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Looking for a bigger bucket

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge lets more than 200 acre-feet of water it could store flow down the Blue River merely because it doesn’t have a place to put it.

That could change. Engineers will evaluate the geology of the town-owned McCain property north of town this summer to see if it can hold that much water – about 66.4 million gallons. If so, town officials plan to build a reservoir to capture the water for use in drought years.

Another suggested alternative to create more storage capacity is to dig out the Goose Pasture Tarn south of town. A recent study showed the tarn can hold 792 acre-feet of water – about 100 acre-feet less than town leaders originally thought. But dredging would not be feasible, said engineer Tom Williamsen of Helton and Williamsen Consulting of Englewood.



“You’d have to remove 8,000 truckloads of material to get an extra 100 acre-feet in there,” Williamsen said. “And you’d have to have somewhere to put all that material.”

Town council members asked water attorney Glenn Porzak to determine if they had rights to enough water before embarking on construction of a second reservoir, which would be preferable to dredging the tarn because work on the McCain parcel would not contaminate water supplies.



“The question was, if we had a bucket, could we fill it? Or would we have to buy more water rights?” Porzak asked council members Tuesday afternoon.

Porzak spent more than an hour Tuesday outlining the town’s water rights and the laws by which the town must abide to maintain water supplies to downstream users. After the town fulfills its obligations – to the ski area, golf courses and Blue River Water District – it has rights to an additional 204 acre-feet of water. But because the town doesn’t have anywhere to store it, the water flows downstream.

Porzak is negotiating with Denver Water, Colorado Springs, Summit County and Breckenridge Ski Resort to acquire an additional 50 acre feet from the Upper Blue Reservoir near Hoosier Pass. He’d like to put that water in a new bucket, and the county would like a place to store water as well – particularly since Centura Health would like to build a hospital on county land in Frisco, and Summit County has no water to serve it.

“It looked for a while like it got derailed,” Porzak said of the negotiations. “But we’re back on track.”

Additionally, Denver Water has asked to relax the call on the Shoshone Power Plant near Glenwood Springs. Relaxing the call – essentially cutting back on the amount of water that goes through the facility – would allow Denver Water to store additional water in Dillon Reservoir.

“Denver Water desperately needs that water,” Porzak said. “Denver reservoir storage levels are way down. They need to get them back up as soon as possible.”

Another possible source of additional water is the 600 acre-feet of water in the “dead storage” space in Clinton Reservoir. Dead storage refers to the water that is below the infrastructure that pumps the water from the facility.

“You never know what our future needs will be,” said Mayor Sam Mamula. “Who ever thought we’d get to the point we’d need more storage?”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.


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