Publications / Report on the Bureau of Reclamation’s May 2006 Ruedi Reservoir Release

Report on the Bureau of Reclamation’s May 2006 Ruedi Reservoir Release

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In the spring of 2006, the Bureau of Reclamation increased flows in the lower Fryingpan River because of above average snow pack and resulting increased run-off. The resultant peak flow of 814 cfs had not been reached for seven years. Since Ruedi Reservoir started filling in May 1968 and diversions from the Upper Fryingpan began in 1972 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas (FryArk) Project, the magnitude, timing, and duration of flows have been altered. We looked at maximum flows (one, three, and seven-day) and monthly (May and June) averages to determine how the 2006 flows compared to the historical record and modeled data. Although the 2006 release was higher than the peak flow for the previous seven years, the one-, three-, and sevenday maximum flows for 2006 were below the pre-impact medians and range of variability. The average monthly flow for May 2006 was greater than the previous five year average, the 2005 average, and the modeled developed flow; however it was below the Indicators of Hydrologic Alteration (IHA) range of variability and well below the pre-developed modeled average and range of variability for the month of May. Because the 2006 release occurred in May rather than in June, the average monthly flow for June 2006 was below the previous five-year average, the 2005 average, the modeled developed flow, and well below the IHA range of variability and the pre-developed modeled average and range of variability. While not explicitly intended to improve habitat conditions on the lower Fryingpan River, the hope was that this peak flow would have a positive effect on habitat conditions. A resurvey of selected habitat parameters was conducted after the 2006 release and compared to a 2005 survey. There was no improvement in the five habitat indicators sampled: aquatic vegetation, embeddedness, sediment deposition, and bank-full depth, and in some cases there was a decline in habitat conditions. Most of the lower reaches did see an improved flow status score. We hypothesize that the 2006 release was not long enough or perhaps not high enough to improve aquatic habitat by removing entrained sediments. In addition it is possible that flows of this magnitude are not frequent enough to remove entrained sediments. 

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