Reservoir at Wolcott cheaper than expected |

Reservoir at Wolcott cheaper than expected

Cliff Thompson

Preliminary cost figures on the proposed Wolcott Reservoir have raised the eyebrows of water suppliers because it appears to be economically feasible.

The cost will range from $1,310 per acre-foot for a 150,000 acre-foot reservoir to up to $2,400 per acre-foot for a 50,000 acre-foot reservoir. An acre-foot is 326,000 gallons – or enough water to cover a football field a foot deep.

If built as proposed the reservoir would be used to boost the flow of the Eagle River and would be the cornerstone of a historic water-sharing agreement that would bring the Denver Water Board into an existing coalition comprising Colorado Springs, Aurora and water users in Eagle County. Denver would abandon its 260,000 acre-feet of water rights in the Eagle and Piney river drainages in return for a portion of the water in the Wolcott Reservoir.

“I was surprised at how cost-effective those numbers seemed to be,” said Glenn Porzak, water attorney for the Eagle River Water and Sanitation, which supplies water to eastern portions of the county. “You can’t dismiss this one (reservoir) out of hand because those are very cost-effective numbers.”

The $100,000 study of the reservoir is being paid for by the Denver Water Board, the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the Colorado River Water Conservation District and others. A final report is expected in May.

The dam for the proposed Wolcott Reservoir would be built immediately north of the Eagle River and west of Highway 131. It would flood the valley floor now occupied by the 4Eagle Ranch.

If the larger reservoir is built it will be approximately two-thirds the size of the 255,000 acre-foot Dillon Reservoir in Summit County. But more significant than that, the new reservoir would bolster the water available for summer and autumn flows in the Eagle River and would take the pressure off existing reservoirs in the Colorado River system

The proposed reservoir would also help the Western Slope and the Front Range meet an environmental deadline in 2010 that calls for release of 10,825 acre-feet in the autumn to help the spawning habitat of the endangered Colorado squawfish – also known as the pikeminnow – and the razorback sucker. Water to keep those fish going is temporarily being released from Reudi Reservoir east of Basalt.

The Wolcott Reservoir was initially envisioned three decades ago as the holding pond for a pump-back system to the Front Range. Water would have been pumped from the Colorado River to the reservoir site then pumped over Vail Pass and to the Front Range.

Cliff Thompson can be reached via e-mail at: or by calling 949-0555 ext. 450.

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