Decision on release into Blue on hold
SILVERTHORNE – Denver Water is eddying out – taking a break before going forward – on a decision to release water from Dillon Reservoir for a rafting event over the Labor Day weekend.A decision was expected today on the utility’s plan to release enough water to increase flows on the Blue River north of Silverthorne to about 500 cubic feet per second (cfs) during the three-day weekend starting Sept. 3. A decision on the release could be made by Denver Water early next week. The increased streamflows would be welcomed by rafters and kayakers who look forward to commercial and private boating activities on the stretch between Silverthorne and Green Mountain Reservoir, which includes the Class III Boulder Canyon section.A similar release occurred last summer and was met with positive response from the boating community, according to Denver Water representatives.Denver Water’s decision is based this year on a rule issued by the Colorado Division of Water Resources, which for the first time is requiring extra water for transit loss.
Transit loss is the amount of water absorbed by river banks and evaporation while the water is routed downstream.State Water Engineer Hal Simpson said Tuesday he assessed a possible 1.6 percent transit loss on the Blue – .08-percent-per-mile. The figure compares to the state’s rivers at lower elevations that are assigned a transit loss of 10 percent per mile.This is the first time a transit loss will be assessed on the Blue. Marc Waage, water resource engineer for Denver Water, said Wednesday the utility is not sure if the state’s transit loss assessment is appropriate on the Blue.”We’ve got to understand the basis for what they’re charging, what it will be in the future and we need some time to think about it,” Waage said. “It could set a precedent for the future and it could keep growing.”Rafting outfitters are likely to start making reservations to run commercial boats down Boulder Canyon as soon as the release is confirmed. “We’re eagerly anticipating good news and hopefully will hear that the Blue will run over Labor Day,” said Christy Campton, owner of Frisco-based Kodi Rafting. “We have our fingers crossed.”
Concern for sailing and fishingWhile it tries to provide a local boating venue for outfitters, Denver Water is in the precarious position of keeping the area’s other recreationists happy. The Labor Day release would cause the reservoir to drop about one foot in three days, possibly affecting the Frisco and Dillon marina operations. “That is a concern,” Waage said. “When we contacted both Dillon and Frisco, they suggested we not do the event until Labor Day and it seemed it would be OK if we held off that long.”Fishing conditions are also likely to change with an influx of water in the Blue’s banks.
“We’ve talked it over with the Division of Wildlife, and their concern is that we carefully ramp up flow and ramp it back down again,” Waage said. “That’s what we did last year. They also don’t want us to do it too late in the season to affect the (fish) spawning. Labor Day is early enough … that won’t be a problem.”Waage said Denver Water is trying to assist Summit County’s outfitters who are struggling with an extended drought.”We might have the opportunity to provide one weekend’s worth of rafting. It’s worth the effort,” he said, “but as usual, water rights issues can really drag things down.”Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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