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Loveland Reservoir hit by drought, now closed due to rain

"100% of the fish are dead"

As the current year began, Loveland was at 1.7 percent capacity.
As the current year began, Loveland was at 1.7 percent capacity.

When Sweetwater Authority conducted a water transfer last November, draining Alpine's Loveland Reservoir to dead pool status for the first time ever, lake users thought it was the end of the free recreation program.

Then came the winter storms. But renewed opportunity for anglers, hikers and others seeking outdoor time has turned into ongoing closure. Not only did the rain boost lake levels; it eroded drought-wracked banks and trails, leaving 15 foot drop-offs along the shoreline. Sweetwater officials, in a meeting last Wednesday, said public recreation won't be back until storm damages are repaired, and it's a costly fix.

The fishing float ended up in a tangled heap of metal on dry soil.

Officials raised the possibility of creating a recreation district paid for by lake users to cover maintenance and improvements, such as reservoir enhancement and recycled water.

As the current year began, Loveland was at 1.7 percent capacity due to drought and transfers to South County drinking water customers in November and January, said the agency, which owns and operates Sweetwater and Loveland reservoirs. "The recreation area, located at the reservoir's inlet, was void of water."

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The rains created unsafe conditions, leading to the decision to close the area. "The top portion of the trail, it's fine, but currently the bottom portion "presents severe risk," said Carlos Quintero, the water authority's general manager.

"We will be assessing the damage, looking at options to repair this, working with our partners, especially the Forest Service."

"The top portion of the trail, it's fine, but currently the bottom portion presents severe risk."

A spokesperson for the Authority says the recreation program will remain closed due to safety and liability concerns, and there is no estimate when it will reopen.

A recreational easement was provided to the public in 1997 by a land swap between Sweetwater and the U.S. Forest Service. It called for year-round sunrise to sunset hours, which the agency has put at 7 am to 4 pm, Friday through Monday (October through February) and 7 am to 5 pm (March through September).

Prior water transfers and closure during Covid fueled frustration among lake users, who fought all last year for a useable - "minimum pool" - water level and restoration of the HUD-funded fishing float, which ended up in a tangled heap of metal on dry soil due to the transfers and drought. The fishing platform had sat on soil since February 2021, officials noted.

Currently, due to erosion, the only access trail from the recreation program parking lot to the fishing platform is unsafe to traverse, said Erick Del Bosque, Sweetwater Authority engineering manager.

"Right now, there's no water in the program."

As angler Russell Walsh puts it: "100 percent of the fish are dead."

Lake advocates are calling for an immediate reopening of all but the lowest portion of the trail to the reservoir. "There is no damage or hazard to the eastern portion," John Allen commented, adding that the main parking lot also provides access to popular Cleveland National Forest lands.

Walsh, who has fought for the terms of the original easement and continued free public recreation program, said he never - until last week's meeting - heard of the idea of a recreation district, to be paid for by lake users.

Sweetwater Authority officials have agreed to present their position on the current and future state of Loveland Reservoir on March 23 (6 pm) at the Alpine Community Planning Group meeting

Sweetwater spokesperson Leslie Payne says there has been no decision on a recreation district. "It was a part of the conversation, but there was no action on this request by the Governing Board. The Governing Board is aware of the impacts to recreation in the region, and is looking for ways to balance the need for recreation, while also ensuring the water supply needs for Authority customers are being met."

Sweetwater officials have agreed to provide an update on the closure of Loveland Reservoir on March 23 (6 pm) at the Alpine Community Planning Group meeting.

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As the current year began, Loveland was at 1.7 percent capacity.
As the current year began, Loveland was at 1.7 percent capacity.

When Sweetwater Authority conducted a water transfer last November, draining Alpine's Loveland Reservoir to dead pool status for the first time ever, lake users thought it was the end of the free recreation program.

Then came the winter storms. But renewed opportunity for anglers, hikers and others seeking outdoor time has turned into ongoing closure. Not only did the rain boost lake levels; it eroded drought-wracked banks and trails, leaving 15 foot drop-offs along the shoreline. Sweetwater officials, in a meeting last Wednesday, said public recreation won't be back until storm damages are repaired, and it's a costly fix.

The fishing float ended up in a tangled heap of metal on dry soil.

Officials raised the possibility of creating a recreation district paid for by lake users to cover maintenance and improvements, such as reservoir enhancement and recycled water.

As the current year began, Loveland was at 1.7 percent capacity due to drought and transfers to South County drinking water customers in November and January, said the agency, which owns and operates Sweetwater and Loveland reservoirs. "The recreation area, located at the reservoir's inlet, was void of water."

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The rains created unsafe conditions, leading to the decision to close the area. "The top portion of the trail, it's fine, but currently the bottom portion "presents severe risk," said Carlos Quintero, the water authority's general manager.

"We will be assessing the damage, looking at options to repair this, working with our partners, especially the Forest Service."

"The top portion of the trail, it's fine, but currently the bottom portion presents severe risk."

A spokesperson for the Authority says the recreation program will remain closed due to safety and liability concerns, and there is no estimate when it will reopen.

A recreational easement was provided to the public in 1997 by a land swap between Sweetwater and the U.S. Forest Service. It called for year-round sunrise to sunset hours, which the agency has put at 7 am to 4 pm, Friday through Monday (October through February) and 7 am to 5 pm (March through September).

Prior water transfers and closure during Covid fueled frustration among lake users, who fought all last year for a useable - "minimum pool" - water level and restoration of the HUD-funded fishing float, which ended up in a tangled heap of metal on dry soil due to the transfers and drought. The fishing platform had sat on soil since February 2021, officials noted.

Currently, due to erosion, the only access trail from the recreation program parking lot to the fishing platform is unsafe to traverse, said Erick Del Bosque, Sweetwater Authority engineering manager.

"Right now, there's no water in the program."

As angler Russell Walsh puts it: "100 percent of the fish are dead."

Lake advocates are calling for an immediate reopening of all but the lowest portion of the trail to the reservoir. "There is no damage or hazard to the eastern portion," John Allen commented, adding that the main parking lot also provides access to popular Cleveland National Forest lands.

Walsh, who has fought for the terms of the original easement and continued free public recreation program, said he never - until last week's meeting - heard of the idea of a recreation district, to be paid for by lake users.

Sweetwater Authority officials have agreed to present their position on the current and future state of Loveland Reservoir on March 23 (6 pm) at the Alpine Community Planning Group meeting

Sweetwater spokesperson Leslie Payne says there has been no decision on a recreation district. "It was a part of the conversation, but there was no action on this request by the Governing Board. The Governing Board is aware of the impacts to recreation in the region, and is looking for ways to balance the need for recreation, while also ensuring the water supply needs for Authority customers are being met."

Sweetwater officials have agreed to provide an update on the closure of Loveland Reservoir on March 23 (6 pm) at the Alpine Community Planning Group meeting.

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