Owners aren’t storing any water in the reservoir behind Cucharas Dam

Cucharas Dam via The Pueblo Chieftain
Cucharas Dam via The Pueblo Chieftain

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

There’s no danger of Cucharas Dam failing, because it is not storing any water, its owner explained Tuesday.

“The gates are locked open, the ogee crest (a spillway feature) was removed and we lowered the spillway, so the water just passes through,” said John McKowen, CEO of the Two Rivers Water and Farming Co. “There is no water behind the dam. It’s dry as a bone. There is no risk of storing water in it.”

Two Rivers is in a dispute with the Colorado Division of Water Resources over the future of the dam. The state wants it breached, or removed, so there is no possibility to store water. Two Rivers has filed a complaint saying the Huerfano-Cucharas watershed is not being properly administered.

At issue is how calls by the Welton Ditch are affecting upstream water rights, McKowen said.

An analysis of the Welton Ditch administration practices was included as part of the complaint filed in Pueblo water court last month.

“There needs to be a comprehensive discussion, and it may involve a change case. But people upstream are being hurt. That’s why we filed the complaint,” McKow-en said. “We’ve just reached a point where we had to bring it to a head.”

In a letter earlier this year, State Engineer Dick Wolfe indicated Two Rivers had not followed a 2013 compliance plan to show how rehabilitation would occur. It ordered a draft plan for breaching the dam by the end of June. McKowen’s attorneys said no plan for breaching the dam has been submitted because of the water rights issue.

The dam, located in Huefano County on the Cucharas River southeast of Pueblo, was built in 1906 to serve the Huerfano-Cucharas Ditch. McKowen purchased the ditch system, along with the Cucharas Dam and Reservoir in 2010, with the intention of building a new dam just downstream. At the time, the reservoir was under storage restrictions placed on it after a leak occurred in 1987.

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