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What a McPhee Spill Means for Riparian Health on the Lower Dolores

The latest forecast from the Dolores Water Conservancy District points toward McPhee Reservoir filling by Memorial Day. For boaters, the increasing likelihood of a spill means a chance to boat down the Lower Dolores River.


For life along the banks, a spill means a chance for a big gulp of water.

Dr. Cynthia Dott, a professor at Fort Lewis College in Durango, has studied the effects of McPhee releases on riparian health along the Dolores. While speaking at a recent Bureau of Reclamation meeting, Dott presented two pictures of the river (seen above). In one, a wealth of green leaves post-spill in 2017. It’s in contrast to a photo of the same location in 2003, when willow trees were not thriving as well in years of drought.


Dott joined KSJD’s Daniel Rayzel to talk about how spills benefit plants on the Dolores and how it can contribute to the expansion of dominant species.