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White River Storage Project Proposal

October 27, 2018
by John Weisheit


The Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District is a Special District of the State of Colorado, organised for the purpose of conserving and developing land and water resources for the best use of water within the Districts boundaries. The District was organized by a decree of District Court on November 9, 1990. Home page.



The Northwest Colorado Water and Storage Project, also known as "Wolf Creek" has been in water resource planners sights since the 1940s when it was first proposed. Since then it seems every ten years interest in the project is renewed. Project Website.

To date, the RBWCD has completed a Phase 1 White River Storage Feasibility Study which included the review of 23+ potential storage locations. These 23+ sites were whittled down to 3 top prospects, but after on the ground review, one site was determined to be unsuitable and eliminated from the selection process. As before, the Wolf Creek location rose to the top of the list as the best prospect for development and was included in the State Water Plan. In 2014 the RBWCD filed with the State of Colorado two water rights applications for the Wolf Creek site, one for a main-stem dam/reservoir, and the second for an off-channel dam/reservoir.

With the preferred alternatives identified they developed a Scope of Work for a Phase 2 White River Storage Feasibility Study which will focus on the best method to Fill and Drain, create equally detailed plans for both alternative reservoir sites, and determine the maximum size of the chosen option.

With the completion and adoption of the State Water Plan by Governor Hickenlooper and many other entities, they have begun the process of developing a White River Management Plan which, after completion, will be adopted by the US Fish and  Wildlife as a Programmatic Biological Opinion (PBO). The White River Management Plan and PBO is a necessary step to the creation of a reservoir within the White River drainage.


In 1983 Taylor Draw Dam was constructed, creating Kenney Reservoir. One hundred percent of the dam was funded by the taxpayers of western Rio Blanco County, including the Town of Rangely. Taylor Dam Website

Taylor Draw Dam was constructed to alleviate flooding caused by ice jams in the White River. Such flooding was a major reoccurring issue for the residents of western Rio Blanco County, to the point that flood waters would back up to the stop lights on Main Street inundating a significant portion of the community and damaging municipal, business and residential structures. The construction of Taylor Draw Dam has effectively resolved the flooding issues in the area. Before the construction of the dam, typical means of eliminating ice jams was the use of dynamite/TNT to blast these large ice sheets apart. At one point, the ice jams were so significant the US Air Force was called in to use armed rockets and sonic booms from the jets to blast jams apart. Neither of these approaches proved to be an effective long-term solution.

In 1991 Taylor Draw dams height was enlarged to accommodate the upcoming construction of a hydroelectric facility. In 1993 a 2-megawatt hydroelectric generator was added. Again, the facility was fully funded by taxpayers residing within the service area of the RBWCD. The generator is capable of variable power output matching the flows of the White River. Seasonally the hydroelectric facility is shut down due to lack of river flows; typically in March, due to ice breakup, and August because of diminishing summer flows. At full power production capacity, the hydroelectric facility provides up to 30% of the energy for Rangely.

When constructed, Kenney Reservoir contained 13,800 acre-feet (AF) of water, had 650 surface acres, and a planned effective life expectancy of 30 years. Presently, Kenney Reservoir has closer to 8,000 AF of water and 335 surface acres, as the reservoir continues to lose around 315 AF of storage each year due to ongoing siltation. Following the construction of the dam over 750 sediment traps within the RBWCD service territory and drainage area of Kenney Reservoir were constructed to extend the life of Kenney Reservoir. These traps are maintained with an ongoing program in cooperation with the BLM and have proved extremely effective--extending the estimated life expectancy a decade beyond the original 30-year estimate. Unfortunately, even with these efforts in place, Kenney reservoir has an estimated effective storage life until 2028. The RBWCD staff is continuously seeking means to remediate the ongoing siltation and regain lost capacity.

The original concept for Kenney Reservoir included the construction of a mainstem reservoir located at Wolf Creek about 20 miles east of Rangely. This dam will function a means of increasing storage on the White River, allowing for population growth, while also increasing the life expectancy of Kenney Reservoir by reducing sedimentation. Plans for moving forward on this reservoir are in process.

Ultimately Kenney Reservoir is here to stay, at a reduced size, but continuing to protect the residents of the lower White River from flooding and providing diverse recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Amenities associated with Kenney Reservoir include, but are not limited to; picnic shelters & areas, handicap accessible fishing  pier, public restrooms, modern boat ramp, undeveloped boat ramp, campground, primitive camping, 2 swim areas one roped off near the campground and the other at the marina with float docks, numerous floating docks, boat mooring for day use, wildlife viewing  area, and primitive lands.



Green River and Its Tributaries
  • Green River from Gates of Lodore (Dinosaur National Monument) to the Colorado River confluence, Colorado and Utah.
  • Yampa River in Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado.
  • White River from Rio Blanco Lake Dam to the Green River confluence, Colorado and Utah.
  • Duchesne River from river mile 2.5 to Green River Confluence, Utah.



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