Paonia Reservoir Sediment Management
Abstract:Paonia Dam and Reservoir are located on Muddy Creek, a tributary of the North Fork Gunnison River in western Colorado. Since dam closure in 1962, the 2002 survey estimates an annual sedimentation rate of 153,000 m3/y, resulting in a 25% loss of total reservoir capacity. Long before sediment levels completely fill the reservoir, the outlet works have recently plugged with sediment and debris, adversely impacting operations, and emphasizing the urgency of formulating an effective sediment management plan. Starting in 2010-2011, operations were changed to lower the reservoir and flush sediment through the outlet works in early spring before filling the pool for irrigation. Even though the flushing strategy through the long, narrow reservoir (~5 km long and 0.3 km wide) has prevented outlet works plugging, a long term plan is needed to manage inflowing and deposited sediment more efficiently. Reclamation’s Sedimentation and River Hydraulics Group is leading an effort to study the past and current sediment issues at Paonia Dam and Reservoir, evaluate feasible sediment management alternatives, and formulate a plan for future operations and monitoring. The study is building on previously collected data and the existing knowledge base to develop a comprehensive, sustainable sediment management plan. The study is being executed in three phases:
Phase 1 consisted of an initial site visit to map and sample existing reservoir bottom sediments, a preliminary site evaluation upstream and downstream of the dam, and establishment of time-lapse photo sites and taking initial ground-based photos.
Phase 2 includes a bathymetric survey of entire reservoir and 11 km of the river downstream of the dam, continuous suspended sediment monitoring upstream and downstream of the reservoir, and collection of additional core samples of reservoir bottom sediments.
Phase 3 involves the evaluation of current and past operations and sediment management practices, evaluate feasible sediment management methods, and providing recommendations for future monitoring and sediment management operations. Data collected during Phases 1 and 2 are used in a one-dimensional numerical sediment transport model for evaluating past, current, and potential future sediment management options.