EAGLE – On Tuesday, Eagle County commissioners approved a permit for Gypsum’s expansion of LEDE Reservoir to begin as soon as the town receives three other permits that are pending.
Jeff Shroll, Gypsum town manager, and Gypsum’s water attorney, Ramsey Kropf, asked the board to approve the permit with conditions so that the town will be able to proceed without further delay once the other lengthy permit approvals are done.
“It’s worth noting that the county’s planning commission was supportive of this application,” commissioner Jill Ryan said prior to the commissioners all voting in favor of the permit.
The pending permits are from the Army Corps, Colorado Department of Health and Environment, and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Once Gypsum gets those, dirt will start moving.
Between all the different permits, there is a long list of mitigations for wetland areas and wildlife impacts, among other things such as dam safety.
“This is considered a ‘high-hazard dam’ due to its size and height, so it’s subject to the most stringent safety standards in the state,” Kropf said.
Gypsum wants to expand LEDE from 431 acre-feet of water to 947 acre-feet.
Kropf said the town thought construction would begin last summer but was delayed by permitting from the Army Corps of Engineers and the drought.
“This summer, the reservoir is entirely empty and we anticipate moving forward,” she said.
Shroll said Gypsum is three years into the permitting process.
“We’ve spent about $280,000 just waiting,” he said.
LEDE Reservoir is located in the White River National Forest on Gypsum Creek, approximately 18.5 miles south of Gypsum. The existing LEDE Reservoir was originally constructed in 1931 and was raised to its present structural height of 44 feet around 1940. As an old dam, it has to be structurally upgraded anyway to comply with regulations. Besides that, the existing reservoir does not have sufficient storage capacity to accommodate the town’s existing water rights or meet the town’s projected water demands for municipal, agricultural, industrial and other associated needs.
The enlargement proposal is also designed to provide reliable dry-year carryover storage, help meet minimum in-stream flows on Gypsum Creek and the Eagle River, and to enhance the recreational opportunities provided by the reservoir.
“Right now, the dam is not deep enough for fish to survive through the winter,” Shroll said. “A big hope with this project is also to protect in-stream flows on Gypsum Creek.”
Shroll said once construction starts it will take at least 18 months to finish the project.
On a trivia note, LEDE’s strange name reflects the initials of the four families who originally decreed and historically used the reservoir.