Senator Crowder Proposes Fountain Creek Dam to Benefit Local Water Users

State Senator Larry Crowder, District 35

State Senator Larry Crowder, District 35

State Senator Larry Crowder presented a plan that would garner 7,000 acre feet of water for junior rights water users along the Arkansas River in southeast Colorado and afford additional flood protection for downriver communities. The water would be used by farmers between Avondale and John Martin Dam and would be held behind a dam to be built along the Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo. Over a dozen interested farmers and water representatives were on hand to comment on his proposal, Monday, August 3, at the Prowers County Commissioners board room. Crowder explained, “We could maintain the river and stop the potential threat to Pueblo and downstream.”

John Martin Reservoir – Courtesy Photo – Abbie Walls

John Martin Reservoir – Courtesy Photo – Abbie Walls

The senator from District 35 cautioned that there is greater flooding potential from storm run-off along Fountain Creek with the development of more commercial interests over the past several decades. “The new dam, located nine miles south of Colorado Springs, would give us more protection and help maintain a constant flow of water for junior rights owners and not impact those with senior rights,” he told the gathering. He added that the 7,000 acre feet is an arbitrary capacity, based on the amount of water currently held in John Martin Dam, about 283,000 acre feet. “In April, it was zero, but due to the amount of rainfall this past spring and summer, the numbers are up dramatically. It may not always be the same in years to come. Junior water rights have been from 8 to 20 days so far this year and that will be subject to change,” he added.

Crowder was critical of the condition of Fountain Creek, stating, “It’s a mess. Banks are washing out and we have from four to five feet of sediment washing down the Arkansas River and that may have to be dredged out or at least carve the bed along the river to allow a better water flow.” He added that with two to three streams flowing through Las Animas, that separation of the water causes more loss through evapotransporation.

The majority of comments from the audience dealt with water sharing issues among the canal companies, and from either hydrological or recreational purposes for the extra water created by the creation of the SDS, Southern Delivery System next year. The funding for the dam would come from the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District. $50 million is available through the district board for future SDS costs.

Prowers County Commissioner, Henry Schnabel, said he was concerned with some issues, including potential changes to the priority system and that whenever discussion of the dam came up from the Arkansas River Basin Forum , “It always turned to recreation. What about the recreation in eastern Colorado? Here in eastern Colorado, we’re looking at 7,000 second feet and it will take in excess of 5,000 to supply the ditch rights and that leaves nothing for Kansas or for recharging the alluvial. I still have a problem with storage in John Martin Reservoir to satisfy district 67 ditches, I don’t see all of that in this scenario.”

Senator Crowder said this is only a concept at this point and was seeking input from area farmers and local level legislators on their ideas on how well this would benefit their communities or agricultural businesses.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCityCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEnvironmentFeaturedProwers CountyRecreationWater Report


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