Work underway at Navajo, water levels monitored


Staff Writer

Due to needed dock repairs and low water-levels at Navajo State Park, the marina at the park was closed Monday, July 15.

The reservoir and the boat ramp, however, continue to stay open for use.

Repairs to the dock are necessary because of damage from last year’s high winds and winter ice. According to Doug Secrist, Navajo State Park Ranger, this is a project that has been planned for some time now.

“One of our hopes was to keep the dock out on the lake for as long as possible as we made those repairs,” said Secrist, “But, after talking to the Bureau of Reclamation about water levels, it was apparent that we needed to get the structure off the lake to make those repairs. With the predicted low water elevations, we needed to avoid getting in a situation where we made repairs to the dock at a point when the dock was settling on dry ground due to the low water levels, which would cause additional damage and additional repairs. We wanted to avoid that.”

The Atlanta Meeco company has been contracted to assist in the repair operation. This is the same company that designed and installed the marina dock.

Park officials will remove the dock from the lake, transport it to a storage or staging area in the park, then Atlanta Meeco personnel will make the repairs and necessary design modifications. At this time, park officials plan to reinstall the dock by next spring when water elevations rise.

“We still hope to keep the boat ramp open and serviceable as long as possible,” Secrist explained. This will be determined by whether the water level continues to recede and by any other issues park officials might encounter.

While owners of larger boats and sailboats have not been restricted from accessing the lake, Secrist said it will be a challenge launching and retrieving those craft. Most motorboats and runabouts should not encounter any problems.

Along with the dock being repaired, the marina store and the gas dock will be closed for the season, however, there will be fuel available at the gas station in Arboles outside of the park entrance.

According to Secrist, park officials are looking at repositioning the store and the gas stock this fall so the marina will be in the best possible position next summer when it comes time to resume operations. In order to reposition the marina, park officials must cease all functions at the facility. The date of the reopening will depend on water elevations.

“Our goal is to try to maintain access to the boat ramp,” Secrist said. “There may be some periodic closures as equipment is being moved, but we hope that those disruptions will be fairly brief.”

Campgrounds will remain open, as will other park facilities.

While water levels at Navajo by year’s end are predicted to be much lower than last year, the reservoir has not hit a record low yet. The year’s level still depends on the weather and what happens during the fall and winter. According to Susan Behery from the Bureau of Reclamation, the most probable forecasted average for February 2014, is for water as low as 5,998 feet in elevation. This would be 56 percent of average. This time last year, the forecasted probability was 6,022 feet elevation.

“That’s pretty low,” said Behery. “As far as how low it’s going to get, normally at that time of the year we would be gaining storage, but we are forecasting to continue to lose because inflows are predicted to be lower. We still may be losing storage in the winter.

“We are going to go lower than last year and our inflow into Navajo is less than last year. Last year, everyone was real panicky, but this year we had worse flows into the reservoir. The reservoir maintains a minimum level in the river and we are maintaining all of our water user commitments and environmental commitments.”

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, because of the increased runoff in the San Juan River Basin, on May 7 the Bureau of Reclamation has decreased the release from the Navajo Reservoir from 350 cubic feet per second to 250 cfs. These releases help maintain a target baseflow between 500 and 1,000 cfs through the endangered fish habitat in the San Juan River. As of June 6, the reservoir water surface elevation was at 6,028.78 feet, or 59 percent full.

“We are preparing for a dry year because we need to prepare for the worst,” said Behery.