Saturday, May 2, 2009

THE STILLING BASIN; monthly column on John Martin Dam

May 1, 2009

Water level at John Martin Dam was 78,300 acre-feet on 4/28 at noon. The maximum level was 84,400 acre-feet on 4/20. Over 500 cubic feet per second is releasing into the Stilling Basin.

Karen Downey, former Park Ranger at the Corps of Engineers, returned from duty in Afghanistan in early March. She is now Operations Manager for the agency at John Martin Dam. Welcome home and congratulations.

Duane Nelson, biologist for the corps, said he has counted 10 Plovers at John Martin as of 4/24. “We expect the Least Terns around 5/15,” Nelson said. Piping Plovers and Least Terns migrate to John Martin to nest and raise their young. “Piping Plovers were federally listed as threatened in 1986 and added to Colorado's threatened list in 1996,” according to the state park brochure at the following website (also available at the park office at John Martin): The brochure continues, “The Least Tern was federally listed as endangered in 1985 under the Endangered Species Act and listed by Colorado as endangered in 1996.”

The John Martin State Park office has a beautiful and informative display showcasing life-sized Plovers and Terns; spending a few minutes enjoying and educating yourself with this display may come in handy when walking the south side beaches of the reservoir. Since these birds are protected wildlife, there is a large fine/jail time for their accidental or intentional destruction. Please observe wildlife closure signs.

As of 4/24, only about two acres were closed for Plover protection on the south side of the reservoir. Since reservoir water is dropping in elevation, some additional nesting area closures will occur as more birds migrate into the area and more beaches surface. For information on either of these imperiled birds, call the corps, the park or DOW.

Restricted area signs are posted around the silt mitigation area about a mile west of the south end of the dam. The drying silt is similar to quicksand and is as dangerous. Call the corps at 336.3476.

Heath Kehm, Park Ranger for the state park, said boat inspections for Quagga and Zebra Mussels have begun. Please stop at the park office before launching.

These two imported, invasive species of mussels were found last year in Pueblo Reservoir. Tiny and prolific, they have and will continue to cost billions of dollars in damages in many parts of our country. All underwater surfaces are susceptible to their colonizing, such as live wells, intake areas and hulls. If they are on your boat when you launch, they may spread into that body of water. To any industry/operation that uses underwater machinery, these mussels are a formidable enemy. So far, our reservoir does not contain this problem: so far, our dam is safe. Let's do our best to maintain this situation. The park/corps/DOW agencies have available brochures. Several sites online have information including down loadable material for your own use:, and, are some examples.

“We should be fully staffed with summer seasonal staff by mid-May,” Kehm said. They are in the hiring process for a full-time Administrative person. Barb VanWinkle, park ranger, has transferred to Eleven Mile Reservoir. VanWinkle will be missed for her personality, knowledge and energy. Good luck Barb. Call the park at 829.1801.

According to the DOW website, “The 2009 spring turkey season starts April 11 and continues through May 24, although dates vary in some units. Over-the-counter licenses can be purchased for most units in the state; but some areas are limited so be sure to check the 2009 turkey hunting brochure.” For additional information, call Steve Keefer at 940.3586 or the DOW office in Lamar at 336.6600.

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