The worst of high water problems on the Pine River seem to be past this week, but keep your fingers crossed.
As of Tuesday morning, releases from Vallecito dam were 1,800 cubic feet per second (cfs), down from 2,000 cfs on Monday and a weekend high of 3,000 cfs.
Inflows to the reservoir were around 2,000 cfs on Monday, according to Pine River Irrigation District (PRID) dam superintendent Brian Sheffield. He pointed out that the highest inflow during recent storms was around 4,000 cfs, so if there was no dam, that's what would have come down the river.
"Things have settled down some," Sheffield said Tuesday. "We closed the large radial gates today, so there's no longer water going out those. The lake has gone down a lot. We aren't very far off from monsoon season. The normal effort to take (water level) up to the very top has dissipated."
The dam and reservoir operated as intended over the past week, contrary to crisis rumors, he said. "The county has stashed a bunch of gravel off the road that's going to the gatehouse. People are making a weird assumption that it has to do with high water. It has nothing to do with that. It's for chip seal" on the road, he said.
The past week was a highly coordinated effort by a lot of local, state, and national agencies, Sheffield said. "We had massive conference calls at a minimum two times a day." Participants included the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"They've been huge in this. We've been on the phone with them constantly. It's interesting to be on a conference call and hear NOAA saying there's a big (storm) cell going over Ignacio. And then Butch's phone started ringing," referring to County Emergency Management Director Butch Knowlton.
Sheffield said water on the road sent a motorcycle off the road during that Ignacio-area storm.
For agency cooperation, he cited help from the Forest Service when the river breached its bank at the Crab Apple Ranch, about a mile north of Bayfield where the Schroder Ditch has its diversion. "The Forest Service was dropping trees and using Visqueen to build up a berm," he said.
Upper Pine Fire Chief Bruce Evans said that was on Friday. Sandbags were used at Crab Apple Ranch, a house in Pine River Ranches subdivision, and a house at Coolwater Ranch. "Every place we sandbagged has been holding," Evans said.
As for who was making decisions about how much water to release from Vallecito, Sheffield said it was his decision but with a lot of input from the other agencies, including the Bureau of Reclamation. "The (dam) superintendent makes decisions, but it's a coordinated effort. The timing of those had to be in coordination with emergency management."
Sheffield said there had been plans for "some table top exercises for emergency management. We don't need that any more. We went through it for real."