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RBC I Last week, the Herald Times reviewed the aspects of the Better City consulting “Phase IV— Recommended Action Plan” affecting Rangely and Meeker. The plan has one additional element aimed at the county as a whole—the Wolf Creek Reservoir project.
Better City states that the “multi-jurisdictional effort has the potential to create a significant economic impact for Rio Blanco County.”
While there are as yet no approvals, project advocates are looking at a site on Wolf Creek, approximately 20 miles east of Rangely just north of Highway 64 and the White River, an area that extends into Moffat County.
With a footprint of at least 1,500 surface acres and a holding capacity of up to 90,000 acre-feet of water, the reservoir would be the largest in the region. Costs are projected to be from $71 million to $128 million.
The reservoir would be expected to meet municipal and energy development needs with use to include all types of water recreation, including motorized activities that Better City claims are increasingly restricted in other places across the state. In addition, the facility would provide water management that would benefit endangered fish recovery in the White River and beyond.
Better City further states that the proposal has already received support from multiple interests, including water conservation agencies, environmental groups and recreation enthusiasts.
Better City suggests interested citizens look at the “White River Storage Feasibility Study” done for the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District in 2014. Further information can be obtained from the Conservancy District office at 2252 E. Main St., Rangely, or 970-675-5055.
The current Conservancy District board is composed of President Wade Cox, Mike Morgan, Peggy Rector, Vince Wilczek and Tim Winkler.
Based on visitation data from other reservoirs in the region, the Wolf Creek impoundment is anticipated to attract 125,000 to 160,000 visitor days annually, generating direct expenditures in Rio Blanco County of $6.1 million to $7.8 million.
Such economic activity would be very beneficial to existing small businesses in the county and job creation—complementing development activities being recommended by Better City for Meeker and Rangely.
Alden VandenBrink, the new Conservancy District manager, said the project has the endorsement of the Yampa/White/Green River Roundtable and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. It is included in the recently released State Water Plan.
VandenBrink confirms that at least $400,000, including $25,000 from Rio Blanco County, have been invested by the Conservancy District in exploring the possibilities for the reservoir.
From Rangely’s perspective, the reservoir would be only a 20-minute drive from town and the recommended new student housing and would certainly “contribute to the attractiveness of CNCC as a fun place to attend college.” The recreation options would add to the region’s draw and the experience of visitors like those using new amenities at Camper Park.
Similarly, Meeker would benefit from the additional recreational activity.
Likely to be located on BLM land, Better City recommends that the county and local recreation districts consider acquiring fee-simple land along the banks of and at access points to the reservoir, or establish cooperative operating agreements with BLM.
Further, the consultants suggest that stakeholders become engaged in pursuing the project immediately. They describe the effort as a major undertaking that will require the financial participation of local and state government agencies to gain the necessary traction.
Better City also recommends that the county consider having a peer review analysis done of the completed Conservancy District work (2014 feasibility study) to reaffirm and validate the assumptions and conclusions reached as a way to increase public support and participation.