From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):
Efforts to restore the Alamosa River passed another milestone earlier this month when the water court in the San Luis Valley signed off on an in-stream-flow right.
The decree issued to the Alamosa Riverkeeper allows the storage of up to 2,000 acre-feet in Terrace Reservoir that can be released after irrigation season when the dam’s headgates would otherwise be closed.
“The development of a fishery has already started to revitalize the local economy and reconnect the community to the river,” said Cindy Medina of Alamosa Riverkeeper.
Medina’s group, along with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, applied for the right.
The restoration of the fishery comes more than three decades after pollution from the Summitville Mine created a dead zone on a stretch of the river above the reservoir.
The cleanup of Summitville and the installment of a permanent water-treatment plant there thanks to federal stimulus funds in 2009 improved water quality above the reservoir to allow for fish stocking.
The return of the fishery even prompted Jose Trujillo to open a bait and tackle in Capulin.
“The locals are very excited to see what the fishing conditions will be in the lower part of the river near town,” she said.
The in-stream-flow right could allow the fishery to improve below the reservoir by providing water to the river after the end of the traditional irrigation season.
The group currently holds about 500 acre-feet and would have to buy more water to reach the limit of the right.
Medina said the flows, which have been operated on a temporary permit, have extended the river enough to reach Gunbarrel Road, which sits roughly a mile west of Capulin.
She’s hopeful that once the riverkeeper has bought enough water to fulfill the right it would extend the river another 4 miles outside irrigation season.
In addition to restoring the river, Medina said the in-stream flows also would bolster groundwater levels in the area.
She said that fact helped gain the support of the Terrace Irrigation Co., which owns the reservoir, and other irrigators in the area.