Secretary Bernhardt Inspects Key Water and Power Facility in Western Colorado

Last edited 09/24/2019

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt inspected a key piece of national water infrastructure at Morrow Point Dam, located on the Gunnison River, a major Colorado River tributary in western Colorado. Morrow Point Dam is one of three dams managed by the Bureau of Reclamation that comprise the Aspinall Unit of the Colorado River Storage Project. Together, those three dams provide 1.08 million-acre feet of water storage, which serves families and farmers across western Colorado and helps support more than 40 million people living across the Colorado River Basin. In addition, the three Aspinall Unit power plants can generate more than 290 megawatts of renewable hydro-electric power, enough electricity to completely power 54,000 homes. 

“The Colorado River Storage Project is a great example of the vision and ingenuity of early resource managers in the West,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “It is a crucial part of a broad water and power system -  quite literally sustaining life and livelihood for tens of millions of Americans.”

Blue Mesa Dam, the uppermost and largest of the Aspinall Unit dams, stores and controls highly variable spring flows. Morrow Point is the real hydropower workhorse of the unit, serving as a primary peaking power plant and black start power source for the western electrical grid. Crystal Dam, located 6 miles downstream of Morrow Point, allows reregulation of the river and ensures sufficient releases, which are modified through the year to meet the needs of downstream water users while avoiding harmful impacts to endangered fish habitat in the lower Gunnison River. 

“The Morrow Point Dam truly is an engineering feat,” said Secretary Bernhardt.  “The Department is committed to its efficient operation, so that it can continue to deliver water and hydroelectric power to communities throughout the American West.”

Morrow Point Dam uses a unique thin arch, double curvature concrete dam. It was completed by Reclamation in 1968 and stands 468 feet tall. 

While he was in western Colorado, Secretary Bernhardt also visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and met with local National Park Service employees. 

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