Changes are coming to the Paonia Reservoir. The Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), Fire Mountain Canal Company, and North Fork Water Conservancy District (NFWCD) will host a meeting at Memorial Hall in Hotchkiss on August 15 at 7pm, to explain the work that needs to be accomplished at the Paonia Reservoir this fall. The meeting will also outline the drawdown schedule and procedures for the reservoir so that work can begin in mid-September. This drawdown is designed to drain all water from the reservoir which will flush sediment into the North Fork and allow for access to the outlet structure.
In the fall of 2016, the BOR completed an Environmental Analysis on the Paonia Dam Intake Structure Repair. The report reviewed the many options, ecological impacts, and public comments surrounding the drawdown of the reservoir and the process of repairing the damaged bulkhead.
The most critical concern to watershed health with this upcoming project is the potential impact to fauna and fisheries from the release of excessive sediment downstream into the North Fork of the Gunnison during the fall season when the river experiences it’s lowest flows. Significant amounts of sediment are expected to persist within muddy creek just below the dam to the confluence of Anthracite creek. Increased turbidity is likely to persist as far down as Hotchkiss through the construction window ending in November 2017. Sediment deposits will remain within the river channel until flows are high enough to move them downstream in the spring of 2018.