Pueblo Water is exploring ways to improve safety on the Arkansas River in the city by creating a passageway that would allow users to ride the river unimpeded.
By rehabilitating the Southside Diversion Dam and Raw Water Intake facility just north of City Park, and by improving the surrounding areas, river users would be able to traverse the Arkansas’ waters from below Pueblo Dam all the way to near Runyon Lake.
“This is a tremendous quality-of-life project – to have that entire reach of the river navigable,” Pueblo Water Executive Director Seth Clayton said. “This is something that Puebloans and visitors alike would enjoy for years to come.”
Pueblo Water’s primary driver for the project is the safety of the community. The Southside Diversion Dam has been the site of multiple accidents and fatalities through the years. Most recently, a father and son drowned in the area in the summer of 2020. Those tragic deaths prompted Pueblo Water to accelerate the timetable of rehabilitating the dam and surrounding area.
Modifying the diversion dam, an area that currently is unnavigable, would help minimize risks and hazards for those in-stream river users and on-land visitors as well. At the same time, the rehabilitated area would allow users to ride the river without stopping. An initial hydrotechnical review of design alternatives, completed by SG1 Water Consulting, Ltd., focused on river navigation, hydraulic performance, river user safety, fish passage and overall system functionality of the Southside Diversion Dam facility.
Construction on such a project could begin in 2022, with completion estimated in late 2023. Estimated cost of the project is projected to be more than $10 million.
Pueblo Water is in the process of applying for a Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant through FEMA. The grant would cover 75 percent of the cost of the project. Pueblo Water would be a primary contributor. The City, Pueblo County and the Conservancy District also have committed financially to the project.