Wolford Mountain Reservoir at lowest level since 2002

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— The level of Wolford Mountain Reservoir north of Kremmling has continued to drop this fall, but a spokesman for the Colorado River District offered assurances this week that the dam is not leaking and that given better cooperation from the weather this winter, it will fill again in spring 2013.

The Colorado River District’s Jim Pokrandt confirmed in an email Tuesday that the reservoir on Muddy Creek, which flows off the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass, is at its lowest point since 2002 and well beneath its capacity of 65,872 acre-feet. The water behind the dam now stands at about 26,000 acre-feet, still above the 20,000 acre-feet low point it reached in the drought year of 2002.

However, Pokrandt said people who have observed drilling crews at work on the dam may have misinterpreted what they saw.

“The dam is not leaking! Please help us disabuse people of this rumor,” he wrote.

The drilling crews were investigating the unexpected settling of the dam. All earthen dams settle, and that fact is accounted for in their designs, Pokrandt said. But Wolford is settling faster than expected, and its managers want to know why. They have installed sensitive measuring equipment in the dam to learn more, but no conclusions has been reached.

Pokrandt was responding to an email forwarded to him from Steamboat Today reader Barbara Kern, who said she enjoys fishing there with her brother and was very concerned about the low level of the reservoir on her last visit.

It would be difficult for travelers on their way from Steamboat to Silverthorne or Denver to fail to notice how low the reservoir is.

Pokrandt said irrigators from the Grand Valley near Grand Junction were making calls on water from Wolford Mountain Reservoir right up until Tuesday.

Pokrandt said a major factor in the drawdown of the reservoir is its mission of offsetting water taken by Denver Water out of Dillon Reservoir near Frisco.

Denver Water controls 40 percent of the water in Wolford Mountain Reservoir, or about 28,000 acre-feet, Pokrandt said. It has an agreement to augment the amount of water stored in Green Mountain Reservoir to offset water it holds back from the Blue River before it can reach Green Mountain farther downstream.

The Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program also called upon 5,600 acre-feet of the 11,412 acre-feet it controls in Wolford this summer, Pokrandt said.

“So, that is why the reservoir is so low,” Pokrandt wrote. “Luckily for us, and all of Western Colorado, (2010-11) was a bountiful snow year, so we started out with a full-to-the-brim reservoir in 2012 despite the poor snow year (in 2011-12).”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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