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Despite near-average snow pack, the San Juan Basin will likely see below-average runoff

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Carp are seen in Navajo Lake at the marina.

AZTEC — This winter brought near-average snowpack to the mountains in Colorado that feed the rivers and reservoirs in San Juan County, but the Bureau of Reclamation is still anticipating below average runoff.

That means there will not be a spring peak release from Navajo Dam this year.

The Bureau of Reclamation canceled its Navajo Dam operations meeting, scheduled for this week, due to the coronavirus. Instead, Susan Behery, a hydraulic engineer with the BOR’s Western Colorado Area office in Durango, sent out an email with the information that would have been presented during the meeting.

According to the power point presentation that would have been given during the meeting, dry soil conditions will reduce the runoff as the snow melts.

The snow-water equivalent in the San Juan Basin is at 84% of normal. Meanwhile, the Animas Basin’s snow-water equivalent is at 94% of normal and the Dolores Basin has 91% of its normal snow-water equivalent, according to the presentation.

The snowpack in the Dolores, San Miguel, Animas and San Juan river basins has rebounded sharply in middle and late March, reaching the approximate historic average for this time of year.

Drought conditions in the Four Corners area will likely persist, according to the U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook released April 16 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The BOR anticipates Navajo Reservoir will peak between 6,060 and 6,065 feet this year and it is not planning any high releases for this spring. That means the releases from the dam will remain at or near the current levels.

After the runoff season ends, these releases could increase to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers and to maintain the target baseflow for endangered fish in portions of the San Juan River deemed critical habitat. Those releases could vary from 500 to 1,000 cubic feet per second.

The Quality Waters section of the San Juan River is one of the more popular trout fishing destinations in New Mexico, attracting anglers from all over.

More information is available online at www.usbr.gov/uc/water/crsp/cs/nvd.html. People with questions about operations plans can call Behery at 970-385-6560 or email sbehery@usbr.gov.

The next meeting will be in August.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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