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Flows on Taylor River projected to be below normal this summer

None of user groups satisfied with amount of water available

By Alissa Johnson

A group of local water users met last week to discuss the proposed operation plan for the Taylor Park Reservoir and flows in the Taylor River. While recent precipitation had slightly improved the outlook, the reservoir is not expected to fill and all user groups will be making some concessions.

“Our user group represents five different categories of use on the Taylor River and none of the five representatives are satisfied with the current amount of water available,” said Frank Kugel, general manager for the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District (UGRWCD).

Kugel explained that the Taylor Local Users Group—which is made up of representatives from boating, fishing, property, irrigation and flat-water recreation interests—requested changes to the proposed operations plan, including provisions for more flows in the latter half of July and reduced flows in October. Yet representatives at the meeting, which also included the UGRWCD and the Bureau of Reclamation, also opted to wait until May to finalize the plan.

“We were heartened by the fact that the snowpack went up a bit last week, another 2 percent on the inflow forecast [into Taylor Park Reservoir]. Every little bit helps, and we’re hoping for more this week the way storms have lined up in the forecast,” Kugel said.

At the time of the meeting, that put projected inflows into Taylor Park Reservoir at 82 percent of normal for the April through July inflow period. By Monday of this week, that projection had dropped to 79 percent. Unless April and May bring significant moisture, that means the reservoir is unlikely to fill.

“As envisioned right now flows would be significantly less than last year and that’s primarily due to the miracle May we received. Last year it rained much of May and into early June and we received a great deal of wet snow in the high country,” Kugel said.

As a result, the reservoir was nearly brimming and kept water managers on their toes, releasing enough water to prevent a spill. According to Kugel, the latest projections mean that, barring similar conditions this spring, there will be less flow than normal on the Taylor River this summer.

The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center will update its forecast on May 1, and the local user group will meet again on May 9 to make any additional changes to the operations plan.

Ultimately, the suggested changes to the operation plan will go to the UGRWCD board of directors for approval and then to what is known as the Four Parties meeting in May. There the UGRWCD, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River District and the Uncompahgre Valley Water Users will ratify the plan.

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