Going into the 2017 water year, McPhee Reservoir has the best carryover storage since 2011, managers report.
With the close of irrigation season, the lake has retained 143,384 acre-feet of active storage, thanks to good snowpack last year and lower irrigation demand during a cool, wet spring.
The magic number for meeting full-service user allocations is 270,000 acre-feet, and that amount should be easily met with an average winter, said Mike Preston, manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District.
“Unless we have a terrible winter, we should be able to fulfill our obligations,” he said. “Even with an average winter, we will probably fill and spill.”
That’s good news for farmers, who can tentatively plan for a full water allocation. It’s also good for boaters, who enjoyed a nearly three-week whitewater release below McPhee Dam this year, which hadn’t happened since 2011.
Good carryover combined with an average winter are seen as the best chance for a whitewater boating season below the dam, Preston said. Last year at this time, the carryover was 91,000 acre-feet, a major contributor to this year’s recreational dam release.
On the flip side, low carryover and a weak winter usually means water shortages for irrigators and the fish pool, and no white water spill below the dam.
One thing reservoir managers have learned is that big snow storms in December and January are key to filling the reservoir.
“Spring rains never make up for lousy snowpack,” Preston said.
Other McPhee newsThis month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the San Juan National Forest, the Bureau of Reclamation and DWCD will meet with Montezuma County officials to discuss a plan for a stricter boat inspection program on McPhee beginning next year to prevent infestation by the destructive quagga mussel. The invasive species has already infected Lake Powell and Lake Mead causing significant damage and maintenance costs as the mussel attaches itself in layers to irrigation, municipal and dam infrastructure. Due to its proximity, McPhee is considered at high risk.
The larvae can survive in water of boats that have been to infected lakes. The two boat inspection programs at the McPhee boat ramp and House Creek make sure boats are drained, cleaned and dried before entering the water.
The new plan being considered would close the McPhee and House Creek boat ramps with newly installed locking gates during times when boat inspectors are absent. The management strategy would go into effect in 2017.
Currently, there are no gates at the boat ramps, and trailered boats can launch after hours when boat inspection stations are unattended, putting the lake at risk.
This year at McPhee, the number of boats needing decontamination went up 40 percent, managers said.
The new plan would limit access for the public such as for boaters wanting to put on early in the morning, or late evening, before and after the boat inspection stations are open. Access during shoulder seasons would also be reduced because inspections stations are open less.
“There would be a push to extend boat inspection hours to accommodate the public,” said Ken Curtis, a DWCD engineer.
During the irrigation off season, DWCD and the BOR will be working to replace and upgrade the Cahone and Dove Creek pump stations. In the past three years, they have rebuilt the Fair View, Pleasant View and Ruin Canyon pump stations.[email protected]