Fountain Creek District study: Flood control will not affect water rights

Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District
Fountain Creek photo via the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

An e‹ort to advance flood control on Fountain Creek surged ahead Wednesday with the completion of a study of how water rights would be a‹ected if a dam or side detention ponds were built.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District wrapped up the yearlong e‹ort with a presentation to those most concerned about the project — the state of Kansas, the Amity Canal, junior water rights holders and even some Fountain Creek irrigators.

“This is the first step in what we originally wanted to accomplish,” said Larry Small, executive director of the district. “There are two things we need to accomplish, flood control and controlling sedimentation and erosion. We can’t do flood control until we get rid of the sedimentation and erosion.”

The district originally approached the Arkansas Basin Roundtable in July 2014 with a more detailed feasibility study, but was told to solve the water rights issue first.

It will go back to the roundtable in January with a proposal similar to the earlier draft, Small said.

Engineer Duane Helton determined that it would be possible to satisfy all downstream water rights if 10,000 cubic feet per second were allowed to flow down Fountain Creek during a flood event. Water would then be released as quickly as possible as flow levels dropped.

He modeled the September 2013 flood, and used actual diversions in the following two weeks to determine how and when water would be distributed.

“It could work with lower or higher thresholds,” Helton said.

There were questions about whether senior rights downstream would be satisfied as junior rights took water. Helton said they would, depending on how the Division of Water Resources administers the Arkansas River.

“That’s always going to be a challenge,” said Bill Tyner, assistant division engineer. “That’s not going to change with flood detention.”

There could be exceptions, such as when a canal is breached during the flood event and cannot divert water.

There have been at least 18 events where flows exceeded 10,000 cfs on Fountain Creek since 1948. In eight cases, the volume of water was so high that it triggered conservation storage in John Martin Reservoir — basically “free river” conditions.

Irrigators on Fountain Creek are interested in erosion issues.

“I had a 12-foot diversion that went 300 feet,” said Tracy Tolle of the Wood Valley Ditch at Pinon in Pueblo County. “From what I’ve seen on Fountain Creek this year, whatever you put in is going to get washed out. I’d like to see the plan to control erosion.”

Small replied that so far, the district has only $50 million in funding coming, but its purpose is for flood control that benefits Pueblo under Pueblo County’s 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System.

Comments are still being solicited on the study and will be incorporated into the final report.

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