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Quiet lake this late summer?

With over half the snow pack gone (14" down to 7 ") and not even a blip in the rate of decline (4 - 5 feet/month), it looks like to me like all lake powell launch ramps could be high and dry (below 3550) as early as the end of July!

It strikes me, those with slipped boats might have the remaining lake powell resource all to themselves late this summer.

Retrieving these boats might get interesting though!
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
Not a lot of fun if the only boat is a HB. I’d rather tent camp and have my fish & ski

Have to wonder if they would modify the outflow for the summer - then catch up with the water year requirement in late Sept/ October
A good thought. USBR is required to end up with a total release of 8.23 maf by the end of the water year (Sept 30). They've already released 4.85 maf since Oct 1, 2020. That means with about 147 days left in the water year, they need to release another 23,000 af/day, which is about 11,500 cfs every day. And that's pretty much the release rate they've been following, and will continue to follow until the end of September. Don't see how they can slow that down much without a huge catch up in late August and September...

A puzzle for sure...
 

BartsPlace

Moderator
Staff member
Not a lot of fun if the only boat is a HB. I’d rather tent camp and have my fish & ski

I'm not saying it's desirable - but definitely something I could deal with. If all ramps are closed by fall (when we do most of our trips), we'll take what's already floating. Is your fish & ski in a slip? I guess that's something I could look into - getting the other boats into slips earlier in the year...
 

drewsxmi

Active Member
A couple of comments: The rental people at Bullfrog said that everything was booked solid through the summer, since everybody has Covid fatigue and wants to get out. They were expecting the busiest summer ever, but were not figuring on having very limited ramp capacity.

One would need to dig deep into USBR policy to figure out exactly, but I doubt that keeping water levels high during the summer takes precedence over power generation. For better or for worse, power demand is highest in the hot summer months, so releases will be higher in the summer, lower in the fall.

I dug a little deeper, and USBR studied using Glen Canyon Dam for peaking power generation in the early 1980's. That led to a massive study of the effects that Glen Canyon Dam was having on the Grand Canyon, which led to decisions in the 1990's to maintain a very steady flow from Glen Canyon Dam. They do occasional simulated spring floods when the sediment buildup from the Paria River is available for redistribution.

Just to hazard a guess, I doubt that USBR gives status of launch ramps much consideration when setting the flows.
 
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Ejespady35

Well-Known Member
A good thought. USBR is required to end up with a total release of 8.23 maf by the end of the water year (Sept 30). They've already released 4.85 maf since Oct 1, 2020. That means with about 147 days left in the water year, they need to release another 23,000 af/day, which is about 11,500 cfs every day. And that's pretty much the release rate they've been following, and will continue to follow until the end of September. Don't see how they can slow that down much without a huge catch up in late August and September...

A puzzle for sure...
JFRCalifornia I know you follow most of the water release stuff closely, is there a chance for some relief from releases from lakes up stream to help with needs down stream at Powell.. ie Flaming Gorge or other smaller lakes. I realize that if drained all of them it would still be only about 20% of lake Powell capacity, but way things are looking anything will help
 

JFRCalifornia

Well-Known Member
JFRCalifornia I know you follow most of the water release stuff closely, is there a chance for some relief from releases from lakes up stream to help with needs down stream at Powell.. ie Flaming Gorge or other smaller lakes. I realize that if drained all of them it would still be only about 20% of lake Powell capacity, but way things are looking anything will help
It's another good thought, but I don't see larger upstream releases happening, and even if USBR did that, it wouldn't make a huge difference to Powell. The collective storage above Powell is a little over 6 maf, with a little under 3/5 of that in Flaming Gorge (3.4 maf capacity; currently about 3.2 maf). Releases from Flaming Gorge are regulated by USBR per strict protocols, in this case based on this document:


In a nutshell, they follow a certain prescription when conditions are dry and overall flows on the Green and Yampa meet certain criteria, but in general, outflows in these conditions are set in the 850 cfs range, and that's what they've been. Some of the flows are regulated in part because of downstream fisheries.

I think it's important to think of the entire Colorado/Green River basin as one big system, and USBR operates it that way. So it's not just about keeping Powell up, but power and water operations viable on Mead and Powell simultaneously, and how the feeder reservoirs sustainably fit into that equation is a big part of it.

But could USBR change their operation protocol? Sure they could. What effects on the system as a whole would there be from any changes? Hard for me to say, but that's the key question. Of course, I don't work at USBR and am not an engineer or hydrologist, so what do I know? But as with most big systems, inertia is the driving force... what's in motion tends to stay in motion, what's at rest tends to stay at rest, including management plans...
 
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Ryan

Well-Known Member
Man, I sure would expect (hope?) that the economics of not having accessible boat ramps would be enough motivation for the powers that be (Aramark or NPS) to figure a way to allow launching if/when levels get below the current minimum levels. Not doing so will create an economic hardship to all the areas that rely on the tourism dollars to run their economy.
 

John P Funk

Well-Known Member
is there a chance for some relief from releases from lakes up stream to help with needs down stream at Powell.. ie Flaming Gorge or other smaller lakes
McPhee on the Dolores drainage is at 46% and we just started the irrigation with minimum inflows thus far. The DWCD(controls irrigation) has told farmers they will get about 5% of normal years water. Not sure if there are reservoirs with better reserves, but there will be no possible contribution from the Dolores River.
 

JimB

Member
Man, I sure would expect (hope?) that the economics of not having accessible boat ramps would be enough motivation for the powers that be (Aramark or NPS) to figure a way to allow launching if/when levels get below the current minimum levels. Not doing so will create an economic hardship to all the areas that rely on the tourism dollars to run their economy.
I think you may be right. Could they bring in a lot of gravel to extend the ramp? At least it would work for smaller boats. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve launched on gravel. From some pictures posted on WW , it doesn’t look like it drops straight off at the end of the ramp.
 
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John P Funk

Well-Known Member
but there will be no possible contribution from the Dolores River
I just reviewed the inflow/outflow of McPhee. It's worse than I thought, they have actually reduced outflows from 25cfs down to 10cfs over the past two weeks. I had heard that rumor, but it seems to be verified.
 

thekid26

Well-Known Member
Not a lot of fun if the only boat is a HB. I’d rather tent camp and have my fish & ski

Have to wonder if they would modify the outflow for the summer - then catch up with the water year requirement in late Sept/ October
loving the "glass half full approach".
 

Powelldreamer

Well-Known Member
I'm not saying it's desirable - but definitely something I could deal with. If all ramps are closed by fall (when we do most of our trips), we'll take what's already floating. Is your fish & ski in a slip? I guess that's something I could look into - getting the other boats into slips earlier in the year...
I was thinking the same thing.
 

Ejespady35

Well-Known Member
Navajo's report for this morning:

In response to forecast warmer weather and increasing flows in the critical habitat reach, the Bureau of Reclamation has scheduled a decrease in the release from Navajo Dam from 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) to 500 cfs on Friday, May 7th, starting at 0400 AM. Releases are made for the authorized purposes of the Navajo Unit, and to attempt to maintain a target base flow through the endangered fish critical habitat reach of the San Juan River (Farmington to Lake Powell).
 
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