The Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co. is interested in buying back Totten Lake to provide irrigation service for McElmo Canyon.
The reservoir, just east of Cortez, is owned by the Dolores Water Conservancy District. The district bought the lake and associated water shares from MVIC in 2002 for $2.5 million, officials said.
The Conservancy District board said in November it will consider selling the property, and has been discussing the real-state matter in executive session. The potential purchase and sale would be subject to a review of water rights, contracts and easements.
Whether MVIC would buy it back “depends on the district willing to sell and the price offered,” said MVIC manager Brandon Johnson.
The water company says if Totten is purchased it would be managed to provide early season irrigation benefits to McElmo Canyon farmers and ranchers. There is demand for water in early spring, as farmers in the canyon start sooner than the rest of the county because of their lower elevation and earlier growing season.
Water from Totten is delivered via McElmo Creek.
Because a crack in the dam needs repair, the lake is restricted by the Colorado Division of Water Resources to only fill up to 1,400 acre-feet of water, of which 500 acre-feet is reserved for a fish pool. The lake’s normal capacity is approximately 3,000 acre feet.
Totten is also a state wildlife area, and its shores and fishery are managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife for bird hunting, fishing and nonmotorized lake recreation.
Parks and Wildlife holds a perpetual easement that allows for public access to the lake, said area manager Matt Thorpe.
To prevent an invasive mussel infestation, the lake was closed this year to motorized boats, which can carry microscopic veligers of the mussel from infected lakes. But nonmotorized boats such as canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, and wind-surfing boards are allowed if hand-launched.
Lake officials reported Nov. 9 that a recent private land purchase at the lake resulted in the closure of the bathroom and upper parking lot.
Parks and Wildlife had a lease agreement with previous owners Empire Electric Association for the upper public parking area. But the lease expired, and the property has since been sold. Boulders now block access.
Thorpe said the agency is looking into negotiating a new lease with the new owners. He said the bathroom is owned by Parks and Wildlife. Barring a new lease, officials will consider removing it completely or relocating it to within the public easement at the lower parking lot.
MVIC sold Totten Lake to DWCD in 2002 because after the nearby Towaoc Highline canal was completed, it was determined the lake was no longer needed for the MVIC system.
In 2013, the Dolores Water Conservancy district improved Totten’s dam outlets and ditches and began offering water for delivery to McElmo Canyon. More than a dozen farmers signed contracts for the water at $21 per acre-foot.