Plan for former Bonny State Park

By Joyce Lightle
The South Fork Republican River Coalition was pleased with the more than 60 people who came to the meeting on February 10 in Burlington to hear of the plans for the restoration of the Republican River in the Bonny Dam area.

Early in 2018, an alliance was formed to begin the exploration of what to do with the area of the former Bonny State Park.
Members of the alliance each brought different goals and concerns to the table and have worked well together to come up with a plan.
Coalition Partners are:
• Republican River Water Conservation District (compact compliance)
• Yuma and Kit Carson counties (economic and recreational opportunities)
• Three Rivers Alliance (group of private landowners with river conservation and restoration concerns)
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing)
• The Nature Conservancy (supports conservation across the US and the world)
After forming the alliance, members got a grant from the State Water Conservation Fund with a cash match from The Nature Conservancy and used those funds to pursue their main objective — to restore the stream flow of the Republican River through the Bonny area, hiring engineers and consultants to come up with plans and costs to accomplish this.

William Burnidge from the Nature Conservancy presents the plan at the meeting in Burlington. Other members of the South Fork Republican River Coalition were, from the left, Robin Wiley, Yuma County commissioner; Dave Hornung, Kit Carson County commissioner, Rod Lenz, RRWCD and Frank McGee, Colorado Parks and Wildlife. (Joyce Lightle)

At last Monday’s meeting, William Burnidge from The Nature Conservancy presented their plan.
To open the river channel in a way that complies with the compact, the project will start at the bridge by Hwy 385 and will clear the channel of sediment and vegetation all the way to the dam. This portion of the project will cost from $1 to $2 million.
There will also be several sediment traps to prevent further buildup along the new river channel.
The riverbed will be 8 to 10 feet wide at the bottom with banks spreading out to the side and there is a possibility of three to five small ponds, like Hale Ponds, along the river channel.
The second part of this plan will be getting the river water through the dam and into Kansas and Nebraska for compliance of the Republican River Water Compact.
They will lower the dam inlet 17 feet and utilize the 56 inch pipe that currently exists under the dam for the water flow. This portion of the plan is estimated to be $5 to $7 million.
Final details of the plan will be ready in May and then the SFRRC will proceed to stage 2. That will be getting funding and the necessary permits for the project. This could take from 18 to 24 months with possible funding coming from state and federal levels.
The coalition will be looking for the fastest possible way to get this done so construction can begin.
After the first step of restoring the river channel and water flow through the dam is done, the SFRRC will then proceed with planning recreational activities that will fit in with the new stream flow, probably funded through private enterprise.
Hunting is now an important part of the Bonny area and efforts will be made to keep this open throughout the construction.
The SFRRC has worked with key partners for this project:
The Bureau of Reclamation, Sen. Cory Gardner, Otak Engineers, Stillwater and Colorado State University.
The plan is posted on the RRWCD website: republican — just click on South Fork Republican River Coalition.