Old Uravan diversion dam on Tabeguache Creek removed, the San Miguel River tributary is now running free

Tabeguache Creek via the USFS
Tabeguache Creek via the USFS

From The Telluride Daily Planet (Katie Klingsporn):

In the 1930s, a 6-foot-tall, 60-feet-wide diversion dam was built in Tabeguache Creek, just upstream from its confluence with the San Miguel River, for the purposes of providing water to the Town of Uravan.

That dam remained for roughly 80 years, even as the uranium mining town was abandoned, declared a Superfund Site and razed in a reclamation project.

When Uravan shuttered, the dam stopped diverting water for human consumption. It continued, however, to block upstream passage to three species of native fish that rely on warm-water tributaries for their spawning grounds.

Until recently, that is. Thanks to a Bureau of Land Management project that was supported by the San Miguel Watershed Coalition and Nature Conservancy, the diversion dam was dismantled earlier this month.

Following two years of research, planning and securing funding, it took crews from Reams Construction a day and a half to pull all of the concrete out of the streambed.

And just like that, Tabeguache Creek was flowing free.

Peter Mueller, who is both the Nature Conservancy’s Southwestern Colorado Project Director and a board member on the Watershed Coalition, said the removal was a great thing to witness.

“One of the things that is so critical for the Nature Conservancy, the Coalition and BLM is that the native fish use these tributaries for spawning,” Mueller said. “And so to be able to remove this diversion structure and open up another eight miles of habitat, with full cooperation of both private landowners and the federal government … we were really excited about it.”

Amanda Clements, an ecologist with the BLM, said the project came about when the agency’s fish biologist was examining Colorado maps for migration barriers.

“He spotted this one,” Clements said.

Through follow-up investigation, Clements said, the BLM discovered that water rights of the dam had been determined abandoned and that removal of the structure would open up a lot of habitat for three species of native fish: Roundtail chub, Flannelmouth sucker and Bluehead sucker. All three are considered “BLM Colorado sensitive species.”

More San Miguel River watershed coverage here and here.

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