Water for now, water for later | SteamboatToday.com

Water for now, water for later

Conservation proposal would raise Stagecoach Reservoir elevation by four feet

— By raising the elevation of Stagecoach Reservoir by four feet, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District can ensure there will be enough water to meet future population growth and increased irrigation needs as well as increased demands from recreational and environmental users.

At least that was the message Conservancy District officials presented to Yampa and South Routt residents during a meeting Wednesday at Yampa Town Hall. The meeting was intended to get feedback ab-out the project. That feedback will be important as the Conservancy District begins its lengthy permit process to start the project.

Wayne Dyok, a consultant working primarily on the project’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit, said getting public feedback is crucial.

“This is a good project. We hope everyone supports it, and if you do have issues, we want to address them,” he said.

Dyok said the project would consist of adding a 4-foot concrete raise to the dam’s current spillway crest. Such an addition would add 47 acre-feet of water to the reservoir and potentially increase the hydroelectric plant’s energy production by 6 percent. The Conservancy District will be able to store water that typically would have gone over the spillway.

Raising the water level by four feet also would mean the loss of reservoir amenities, including the swimming beach, some boat ramps, wildlife observation decks, hiking and bike trails, concrete picnic pads, storage vaults, restroom facilities and about 12 trees.

Yampa resident Arlene Porteus said losing those Stagecoach Reservoir staples is a huge concern.

“Do you know how long it took to get a bike path in there? It’s taken so long for these trees to grow. Do you know how many Boy Scout troops and school groups were out there to get all of these things built?” she said. “I’m concerned this stuff is going to be lost and it’s going to take another 20 years to get it back.”

That’s not the case, Conser-vancy District secretary John Fetcher said.

“You know the swim beach is one of my jewels. I personally will assure you it will be protected, even if I have to bring in the sand myself,” he said. “That’s very important to me.”

Dyok said the Conservancy District plans to construct the spillway addition in fall 2007 so the work won’t disrupt next summer’s recreation activities at the reservoir.

The Conservancy District is prepared to mitigate any losses that may result from the project, he said. The swim beach will be moved higher, trails will be constructed and trees will be replanted.

Phippsburg rancher Dean Rossi had a few concerns about where the water would go and who is paying for the project.

Residents living in the Conservancy District would not see an increase in taxes for the project, Fetcher said. Stagecoach State Park, which leases land from the Conservancy District, is not expected to pick up the cost of the project, either, he said.

The monies needed for the project will come out of the District’s budget, he said.

Conservancy District chairman Doug Monger told Rossi that although the District does not know exactly what it will do with the additional water, it could be sold to future developers in the district.

“All these future developments will need well permits,” he said. “This is a very economical way for us to garner this water.”

Project consultants Jeffrey Dawson and Kent Crofts told the audience the project would cause little or no damage to the reservoir’s wetlands areas or wildlife.

The public can submit questions or concerns about the project to Fetcher by Oct. 15. Those comments will be taken into consideration. Fetcher can be reached by telephone at 879-2424, by fax at 879-8169, or by mail at P.O. Box 88039, Steamboat Springs, CO 80488.

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