Cutting river flows keeps water in reservoirs

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation started banking water Monday for next spring, squeezing releases from Crystal Dam.

Officials with the Aspinall Unit on the Gunnison River reduced flows down the river by 150 cubic feet per second, an amount that will cut flows on the river through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park from 450 cfs to 300 cfs.

“We’ll be down near minimum flows as the river goes through the park,” said Erik Knight, a hydrologist with the bureau’s Grand Junction office.

The bureau usually begins restricting flows Oct. 1, but this year it also has to factor endangered fish downstream into its management of the river.

Tributary flows are contributing enough water to the river below the Gunnison Forks that the river was running at 1,000 cfs at Whitewater.

The change will reduce flows at Whitewater to about 800 cfs.

The bureau is hoping to end December with about 315,000 acre-feet of water stored behind Blue Mesa Dam.

The maximum wintertime storage is 581,000 acre feet and, “We’re well below that,” Knight said.

“We’re just hoping for next springtime” to swell the reservoirs again.

Paonia Reservoir, which is used for irrigation, will begin filling this November.

It generally fills each year and is expected to do so again this winter and spring, Knight said.

“It’s the bigger reservoirs where we have a problem,” he said.


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