South Platte Annual Meeting Info - Mountain Buzz

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Old 05-19-2010   #1
Denver, Colorado
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South Platte Annual Meeting Info

I attending the annual South Platte Protection Plan meeting today hosted by Denver Water. I'm taking over the informal task of getting updates from Denver Water on water releases for kayakers that Caspian (Steve) has passed over to me. Thanks to Steve for a good effort over the last couple of years.

Dave Bennet from Denver Water discussed the current water supply situation. The South Platte watershed had below average snowpack for much of the winter. Late snows combined with cool spring weather have kept the snowpack growing and at this point the South Platte watershed is 121% of average for this time of year and Denver Water's reservoirs on the South Platte are full. The 121% of average snowpack at this time really means that runoff is late in coming as average snowpack at this point is already well on the decline. Peak inches of snow water equivalent accumulated this year were below average peak. Late runoff could bode well for a decent runoff season though as we have a good amount of snow coming into the the normal runoff period.

The water supply situation on the main stem of the South Platte means that Denver Water might not need roberts tunnel water until mid June or later. At this point, Denver Water is forecasting relatively low needs for Roberts Tunnel water diversions.

The following flows were forecast average monthly flows for Roberts Tunnel
May - 68 cfs (been less than this due to precip)
June - 107 cfs
July - 238 cfs
Aug - 204 cfs
Sept - 133 cfs
Oct - 132 cfs

Roberts Tunnel will be shut off this coming winter starting sometime in Nov/Dec for several months to do maintenance. This shouldn't impact boating, but there are concerns about the private fishery impact.

I'll be in contact with Denver Water throughout the season and shoot for weekly updates for flow forecasts when Roberts Tunnel starts to kick on. For now, look for native runoff on the north fork of the south platte, and look for the reservoirs on the main stem to start bypassing runoff when it starts.

Have a great season!

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Old 05-19-2010   #2
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Old 05-19-2010   #3
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Bummer, but very thorough there Ian! Good write-up.

Thanks for being the new go-to-dude for the Bailey 411..
"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. But rather...To skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming... WOW !!!! What a ride!!!!!!"
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Old 05-20-2010   #4
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Thanks alot Ian for taking this on! Would be awsome if sometime in our lifetimes we could get some recreational releases. What a drag when it's running in the low 200's for weeks and nothing else is running.
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Old 05-20-2010   #5
oh yeah
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thanks ian. dave's a great guy with an interest in making this project work for all interested parties (kayaking, fishing, etc.) recreational releases would be sweet but it sounds like that's pretty far off. first they need to automate the tunnel. currently someone has to manually open or close the gate in granite.
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Old 05-20-2010   #6
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I'll volunteer for that possition
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Old 05-20-2010   #7
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I'm gonna talk to Denver Water about recreational release opportunities. I've done a thorough study of the plumbing, historical flow rates, water supply, snowpack, min flows, and other boundary conditions (ramp up rates etc).

Kayakers dream of rec flows at all times on bailey, or double the flows during the day and cut it at night, and I agree those are a pipe dream.

What I think is feasible, and what I plan to work for is to start with a single day or weekend scheduled release in july/aug time frame when natural runoff is on the way out and a great bailey / foxton weekend would serve boaters well. Start off small, with something not too difficult for Denver Water, and see where it goes.

My analysis is that Denver Water usually has a couple hundred cfs coming from the tunnel and a couple hundred from the mainstem for weeks on end. My proposal is to bump roberts up for weekend, while reducing main stem flows so that the north fork has good boatable flows, but that the net water going into strontia res (waterton canyon) is the same to meet the daily metro needs. After the weekend of releases, the tunnel could be cut back for a week or two, and the main stem could be increased to compensate and the net water pulled from dillon and the main stem reservoirs would not change from normal operations.

The south platte protection plan has identified whitewater as an issue worthy of consideration, and they even have min boatable flows (200) and an optimum flow range (300-500) put on their charts, but it seems to me that they really don't manage the flows in any way to enhance whitewater recreation. On the other hand, they do have significant operational management of things like water temperature to optimize fish habitat etc.

My two cents is that if they identified whitewater recreation as valuable, its not unreasonable to try and manage the flows to benefit it, as long as all the other boundary conditions (metro water needs, water calls, fish issues, reservoir management, dillon/tunnel operations) are met. After I dumped all the flow data in to spreadsheets, it was pretty obvious to me that whitewater flows would be fairly easy to manage and plan if there was a will to do so.

When I talked to Steve about requests for flows in the past, he noted that they had discussed many different options on how to manage tunnel flows, but that he never thought of managing the tunnel while balancing the main stem flows to make it all work out. The plan I have could be implemented with the same once a day tunnel output changes and rampup rate limits.

Anyway, its worthy of pursuing, even if it doesn't come to fruition in the near term. Even if it takes a long time, or never happens, I'm going to try to see what we can get done.

My long term vision is to get a handful of recreational releases in july-sept when natural runoff is done, and boaters are still looking for water. Think bailey weekend in july, big south weekend in aug, big thompson weekend in september... Certaintly would be nice...
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Old 05-20-2010   #8
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Nice Ian!

But you might want to tell them to bump up that ceiling on "optimum flow ranges" for boating. Or maybe just get rid of it all together...

I've a suggestion to keep you all occupied...learn to swim!
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Old 05-20-2010   #9
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Incredible effort Ian!
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Old 05-20-2010   #10
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I agree Roy, the optimum range they quoted seemed closer to a minimum to me. Not sure how it was originally put together.

For proposed flows for a rec relase, my thought was that 500 would be good. Might be hard pressed to get more than 500 and still be within the metro water daily needs. From what I understand, strontia has about a days capacity, and they try to match the flow into strontia with what metro daily needs are. If we requested flows in excess of daily needs, that would be "wasting water". My thought its max out the release, while still being within metro water needs, and still honoring minimul streamflow and temp requirements for both forks of the river.
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