Trinchera Irrigation Company is looking to rehab the dam at Mountain Home Reservoir

Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group
Mountain Home Reservoir via The Applegate Group

From the Valley Courier (Ruth Heide):

A project currently proposed by the Trinchera Irrigation Company would improve Mountain Home Reservoir for all those who enjoy it for recreation and depend on it for irrigation.

Constructed in 1908, the dam at Mountain Home in Costilla County is showing its age, according to Trinchera Ditch Superintendent Wayne Schwab who presented a preliminary request for $25,000 from the Rio Grande Roundtable local funding source to perform a feasibility study regarding dam improvements . The irrigation company and Colorado Parks & Wildlife are providing $12,000 in matching funds as well, Schwab said.

He explained that Mountain Home is a popular fishing and wildlife area, so Parks & Wildlife is interested in improving the reservoir. The 47 shareholders in the Trinchera Irrigation Company are also invested in improving the reservoir, which serves as the main water source for the Trinchera Creek drainage. Smith Reservoir is another water source, primarily for folks below the Trinchera drainage, Schwab explained to the Roundtable this week.

“Along with supplying irrigation water, the Smith and Mountain Home are State Wildlife Areas, and Mountain Home is a popular fishing area,” Schwab said.

There are three gates at the Mountain Home dam, but only one is currently in use, Schwab explained, with the other two not used for decades. The irrigation company’s hope is to put at least one of the other gates back into service. Schwab said the state engineer is strongly recommending the other two gates become operational again, and the irrigation company would like to contract a feasibility study to see how best to do that and improve the reservoir’s efficiency. If the dam was operating more efficiently, water storage levels could be maintained both for irrigators and for Parks & Wildlife to maintain a strong conservation pool for fishing.

Schwab said the feasibility study will involve underwater inspections of conduits, valves and valve gates. The engineer performing the study will then provide a few alternatives for improving the dam, which will help establish reliable reservoir elevation levels and water storage.

With a stronger conservation pool, Parks & Wildlife can keep fish in the reservoir . Schwab said Parks & Wildlife is looking at ways to improve the area around the reservoir and increase recreational benefits in Costilla County, which has very little public land compared to other counties in the San Luis Valley. Only 2 percent of the county is public land, he said, and the county is one of the poorest counties in the state, so anything that can help generate tourism and revenue would be helpful.

In addition to Parks & Wildlife, Trout Unlimited is involved in this project, Schwab said, and is interested in ways to improve fishing at the reservoir.

Schwab said the groups involved would like to see the project begun next summer . The Roundtable will likely vote on the funding request during its April meeting.

More Upper Rio Grande River Basin coverage here.

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