REDMESA – The traditional ribbon cutting Thursday officially brought on line the Long Hollow Reservoir, raising the hopes of irrigators for a more consistent supply of water.
Already the reservoir, capacity 5,300 acre-feet, has seen a little accumulation of water from recent heavy rain funneled into it via Long Hollow Creek and Government Draw.
“We released that water,” said Brice Lee, president of the La Plata Water Conservancy District, sponsors of the project. “But today we start storing.”
The main purpose of the reservoir, named for the late landowner Bobby K. Taylor, whose ranch house sat scant yards from the toe of the dam, is the storage of water to meet contractual obligations with New Mexico.
Colorado must share La Plata River water fifty-fifty with New Mexico. But the fickle nature of the river makes living up to requirements difficult. Now reservoir water can satisfy New Mexico demands, allowing Colorado irrigators more use of the La Plata River.
“The real beneficiaries are our irrigators,” Lee said. “We hope we can develop sustainable agriculture on Fort Lewis Mesa.”
The dedication ceremony gave participants a view over a basin which, when full, will be a mile-long lake.
Seemingly, anyone connected to the project – from early visionaries to construction workers who labored during the two years it took to build the dam – attended.
Representatives from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, which contributed $3 million to the cost of construction, were on hand. Priscilla Rentz, a member of the Ute Tribal Council, gave invocation.
Three current legislators were in the audience – state Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango; state Rep. Michael McLachlan, D-Durango; and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez.
Judging from the names announced, the entire board of the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority accompanied agency director Mike Brod,
At least a half-dozen members of the extended Taylor family stood to acknowledge applause.
Family spokesman Trent Taylor said he doesn’t expect the reservoir project that honors his father will help anyone totally, but will benefit everyone a little bit.
Bobby Taylor’s long-held vision was a reservoir for ranchers and farmer in this dry corner of La Plata County.
Deems Taylor, one of Bobby Taylor’s sons, and Lawrence Huntington, an original member of the La Plata Water Conservancy District, cut the ceremonial ribbon.
Manuel Hart, chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Council, and Howard D. Richards, a member of the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council, spoke.
Water is gold here, given the inconsistent nature of the La Plata River and the requirement that what flow there is must be shared fifty-fifty with New Mexico.
Irrigators saw hopes shrivel when the Animas-La Plata Project, or A-LP, the last big water undertaking in the West, was downsized in the late 1990s, eliminating water for agriculture.
In spite of the disappointment, project advocates found three sources to keep the project alive – $15 million from the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority, $3 million from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and $1.575 million from the state Legislature this year.
Groundbreaking took place in summer 2010. The labor force of the Weeminuche Construction Authority, which built the dam, was 71 percent Ute Mountain Ute.
The Long Hollow Reservoir will serve as a water bank, to be drawn on by New Mexico. The reserve allows Colorado irrigators to use La Plata River water that otherwise would go south.