New reservoir site explored for SLV

Nathan Coombs explains the layout of the proposed reservoir site near Ortiz to tour attendees./Courier photo by Helen Smith

ANTONITO —A new chapter is underway for the Conejos Water Conservancy District.

A stakeholder tour led by CWCD Manager Nathan Coombs, along with Kelly DiNatale and Travis Smith of DiNatale Water Consultants, was held on Friday to introduce the Conejos Cooperative Project. As part of the Water Plan Grant Program, the Conejos Cooperative Project seeks to investigate, select and implement storage opportunities and the coordination of water operations for water users within the Conejos Water Conservancy District and the San Antonio Drainage.

Currently, CWCD along with DiNatale Water Consultants is exploring a potential reservoir site that would span approximately 400-600 acres near Ortiz. Currently, a conceptual evaluation is being performed by DiNatale Water Consultants. This includes reviewing the hydrogeology and geology as well as a preliminary environmental analysis and evaluating the potential for native and direct flow opportunities.

The project is also expected to have the potential for beneficial outcomes such as a water supply that is more reliable for agriculture and a common vision for the implementation of water projects with community-wide support. There is also the possibility for augmentation opportunities for Subdistrict No. 3 along with enhancing the administration of the Rio Grande Compact. There are also possibilities listed in the project proposal for recreation, which in turn would provide economic benefits.

In addition, the project also presents the possibility for the reduction of agricultural shortages along with the reduction of flood potential. Since March of 2018, there have also been numerous outreach meetings held with the United States Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Colorado Water Conservation Board, and several water right owners on the Conejos and San Antonio Systems.

The tour consisted of a visit to the proposed site followed by lunch and a brief presentation at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Hall. There were approximately 30 attendees representing the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the San Luis Valley Water Conservation District, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Senator Michael Bennet’s Office. There were questions and discussion that followed the presentation. There was a tangible excitement about what the future could perhaps hold for all who rely on the system. There was an overall positive reception to the concepts presented. It is expected that there will be more stakeholder meetings to come to determine possible next steps. It was called a “historic” day.

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