Santa Cruz Dam Water Capacity Restoration Project Moving Forward

Santa Cruz lake. Courtesy photo

Santa Cruz Dam Water Capacity Restoration Project Moving Forward

By Angelica Gurule

ESPAÑOLA  – Since 2004 the Santa Cruz Dam Water Capacity Restoration Project has been spearheaded by Kenneth Salazar, Chairman of Santa Cruz Irrigation District board of directors. The dam project is working to increase the water holding capacity of the Santa Cruz reservoir by raising the Santa Cruz dam by eight and a half feet (8.5 feet). Salazar noted the project is “shovel ready” and construction is expected to commence in 2017.

The project is estimated to cost $7.4 million. This dam project has been a long time coming as the current water holding capacity at the Santa Cruz dam is 5,356 aces-feet of water, where an estimated one-third or 34 percent of the dam is filled with sediment, which significantly reduces the holding capacity. “In 2001, Resource Technology, Inc. (RTI) completed a detailed bottom survey of Santa Cruz Lake,” reported Salazar.” There was a subsequent sedimentation study conducted by Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory in 2011.

The studies determined 1,808 acre-feet of sediment had been deposited (25 acre-feet per year) over the 84-year (1929-2013) life of the lake, equating to a 36 percent reduction in lake capacity.” Several possible solutions were explored during a preliminary engineering report completed in 2009 by URS that included raising the spillway by 5-12 feet, which had an estimated cost of $5 million, or dredging the sediment and raising the spillway which was estimated to cost $26 million. The most cost effective option was to raise the spillway using the current infrastructure for the estimated cost of $7.4 million.

The Santa Cruz dam and lake was built in 1929 with an initial water holding capacity of 5,356 acre-feet, standing at 125 feet tall and the reservoir spans 121 surface acres. “Blue gold”, or water is the life blood that has nourishes the Santa Cruz Valley. The water in the Santa Cruz reservoir originates in the Sangre de Cristo mountains and fills the Santa Cruz lake until it pours over into the acequias system and the fields and crops. By increasing the height of the dam wall it will provide one extra day of watering per parciante, or water rights owner on the acequia. The Santa Cruz irrigation district includes 28 Acequias and 3,202 parciantes. This project is expected to result in healthier and more bountiful crops.