Colorado Water 2012: 100th anniversary celebration of Rio Grande Reservoir August 23

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Here’s the latest installment in the Valley Courier’s Colorado Water 2012 series. Travis Smith writes about the recent 100th anniversary celebration for Rio Grande Reservoir. Here’s an excerpt:

This 100th anniversary is a time to capture for a few moments, the vision of people like Frank Sylvester, David Miles, S.J. Schoonover and Charles Speiser who, in October of 1908, formed the San Luis Valley Irrigation District under authority of the newly created Irrigation District Statute of 1905 from the former Farmers Union Irrigation Company.

The Farmers Union Irrigation Company was formed in the late 1880’s as a mutual ditch company to provide irrigation water to the lands near Center, and extending eastward to Hooper. The Farmers Union Canal is a junior canal, and its priorities did not provide for a reliable water supply. Frank Sylvester and the Farmers Union Board recognized in the early 1890’s the need for a reservoir to provide a more reliable water supply.

Discussions of building Rio Grande Reservoir began in 1892, with a preliminary survey during 1905 -1907; plans of site purchases, reservoir design, and how to finance such a large and bold undertaking. The board of the newly formed San Luis Valley Irrigation District, in 1908, moved quickly to secure funding for the actual construction of the reservoir at the headwaters of the Rio Grande by issuing bonds worth $530,000. The reservoir site was purchased from a Creede entrepreneur named A.V. Tabor.

Engineering work including test pits and surveying began in 1907. The tunnel was drilled and completed by 1910 and the outlet was installed soon after. In June of 1912 the reservoir stored and released water to be used beneficially on District lands while the dam was being completed to establish a storage right.

The 100th anniversary celebrates the successful effort and continued operation of the reservoir by the people of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, and the dedication of the board of directors, who are landowners elected by the members of the District. 100 Years of Rio Grande Reservoir, guided by the board of directors, is a story of determination and commitment…

There are names which are not often mentioned today, but were very instrumental in the building of Rio Grande Reservoir. The Honorable Charles Holbrook, General Bloomfield, F.C. Goudy and San Luis Valley Irrigation District Attorney Charles Corlett made many trips to Washington D.C. on behalf of the citizens of the San Luis Valley to persuade the federal government to rescind the prohibition on storage projects on the upper Rio Grande. The Chief Engineer J.C. Ulrich from Denver designed and supervised the construction of the reservoir, which took three years and involved 50 to 100 teams working in very harsh conditions…

Rio Grande Reservoir is now preparing for the future by honoring those who made the first 100 years possible. The San Luis Valley Irrigation District is pleased to celebrate Rio Grande Reservoir’s 100th Anniversary on August 23, 2012 at the reservoir.

More Colorado Water 2012 coverage here.

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