The Arkansas Basin Rountable approves $100,000 for new Big Johnson Reservoir outlet works, silt removal

Big Johnson Reservoir via Dan Aquino
Big Johnson Reservoir via Dan Aquino

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An El Paso County reservoir that has become heavily silted over the last century could get a new lease on life. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week passed a grant request of $100,000 for work that would double the capacity of the reservoir to the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The CWCB still must approve the grant.

Local water providers will chip in $250,000.

The Big Johnson Reservoir, located southeast of Colorado Springs, was completed in 1910 to support agriculture on the Fountain Creek Mutual Irrigation Co. ditch, said Gary Barber, roundtable chairman.

Barber has worked as a consultant in the past for the water providers.

As Fountain, Security, Widefield and Stratmoor Hills began to grow, the municipal areas bought ditch shares. After the 1996 well rules, Big Johnson became important to well augmentation plans of the cities. Over the years, the reservoir has silted up, cutting its court-decreed capacity of 10,000 acre-feet in half. The failure of the dam also could result in flooding much of downtown Fountain, Barber added. The grant would slightly enlarge the dam, remove sediment and improve the outlet works. It also would enhance recreational opportunities on nearby trails and an open space area. The goal is to restore storage to its decreed capacity, making it more useful to area water providers.

“It’s a 100-year-old dam in need of a new outlet works,” Barber told the roundtable.

Meanwhile, the roundtable also approved $250,000 for the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District according to this report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

Sometimes, it can be expensive just to continue pumping water. The Arkansas Basin Roundtable this week approved $250,000 in state grants to accompany a $280,000 state loan for a project that would allow the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District to use water from a ranch it is buying to augment other water rights. The money will be matched by $50,000 of the district’s own money to build a small augmentation pond that will remove and return water to the Huerfano River at appropriate times to make up depletions from well pumping. The gravityflow system will run through 8-inch-diameter pipes.

The grant and loan follow a $2.2 million loan to the district last month by the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The district will repay the loans using a property tax.

The district plans to purchase the Camp Ranch and Red Wing Reservoir water rights to support a regional augmentation plan for users on the Huerfano River, said Sandy White, a district board member.

“There are a flock of out-of-priority diversions that have operated for the past five years on substitute water supply plans,” White said, showing the general areas on a map. “Five years is the magic number. Now we need an augmentation plan.”

The area, generally southwest of Walsenburg, has many older communities that rely on wells drilled years ago. In recent years, many of the domestic wells were found to be out of compliance. White said the situation shows that not all pressure on water resources is caused by large cities. There has been some oil and gas exploration in the area.

“We don’t have municipal and industrial uses in the Huerfano River watershed. There are no large cities,” White said. “We have domestic and industrial uses.”

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