Dolores Water Conservancy district no longer needs the lake
The Dolores Water Conservancy District sold Totten Lake to the Montezuma Valley Irrigation Co.
The sale has been on hold since MVIC signed a lease-to-own agreement for the lake in 2020, DWCD chief executive Ken Curtis said.
At Thursday’s DWCD meeting, the lake’s sale price and its water rights were finalized at $ 61,000, he said.
The contract has been signed by both parties, and the deeds and funds will be exchanged by the end of the year, Curtis said.
The 3,000 acre capacity lake northeast of Cortez provides agricultural water to farmers and ranchers in McElmo Canyon. Water is purchased by individual farmers and delivered via McElmo Creek to private land.
“Totten is more MVIC zone compliant,” Curtis said of the sale.
He said it became something of an orphan tank for the DWCD system once the Towoac Highline channel was put into service. The district considered a project to pump water up the canal, but the cost was prohibitive.
MVIC chief executive Brandon Johnson said Totten’s irrigation service at McElmo Canyon will continue under MVIC, which has been running it for a year.
The reservoir has been placed under restricted fill status by the Colorado Water Resources Division as repairs are needed on the top of the dam structure. The lake is not allowed to fill up until repairs are made.
MVIC is now responsible for the dam repairs and is working with DWR on a plan and schedule.
Totten Lake receives water from the McPhee Reservoir via the nearby Towaoc Highline Canal. Water is delivered to the lake if there is more than enough water to fill McPhee, which is not the case every year.
Totten’s water rights are lower than McPhee’s rights.
Totten is also a state wildlife preserve managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and it will remain, said Adrian Archuleta, Southwest Area Wildlife Manager.
Public access to the lake for bird hunting, fishing and non-motorized recreation on the lake will continue. Parks and Wildlife holds a perpetual easement that allows the public to access the lake regardless of the owner, Archuleta said.
Totten is ideally placed to provide irrigation water to McElmo Canyon, which has a lower elevation and an earlier growing season.