Wildhorse reservoir

Map courtesy of Aurora Water

Some in Park County have heard about the Wild Horse Reservoir Project in meetings with county commissioners, from conversations at the local coffee shop or from neighbors.

The Wild Horse Reservoir is a reservoir that is being planned in Park County by the Aurora government in order to provide the City of Aurora with drinking water. 

Here is an update in the form of questions and answers from Greg Baker, public relations manager for the City of Aurora, on the project.

What is the Wild Horse Reservoir Project?

“This is an off-stream reservoir, so we’re not impacting the South Platte or any of its tributaries.

While we haven’t determined the final size for the reservoir, even the largest possible footprint would be almost exclusively on private property. We are projecting the size to be between 32,000 and 96,000 acre feet (acre foot is 325,851 gallons, enough water to serve three households)

Based on the final blueprint, we will negotiate with the Bureau of Land Management for use of small sections of BLM land.

No new water rights are included in this project. The source of our water is the Otero Pipeline, which conveys water from Aurora’s Arkansas and Colorado River rights. Those rights are currently being conveyed directly to Spinney Mountain Reservoir.”

The Aurora Government website added this update on July 14, 2020: “Aurora Water has received authorization from the BLM to perform geotechnical work, including core sampling and seismic investigations in the footprint of the proposed Wild Horse Reservoir. This work began mid-July and will continue into the fall.” 

What does this mean for residents?

“Aurora Water will perform geotechnical and geological investigations for the Wild Horse Reservoir project beginning on July 27, 2020. Work will consist of drilling exploration holes along potential dam embankment alignments to determine the engineering suitability of the proposed alignments. 

In addition, we will use an excavator to dig along the dam alignment in key areas to determine the shallow foundation conditions at the site.

All work for this summer will be at the southern end of the reservoir – where the saddle dams are proposed. The geological conditions at the main and east dam site have been investigated and are generally acceptable for a dam. 

As far as what to expect in the area is a smaller truck or track mounted drill rig, workers with the drilling company and engineers logging samples and generally observing the work. The work will use two drill rigs, with one mobilized to the site on July 27, and the other one on Aug. 3. The trenching will use local excavators and will be to a maximum depth of 25 fewet.

After the completion of each ‘hole’ the hole will be backfilled or we will install a screen and turn it into an ‘observation well’ where we can collect groundwater data from the surrounding area.  Any trenches will be backfilled after completion of the investigation.”

What is the project timeline? 

“We’re hoping to have a preliminary size and design by early 2021. We would like to have the reservoir completed by 2030.”

Does this mean that the project is 100% approved?

 “This project has few permitting challenges, so we have strong confidence that we can successfully meet the permit requirements at all levels.”

Which agencies need to approve the project?

 “The project may require approvals from the BLM, Corps of Engineers Colorado State Engineer’s Office, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Park County and other agencies that may be identified in the permitting process.”

What additional comments would you like to share? 

“There are many potential economic benefits to the county, both from the construction and operation of the reservoir. Aurora Water will look for local supplies for both workers and materials. Local businesses will benefit from the increased spending in the community. Once the reservoir is complete, there will likely be a recreational  component, though it’s too early to determine what that will look like. Based on Park County’s history with Aurora’s Spinney Mountain Reservoir, we anticipate a great potential for increased tourism dollars.”

 More information can be found at the website, WildHorseReservoir.org.

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