small structure on the side of the river as well as a cable across the river at the same point.

When the river bed changes due to sedimentaion or rearrangement after a flood, the depth of the channel cross section changes and now the height to cfs flow calculation can be off.

In me experience, most gauges have an error band. Some gauges are in spot that change frequenty and the gauges get recalibrated annualy or relatively often. Clear creek in golden would be recalibrated on an annual basis and would sometimes be +/- 100-200 cfs at higher flows.

I don't think that there is a huge deal about not doing high flow calcualtions. If there were a way to get the $40k to build a new cable, that would be great, but I don't think we should get alarmed, start calling up agencies, and make this into a big deal about not knowing what the river is flowing or calling it a safety issue. Its not.
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Old 04-27-2015   #9
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Damn Gina

Ian just dropped some science

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Old 04-27-2015   #10
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Roaring Fork Valley, Colorado
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Originally Posted by deepsouthpaddler View Post
The title of the post is wrong. Perhaps the poster and other folks do not understand how gauges work. (as much as you do)
Thanks for the detailed and informative response though. I really just put this out there in response to an email from the Roaring Fork Conservancy sent to local outfitters in the area. I guess the Conservancy found it a pertinent enough issue to make us aware of, encouraging us to then direct any questions, comments, or concerns to Craig.

Thanks again to all responses so far
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