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Colorado River Recovery Implementation Program

The Water Resources Division, Colorado River Support Section, provides hydrology support for the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

Coordinated Reservoir Operations Implementation Plan
River Modeling
Gage Installation and Maintenance
Channel Monitoring
Delivery of late Summer Flows
Water Rights Acquisition



The Coordinated Reservoir Operations Study is a component of the Recovery Implementation Program for Endangered Fish Species in the Upper Colorado River Basin (Recovery Program).  The purpose of this study effort is to identify operational flexibility in existing water storage reservoirs (both Federal and private) that could be used to enhance peak flows in the 15-mile reach of the Colorado River to benefit endangered fish species and their habitat without reducing a project's yields or affecting a project's water rights.   The study team identified some operational flexibility in individual facilities that could be used to enhance spring peak flows during water years in which near average runoff conditions exist.   In water years with significantly above average runoff conditions, the potential for peak flow enhancement is diminished due to flood concerns and the relatively minor contribution peaking operations would have on total flows on a percentage basis.   Conversely, in water years with below average runoff conditions there is little, if any, flexibility in modifying reservoir operations to enhance peak flows without affecting reservoir yields.  It was further recognized by the study team that while individual facilities possess only limited ability to enhance spring peak flows by themselves, coordination of releases and/or filling patterns of multiple reservoirs may result in spring peak flow enhancement that may be beneficial to endangered fish species and their habitat without adversely affecting reservoir yields.


The Division of Water Resources is cooperating with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources in development and implementation of the Colorado River Decision Support System Model.   The model is being used to quantify future river flows for the Colorado River Programmatic Biological Opinion and the Yampa River Management Plan.

The Service sees great potential in the model to enable biologists and water managers to assess flow conditions in sensitive habitat areas, aid in the evaluation of flow impacts of alternative water management scenarios, and recommend conservation measures for water projects.


Personnel continue to work with the U.S. Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife to maintain the current gage at the head of the 15-mile reach; and two gages located near Deerlodge Park on the Yampa River.

During 1998 funds were made available in cooperation with U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation to upgrade the satellite link and install a water temperature probe at the Jensen Gage on the Green River.

Upper Colorado River Basin - River Temperature Data


The overall goal of the Recovery Program's Channel Monitoring Program  is support the efforts of the Recovery Program in developing flow recommendations, restoring flooded bottomlands, and monitoring channel morphology conditions.   Each year, one or two important river reaches are selected for baseline or follow-up surveys based on annual program guidance and priorities.   The goal of 1998 was to establish a new channel monitoring site in the lower one mile of the Yampa River in an area known as Echo Park.   The site that was monitored is the only known razorback spawning bar on the Yampa River and is an important habitat site where no geomorphology work has been undertaken.

 With the assistance of a Bureau of Reclamation survey crew, river cross sections were established and a topography map of the Echo Park spawning bar was developed.   This physical data will be used to develop information on timing, sediment load, bed material, sand inundation, cobble incipient motion, and flow hydraulics.   The 1998 work at the Echo Park spawning bar will benefit the Recovery Program in that it will serve as a baseline to identify historical trends and then compare with the Jensen spawning bar to help describe the function and dynamics of a spawning bar.   The Echo Park work will also add to the database that the Recovery Program is developing on status and trend as related to changes in river channel morphology and riparian habitat.   The cross sections established will also be monitored periodically as a part of an ongoing channel monitoring program.


The year 1998 was an average to moderately low runoff year.  Flows in the 15-Mile Reach and the Yampa River were monitored on a daily basis and weekly conference calls with water management agencies were held to coordinate releases from Ruedi, Green Mountain and Wolford Reservoirs.  Flows in the 15-mile Reach remained above Service recommendations most of the summer with flow support from Wolford, Ruedi and Green Mountain Reservoirs.   In the final analysis, 11,500, 20,800 and 31,728 acre feet of water were used from Wolford, Ruedi and Green Mountain Reservoirs, respectively.  Yampa River flows were monitored closely and dropped relatively low by the end of summer but did not drop below Service flow targets of 150 cfs in August, 110 cfs in September and 115 cfs in October.   Water was released from Steamboat Lake under the "take or pay" lease with the Colorado Division of Parks.


Personnel work with willing sellers to gather information on water rights, develop scopes of work for water rights evaluations, provide consultant supervision, contract administration and review of the consultant's work.

Colorado River

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