The Rio Grande Dam & Reservoir Rehabilitation project, which is nearing completion, is an example of a basin-wide and regionally beneficial project that aligns with Colorado’s Water Plan goals.
Owned and operated by the San Luis Valley Irrigation District, the dam is located on the Rio Grande River near Creede, Colorado. The original dam was constructed in 1914, and has been enlarged and modified on several occasions since. The dam’s outlet gate chamber from the early 20th Century was overdue for an updated design to address safety concerns as identified by the Division of Water Resources Dam Safety Branch.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board, which seeks to provide funding for projects that optimize multiple benefits, provided $30 million in the form of loans and grants to complete the project. Benefits include: instream flow enhancement; channel maintenance; outdoor recreation opportunities; terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat; irrigation, augmentation; and storage to comply with the Rio Grande Compact between Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas.
The biggest challenge of this project was that during construction over the course of two winters, the dam had to remain operational. “Repairing the gate chamber on an on-channel dam requires the engineers and contractors to maintain the lifeblood water supply to water users downstream of the dam even during construction,” said Kirk Russell, CWCB Finance Section Chief.