Potential Arkansas River Dam Safety Project In Pueblo Could Create Better Recreation

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Courtesy of Pueblo Water
An early sketch of a proposed plan to fix a dam in Pueblo along the Arkansas River.

Getting rid of an old dam would make the Arkansas River in Pueblo safer and possibly more fun. The 12- foot high Southside Diversion Dam and Raw Water Intake facility near City Park creates pressure for Pueblo’s water system. But, it's also been the site of multiple fatalities, including two out-of-town rafters last summer

Pueblo Water Executive Director Seth Clayton said there’s signage warning people away from the structure.

“As the water goes over the dam it creates a current that will pin things down to the bottom of the river bed and against the downstream face of the dam,” he said.

Replacing the dam with gradual drops would make an 8-plus mile stretch of river, starting below the Lake Pueblo Dam, floatable without having to portage. The modifications would form a passageway in the river channel, Clayton said. 

“People can kayak through it, people can tube through it and also so fish can make their way back up that reach of the river as well.”

The water utility has submitted an application for a Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities grant through FEMA to cover about 75 percent of the $10 million project, with the balance funded by the water board, city, county and conservancy district. If the grant is approved, construction is slated to begin next year and wind up in 2023.

“This is a tremendous quality-of-life project to have that entire reach of the rivernavigable,” Clayton said. “This is something that Puebloans and visitors alike would enjoy for years to come.”

The proposed plan is still in its early stages.