Animas-La Plata Water Project
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The Animas-La Plata water project is a water project under construction designed to fulfill the water rights settlement of the Ute Mountain and the Southern Ute tribes of the Ute Nation in Colorado, USA.
The project had been a subject of congressionally funded studies, public debate, presidential cancellation, congressional debate, congressional action and congressional inaction for nearly four decades. The original congressional authorization for the United States Bureau of Reclamation project came in 1968 to supply 491,200 acre feet (605,900,000 m3) of water for irrigation, industrial and municipal water supply use in Colorado and New Mexico. The project still had to go through design and receive the necessary permitting. It was 1980 before the final environmental impact statement was approved and released. Construction was expected to begin in 1980 or 1981, however, President Carter ordered that no new water projects be started. In 1996–97, Colorado Gov. Roy Romer and his lieutenant governor, Gail Schoettler, undertook a major initiative to bring supporters and opponents together to address and resolve the issues and gain consensus on project alternatives. In 1998, the Department of the Interior issued a recommendation for a substantially scaled-down project designed primarily to satisfy Native American water rights, along with municipal and industrial needs in the immediate area secondarily, and completely excluding other non-Indian irrigation systems.
The current design includes the construction of a 280 cubic feet per second (7.9 m³/s) pumping plant on the Animas River just south of downtown Durango, Colorado; an underground pipeline to carry project water from the pumping plant to the reservoir location, and off-stream reservoir, Lake Nighthorse, at Ridges Basin, southwest of Durango. This reservoir will store about 120,000 acre feet (150,000,000 m3) of water to be pumped from the Animas River on the south end of Durango. In addition, the project includes a future buried pipeline from the Farmington, New Mexico, area to the Shiprock, New Mexico, area, supplying water for Navajo Nation usage.
Project completion is scheduled for 2012. Lake Nighthorse reservoir filled to capacity in June of 2011.