A look at the San Luis Valley Irrigation District

Rio Grande Reservoir

From The Valley Courier (Helen Smith):

The San Luis Valley Irrigation District and Rio Grande Reservoir is one of the biggest success stories to ever emerge from the Rio Grande Basin. As a key provider of water from critical sources to the San Luis Valley and beyond, this district plays a pivotal role in the water delivery cycle that stretches all the way to Mexico. SLVID is the keeper of the gateway for the Rio Grande.

Originally formed on December 8th, 1908 as a result of the Irrigation Act of 1905, the San Luis Valley Irrigation District continues to serve water users over 100 years later. SLVID is governed by a board of directors that is composed of five elected members. The current board is led by president Randall Palmgren. The district encompasses portions of Rio Grande, Saguache and Alamosa Counties with the headquarters being in Saguache County (Center).

Quite simply, SLVID exists to serve the famers who reside in the counties it is made of. SLVID delivers water to 62,000 acres of highly productive farmground in the Center-Hooper areas. Crops that are produced within district boundaries include fresh market potatoes, Coors barley, and dairy quality alfalfa.

One of the key assets that SLVID possesses is the Rio Grande Reservoir. In 1888, farmers near the Center-Hooper area established the Farmer’s Union Irrigation Company. The intent was to build a canal system that could deliver irrigation water to 90,000 acres. The Farmer’s Union Canal became a reality. However, the need for a secondary source of water quickly became apparent for the control of these deliveries and the insufficient amount of water that the canal was delivering because it had a junior water right. Due to an embargo from the federal government which prevented any new dams/reservoirs from being constructed on the Rio Grande this initiative was put on hold. The present site of the reservoir was purchased from A.V. Tabor who had claimed it in 1903. The construction plans began in earnest once the embargo was lifted in 1907. In 1908, the process of forming the San Luis Valley Irrigation District began in order to raise the additional capital that would be needed for construction. The first board of directors took shape. On June 10th, 1910, the San Luis Valley Irrigation District signed a contract for construction of a dam and spillway with Ellswoth, Knowles, and Klaner of Pueblo. An engineer by the name of J.C. Ulrich drew the plans and specifications and was hired as the project supervisor. The tunnel was drilled in 1910. By 1912, Rio Grande Reservoir was storing water. The dam and spillway were fully completed by September of 1913 and the reservoir was full by June 16th, 1914. The result was a reservoir that is still standing after over 100 years that continues to deliver water for agricultural needs, serve as a tool for compliance with the Rio Grande Compact, and aid for fish and wildlife habitat, recreation and flood control.

Age can bring the necessity for repairs and Rio Grande Reservoir was/is certainly no exception. The dam and spillway began to be in need of repairs. Out of this necessity resulted the Rio Grande Cooperative Project. This project is a public-private partnership that was established in 2002 when the SLVID board of directors recognized the need to address the dam safety issues of the Rio Grande Reservoir. In 2003, a Yield Analysis Study to find what benefits would be obtained from improved storage and release was conducted with the assistance of a $25,000 contribution from the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District. In 2005, SLVID was awarded Rehabilitation Study Grant from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Another grant came in 2007 for $230,000 from the Rio Grande Roundtable for a rehabilitation and enlargement study. In 2008, SLVID received another $100,000 grant for the development of an operations model.

Finally, in 2011 the Rio Grande Cooperative Project became official and plans were underway. In 2012, the Colorado General Assembly passed the Colorado Water Conservation Board Projects Bill which included a funding package for the repairs of Rio Grande and Beaver Reservoir.

Phase 1 of the Rio Grande Cooperative Project began following the 100th Anniversary of Rio Grande Reservoir. The Dam at Rio Grande was completely resurfaced to address seepage issues and saw completion in the fall of 2013. Repairs of the Beaver Reservoir Dam also took place. This monumental task was accomplished in spite of obstacles such as the West Fork Complex Fire. The Rio Grande Cooperative Project continues to move forward with Phase 2 which is the repair of the outlet tunnel at Rio Grande Reservoir.

The partners in this project are The San Luis Valley Irrigation District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The main purpose of the cooperative project is to optimize the use of available water through the reoperating and retiming of the reservoirs owned by the partners. Additionally, volunteer efforts have aided in the use of compact storage for the native trout species to adjust to water level changes and the benefit to recreation. Methods that were dismissed before are now being put to use and the larger water community is now profiting from the results. Travis Smith, superintendent of SLVID has observed that it is about “culture change” and addressing how needs can be met.

The story of the San Luis Valley Irrigation District continues to unfold, but there are many great chapters that have already been written. SLVID continues to be a mainstay for San Luis Valley water.

The Carbon Brief Interview: Dr Katharine Hayhoe

Graphic credit KatharineHayhoe.com.

Click here to read the interview. Here’s an excerpt:

  • On improving climate models: “The smaller the spatial grids and the smaller the time step we use in the model, the better we’re able to actually explicitly resolve the physical processes in the climate.”
  • On the biggest unknowns of future climate change: “There are long-term processes in the climate system that we’re not yet incorporating in our models and when we do, the final outcome of this inadvertent experiment that we’ve been conducting with our planet is likely to be worse, not better, than we thought.”
  • On Donald Trump’s presidency: “I know this sounds very strange – but I really believe that his election galvanised people into personal action in a way that never would have happened if Clinton had been elected.”
  • @WaterEdCO: Applications Open for the 2018 Water Leaders Program!

    Colorado River headwaters tributary in Rocky Mountain National Park photo via Greg Hobbs.

    Click here for all the inside skinny:

    The Water Leaders program is recognized as the premier professional development course for the water community in Colorado. Since 2006, the program has provided training to participants across Colorado, helping them become more effective leaders. Water Education Colorado staff has worked hard year after year to adapt and evolve the course to build the skills of water professionals that will prepare them to address current water issues by using the most advanced leadership development tools and trainings available, and we could not be more proud of the evolution of the program.

    The goal of the Water Leaders program is to positively impact the Colorado.

    Photo gallery: “Late November Light” — Greg Hobbs

    Click on a thumbnail to view a gallery of photos from friend of Coyote Gulch, Greg Hobbs.

    Staunton State Park, The Kenoshas, Pikes Peak, The Rampart Range

    Greg Hobbs 11/24/2017

    CH2M grants $50,000 to @ColoradoStateU for sustainability research and STEM education

    Clear Creek Canyon via Bob Berwyn

    Here’s the release from CH2M:

    The CH2M Foundation is proud to announce a new grant to CSU with a client-centric, sustainability and career-focused approach that is sure to make an impact for years to come.

    Through a grant of $50,000 to the CSU National Western Center Sustainability Team and the CSU Water Fellows Program, the CH2M Foundation is investing in STEM education, while continuing the company’s long-time commitment to sustainability. CH2M is also reinforcing the work of many of its clients: the National Western Center, City and County of Denver, CSU and the Western Stock Show Association and Denver Water.

    “The CH2M Foundation continues to partner with charitable initiatives that demonstrate our shared values with our key clients,” said Ellen Sandberg, executive director of the CH2M Foundation.

    Investing in sustainability research and collaboration

    The first part of the grant, $37,500, will go to CSU’s National Western Center Sustainability Team. This team is helping develop a campus that addresses innovations in water, energy, food systems, health and recreation, and improves the natural environment, while working toward goals like “net zero” energy. The work is occurring in two phases over three years.

    During Phase I, the team focused on energy, waste and water system analysis and recommendations. Phase 2, beginning in fall 2017, will continue energy and water modeling, and will also integrate urban ecology, river restoration, air quality, community health, education and integrated design and organizational behavior. The Gates Family Foundation provided a matching grant of $75,000 for the second phase, so CH2M’s $37,500 grant will be matched.

    Providing STEM opportunities for diverse and underrepresented students

    The second part of the grant, $12,500, supports the CSU Water Fellows program. First-generation CSU students from diverse and often underrepresented backgrounds team with high school students from neighborhoods around the National Western Center to spend several months working on water issues. Gaining leadership and organization skills, the water fellows do outreach to the neighborhoods about water issues.

    CSU’s presence at the National Western Center will be initiated at its Water Resources Center. As one of the first buildings to be constructed at the National Western Center, the Water Resources Center will host multidisciplinary, year-round programs such as these, which will draw tourists, K-12 students, water professionals and researchers, water conferences and community members. CSU and the National Western Center are working closely with Denver Water to create collaboration at the Water Resources Center around education, innovation, policy and research.

    “Colorado State University is grateful for this generous grant from the CH2M Foundation, which will further CSU’s work in delivering cutting-edge research and outcomes in sustainability and water,” said Amy Parsons, executive vice chancellor of the CSU System. “Through its support of the CSU Water Fellows program, the grant also highlights the importance of sharing knowledge and empowering the next generation. Our university is appreciative of the support and looks forward to collaborating with our partners at the National Western Center to execute these initiatives.”

    “This foundation grant leverages local funding, making the value of our charitable donation grow to $87,500 and thereby ensuring even greater success of the program,” according to Patrick O’Keefe, CH2M’s program manager for the National Western Center’s construction and buildout.

    The National Western Center program is off to a fast start, with a kickoff event for physical work on November 1, 2017. This will begin a rapid period of removing old structures and replacing them with a multiuse community assets that will serve as focal points for agriculture, entertainment and educational programs.