Colorado River at Glenwood Springs could peak well above average |

Colorado River at Glenwood Springs could peak well above average

Pete FowlerPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado Water experts at the Colorado River Water Conservation District bet each year to see who can most closely predict peak river flows.With extra snowpack this year, water resource specialist Mike Eytels guessing the Colorado Rivers peak flow near Glenwood Springs could come in at 20,000 cubic feet per second or more. Thats more than two times the normal 6,000 to 9,000 cfs peaks the river sees in the middle or end of June, he said.Were sitting at the best snowpack in easily a decade for this time of year, he said.The Upper Colorado River Basin currently has about 119 percent of the normal water content in its snowpack, compared to a 30-year average. The Bureau of Reclamation has predicted runoff this year will raise Lake Powell by 30 feet or more.On Thursday, the Colorado River near Glenwood was flowing at around 2,200 cfs, slightly above average. Flows usually increase and get cranking in mid-April, Eytel said. A few consecutive nights without a freeze could lead to a significant increase in runoff, or colder, freezing nights and more precipitation could even continue to build snowpack and cause the peak flow to come later.Its really mother nature dependent on how she wants to bring it out, Eytel said.Dennis Davidson, a district conservationist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said that among the many variables in how spring runoff will play out, wind can also cause moisture in snowpack to evaporate more quickly and lead to less runoff.Jim Pokrandt, education specialist for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said that a warm March last year started spring runoff a little earlier than normal. An early runoff means the runoff will end sooner, Pokrandt said, which isnt good for the agricultural community. But that doesnt appear to be the case this year.It looks like the runoff will mimic a more traditional pattern, Pokrandt said.The Garfield County Sheriffs Office issued a mid-March warning about the upcoming potential for flood danger. The office encouraged people to identify potential flooding problems in homes and take precautions, including preparing a three-day disaster kit.Eytel said there could be some flooding in narrow valleys, but didnt think thered be any real flooding in Glenwood Springs.Ken Murphy, general manager of Rock Gardens Rafting, said, The biggest bonus out of the whole issue is our season will run longer. Right now we know that well be rafting through September.Even if flows come in very high during the early season and shut down the Shoshone rapids, he said, the Rock Gardens Rafting business wouldnt be negatively affected because it uses the Roaring Fork River during the early season. Plus, he added, most commercial rafting business comes between June 15 and Aug. 15, mostly after peak flows have subsided.Murphy said this year should be better than recent years, when there hasnt been as much river flow as people would have liked. It should make for some better rafting with a little more action farther downstream from Shoshone rapids than in previous years, he said.But he agrees the weather will control how things play out.Really the next two months set the tone for where the peak flow is going to be, he said.Contact Pete Fowler: 384-9121pfowler@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO

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