Elephant Butte Rises and the Sunrise Too
(extract from an e-mail answering whether there was water to sail at Elephant Butte Lake in southern New Mexico:)
Earlier this year, the Butte was predicted to be down to 98,375 acre feet (5% of capacity at elevation 4294.14', about a foot lower than the worst level of 2004) by the end of today. And, the lake was projected to be down to 62,811 a.f. by the end of August (at elev. 4286.56', or 9 feet lower than in 2004). These predictions were assuming that there would not be any useful rains and that the farmers would need all the water they could get.
That would have been terrible. And, the Butte had gone way down; from about 400,000 a.f. at the beginning of the year and 500,000 a.f. at the spring peak down to about 192,000 a.f. But, the summer rains came, and how! (The week-by-week details of lake conditions of course have been well covered in my weblog; http://desertsea.blogspot.com and more of our adventures in CA's blog, http://itsfiveoclocksomewhere.blogspot.com )
First some rain came in July, and the Butte came up a couple of feet before going back down a few feet. We thought the Butte had only been given a brief reprieve. But, then much more rain came and the Butte rose 7.5 feet during the first two weeks of August. And, it's continued to rise. This morning, the Butte is up to elevation 4,319.92' feet above benchmark with 279,099 acre feet in storage. That's almost triple the water and 25 feet higher than we'd been warned to fear. And, water is still flowing in; the San Marcial Conveyence was flowing at 3,330 cubic feet per second this morning versus only 152 c.f.s. being released from the dam.
Sure, the reservoir is far from full, the drought isn't over, and the rains could peter out while farmers are still irrigating. But, the recovery is wonderful. All the boat ramps are now usable and there's a large area north of Long Point that's sailable. And, the Bureau of Reclamation has been steadily relaxing their worst-case forecasts. From 4,285 to 4,295 to 4,305 to 4,308 ... The end result is that the Butte is notably better off than two years ago.
Now, as for the Sunrise: It's the club's primary distance race, is scheduled for a moonlit weekend, and has been the most popular of the club's races in the past, attracting out-of-area boats. When the lake was more full, it was run as a 10, 25, or 50-mile race; the latter could have boats out all night to cross the finish line with the rising sun, hench giving the event its name. This year there will be the 10 and 25 mile runs, so all the boats should finish during the day or fairly early in the evening. Because most Etchells don't have motors or navigation lights (required for safety by the rules of the race), their crews plan to do the 10-miler.
The committee boat will probably start the races NNW of the Elephant Butte, then the race committee will probably record finishes from the far corner of the Rock Canyon Marina, which is now north of the dam and west of the Elephant Butte. There will be a semi-potluck Friday evening (Sept. 8) at the Fleet 141 compound near Rock Canyon, a casual dinner Saturday evening probably at someplace like the Elephant Butte Inn, and then the big trophy awards breakfast on Sunday morning. In the past, many of the events have been run out of the Damsite, but this year the Damsite has become less convenient for sailors (long story), so we'll see what develops.
We had a great sail yesterday all the way across Heron and back (putting up the spinnaker on Black Magic for the first time in a while), a quickie Friday evening, and will be going back out in about an hour. Also, on Tuesday, Tadpole and I sailed down at the Butte and last night we did a quick motor and sail on the MacGregor.
There was some mixups in setting up and executing yesterday's planned match racing and we didn't get in on it, but perhaps it was just as well; there were lots of green sailors on the two J-24s that were doing it, the boats didn't have radios and had immense difficulty in figuring out how to do the starts, and Esther Williams t-boned the committee boat (Uncle Jesse's pride and joy; ironically Uncle Jesse was on Esther's boat while Mother and Yoda were on his boat as race committee), ramming a hole in it (fortunately above waterline), which Dumbledore will get to fix after he gets some information from the folks at Hunter Marine as to the composition of the inner hull and liner.