A water conservancy district originally formed to build a dam across Pawnee Creek has shifted its focus to other, more immediate concerns.
Brad McCloud, a public relations specialist with EIS Solutions, told the Sterling City Council Tuesday evening that the Logan County Water Conservancy District is shifting its focus away from a single large project to a series of smaller ones.
“There have been a lot of changes over the past two years, so (LCWCD) has re-devined their mission and taken a new direction,” McCloud said. “We’re in the process of developing a master plan to take (the district) to the next level.”
McCloud said the “major project” of building a flood-mitigation dam across Pawnee creek isn’t completely off the table, but it probably won’t be done in the foreseeable future.
“There are other, smaller projects that we could do that would mitigate flooding, so that’s where the focus is going to be,” he said.
The conservancy district was formed in 2000 after flash flooding of Pawnee Creek in the spring of 1997 caused widespread damage in the Sterling area. The district was formed specifically to mitigate flooding in the Pawnee Creek drainage area of Logan and Weld Counties.
The centerpiece of the district’s efforts at that time was a proposed dam 131 feet high and 6,800 feet long across the Pawnee about a mile north of where the creek passes under Colorado Highway 14, 11 miles west of Sterling. In the case of a flood along the order of the 1997 event, which flooded southern parts of Sterling, the dam would hold back about 90,000 acre-feet of water.
During an interview Tuesday, prior to the city council meeting, McCloud and LCWCD General Manager Shane Miller said the “big project” simply isn’t feasible and may not be for some time. While they weren’t specific about what other projects should be done, Miller said the district will shift its focus to smaller projects that will mitigate flooding in the immediate future.
During a board workshop meeting in September, the district’s leadership decided to change the direction of their work and then formally approved the new direction at their October board meeting.
The next step, Miller said, is developing a court-approved master plan to guide future efforts.
“We’ll be reaching out to stakeholders in the coming year, asking for input on the master plan,” he said. “We’ll be looking for things that people may be aware of that may or may not be appropriate to include in the plan.”
McCloud said the LCWCD hopes to work closely with the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District, which is looking into water storage possibilities in the basin. Although LCWCD isn’t legally allowed to store water for irrigation or recreational uses, McCloud said some of its work may fit with projects that would be proposed by Lower South Platte.
LCWCD also will work closely with the sponsors of the South Platte River Master Plan, which was developed in 2017 to find ways to mitigate flooding damage on the river in Morgan, Washington, Logan and Sedgwick counties.
Miller said he and McCloud already have previously met with the Logan County Commissioners, and then briefed the Sterling City Council Tuesday evening.
City Councilman Bob McCarty is a former member of the LCWCD’s board of directors. He praised the district’s efforts Tuesday night, saying the change in direction is “very timely, and I’m very glad to see you going in this direction.”
Jeff Rice: 970-526-9283, firstname.lastname@example.org