For those of you who’ve been patiently yet eagerly awaiting the refilling of Big Johnson Reservoir, don’t get your scopes out just yet.
According to Gary Steen, manager of the Fountain Valley Mutual Irrigation Company, which owns the reservoir, the process “is taking longer than expected.”
You may recall that drainage began over two years ago, in the summer of 2016. Silt build-up in the 280-acre lake had diminished the amount of water the company could legally store by half. With 57 shareholders depending on the water for irrigation and well augmentation, it was time to dredge the lake and increase storage.
The company has built a by-pass pipe, and is currently working to repair the outlet gates (through the dam), which was mandated by the state. Once that’s completed, they will dredge for silt, and finally will fill the reservoir with water from Fountain Creek. November is the time of year they’re allowed to take water from the creek, and it’s a short window. Hopefully the project will be on track to refill the reservoir in November of next year. Otherwise, we—and the birds—will have to wait another calendar year.
This information that was provided by El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and is re-posted here from a recent column in the Fountain Valley News:
You may have noticed that the water in the Big Johnson Reservoir is getting lower not higher. Alert to her community, Deborah Stout-Meiniger noticed—and asked about it. Typically this time of the year, after the irrigation season is over the reservoir begins storing water to be released next spring at the start of the growing season.
According to Gary Steen, Manager of the Fountain Mutual Irrigation Company (FMIC), they are draining the reservoir to perform repairs on the dam and do some dredging to bring the reservoir back to the capacity it was designed for.
While not exactly the Hoover Dam, if you live downstream, which would be a good swath of homes below Widefield Park all the way to the rail road tracks, you have to appreciate the dam receives its regular inspections and the board members of the FMIC are taking their responsibilities seriously.
On the dredging side of the equation the capacity has been diminishing through the decades as sediment settles out of the millions of gallons of water that flow through the reservoir each year. For the past 15 years or so when they begin releasing water you notice an island appearing on the east side and as they continue to release water the island becomes a peninsula. The water is then concentrated in a pool by the outlet. Previous attempts to restore the capacity of the reservoir without draining it have proved to be cost prohibitive, not effective or both.
The work is expected to take a couple of years and the reservoir will remain dry for that time. Farmers dependent on the water for crops will receive water through augmentation. Basically, an agreement with another water provider to provide water to the farms and FMIC will replace that water at some other point in the system keeping everyone whole.
If this is Big Johnson Reservoir, where is Little Johnson Reservoir? The location is north of Bradley Road and south of the Milton E. Proby Parkway between Academy Blvd and Main. The property is primarily owned by Security Water District and is home to a solar garden. I have yet to talk to anyone that remembers it ever holding water and given the sandy soil in that area I suspect it was a theory that looked better on paper than in the field.