Continental Dam update: $4.6 million renovation of the spillway and dam complete

Continental Reservoir behind Continental Dam, Hinsdale County. Photo via Tom C.
Continental Reservoir behind Continental Dam, Hinsdale County. Photo via Tom C.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Matt Hildner):

Irrigators in the San Luis Valley may get a boost thanks to the completion of a $4.6 million overhaul of a high country reservoir near Creede.

The Santa Maria Reservoir Co. completed the renovations on Continental Reservoir and its spillway last fall, making the reservoir eligible to have storage restrictions lifted later this summer should it pass muster from state inspectors.

The Continental was completed in 1928 and has a capacity of 27,000 acre-feet.

But seepage through the reservoir’s dam spurred the imposition of state restrictions in the late 1980s that have limited storage to about 15,000 acre-feet, reservoir company manager Jay Yeager said.

An acre-foot is roughly 326,000 gallons of water.

The added water would be a boost to the company’s 250 shareholders who irrigate on 70,000 acres on the valley floor.

“It helps the stockholders have more options to store more water for other entities and they can store more for their needs,” Yeager said.

While the Continental is not a large reservoir — less than a tenth of the size of Pueblo Reservoir — the added storage is significant given the small amount of storage on the Rio Grande’s headwaters.

The Continental is only one of four reservoirs whose combined storage amounts to just under 130,000 acre-feet.

The repairs to the reservoir included the layering of sand and gravel on the dam’s exterior designed to filter out sediment from the seeping.

While it won’t stop the seep completely it eliminates the sediment’s potential to make that seepage worse.

The project also included the repair of the siphon and canal system that connects the Continental to the Santa Maria Reservoir, which was also under state restrictions.

But full capacity might not be reached this season.

“It could take several years before it could really be full unless Mother Nature kicks in,” Yeager said.

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