Contact Us

Corps of Engineers involved in clean water violation

by Carol Dunn

BADITO- A violation of the 1972 Clean Water Act in the Huerfano River near Badito resulted in the US Army Corps of Engineers organizing a conference call last week with area water leaders to determine a workable course of remedial action.  Joshua Carpenter, Army Corps Regulatory Specialist, told the call participants that the purpose of the Clean Water Act is to keep water clean, and that means no unpermitted projects in streams. “We don’t want this to happen every year,” he said.

    Reportedly, about six weeks ago, Robert Pfaffenhauser used a bulldozer to remove trees and shrubs along the embankment along a quarter mile of the Huerfano River.  The dam is now unstable, reinforced by a rock-filled railroad boxcar cabled in place.  According to Carpenter, Pfaffenhauser was trying to repair two of his irrigation outtakes to maintain his water rights and “wasn’t advised” he needed a permit.  Water Commissioner Ray Garcia said, “People need to be told they have to get a permit from the Corps of Engineers to work in a river.”

    Representatives of the Army Corps, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Colorado Division of Water Resources and Huerfano County Water Conservancy District discussed the dilemma of how to repair the riverbanks and dam.  The Army Corps wants to resolve the violation to minimize future damages to downstream landowners.  Carpenter said an acceptable dam structure has been designed by the NRCS area office in Pueblo, however it would involve about 5,000 tons of rock and $250,000 in funding.  At this point, there are no solid ideas about where funding might come from.  Carpenter told the group if the structure is stable, most of the other problems may resolve themselves.  Most of the call participants agreed that there is no “cheap” way to stabilize the river and fix the dam.  An old log dam at the site was stable for about 50 years but washed out about ten years ago.  Pfaffenhauser still needs to replace his irrigation structures and a ditch that have been damaged by previous flooding.  Dawson Jordan, a landowner near Badito and a director on the Water Conservancy District, commented that the Huerfano has had three floods of 4,000 cubic feet per second or greater (characterized as 100-year floods) in the past 12 years.  One of those occurred in 2008 and undercut and collapsed the riverbank, dragging a piece of Pfaffenhauser’s heavy equipment into the river.  The river is about 40- to 50-feet wide at the site of the violation.

    “This landowner has a problem on his hands,” Carpenter told the Journal.  “We’re keeping an open mind and working with him.  We’re exploring some funding.  We want this fixed right.  We’re looking at the bigger picture, and this affects everybody downstream.”