May 29, 2007

May 24, 2007

Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) Director, Rod Kuharich, announced his intent to retire from state service on June 30, 2007.  The announcement was made on the first day of the Board’s bi-monthly meeting, which was held in Montrose, CO.  The CWCB is the State agency responsible for developing, conserving and managing Colorado’s water resources.  It is run by a 15-member Board.

Rod Kuharich was appointed as director to the Colorado Water Conservation Board in November 2000.  Among a myriad of important state projects, during his tenure, Kuharich worked hard to protect the CWCB Construction Fund, which provides low interest loans to water users throughout the State and to promote the Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) Study.  He devoted considerable time to interstate compact issues, which included forming a Colorado River Compact unit to help ensure Colorado is prepared to protect its interests in the Colorado River.  Mr. Kuharich also worked to protect Colorado’s interests in the Arkansas River.  In addition, he also presided over the evolution of instream flow water rights, including recreational in-channel diversions (RICDs).  Prior to taking this position, he spent 24 years working for the Colorado Springs Utilities in Resource Planning and Development.

Department of Natural Resources Director, Harris Sherman, an ex-officio member of the Board, thanked Mr. Kuharich for his years of service and his many accomplishments.  Sherman noted: “The state government is in a period of significant transition and we look forward to the opportunity to identify new leaders to help guide us into the future.” 

Mr. Sherman then discussed his intent to appoint CWCB Deputy Director, Dan McAuliffe, as acting Director until a new director is appointed.  Dan McAuliffe has been the Deputy Director since 1999, and prior to that he served as DNR Assistant Director under Governor Romer.

State of river ‘fairly good’

May 21, 2007

“Scott Linn, president of the Headwaters Chapter of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said Trout Unlimited fully encourages that the EIS for both firming projects not be finalized until the county’s stream management plan is complete.”

This year’s snowpack is similar to last year — slightly below average and melting quickly, according to last week’s State of the River meeting in Granby, presented by the Colorado River District.

But compared to other watersheds in the state, the northern Colorado River basin is having a fairly good year, with reservoirs such as Green Mountain Reservoir, located near Kremmling, expected to fill by early July, and Wolford Reservoir, located just north of Kremmling, “spilling probably right now,” said Colorado River District Water Resources Engineer Don Meyer, who spoke at the meeting.

In fact, many reservoirs are expected to fill this spring. The South Platte River Basin, Denver Water’s primary water supply, is doing better than it has in at least 10 years, according to Marc Waage of Denver Water, who said the South Platte collection system is expected to fill soon. On the west side of the Continental Divide, Denver Water’s Williams Reservoir is 88-percent full, and Dillon Reservoir is 95-percent full, he added.

Gross Reservoir and Ralston Reservoir, two reservoirs off the Fraser System Operation on the east side of the mountains, are expected to fill “easily,” Waage said, which lessens the amount of water taken from the Fraser River this spring.

“We’re already limiting the amount of water we’re getting through the Moffat Tunnel,” Waage said. It is hoped that the extra spring runoff will help flush out some of the sediment that has been building along the Fraser River.

The only reservoir not expected to fill this year is Granby Reservoir. Asked if Granby would ever fill again, one official said, “It goes in cycles . . . We haven’t seen it (fill) in a while, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

While Tuesdays’ meeting was generally more positive than say, during a drought year, numerous graphs shown that night depicted an alarming trend: Less snowpack and quicker runoffs. This past winter’s snowpack was less than last year’s, and warmer temperatures were causing snowmelt to be about a week ahead of schedule.

Alan Martellaro of the Division of Water Resources said last winter was “decent” compared to 2002 and 2004. Lake Irene, located in Rocky Mountain National Park, was said to have below average snowpack, tracking close to last year’s, and its snowmelt progression was about a week and a half ahead of schedule in runoff.

Berthoud summit’s snowpack was a little less than the previous winter (although two winters ago it was slightly above average). Runoff was “a little ahead of schedule.”

Things are certainly different in the lower part of the basin, Martellaro added. In fact, the more south one goes in the state of Colorado, the worse it gets, due to the warm temperatures this spring and a below-average snowfall this past winter. Heavy demands are expected on Green Mountain Reservoir, for example, due to Western Colorado needs this year.

Updates on projects

A packed room of various water and environmental representatives and concerned citizens listened carefully as updates were given on the two upcoming firming projects.

One is the Windy Gap Firming Project, a project to “firm up” water rights that belong to the Municipal Subdistrict of the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (Northern). The subdistrict currently stores its water at Windy Gap, but due to insufficient storage space, it loses out on some of its water rights. A plan to build a new reservoir near Carter Lake on the Front Range would allow for more storage, and for the subdistrict to have access to 30,000 acre feet of water to be diverted to users on the Front Range.

A draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) is to be completed sometime this fall by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation). (The Windy Gap Firming Project would tie into the federally owned and managed Colorado-Big Thompson Project, therefore Reclamation is the lead agency on the EIS for this project.)

The draft EIS will give a chance for the public to respond and give feedback. Designs for the project, if approved, could start in 2012 or 2013.

Grand County representatives are concerned that the Windy Gap Firming Project will take more water out of the Colorado River and cause more shortages on the already-strained stretch below Windy Gap.

Last fall that concern became a major reality when Reclamation dropped its flows to 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) and Denver Water stopped releasing out of Williams Fork Reservoir; that combination caused flows to reach dangerously low levels, and ranchers were forced to stop irrigating their crops for fear of drying out the river completely.

Grand County commissioners are currently undertaking a stream management plan to study all the shortages and water rights in Grand County, and find a way for entities — mainly Northern, Denver Water and Reclamation — to work together so that everyone can have water without drying out sections of the river.

The plan incorporates a scientific approach by measuring and monitoring various sections of the Colorado River, the Fraser River, Vasquez Creek and other tributaries. The plan is currently going into its second phase, and is expected to be completed sometime in 2008.

Unfortunately for Grand County, the draft EIS for the Windy Gap Firming Project will most likely be completed before the stream management plan, even though many representatives of the county feel the stream management plan is an important component and should be incorporated into the EIS.

One resident in the audience asked if Northern would support and incorporate Grand County’s stream management plan into its EIS before it’s completed.

“I don’t know what the timing will be,” said Don Carlson, Northern’s deputy general manager. “ . . . Guess it would depend on what’s in it. We’re working with (the county). I think it’s a good idea they’re doing that. (But) we are obligated to our participants, so it would depend on how it would affect operations.”

The Moffat Firming Project, a project to develop 18,000 acre-feet of water per year for users in the Front Range, is also a major concern among Grand County citizens. The firming project would allow for more water to be taken from the Fraser River’s collection system during high-flow (spring) conditions. Many feel the health of the Fraser River, listed as the third most endangered river in the U.S., will further deteriorate if the firming project is approved. A draft EIS by the U.S. Corps of Engineers is expected to be completed early next year.

Population growth, a trend in warmer temperatures and a harsh reality check in 2002 — a drought year — are the driving forces behind the two firming projects proposed by Northern and Denver Water; if both projects are approved, the combined effect will most likely be devastating on Grand County’s already dwindling water supply. That is why many hope the Grand County Stream Management Plan will be taken into consideration in both projects.

Scott Linn, president of the Headwaters Chapter of Colorado Trout Unlimited, said Trout Unlimited fully encourages that the EIS for both firming projects not be finalized until the county’s stream management plan is complete.

“Trout Unlimited implores that the environmental impact statements not come out until the stream management plan is completed,” Linn said. “Fishing below Windy Gap is still very bad . . . the fish are suffering from low flows . . . Without coordinated bypass flows, otherwise known as a stream management plan, our river is going to die a slow choking death.”

Other updates

Linn added, however, that he was happy to hear about the temperature monitoring below Windy Gap, a section of the river prone to low flows, sedimentation and high temperatures. The Colorado River District installed 10 temperature gauges up and down a section of the Colorado River below Windy Gap. The gauges will give data on temperatures on real-time basis.

The county still faces major challenges, however, such as low flows on the Fraser River, and not enough water below Windy Gap to flush out the growing amount of sediment, Linn said.

Carlson gave some updates on local concerns such as Whirling Disease, a parasitic infection caused by a microscopic parasite that causes fish to swim in circles and eventually die, is essentially obsolete in the Windy Gap Reservoir.

Carlson also spoke about the draw down on Shadow Mountain Reservoir, which he said will “hopefully help water quality problems.” He added that it is being monitored closely in the next couple of years to see how successful it will be.

Tuesday’s State of the River meeting, an annual meeting put on by the Colorado River District, was generally positive this year. Two strong winters are helping replenish some badly needed water supplies, and various local projects — such as restoration projects along the river by Trout Unlimited, and a major watershed project led by Carolyn Schott — are making some positive headway toward maintaining the health of local fisheries and rivers.

But nobody in the room that night was lulled into a false sense of security. The threats to Grand County’s water supply are very real, and things are bound to start heating up once the draft EIS is completed for the Windy Gap Firming Project, expected this spring. Grand County commissioners are also pushing for the county’s stream management plan to be taken into consideration by all entities and held a meeting the following Thursday with representatives of Northern, Reclamation and Denver Water.

A story about that meeting will be printed in this week’s Manifest.

Check Out Mo Henry’s 3rd Annual Loco Appreciation Day and TU Fundraiser

May 21, 2007

Check Out Mo Henry’s 3rd Annual Loco Appreciation Day and TU Fundraiser

Aspinall Operation Meeting

May 16, 2007

I attended the Aspinall Operations Meeting held here in Grand Junction on April 26th.  The purpose of operation meetings– held in January, April, and August– is to gather input for determining upcoming operations for Blue Mesa, Morrow Point, and Crystal Reservoirs. This input is used in Reclamation’s development of specific operations for the Aspinall Unit.  Operation of the Aspinall Unit considers projected inflows to its reservoirs, hydropower needs, flood control needs, existing water rights, minimum instream flows, target elevations for reservoirs, flow needs for endangered fish and other resources, recreation, and other factors. In addition, the meetings are used to coordinate activities and exchange information among agencies, water users, and other interested parties concerning the Gunnison River.  Dan Kowalski of the CDOW had a flow request to conduct his annual fish survey in the Gorge the first week of April.  The Gunnison Basin snow pack is only 57% of average and dropping so the runoff could be minimal.  Flows through the Black Canyon will continue to be around 500 cfs until later in June unless the basin receives significant moisture.  No peak flow will occur under the current forecast. 

~ Pat Oglesby

State of the River Meeting Tuesday night – 5/15

May 14, 2007

Streamflow conditions and reservoir operations in Grand County will be the leading subjects at the annual Grand County State of the River meeting set for 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 15, at Granby Town Hall.   The public meeting is sponsored by the Colorado River District, which includes Grand among its 15 member counties. Grand County Commissioner James Newberry sits on the Colorado River District Board of Directors.At the meeting, the Bureau of Reclamation will update operations of the Colorado-Big Thompson Project (C-BT). The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District (NCWCD), the Front Range beneficiary of the C-BT, will discuss its operations. The Municipal Subdistrict of the NCWCD will provide updates on the Windy Gap Project and plans to firm up its yield from the project.

Denver Water will discuss it Moffat Tunnel Project and its plans to firm up the project’s yield. An official from the State Engineer’s Office will talk about water administrative issues in the county.
Also, county officials will address the goals behind a proposed streamflow management plan for the Colorado River, a plan that found new urgency during low river flows last Labor Day Weekend.

Additional updates will be given for the state of the trout fishery in Grand County and on watershed planning in the county.  For more information, call Jim Pokrandt at (970) 945-8522, ext. 236, or e-mail To learn more about the Colorado River District, celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2007, visit

Cutthroat losing out to lake trout in Yellowstone

May 14, 2007

Of The (Billings) Gazette Staff

Native Yellowstone cutthroat trout are losing their fight for survival in the heart of Yellowstone National Park.

Non-native lake trout patrolling Yellowstone Lake are eating so deeply into the population that biologists last year found just 471 cutthroats at a spot where there were more than 70,000 in the 1970s.

The downward spiral has been particularly noticeable at that spot – Clear Creek on the eastern edge of Yellowstone Lake – over the last several years. After biologists counted 6,613 cutthroats in 2002, the number dropped to 3,432 in 2003, 1,438 in 2004, 917 in 2005 and 471 last spring, according to numbers released Wednesday.

They are the lowest numbers since record keeping began in 1945.

“We’re deeply concerned,” said Todd Koel, Yellowstone’s chief fisheries biologist, “but we’re working hard and trying to hold the line.”

Last year, a record number of lake trout, more than 60,000, were caught and killed in Yellowstone Lake by Park Service crews. Since 1998, about 198,000 of the non-native trout have been removed.

Those efforts, which cost around $400,000 a year, are scheduled to continue this summer.

It is hoped that the work will give enough of an edge for the cutthroat to start rebounding, Koel said.

“That’s what we’re looking for,” Koel said.

Yellowstone cutthroat are an important fish in the West both culturally and ecologically. Some 40 other species, including grizzly bears, bald eagles and otters, feed on the cutthroat.

Though drought and whirling disease have played a role, much of the cutthroat’s decline has been attributed to lake trout, a predatory fish that can consume 50 to 60 smaller cutthroats each year.

Park officials have said the lake trout have reduced the cutthroat population to a fraction of what it once was. One of the best ways to gauge the damage is by counting fish that spawn in the lake’s tributaries.

Some of the most significant dropoffs have been at Bridge Creek on the western edge of the lake. Seven years ago, 2,300 cutthroats were counted there. In 2005, none were found, and a counting station wasn’t set up in 2006.

Crews also spent eight weeks visiting nine streams looking for cutthroats. They found just 27 fish and only twice saw signs that bears were looking for food there.

It’s possible that parts of the Yellowstone River drainage above the lake may provide a reservoir of healthy cutthroat trout, Koel said. So far, that area appears to be free from whirling disease, though more work needs to be done to assess those populations.

“That hopefully will be part of the system that holds the line,” Koel said.

Though Yellowstone cutthroat are struggling to survive in and around Yellowstone Lake – long one of the population’s strongholds – the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined last year to put the species on the federal endangered species list.

The fish, named for the reddish slash under its jaw, still survives in about 6,300 miles of streams in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and smaller portions of Utah and Nevada, the agency said. Despite threats in some areas, there’s no evidence that the overall population will go extinct in the next 20 to 30 years, the agency said.

Some environmental groups, though, have said the federal government is underestimating the magnitude of the threats facing the fish.

Contact Mike Stark at or 657-1232


May 6, 2007

Park County fishing expected to be top notch this season

The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) and the Denver Water Board (DWB) announce the anticipated re-opening of Antero Reservoir.  Anglers will be able to fish starting at 9:00 AM, Tuesday, July 17, 2007.  Anglers should also be aware of special trout bag limits for Antero.

Fishing regulations:

  • Bag and possession limits for trout is 4; only 1 can be over 16” long.

Antero Reservoir rules:

In addition to the opening of Antero Reservoir, there is a new channel of the south fork of the South Platte that will be open on the DWB property.  This water can be fished using artificial fly and lures only and all trout must be returned to the water immediately.

After closing in 2002, Antero was re-stocked with brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, and splake in 2006.

“We are very confident that anglers will have a great experience at Antero,” said Jeff Spohn, Aquatic Biologist with DOW. “It is, however, a limited capacity site, so anyone looking for prime Colorado fishing should also consider the many other waters we manage in South Park.”

Park County is home to many other great sites for trophy-caliber fishing.  If you can’t make it into Antero, please dip your line at one of these excellent fisheries:

Elevenmile Reservoir
Elevenmile Reservoir should remain full through 2007.  Rainbow and brown trout fishing success should be good.  Pike fishing will be fair through the summer and steadily increase in September and October.  Anglers are encouraged to harvest all northern pike caught at Elevenmile Reservoir.  Both summer and fall kokanee fishing will be good, with a much improved snagging season over the last few years; these fish will range from 15-23 inches this fall.  Both the north and south boat ramps are operational.

Jefferson Lake
Ice cover usually does not recede from Jefferson Lake until the last week of May or the first week of June.  Jefferson Lake will continue to be an outstanding catchable rainbow trout fishery, with the occasional holdover rainbow or brook trout to mix things up a little.  Small lake trout in the 12-18 inch range can be caught from shore all summer long and shore fishing for large lake trout is best at ice out and in the fall.

Montgomery Reservoir
Rainbow trout fishing will remain good at Montgomery Reservoir.  Brook trout and brown trout fishing will remain fair to slow.  This is an excellent place for families to fish.  Please remember that fishing is prohibited on the south side of the reservoir and from the west face of the dam.  Also, fishing is prohibited Dec. 1-May 31.

Spinney Mountain Reservoir
Opening day at Spinney should fall near the middle of April, depending on weather.  Rainbow trout fishing will be great.  Brown trout fishing will remain spotty. Northern pike fishing will remain good for smaller pike and slow for larger pike.  Anglers are encouraged to harvest all northern pike caught at Spinney Mountain Reservoir.  Keep in mind that this is an early projection but, the north boat ramp should be in operation for opening day.

Tarryall Reservoir
Rainbow trout fishing will remain good with plenty of action to keep the family interested.  Anglers are catching rainbows and snake river cutthroat trout in the 11-16 inch size range with an occasional large brown trout.  Northern pike catch rates are increasing and so is the size structure.  Anglers are encouraged to harvest all northern pike caught at Tarryall Reservoir.

South Platte River – Deckers
Fishing will remain decent for large and small rainbow as well as brown trout when the river is running clear.  Best bet for success is above Horse Creek.  In 2007, 15,000 5” rainbows and 15,000 4” browns will be planted from Scraggy View to the Wigwam Club.  Additionally, 4,500 10” rainbows will be planted from Scraggy View to the North Fork Confluence.  Cheesman Canyon will continue to fish exceptionally well, but is starting to see some sediment impacts from the Schoonover Fire.  Crowding will continue to be an issue, especially on the weekends.

South Platte River – Elevenmile Canyon
Contrary to popular belief, the lower canyon has just as many fish as the upper reach.  Anglers might not catch as many 18-20 inch trout in the lower canyon, but they will also have less competition for the same water.  Flows in the canyon are dependent upon water calls from Spinney Mountain Reservoir because Elevenmile Reservoir is full and the spillway is on operation.  With that taken into consideration, expect modest water temperatures this summer because 50% of the water will be drawn from the bottom of Elevenmile Reservoir.

South Platte River – Dream Stream
Expect to see large spawning rainbows from Elevenmile Reservoir to stay in the South Platte from mid-March through the middle of April.  Later in the year, large resident brown and rainbow trout will be abundant but hard to catch.  Expect to catch numerous smaller rainbows and browns throughout the year. We can also expect to see a large run of kokanee and brown trout this fall from Elevenmile Reservoir.  A 700-foot fishing closure will be enforced again this year below County Road 59 from September 15th – December 31st for a kokanee spawning operation.

Other Recommended Places to Fish in South Park:

  • Fairplay Beach:  Stocked with catchable rainbows, great for kids.
  • Teter-Michigan SWA:  Good brown trout population.
  • Knight-Imler SWA: Good brown and rainbow trout population.
  • Alma SWA:  Excellent brook trout population with an occasional brown trout, great for kids.
  • Jefferson Creek below Jefferson Lake:  Excellent brook and brown trout population in beaver ponds, great for kids.

For more information on fishing at Antero, contact Joe Sloan at the Denver Water Board at 303-628-6320.  For other Park County fishing, contact the Division of Wildlife at 303-291-7227.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for managing wildlife and its habitat, as well as providing wildlife related recreation. The Division is funded through hunting and fishing license fees, federal grants and Colorado Lottery proceeds through Great Outdoors Colorado.

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:

S. Colorado Greenback Chapter 509