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Rivers hit peak – again

Like kids on a road trip asking, “Are we there yet?” locals keep wondering if area rivers have peaked. The jury’s out, according to local water experts. Michael Erion, a water resource engineer at Resource Engineering in Glenwood Springs, said Thursday the peak has passed.”It looks like we peaked June 8,” he said.Erion said the Colorado River below the confluence with the Roaring Fork River peaked at 7,040 cubic feet per second on Tuesday – the highest level the river has reached in 2004. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Roaring Fork peaked that same day with a high for this year of 3,980 cfs. With two hot days in a row, water levels decreased, indicating that the highest levels have been reached. For the past 14 years, Resource Engineering, where Michael Erion works, has held a Predict-a-Peak pool. This year, Don Meyer of the Colorado River Water Conservation District won the pool against 39 entries. Half of Meyer’s $236 total winnings will go to the Colorado River Commission for river enhancement projects, and half will go to the charity of Meyer’s choice, finding a cure for multiple sclerosis. “We had a hot day on Tuesday, June 8, and river flows went down,” said Erion, explaining how it was determined that the Colorado had peaked. “And we had another hot day on Wednesday, and the water levels stayed down.”Not so sureHowever, Peter Roessmann, the education director at the Colorado River Water Conservation District, isn’t so sure we’ve seen the highest water levels. “It’s hard to say,” Roessmann said on Thursday. “We’ve had plenty of fits and starts this year as far as river flows are concerned.”Roessmann said peaks are difficult to predict, especially in recent years. In 2002, regional rivers didn’t peak until fall.”That was a pretty bizarre year, but we’ve had an equally interesting year so far, so we could yet be fooled,” he said. So many factors go into when a river will peak, said Roessmann. There’s snowpack, snowmelt, hot and cold temperatures, precipitation, reservoir storage and releases, and calls for water on water rights holders. “I’m sorry to be so evasive,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to see any large increases in water levels, but we still may see some subtle pulses of water.”River runners in good shapeFor area river running companies, this year’s river levels are ideal.Gary Hansen of Blue Sky Adventures has operated the Glenwood Springs-based rafting company for the past 29 years.”We don’t have to have huge water in order to have a great season,” Hansen said.Hansen said for his clientele – mostly tourists wanting to “get out, get wet and have a safe river trip” – water levels on the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon and beyond are ideal.”Most folks want to get out on the water, take the family out and have a good time,” Hansen said, adding that water levels can fluctuate widely during the course of the summer and still provide sporty, fun experiences. The same holds true for local boaters. “We can go to 1,200-1,400 cfs during the latter part of the season in July and August,” Hansen said. River levels generally stay within those ranges because of senior water rights held by the Shoshone Power Plant, and the irrigation demands for water in the Grand Valley.Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518cclick@postindependent.comGLENWOOD SPRINGS – highs and lows of river peaksMichael Erion of Resource Engineering said peak water levels can fluctuate wildly on the Colorado River at Glenwood Springs below the Roaring Fork. Within the past 30 years…Highest peaks:1984 – 30,200 cfs1995 – 22,800Lowest peaks:1977 – 4,3302002 – 4,320Those interested in entering future Predict-the-Peak pools may send an e-mail to mmorris@resource-eng.com. what the heck is cfs?Cubic feet per second is a measure of water moving past a point. One cubic foot equals 7.5 gallons. Even if that’s hard to visualize, using cfs as a gauge of water levels can help to contrast water levels between years and seasons.


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