Trout Creek dam moving through federal process
June 27, 2014
Trout Creek Reservoir at a glance
Located 15 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs near the intersection of Routt County roads 33 and 179
Surface acres: 400
Storage: 11,720 acre feet
Compares to Stagecoach Reservoir
Surface acres: 820
Storage: 36,460 acre feet
Steamboat Springs — Peabody Energy's plans to build a new reservoir on Trout Creek about 15 miles southwest of Steamboat Springs passed another milepost this month with the filing of its latest update with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. But the date when the coal mine operator could file with FERC for an operating permit is still more than a year away on March 5, 2016, and that's before the dam is built.
The primary purpose of the dam, Peabody officials have said, is to provide a permanent source of water for coal washing at its nearby mines, but it also would generate 125 kilowatts of electricity. And recreational fishing on the reservoir is described as providing an attractive amenity to future residential real estate development on Peabody's considerable land holdings in the vicinity.
The latest "initial study report" filed by Peabody concludes that although the population of Northwest Colorado is expected to grow significantly over the next few decades, there is little indication of a need for public recreation facilities on the reservoir. At the same time, it suggests the new impoundment, about half the size of Stagecoach Lake State Park in surface acres but with about one-third the stored water, could support a significant fishery.
Much of the report deals with potential impacts on wildlife, the suitability of the geology to support the earthen dam structure and the need to conduct more data gathering on annual streamflows.
Steamboat Today first reported Peabody's plans for the new dam and reservoir on Trout Creek in April 2012 after a consultant working on the project sent a memo with some of the details to Tom Sharp, of the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy in Steamboat Springs.
The newest report explains that a streamflow assessment planned for 2013 was deferred to this year. Research being undertaken also includes weekly monitoring of water temperatures and dissolved oxygen content, which are critical factors in the health of the creek as a fishery. That data will be used to develop a reservoir water quality model in order to simulate water quality in the reservoir itself and the stream below the dam.
The newest study also deems it likely that trout and other species of fish travel up Trout Creek from the Yampa River to spawn.