Steamboat Springs About 400 to 500 acre-feet of water is being released from Stagecoach Reservoir at the request of Tri-State Generation, which operates the power plant in Craig, according to Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District Manager Kevin McBride.
The release started at about 1 p.m. Friday and should boost the Yampa River’s flows by about 50 cubic feet per second, McBride said. Low steamflows at the Craig plant triggered the release of water, which is used in the power plant's cooling operations.
Division 6 State Water Engineer Erin Light said the Stagecoach release is the result of an agreement reached with Tri-State that stipulates a flow that must be met to satisfy senior rights holders downstream of the Craig power plant. She said her agency gathered data on what diversions are occurring and what ones are senior to Tri-State to reach a number of 50 cfs natural flow that would avoid a call on the river.
Tri-State “can pump the river dry, but that would force a call downstream,” Light said. “Rather than force a call on the river and its tributaries, we’d rather make this decision.”
Light said this is an opportunity for her agency to see how efficient it is at protecting the water and determining what losses occur by the time it reaches Craig.
“People will see water commissioners out there,” Light said. “It’s not common we have water commissioners out there touching people’s head gates and tagging people’s pumps.”
Tri-State also placed a call for water stored in Stagecoach during drought conditions in 2002. That was the first time a call had been placed for water rights on the main stem of the Yampa, according to then-District 6 State Water Engineer Bob Plaska.
Tri-State also owns water reserves at Elkhead Reservoir near Craig.
To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com