|Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, Solicitor of the Interior David Bernhardt and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Bob Johnson joined Colorado state officials, members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation and tribal leaders on Thursday, October 16, near Durango, Colorado to celebrate the near completion of the main features of the Animas-La Plata project. [Photo by Tami Heilemann, DOI-NBC] Hi-Res
DURANGO, CO – With the construction of the Animas-La Plata Project nearing completion in Colorado, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and other leaders lauded progress on the project in a ceremony today near the outlet works at the base of Ridges Basin Dam.
Several hundred project partners joined Kempthorne, Department of the Interior Solicitor David Bernhardt, Governor Bill Ritter, Sen. Ken Salazar, Chairman Clement Frost of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Chairman Ernest House of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, President Joe Shirley the Navajo Nation and Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Robert Johnson in a celebration at the site.
The speeches and ceremonial water release commemorated the construction benchmark and the fulfillment of tribal water rights dating back to 1868.
“Animas La Plata is more than a source of water,” Kempthorne said. “It is a significant economic development project for Native Americans. Not only will the tribes’ economies benefit from 80 percent of the water allocation, but the project has meant a new future--jobs and training--for many Native Americans. Seventy percent of the workforce on the project has been Native American.”
Construction of the project’s key Colorado features, which include Ridges Basin Dam and Basin Creek drop structures, the Durango Pumping Plant, and Ridges Basin Inlet Conduit, is 97 percent completed. The focus now moves on to the parts of the project in New Mexico. In September, work began on the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline.
The Lake Nighthorse Reservoir is scheduled to start filling in spring 2009. Based on the current construction schedule, the Animas-La Plata Project is planned for completion in 2012.
“The bottom-line is that water will finally begin flowing to tribal lands and municipal users in just a few more years,” said Kempthorne.
“This represents the first Bureau of Reclamation dam project in more than a decade,” Kempthorne noted. “It is on-schedule, under budget and environmentally sound. It provides major benefits for tribes and municipalities. It will provide water for the equivalent of 120,000 households and include water for recreation, fisheries and wildlife.”
When completed, Ridges Basin Dam and Lake Nighthorse will impound approximately 120,000 acre-feet of water and include an inactive pool of approximately 30,000 acre feet for recreational, fishery and water quality purposes.
Upon completion of the entire project, water stored in Lake Nighthorse will provide a reliable municipal and industrial water supply to Tribes and the people of the four corners area to sustain future needs, without taking scarce water resources away from existing water users in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.