From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
A flock of blue wing teal ducks couldn’t wait for the official opening of a new reservoir east of Pueblo. The ducks were enjoying the water in channels of an excavation pit at Stonewall Springs Ranch, sharing the space with heavy equipment, conveyor belts and piles of sand.
But the reservoirs at Stonewall, strategically located downstream of the Fountain Creek confluence with the Arkansas River and upstream of most ditch headgates, will benefit people as well. “In the long term, this is the way to save agriculture as an entity in the Lower Arkansas Valley. This will provide storage for agriculture,” said John Singletary, chairman of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission.
“It’s the first good chance for a water bank in the valley,” added Dan Prenzlow, regional manager for Parks and Wildlife.
The state plans to begin filling the first reservoir next spring, bringing a plan to life that has been hatching for some time. It is now being dug out to depths of 10-25 feet.
Unlike most gravel pit sites, the area has been carefully shaped by Parks and Wildlife with contours and features that improve habitat, Prenzlow said. Eventually, five reservoirs could be located on the site located south of U.S. 50 near Nyberg Road, filling by gravity from the Excelsior Ditch and releasing water into the Arkansas River.
While the reservoir is being built, associated wetlands are under development as well by Stonewall Springs LLC, which owns the property and mines it for gravel.
Parks and Wildlife, which is the state’s largest owner of water rights, wants the site to help use all of the water in the Arkansas Valley more efficiently.
Cities have eyed the area below Pueblo for years as a way to recapture water bypassed in the Arkansas River flow program through Pueblo. Farmers have seen the need for storage, but lack resources to develop it on their own. Having water in storage benefits waterfowl and other wildlife.
Rather than charge farmers to store water, the state would prefer to store their water during wet years for release during drier times. In the past, the state has purchased water from cities in dry years to maintain flows for wildlife, but in a year like this, none is available. The reservoirs at Stonewall Springs would give it a way to supplement flows.
“We’re looking at it as fitting in with the governor’s call to include everyone in a statewide water plan,” Singletary said.
Great Outdoors Colorado funds and private grants are being used to supplement state funds to pay $5 million for the first phase.