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Environment

Fishing comes to a halt at Sweetwater Authority’s Loveland Reservoir

loveland-1.jpg
Zoe Meyers
/
inewsource
A floating dock now sits on mud at Loveland Reservoir, April 13, 2020. A controlled water transfer by Sweetwater Authority has visibly lowered the shoreline level.

Sweetwater Authority is again removing water from its Loveland Reservoir to meet customer needs during drought conditions, but the move will halt the lake’s free fishing program.

The agency, which serves roughly 200,000 South County customers, began moving water downstream to its Sweetwater Reservoir this week. Officials said its water supply took a hit because of the region’s lack of rainfall and that transferring the water is a cheaper option than importing.

But it means a decades-long program will be no more until rain returns the lake to high enough levels in the designated fishing area. As inewsource previously reported, the last water transfer from Loveland had largely wiped out the cove, prompting concerns from anglers about the fate of fishing at the lake.

At the time, Loveland was at 32% capacity. It was at 28% on Wednesday as officials began releasing water.

Loveland, near Alpine, was one of the few options in the region for free fishing. The program was created under a 1996 easement granted to the U.S. Forest Service, which requires access along with allowing birdwatching and hiking. But Sweetwater officials have previously said the easement covers a fixed area of land and only offers access to the shoreline and that their priority is delivering water to customers.

While fishing won’t be an option, those other recreational activities will remain available at Loveland after the transfer, according to a Sweetwater news release.

Local angler Russell Walsh sought support from elected officials to no avail. Leaders have told him the issue is outside of their jurisdiction.

“We barely had a couple of mediocre rain years, and poof, citizens not only don't have the fishing program, but we also don't have fishing at Government Cove that was mandated by the US government to be protected with the land swap,” Walsh said in an email Wednesday. “And that is acceptable management of the land exchange by the Forest Service? It is an abject failure.”

An authority spokesperson said officials don’t know how much water will be captured through the transfer.

“We will monitor and report the numbers once finalized,” Public Affairs Manager Leslie Payne said.

The last time Sweetwater opened the Loveland dam was in early 2021 when it captured 2.7 billion gallons and avoided an estimated $9.1 million purchase to import water.

The latest transfer is expected to occur over several weeks.

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