‘There is no Plan B! We have to build a reservoir to meet projected future demands.’

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RBC | Plan development and vetting for the potential Wolf Creek Reservoir continues as the Rio Blanco Water Conservation District prepares to file for permits in the coming year.

The initial discussion of need for the project began in 2013 as the Water District realized that a combination of increasing future water demands and the ever decreasing size of Kenney Reservoir could leave the county in a worrisome water situation. Kenney Reservoir, built in 1984, currently loses more than 300 acre-feet per year due to sedimentation, and now sits at less than half of its initial capacity. Early in the project the District investigated improvements to Kenney but found that dredging the reservoir would cost more than half a billion dollars and enlarging Taylor Draw Dam presented significant permitting issues.
The district estimates that in the next twenty years municipal, oil and gas and environmental water needs could grow by as much as 44,000 acre feet per year.
The functions of a new reservoir would include municipal and domestic water supply, environmental improvements, recreation, energy development and potentially irrigation and Colorado River Compact Storage.

Following several phases and years of study the district narrowed down potential reservoir sites from 23 to two; both utilizing the Wolf Creek Drainage area which sits approximately 17 miles east of Rangely. Both locations offer size options of 20,000 and 90,000 acre feet of water.
Wolf Creek Reservoir (preferred option) would sit off channel and require water to be pumped through a gravity fill design from the White River. The location has “more favorable capital costs and pumping conditions,” no identified fatal flaws (geologic, habitat, or wetlands), recreation access for Rio Blanco from Highway 64 and Moffat County from Highway 40 and additional capacity to increase storage in the future. Maximum depth of 55 feet and surface area of 700 acres.
White River Dam at Wolf Creek (alternative option) would sit on the White River at the bottom of the Wolf Creek Drainage and would have lower operations costs with no need to pump the water. It would likely have similar sedimentation issues as Kenney Reservoir. Maximum depth of 50 feet and surface area of 946 acres.

Wolf Creek Reservoir with Gravity Fill: 20,000 acre feet—construction cost of $5.5 million, $260,000 annual operation and maintenance costs.
90,000 acre feet—construction cost of $18.2 million, $640,000 annual operation and maintenance costs.

Funding is still in development but will likely come from a variety of sources including private partnerships, local revenue sources and environmental partners.

The district is planning a public meeting this summer and working to finish the engineering reports by the end of the year. The goal is to initiate project permitting in the coming year while ambitiously aiming for final completion in 2024. However, the last completed dam in Colorado took 18 years and it is not unusual for the permitting process to last decades so the Wolf Creek timeline is considered bold.