Denver Water mindful of Fraser flows |

Denver Water mindful of Fraser flows

The rising waters of Willow Creek flow under a bridge on Highway 125 Tuesday morning. A flood advisory is in effect until midday today for much of Grand County. Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi News | Sky-Hi News

While the upper Colorado River hogs headlines, the Fraser River’s flood fortunes weigh heavily on how weather and unusually abundant mountain runoff play out this June.

Meanwhile, Denver Water diverters are vowing to do what the utility can in its power to have the tunnel running when runoff peaks, according to Bob Steger, manager of raw water supply at Denver Water.

Water operations involving the Fraser River, Gross Reservoir and South Boulder Creek on the Eastern Slope are operating at status quo.

Each year, Denver Water takes native water on South Boulder Creek, but how much depends on senior rights downstream of Gross Reservoir, Steger said.

“We don’t know how much it’s going to last or how much we get each day,” he said. Although flows on South Boulder Creek are going up, the manager said, so far this year’s calls are “nothing out of the ordinary.”

By policy, Denver Water stores eastern supplies first, then western supplies, first collecting all to which the utility is entitled on South Boulder Creek.

This has influence on how much is diverted from the Fraser River. On average, the utility takes about 51,000 acre feet per year from the Fraser.

At present, water is being taken from the Fraser River at a rate of about 705 cubic feet per second, or a volume of about 1,400 acre feet a day.

As of Tuesday, June 7, Gross Reservoir was at 58 feet from full, or about 20,000 acre feet. Once the reservoir gets closer to full, Steger said, the utility plans on slowing filling to “top (the reservoir) off slowly.”

“We’re just focused on getting the reservoir full and having the tunnel on when the snowpack peaks,” he said. “Nobody knows when it’s going to peak.”

How these operations play out for flooding on the Fraser remains uncertain.

“It’s all still weather dependent,” said Trevor Denney, who has been continually watching conditions for the Grand County Office of Emergency Management.

Temperatures in the high country are expected to stay cooler over the weekend and warm up next week.

So far, the Fraser River is at normal runoff levels, Denney said, having risen 12 inches in the last five days.

“We haven’t seen any really significant melt yet,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea of where we’re at next week.”

Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603

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