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Get ready to raft …

BOB BERWYNsummit daily news
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SUMMIT COUNTY The rafting season on the Lower Blue, north of Silverthorne, could be short and sweet – and it could be right around the corner, according to water managers in the process of finalizing plans for the many reservoirs in the Upper Colorado Basin.Denver Water releases from Dillon Reservoir could peak as soon as this weekend and into next week with raftable flows, though the exact quantities have yet to be determined. The releases are part of a regional plan to coordinate releases into the mainstem of the Colorado at a time when they are beneficial to habitat for endangered native Colorado River fish species.

Water officials outlined their plans and the storage scenarios Tuesday night at the annual State of the River meeting in Frisco. While the winter began with near-record snowfall, spring turned very dry, rekindling concerns about basin-wide water supplies.Although all major reservoirs are expected to fill, the outlook isn’t quite as rosy as it was just a month ago, said Denver Water’s Mark Waage.”Usually, spring pulls us out of a dry year, Waage said. “But things are dry this year. We’re really worried that the snowpack is doing a disappearing act like in 2002. We’re watching the snowpack drop and we aren’t really seeing the runoff,” Waage said.

Denver Water manager Chips Barry said there are no plans any more to pre-emptively evacuate water from Dillon Reservoir to avert flooding in Silverthorne. Additionally, Barry said Denver Water continues to work with its customers to encourage voluntary conservation.”We’re trying to change the ethic of water use in Denver,” Barry said, indirectly addressing West Slope criticism of the lack of permanent watering restrictions in the Front Range city.”We’ll use rules, education, advertising and eventually we’ll do it with rates more than we do now,” Barry said.

Green Mountain Reservoir is expected to fill in early August and stay at a high level though early autumn, keeping campers, boaters and anglers happy through the summer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Green Mountain as an exchange bucket, to make up for out-of-prioity water use upstream.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.


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