Deep snowpack - the statewide average is reported to be 437 percent of normal - have led to concerns about flooding in the Arkansas River Valley.

“Don’t worry,” said John Van Oort of the Bureau of Reclamation office at Pueblo Reservoir. “They are saying that because the snowpack is still up there. It has already started to come down twice and hasn’t, because the weather has gotten cooler each time. It just started the third time. This time it’s coming, but it’s 150 percent of normal, not 650 percent of normal.”

The Upper Arkansas River is flowing rapidly and is expected to reach flood stage at Canon City sometime Friday, the National Weather Service reported.

Some rafting companies above Pueblo Dam have voluntarily initiated restrictions on certain parts of the river, and mandatory prohibitions against recreational use have been instituted from Pueblo Dam to the Otero County line.

“Right now, the river is flowing high and fast, creating a very hazardous situation,” said Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor. “Due to the dangerous condition of the river, we feel that for the safety of the public, we request people to stay out of the water until conditions improve.”

According to the NWS, the river exceeded flood stage early Tuesday afternoon in the town of Avondale in eastern Pueblo County. Minor flooding is occurring.

Thus far, the fluctuating weather pattern has helped deliver the snowmelt in manageable quantities.

Jay Winner, general manager Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District, said, “So far it’s a good year. As long as there is hot and cold weather, (the snowmelt) will come off slow.

"It usually gets to us by June 11, but this year we have had a variety of temperatures, more like the weather pattern of 20 or 25 years go. This is the best snowpack we have had in years.”

Van Oort explained the control of the water from the Pueblo Reservoir.

"We will not release more than 6,000 cubic feet per second at Avondale," he said. "The flood control space is always there after April 15.

"We can’t control Fountain Creek, but we can control the Arkansas River into the reservoir. We check the flow of Fountain Creek at Pinon and know that it will be half of that when it gets to the confluence with the Arkansas.”

The flooding problems in North La Junta in 2014 were caused by saturation, said Van Oort. At that time, the BOR had to run 6,000 cubic-feet-per-second out of Pueblo for over a month.

“Right now [Monday morning], Fountain is at 190 cfs and Pueblo is at 4,400 cfs. I don’t see it getting higher. There’s a cool down but not much of a rain coming this weekend.”

The trouble comes when there is warm weather then a rain incident in a short period of time.

“We have her under control,” said Van Oort.

“A slow runoff is a benefit to farmers,” said Winner. “It’s green everywhere. We will get a good share as long as the weather varies and it [snowmelt] comes off slow.”

bmcfarren@ljtdmail.com