Reservoir managers have announced a 10-day spill at an approximate rate of 1,000 cubic feet per second. However the plan is to begin the release the first weekend of June instead of over Memorial Day as forecasted last week.
“There will be a spill, and by pushing it forward we’re setting up the boaters for a longer season with improved rafting flows,” said Mike Preston, manager for the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
Warmer weather beyond the current five-day forecast could accelerate the start of the spill by a few days.
McPhee will fill and provide full farmer allocations, with an estimated left-over water for rafting.
Cooler, stormy weather and significant snowpack holding in the mountains forced managers to adjust the timing of the spill until the first weekend of June.
Reservoir managers are waiting on a second peak runoff from remaining snowpack.
Preston said the decision for the delay is to avoid the possibility two small spills and their associated ramp-up and ramp-down water needs. For safety, spills are gradually increased 200 cfs at a time, then reversed at the end of the controlled spill.
Releasing rafting flows for Memorial Day weekend was not seen as ideal for boaters because managers would have to stop it to allow the reservoir to fill. Then a second spill would likely be required to avoid overfilling the reservoir as the second peak finishes coming down.
“Delaying for one release saves ramping water to extend the season,” Preston said.
The benefits of a single combined spill of rafting flows allows for longer trips and less down-river congestion of boaters.
The district worked closely with the Dolores River Boating Advocates on the early June release decision.
“There has been definite improvement in communication between the reservoir managers and the boating community,” said DRBA board member Wade Hanson. “DWCD and the Bureau of Reclamation have been on the ball with timely public notice about a release.”
Boaters should be aware of some new changes on the Lower Dolores River.
The usual private land available for a public take-out/put-in at Slickrock is closed.
However, another landowner is negotiating with the DRBA to open public access point on land just downstream of the bridge at Slick Rock near the old store.
Farther down river, the BLM’s Big Gypsum Valley river access remains open.
Boaters should be especially alert this season on the Lower Dolores because it has not been floated for many years.
A large boulder fall has been reported in Ponderosa Gorge upstream of the Dove Creek pump house at mile 17, and debris flows and log jams are a real possibility.
Also expect campsites throughout the 100-mile section to Bedrock to be overgrown.
“It’s exciting to get on the Lower Dolores after all these years,” said Hanson said. “We will be taking a lot of pictures and GPS coordinates of the campsites to inform the public.”