Republican River basin: It’s twilight for Bonny Reservoir after labor day

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From 9News.com (Matt Flener):

Nebraska, and ultimately Kansas, are about to receive approximately 4 billion gallons of water from Colorado’s Bonny Reservoir in Yuma County, under a decades old agreement between the three states to share water. Bonny Reservoir, which sits on the south fork of the Republican River, holds the best potential to make up a water debt owed to Kansas under the 1942 Republican River Compact, Colorado officials say…

In 2003, Kansas won a Supreme Court battle to force Nebraska and Colorado to make up for water they reserved from the river in violation of the compact. “We have spent four years looking for a better solution than draining Bonny,” Colorado Assistant Director for Water Alex Davis said. “It is really a tragedy that we have to take this step.

Here’s a look at the South Fork of the Republican River from Tony Rayl writing for The Yuma Pioneer. From the article:

The South Fork of the Republican River, which actually is more like a nice creek, still runs in places, but in others it mostly comes to a standstill thanks to a huge amount of cattails and silt. “They’re like one big sponge,” said Fred Raish, supervisor of the Yuma County Pest Control District.

Raish is leading an effort to clean up the cattails and Russian-olives along the South Fork, east and west of Bonny Lake State Park. The hope is eradicating the cattails, which are extremely thick immediately west of the reservoir, will help break loose the water and get it flowing at a higher rate into Bonny and beyond into Kansas. Raish led the same effort on the North Fork in recent years, putting more than $350,000 toward eradication of Russian-olives, salt cedar, and now cattails, over the past four years.

He noted that he grew up in a flood irrigation family in Montrose and La Plata counties with the idea that “if you’re not cleaning up your ditches, you’re not fully utilizing your water.”[…]

“This is not a water project, it’s a restoration project,” Raish said as he drove the bumpy trails along the South Fork where a hired crew is eradicating the Russian-olives west of Bonny. “Water just happens to be a main part of the equation.” He explained that the idea is to restore the river banks to the native species, which in turn helps with the wildlife. There has been $300,000 in grant money put toward the efforts in recent years, along with funds donated by Colorado Corn, Republican River Water Conservation District and W-Y Well Testing, along with wildlife groups, some federal money, and state funds through the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The current project entails cleaning up a two-mile stretch west of Highway 385, as well as a stretch on the east side of Bonny. The east side was cleaned up last year, and the native grasses already have returned where machinery left nothing but dirt a year before. Raish said Landsman Creek, which flows into the southwest corner of Bonny, also needs to be cleaned up to create a better flow. There have been some huge numbers thrown about in regards to how much it would cost to fully dredge and clean up the South Fork, some estimates have been put as high as $35 million.

Here’s the link to a set of photos of the South Fork of the Republican River from The Yuma Pioneer.

More Republican River basin coverage here and here.

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