Dam completed at Stevens Reservoir

Assisted by a prolonged dry autumn, Weeminuche Construction Authority crews completed the final work on the Stevens Reservoir dam on Nov. 24.

Upon final approval by the State Engineer’s office, and given typical precipitation, the reservoir could be filled up to 350 acre feet this winter. As a comparison, this is slightly more water than is held in Lake Forest.

Ultimately, after completion of wetlands mitigation work next spring and summer, the reservoir will hold approximately 1,780 acre feet of water.

The project, which raised the previous dam 10 feet and lengthened it to nearly 2,000 feet, began with land acquisition 20 years ago.

Cost of the enlargement project is projected to be $5.66 million, although final costs will not be known until the wetlands work is complete.

The Dutton Ditch Enclosure, completed by the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District in 2006 at a cost of an additional $3.83 million, is a closely-associated project. The Dutton Ditch conveys raw water from Four Mile Creek to Stevens and Hatcher reservoirs. The ditch was enclosed in pipe in order to maximize water delivery to the enlarged reservoir during periods when the district has priority water rights.

Together, the two projects should provide the district with an adequate water supply to meet current demand during a one-year drought. A filled reservoir will facilitate a PAWSD board decision to lift the nearly 10-year moratorium on inclusions of new service areas into the district. This moratorium, put into place due to lack of raw water supply, could be lifted in late 2009 or early 2010, given adequate precipitation and stream flows next year.

More information and a virtual tour of the Stevens Enlargement project can be found on the PAWSD Web site at www.pawsd.org.

Photo courtesy Sheila Berger
Memorialized and placed upon the impoundment of the new Stevens Reservoir, the dam’s old hand wheel harkens back to a bygone day and strikes a commanding view over the reservoir basin and the San Juan Mountains. The hand wheel was used to control flows at the dam’s outlet gate.