Spring release from Navajo Dam approaches

Property owners near the San Juan River should be aware of increased flow during the spring peak release

Hannah Grover
The San Juan River flows adjacent to Vereda del Rio San Juan Park in Bloomfield on Wednesday.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will release 5,000 cubic feet of water per second from Navajo Dam.
  • The San Juan County Office of Emergency Management is urging residents to be prepared for potential flooding.
  • A meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Farmington Civic Center will provide the public with information.

FARMINGTON — Depending on the weather, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation likely will begin its spring peak release from Navajo Dam near the end of April.

A public meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St., will provide people with more information about the spring release, as well as resources.

Federal official say the release provides a variety of benefits, including clearing out the river channel and improving fish habitat downstream.

This year's release will see up to 5,000 cubic feet of water released from the dam each second. It is the second consecutive year that the release has reached 5,000 cfs. For about three years, the bureau did smaller spring peak releases due to limited snow packs. However, this year the lake level is a little above average, according to bureau spokeswoman Susan Behery.

The river is currently running at less than 500 cfs, according to stream gauge data from the San Juan River near Archuleta.

Behery said a storm this weekend likely will bring more snow to the Colorado mountains, which will raise the level in Navajo Lake. Currently, Navajo Lake is within 17 feet of being full, and Behery expects it will be within 10 feet of the full line by the time the spring peak release begins.

The bureau will increase the flow from the dam over a two-week period until it reaches 5,000 cfs. After that, the release will likely last 30 to 40 days, according to Behery. During the release, the bureau will post updates on its website.

San Juan County's Office of Emergency Management is cautioning property owners along the San Juan River to be prepared in case the higher water level leads to erosion.

Last year, the spring release caused a trailer to be washed into the river when the channel moved.

Michele Truby-Tillen, the flood plain manager for the office of emergency management, said last year's release cleared out the river's channels, and the slow ramp up of the spring peak release should help prevent large amounts of erosion.

Up to 5,000 cubic feet per second of water will be released from Navajo Dam into the San Juan River this spring, federal officials say.

The office of emergency management is also watching the spring runoff into the Animas River as the snow melts in Colorado.

"If it all comes down at once, you're going to have problems on the Animas River," Truby-Tillen said.

She said the years when warm weather causes rapid snow melt have caused flooding along the Animas River in the past. Truby-Tillen said the dam at Navajo Lake mitigates the fast snow melt on the San Juan River, but the Animas River does not have a reservoir to control the flow.

Truby-Tillen encouraged people to monitor stream gauge data on the office of emergency management's website.

She also encouraged people who live near the rivers to have sand bags ready in case flooding does occur.

"Being prepared is the big thing," she said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.