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Reservoir levels lower than predicted

CHRISTINE McMANUS

DILLON – Dillon Reservoir has filled to 80 percent of capacity so far, 10 percent less than Denver Water officials predicted on May 1.Melting snows are flowing downstream into the popular recreational reservoir at a rate that is one-third of last year’s flow during the first week of June. Inflows aren’t as low this year as they were in June 2002 – one the state’s driest years in recent history – when just 376 cubic feet per second trickled into Dillon Reservoir.”In a normal year, Dillon Reservoir would be filling a lot more quickly than it is now,” said Bob Steger, Denver Water resource engineer. “At one point, we thought it would get closer to being full, but it probably isn’t going to get much more full – unless we start getting some rain.”Whereas inflows were streaming into the reservoir at 1,302 cubic feet per second on June 7, 2003, inflows on Tuesday were down to 571 cubic feet per second, said Travis Bray, Denver Water resource planner.Outgoing flows were at 326 cubic feet per second on Tuesday, Steger said. Denver Water owns Dillon Reservoir and pumps water over the Continental Divide to help supply its 1.2 million customers who are already facing mandatory outdoor watering restrictions. Denverites must pay fines if they are caught watering lawns more than twice a week. The restrictions might become even more strict if there isn’t much precipitation this summer.In the High Country, lower water levels could force Frisco Bay Marina to limit its total hours this summer, said Marc Wagge, Denver Water manager of raw water supply in a letter to officials across Summit County. Dillon Marina, which sits on the reservoir’s deep end, is fully operational.So far, the Frisco Bay Marina is anticipating a good year, said Ellie Duncan, Osprey Adventures employee at Frisco Bay Marina. The marina stayed open until October last year.As evidence of optimism, the town of Frisco is investing in a face lift for the marina, planting dozens of new trees around the new parking lot this week.”We’re planning on doing everything we can as the summer progresses,” Duncan said. “We’re confident all the docks will be floating in the next couple weeks, lasting through the summer.”The reservoir filled up more than a foot the past couple weeks, according to Denver Water measurements.On Tuesday, the water surface elevation of Dillon Reservoir was at 9,007 feet above sea level. Original projections on May 1 estimated the peak level would be between 9,003 feet and full capacity (9,017 feet).Denver Water predicted May 1 that the water levels on Dillon Reservoir would be between 79 and 94 percent capacity. Actual water levels are at the low end of that prediction right now.Statewide reservoirs managed by Denver Water are 80 percent full on average overall, including Dillon Reservoir. Statewide snowpack levels are at 12 percent of average right now.As in 2001 and 2002, Denver Water will likely use water from Green Mountain Reservoir to keep more water in Dillon Reservoir than it otherwise would, Wagge said.Christine McManus can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229 or at cmcmanus@summitdaily.com.


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