Wolf Creek Reservoir water right approved
District, Colorado State and Division 6 Engineers agree on water right for the Reservoir
A little over two weeks after Division 6 Water Judge Michael O’Hara III dismissed several water uses, the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District and the Colorado Division of Water Resources reached an agreement on a conditional water right decree for Wolf Creek Reservoir, Jan. 7.
That settlement led to a decree for the storage right in Wolf Creek Reservoir that was signed by the Division 6 Water Judge, Michael O’Hara III on January 7. As part of his rulings, Judge O’Hara vacated his December 23, 2020 order on summary judgment motions.
The decree will give the District the right to store 66,720 acre-feet of water in a new reservoir that will be constructed in Rio Blanco County near the White River and Wolf Creek confluence, approximately 15 miles upstream of the District’s Kenney Reservoir and 17 miles northeast of Rangely, according to the agreement.
The preferred reservoir site is off-channel on the normally dry Wolf Creek, with water to be delivered to the reservoir from a proposed pump station on the nearby White River.
Decreed uses for water stored in the new reservoir will include municipal water for the Town of Rangely and replacement water that can be released to offset future water uses within the District boundaries and within the Yellow Jacket Water Conservancy District (YJWCD), the conservancy said in a press release.
The YJWCD includes portions of eastern Rio Blanco County, Moffat County and the Town of Meeker. Other uses for the stored water include water to mitigate impacts associated with the reservoir, hydroelectric power generation and in-reservoir uses for recreation, fisheries, and wildlife habitat.
The District says it continues to work with the Upper Colorado River Recovery Program, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Nature Conservancy, the State of Utah, and the Ute Indian Tribe to determine the water needs for the recovery of endangered fish as part of the White River Management Plan.
The new Wolf Creek Reservoir is part of Colorado’s Water Plan that calls for the development of 400,000 acre-feet of new water storage in Colorado. The new reservoir will provide more than 15 percent of the new water storage in the Colorado Water Plan. It will be a reservoir located in western Colorado that provides water specifically for west slope water users.
“Wolf Creek Reservoir will provide critical storage to meet the future needs in our area”, said Wade Cox, Board President of the Rio Blanco Conservancy District in a press release regarding the agreement. “With this decree the District will be able to provide for drought protection and avoid serious water shortages for a long time to come.”
“We are very excited to reach this key Project milestone,” said Alden Vanden Brink, Rio Blanco’s Water Conservancy District Manager in the press release. “This is really a win-win for the citizens in our District and the State of Colorado. We have been working hard to address the Division 6 Water Engineer’s administrative concerns regarding our conditional water right. This settlement and decree will allow the District to move forward with this vital water conservation project, which will have tremendous benefits to the people and the environment of Rio Blanco County and the entire State of Colorado.”
The new reservoir will allow a small portion of the White River runoff water volume to be stored in the reservoir each year. This water will then be released from storage to offset reduced river flows during periods of droughts, meet the needs of the District’s constituents, and to help offset the effects of climate change on future river diversions.
The Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District includes about 1,300 square miles of land in western Rio Blanco County. The District is responsible for protecting and conserving water within its boundaries.
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