Western Colorado Area Office
Colorado River Storage Project
Navajo Unit Operation Meeting
April 22, 2014
Next Meeting: August 26, 2014 at Farmington Civic Center
This meeting was held in Farmington, New Mexico at the Civic Center. The meeting minutes, as mailed, as well as the meeting handouts are available in the archives. Meeting attendance is shown on the archived minutes.
The purpose of these meetings, held annually in January, April, and August, is to gather input for determining upcoming operations for Navajo Reservoir. This input is used in Reclamation’s development of an overall 24-month study for operation of Reclamation projects in the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes plans for Glen Canyon, Flaming Gorge, Aspinall Unit and Navajo. Input from individuals, organizations, and agencies along with other factors such as weather, water rights, endangered species requirements, flood control, hydro power, recreation, fish and wildlife management, and reservoir levels, will be considered in the development of these reservoir operation plans. In addition, the meetings are used to coordinate activities and exchange information among agencies, water users, and other interested parties concerning the San Juan River and Navajo Reservoir.
A special presentation was presented by Senior Hydrologist Greg Smith from the Colorado Basin River Forecasting Center (CBRFC) in Salt Lake City, Utah. He discussed WY 2014 hydrologic conditions to date.
A very wet monsoon season and early season snowfall in October and November made for optimistic forecasts for the spring runoff season. As the snowfall failed to materialize over the winter and into early spring in the San Juan River Basin, the forecasted runoff for the spring of 2014 fell dramatically.
Forecast verification over the last decade shows a tendency for the CBRFC models to overforecast this basin in the early season. The CBRFC is working on a way to improve these forecasts, especially in light of the recent drought.
Long-term forecasts indicate the probability of an El Niño forming in the fall months. The impact on Navajo Reservoir is unclear, as El Niño events do not necessarily correlate with higher precipitation in the San Juan River Basin.
The release was reduced to 250 cfs in late September 2013, and remained at that level through late January 2014. This release was sufficient to meet target base flows in the critical habitat area. Since late January, the release has varied between 250 and 350 cfs, and was continually adjusted to meet target base flows downstream.
The reservoir maintained and even gained storage through most of the winter. This was very unusual historically for Navajo Reservoir, but occurred due to the very low releases that were maintained over the winter.
Above-average precipitation in the fall, along with some leftover monsoonal moisture, gave way to a very dry winter and early spring. While the upper Colorado received well above-average snow, most of the San Juan River Basin saw below-average precipitation from December through April. SNOTEL sites above Navajo Reservoir have tracked closely to 2013 over the winter months. The peak SWE for 2014 occurred on April 9th and was 14.0 inches (71% of average peak).
The most probable April-July 2014 modified unregulated inflow, based on the mid-April forecast, is 495,000 acre-feet (67% of average). The minimum probable and maximum probable April-July inflow forecasts are 355,000 acre-feet (48% of average) and 640,000 acre-feet (87% of average), respectively.
The long-term Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecasts indicate warmer-than average temperatures in the San Juan River Basin through early Fall, and then average temperatures for the rest of the year. The CPC also indicates the possibility of higher-than-average precipitation through September in the San Juan River Basin.
After discussion with the SJRIP, there will be no spring peak release for 2014. This decision was made to aid in recovering the reservoir, protect user needs, and protect the target base flow releases for 2014.
With no spring peak release, the most probable reservoir elevation is currently forecast to peak at 6050 ft near the end of June. The most probable end-of-water-year (EOWY) reservoir elevation is forecast to be 6044 ft. Under the minimum probable forecast, the EOWY reservoir elevation could be as low as 6014 ft. Under the maximum probable forecast, it could be as high as 6065 ft.
The reservoir elevation on April 22, 2014 was 6,032 feet which corresponds to approximately 1,030,739 acre-feet of storage which was 61% full. The reservoir is at 35% of active capacity. The current release to the river is approximately 250 cfs and will most likely remain at this release through the runoff season.
An overview of the conditions of nearby reservoirs was presented. The Animas-La Plata Project, Lake Nighthorse is currently at 6,875 (91% full) with the storage of 105,139. Pumping from the Animas River is scheduled to occur in May and June of this year, in order to top off the reservoir.
On April 21, 2014, Vallecito Reservoir elevation was 7,654 ft which correspond to 95,357 acre-feet of storage which is 76% full or 162% of average. Vallecito’s new ice-preventing bubbler system is allowing higher storage levels than in previous years. Vallecito will most likely reach full capacity this summer.
Lemon Reservoir elevation was 8,113 ft which correspond to 20,945 acre-feet of storage which is 53% full or 96% of average. Lemon Reservoir will most likely not fill this summer.
A security fence will be installed on the west side of the downstream access road for safety and security purposes. Work will begin on the right groin repairs this fall.
BLM - The agency is trending towards using Recreation.gov for lottery and permitting.
Colorado State Parks – The marina will be completed before the summer season begins.
New Mexico Parks and Wildlife - Conducting an in-river project on Hammond Wildlife tract, new ramp, instream work, waterfowl habitat, parking lot. It will be closed to the public until mid-to-late June. Hammond tract is full of Russian Olive.
NMOSE – Gaging stations are all up and running.
City of Farmington Utility – The turbines are offline due to low release.
NAPI – The system has been charged, Cutter Reservoir has filled, and irrigation has started.
SJRIP – The habitat restoration has been successful. The installation of the fish passages and tagging the fish has helped in the counting process. The endangered fish have increased in numbers. The reproduction is increasing. Many of the side streams are being improved; the smaller fish are utilizing these areas for reproducing. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their annual SJRIP meeting is May 22nd. This meeting will occur at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. All interested parties are invited to attend.
Hammond Conservancy District – the irrigation season has started; water is being delivered.
PNM – The “Tin Cup Tour” in Washington DC to promote funding for the SJRIP was fruitful. Washington sees the program as a good example of interagency cooperation.
Scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 at the Civic Center in Farmington, New Mexico (200 West Arrington Street).
Meeting Minutes (Portable Document Format (PDF)): View these minutes as mailed (includes attendance list)
Email comments/inquires to: WestColoAreaOffice@usbr.gov