Fruita works to repair reservoir near Glade Park

Nestled among the evergreens a few miles down a dusty dirt road, past where the pavement of 16.5 Road ends, is a man-made mud hole where once was a man-made lake.

If all goes well, however, the mud will be gone by the end of next year, the fish will be back, and the residents of Fruita will have restored a jewel in their park system.

“It is a major asset of Fruita’s that needs to be protected,” Fruita Mayor Ken Henry said of the reservoirs as a place to recreate and a potential future water supply. “It is a tremendous resource that we have up there.”

“Up there” is on Pinon Mesa, north of Colorado Highway 141, south of Glade Park. Up there, where the temperature averages 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the valley floor, Fruita owns four small reservoirs and 80 acres of land that many locals know as easily accessible campgrounds.

The water collected there is primarily used for recreation, but some Glade Park residents use it for irrigation.

The city of Fruita depends on Ute Water for its drinking supply.

Some officials say the city has neglected the lakes, which were constructed in the early 1900s, and could struggle to maintain future water rights.

“Some of the maintenance has been neglected for the past years,” said Garrett Jackson, dam safety engineer for the Colorado State Division of Water Resources.

Jackson said it would be a lengthy legal process to wrestle away the water rights from Fruita, but added it is always a possibility “if you have a water right that someone is not using.”

Earlier this summer, city engineers drew down the water level of the already depleted Reservoir No. 1 to inspect its dam. The city has until the end of the year to comply with a 2001 order from the Colorado State Division of Water Resources Dam Safety Branch to complete design plans to repair the reservoir’s old dam.

City Manager Clint Kinney said the city is spending $100,000 for the engineering firm of Drexel, Barrell & Co. to do an analysis and design repairs. The city also has met all due diligence filing deadlines to maintain its water rights, he said.

The city has been prioritizing repairs to the reservoirs, spending an average of $80,000 a year for the last four years, Kinney said. In the last decade, it has made substantial improvements to Enoch Lake and Reservoir No. 2, he said.

“Reservoir No. 2 and Enoch (Lake) are in good shape. Reservoir No. 1 and No. 3 need attention,” Kinney said.

The city had approvals from the state to repair the spillway for No. 3, but after five years of inaction by the city, those approvals expired, Jackson said.

Kinney said the city put off making the repairs because it now has a much less expensive and more effective way to make the repairs.

The dam for Reservoir No. 1 has had two landslides, and both resulted in minimal repairs done, leaving the lake at a low level, Jackson said.

In 2001, the state ordered the city to purposely breach the dam of reservoir No. 1 because it was showing signs of failure.

The dams for Reservoirs 1 and 2 are rated as significant hazards by the state, meaning that if they were to break when the reservoirs were full, it could be a significant hazard to property, but a minimal threat to human life, Jackson said.

In 2000, the city was ordered by the state to upgrade the spillway or breach the dam of Reservoir No. 3 because it was deteriorating.

In 2005, Tom Huston, Fruita public works director, estimated repairs would cost $275,000: $150,000 for Reservoir No. 1,  $75,000 for Reservoir No. 3,  $25,000 to repair a pipeline from Reservoir No. 2 to the main Fruita waterworks; and another $25,000 for miscellaneous repairs to springs and piping, according to recorded minutes of a Fruita City Council meeting.

Costs surely have increased since then, Jackson said.

“It is not a minor undertaking,” he said.

Last year, the Colorado Army National Guard offered its assistance to the city to make repairs. This year, the city signed an agreement with the National Forest Service and has been working with Glade Park volunteers to maintain the area.

Huston told the Fruita City Council that the National Guard could significantly reduce repair costs, but until the current engineering study is complete and a memorandum of understanding with the National Guard is signed, the work can not proceed, according to minutes from a February city council meeting.

Henry said he estimates it will take another five years to make all the repairs. Neither Henry nor Kinney could say where the funds would come from. Selling off any of the 80 acres of land the city owns atop Pinon Mesa is not an option, Henry said.


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