White River Storage Project
The Northwest Colorado Water and Storage Project, also known as "Wolf Creek" has been in water resource planners’ sights since the 1940s when it was first proposed. Since then it seems every ten years interest in the project is renewed, a feasibility study is completed, and after reviewing all the pieces involved in reservoir construction the Wolf Creek project makes perfect sense for a White River Reservoir.
This is due, in part, to the potential for a significant portion of water to be stored off of the main channel, even with the mainstem White River dam. The geology of Wolf Creek and the surrounding area allows the inundation areas for the mainstem versus off channel dam to be very similar. The Wolf Creek area also has the advantage of having all necessary raw materials available on site for the construction of the dam. Presently, estimates of the Wolf Creek Reservoir capacity are still in the development stages, but all indications point to a minimum reservoir capacity of 20,000 – 30,0000 AF to 90,000 AF of storage with maximum build capacity of stored water up to 1.2 million AF.
What complicates the prospect of constructing a reservoir of up to 1.2 million AF, is the ability to fill it off of the White River. In 2011 the RBWCD Board of Directors began actively investigating the feasibility of constructing another reservoir within the White River drainage to increase water storage during the frequent drought cycles encountered on the Lower White River.
To date, the RBWCD has completed a Phase 1 White River Storage Feasibility Study which included the review of 23+ potential storage locations. These 23+ sites were whittled down to 3 top prospects, but after on the ground review, one site was determined to be unsuitable and eliminated from the selection process. As before, the Wolf Creek location rose to the top of the list as the best prospect for development and was included in the State Water Plan. In 2014 the RBWCD filed with the State of Colorado two water rights applications for the Wolf Creek site, one for a main-stem dam/reservoir, and the second for an off-channel dam/reservoir.
With the preferred alternatives identified we developed a Scope of Work for a Phase 2 White River Storage Feasibility Study which will focus on the best method to Fill and Drain, create equally detailed plans for both alternative reservoir sites, and determine the maximum size of the chosen option.
With the completion and adoption of the State Water Plan by Governor Hickenlooper and many other entities, we have begun the process of developing a White River Management Plan which, after completion, will be adopted by the US Fish and Wildlife as a Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO). The White River Management Plan and PBO is a necessary step to the creation of a reservoir within the White River drainage.