Dolores River (CO) 2019 Release Season Recap
Releases from McPhee Reservoir into the lower Dolores River have come to an end for the 2019 season. American Whitewater is collecting feedback from paddlers who got out on the lower Dolores River this summer. Please follow this link to answer a few short questions about your experience. This feedback is incredibly helpful in our discussions with the reservoir operators and our conservation partners.
Based on a flow preference study performed in 2010, American Whitewater led in the development of example release scenarios to help guide discussions in years where there is excess water in McPhee reservoir. This season, we met weekly with a team to manage the 'spill' this season. American Whitewater along with the Dolores River Boating Advocates represented recreational boating interests. Communication within these meetings was effective and we worked together to develop messaging to be shared by the Dolores Water Conservancy District (DWCD) on their 'Release' page of their website.
There were 38 days with boatable flows over 900 CFS. The large snowpack allowed for an opportunity to experiment with releases to meet ecological goals while maintaining a wide range of recreational experiences. Flows reached a peak of 3400 CFS with 10 days over 2000 CFS, which is considered a channel maintenance flow. There will be monitoring efforts to analyze the effects of this suite of flows.
It is the goal of the McPhee Reservoir project to reach full capacity during spring runoff. To ensure the reservoir would remain full, project operators changed ramp down procedures at the end of this year's release season. Outflows from McPhee matched the flow of the Dolores River upstream of the dam minus any diversions delivering water to irrigators. The flows in the lower Dolores had a more 'natural' looking hydrograph as runoff ebbed with daily fluctuations of up to 600 CFS. This operations change is different from past years with releases. If you noticed or were affected by these changes in management, please include that in the feedback survey linked here.
Thank you again for submitting your feedback. It is invaluable as we continue to negotiate for flows on the lower Dolores!