July 28, 2016--Forecasts complicated Dolores boating season, officials say (Cortez Journal)

A sporadic 12-day boating release from McPhee dam into the Dolores River in June was hampered by uncertain runoff forecasts after a late-season snowfall, reservoir managers said at community meeting Tuesday in Dolores. Boaters faced on-again, off-again announcements of whitewater releases from the dam, which complicated their plans for trips down the river. It was the dam’s first whitewater release since 2011. A 22-day rafting season was forecast as possible in March when snowpack registered at 130 percent of its median normal. A two-month dry spell erased the advantage, and the release was adjusted to five to 10 days of boating for late May. The forecast then dropped to a three-day release in early June, and after it was confirmed days later, hundreds of boaters flocked to the Dolores as it filled below the dam. “Small spills are the most difficult and tricky to manage,” said Mike Preston, general manager of the Dolores Water Conservancy District, which manages the reservoir. But on the fourth day, managers said they realized the volume of river inflow was more than the reservoir could handle, and the dam release was extended nine additional days. “The second spill was highly under-utilized,” said boater Kent Ford, who added that the lack of notice “killed a lot of multi-day trips.” Vern Harrell, of the Bureau of Reclamation’s office in Cortez, attributed the uncertainty to the narrow margin of runoff expected to exceed reservoir capacity. The runoff forecast has a margin of error of 10 percent, “and this year, the spill was within that 10 percent,” Harrell said. To view the full article visit the Cortez Journal.