WATER INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
Huerfano County is dry country. Its scanty water resources must be carefully managed. This project will upgrade and increase water right administration facilities in the county – stream flow gages and alluvial monitoring wells. Most of the existing river gages in the county are decrepit or inoperable and will be rehabilitated. For example, the Division of Water Resources’s recent evaluations of three of the existing gages:
Cucharas River at Harrison Bridge downstream of La Veta: “The channel acts as the control at all stages of flow [and is] very unstable and unpredictable at low and high flows.”
Huerfano River at Badito: “The control is a constructed channel section. It is generally inaccurate at all stages and has consistently been problematic in reliably providing good data. This is the worst gage in Division 2.”
Huerfano River below Huerfano Valley Dam Near Undercliffe: “The gage in the river itself does not function anymore. It has isolated and is damaged, plus the river channel itself is the control and constantly shifts during the infrequent, but highly turbulent flows.”
Additionally, two new gages will be constructed: one on the Huerfano River near its crossing of I-25 and another on the Cucharas near its crossing of U.S. Highway 10. Monitoring wells will be placed in the river alluvium at strategic locations. These gage and well locations are shown on the 3 attached maps (bottom of page). The locations of the new gages and wells may change as we better understand local conditions.
Finally, a model will be developed by the Division Engineer to assist in making futile call decisions under C.R.S. § 37-92-502(2)(a). The statute requires him to curtail upstream junior diversions if they are causing "material injury" to downstream seniors. If not causing material injury, the downstream senior’s call is viewed as “futile.” In making his futile call determination, the Division Engineer considers whether the water bypassed by the upstream junior will actually reach the downstream senior in appropriate quantities, based on factors such as volumes of water in and tributary to the stream, the distance and type of stream bed between the diversion points, and the velocities and probable duration of stream flow. This is an ideal situation for use of a computer model based on real-time data regarding stream flows and alluvial groundwater levels, coupled with physical characteristics of the stream and its alluvium, and married to historical experience.
Listed as project #ARK-2015-0004 in the Arkansas Roundtable’s Basin Implementation Plan’s Master Needs List, this project will also meet several objectives identified in the Arkansas River Decision Support System Feasibility Study Final Report (November 2011) for development of a decision support system.
The project is a cooperative effort between the Huerfano County Water Conservancy District (main sponsor), the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Water Division 2), and the Interstate and Federal Section of the CWCB (DSS), with additional support from other local funding sources including the Huerfano County Board of County Commissioners, Cucharas Sanitation & Water District, Huerfano County Federal Mineral Lease District, the Town of La Veta, the City of Walsenburg, and other local water users. Total project cost is $312,400 with $133,400 coming from the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s Water Supply Reserve Account.
Project completion is anticipated prior to December 31, 2018. Due to unanticipated delays by a third party in the breaching of Cucharas No. 5 Reservoir or channelization of the sediment deposits behind its dam, however, final completion may be extended to allow monitoring well construction in that area along the Huerfano River alluvium.