Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring Runoff Begins in the High Country

Despite a recent dry spell, a reasonably wet winter in New Mexico and Colorado is good news for area sailors who depend upon the snowmelt runoff to fill area lakes. Last Friday's Albuquerque Journal published a cautionary story in which the runoff estimate for water flowing into Elephant Butte Lake was revised downward to 440,000 acre feet, or 77% of normal. However, even this amount is much better than what we've seen in recent years and will result in a rising lake during May and June.

The dam gates have been opened partially at Elephant Butte Lake to add more water to Caballo Lake for spring irrigatation. Water is flowing out of the Butte at 633 cubic feet per second (cfs). The flow began at 9 a.m. Monday, with an initial outflow of 401 c.f.s.

However, this flow is being mostly balanced by early spring runoff and other natural inflows; the Rio Grande at the San Marcial Floodway is running at 702 cfs (458 cfs minimum in the last 71 hours). So, the lake level is remaining almost unchanged for now.

The Butte is at 4,347.72 feet above benchmark elevation with 610,508 acre feet.
It has lost 1/4" and 287 a.f. in the past 24 hours. It gained 1.2 inches and 1,723 a.f. in the past 71 hours. Its maximum level was 4,347.74 feet, 610,795 a.f., mid-day Monday.

Meanwhile, up at Heron Lake, recent visitors reported that the lake remained entirely frozen, with just the first few hints of thawing, even as of the beginning of this week. However, for about the past week, Willow Creek had been flowing at a modest rate. Now that flow has increased, and although most of the flow is local basin water that must be passed on downstream, a noticable portion of it has come from the Azotea Tunnel.

Although the water contractors are still removing their allotments, the early appearance of the runoff water helps increase the chance that the marina won't go fully aground this spring. We very well may not see mud after all.

Heron is at elevation 7,135.30 feet, with 163,377 acre feet.
Heron is up 2.1 inches and 623 a.f. in 24 hours and up 3.6 inches and 1,073 a.f. in 71 hours. The marina is in about 9 feet of water (and still likely quite a bit of ice).

Willow Creek was flowing at 371 c.f.s. as of 5 a.m. Tuesday, March 13. The Azotea Tunnel mouth had water flowing at 143 c.f.s. as of 12 noon Tuesday, 108 c.f.s. as of 9 p.m. Monday, and 40 c.f.s. as of 1 p.m. Saturday.

With this new development, work parties should be able to perform useful work on the marina by mid-April at latest. A preliminary work party should go there sooner to tie a cross-tie brace which fell off the A-B connecting walkway to the marina and cut off the piece of truss that damaged the A-B walkway. It should be possible now to open the marina in early May, assuming a diver can assist in repositioning cross-tie braces and cables.


At 8:43 AM, April 01, 2007, Blogger Belinda said...

Hi Pat, an update:
About a week and a half ago (March 20th or so) the lake suddenly thawed. Wonderful sight. Fishermen were already back by last weekend. Willow creek continues to run consistently if not overly high.

Best regards from the lake,


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