Spring Surge of Run-off Mimicking Natural Conditions Benefits Endangered Species
Credit: Gunnison Country Times
Author: Will Shoemaker
This year’s strong run-off continues to dwindle, but while property owners in the Gunnison Basin were praying against flooding in recent months, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) was doing just the opposite. They were inciting a flood.
This year marked the seventh since the signing of a record of decision (ROD) for the Aspinall Unit that aims to create a spring surge of run-off mimicking natural conditions — that is, a river without dams holding back spring flows resulting from a melting snowpack.
The Aspinall Unit is located on the Gunnison River and consists of Blue Mesa, Morrow Point and Crystal reservoirs, and the ROD — based on a given year’s snowpack — stipulates how much water will be delivered downstream. It’s all in an attempt to benefit the recovery of four “endangered” species of fish.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials say two of those fish species have benefited as intended — resulting in proposals to down-grade their listing status under the Endangered Species Act.
Yet, at the same time reservoir operators with the BOR and guides reliant on springtime visitors to those water bodies are still attempting to come to terms on how the changes do — and should — impact recreation.
BOR stipulates what activity can occur on the trickiest of the Aspinall Unit reservoirs — Morrow Point — during the spring surge.