Crystal River: The Colorado River District and the West Divide Water Conservancy District both approve abandonment of some storage rights

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From Aspen Journalism (Brent Gardner-Smith):

The decision takes away the long-simmering prospect, however thin, that two Ruedi-sized dams would be built on the Crystal River, including the 129,000-acre-foot Osgood Reservoir, which would have put Redstone underwater. “It was not economical, it wasn’t politically feasible, and there certainly was not institutional or local support for such a project,” Chris Treese, the external affairs director for the Colorado River District, said about the Osgood Reservoir. “There is no support for, or frankly, desire by the staff or the River District board to flood the town of Redstone.”

The decision to walk away from most of the conditional water rights tied to what’s called the West Divide Project was good news to Bill Jochems, a Redstone resident who has called for the rights to be abandoned as a member of the Crystal River Caucus, the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Agency and the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers and Streams Board. “The Osgood Reservoir seemed so outlandish that I don’t think it was a real palpable fear, yet there was always this possibility that future conditions might change enough so that someday it might be economic and might actually happen, so there was that haunting prospect,” Jochems said.

The decision by the two districts, however, may increase the likelihood that a more feasible — and less threatening — small reservoir gets built someday on the upper Crystal River at Placita, the site of an old coal mine at the bottom of McClure Pass. The districts voted to reduce the size of a potential Placita reservoir from 62,000 acre-feet to a 4,000-acre-foot reservoir, which is about a quarter of the size of the 16,000-acre-foot Paonia Reservoir on the other side of McClure Pass…

But members of the West Divide Water Conservancy District board said the day may come when residents of the Crystal River Valley see a small reservoir at Placita as a benefit, as it could store water in the spring and release it in the fall when the lower Crystal is nearly dried up from heavy irrigation diversions above Carbondale…

And another West Divide board member, Dan Harrison, pointed out that the districts do plan on maintaining the water rights for a hydropower facility at the smaller Placita Reservoir. The plant would be powered by 150 cubic feet of water per second, which is nearly three times the amount of water proposed for a new hydropower facility in Aspen. “The uses there could include supplementing the flows in the river, depending on what the future brings, and also help with the electric power generation up there,” Harrison said. “All those things would be dependent on how the area grows and the character of the area.”[…]

The decision by the water districts would also allow for another potential small dam in the Crystal River watershed, as the districts plan to retain the right to build a 5,000-acre-foot reservoir on Yank Creek, which is off of Thompson Creek, which in turn flows into the Crystal above Carbondale. The original Yank Creek Reservoir was planned to hold 13,700 acre-feet of water.

Another significant result of the boards’ decisions is that water from the Crystal River likely will never be diverted and transported to the dry mesas south of Silt and Rifle, a scheme that was first registered with the state water engineer in 1909.

More Crystal River watershed coverage here and here.

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