The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation this morning began releasing supplemental water into the Rio Chama in an effort to keep the Rio Grande wet for the endangered Silvery Minnow.
The jump, which you can see on the U.S. Geological Survey gauge below Abiquiu, came after a call this morning from the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District to the bureau. The district has been trying to pass enough water by its Isleta and San Acacia diversion dams to keep the river wet for the minnow, but as the river drops that has become increasingly difficult, according to David Gensler, the agency’s water manager.
The move by the bureau comes after a particularly pointed email from Gensler yesterday, widely distributed to water managers and published here with Gensler’s permission, about the increasing difficulty of managing the river given the extremely low runoff and a drop in flows earlier this week below Cochiti Dam:
We have been working hard to pass stable flows below Isleta and San Acacia of about 200 cfs each, expecting that to maintain a continuous flowing river throughout the MRG. It will be considerably more difficult now. I think we can weather this for a few days, expecting flows to come back up by the end of the week due to the warming temperatures. In the meantime, it is the MRGCD irrigators who are shouldering the burden of the shortfall right now, in favor of preserving stable flows for the fish and allowing BOR to conserve supplemental water for use later in the summer. We are appreciative that BOR has the pumps online now. That is helping out considerably. It is going to be a very difficult year for all of us.
The Bureau currently has some 16,000 acre-feet of water in storage for this purpose, according to spokeswoman Mary Carlson. Last year, the agency released 56,144 acre-feet of water for minnow flows. We’ll have more in tomorrow’s newspaper.