The Arkansas Valley Conduit, the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, will receive $28 million in Bureau of Reclamation funding to begin construction.
The water diversion and storage project in the Lower Arkansas Valley will transport water for municipal and industrial uses from Pueblo Reservoir to towns in the Arkansas Valley as far east as Lamar.
When completed, the project will provide an average annual diversion of 69,200 acre-feet of water from the Western Slope to the eastern part of the state.
The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project was approved by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and work was begun in 1964 with construction of the Ruedi Dam and Reservoir on the Fryingpan River near Basalt.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit was part of the 1962 authorization but was never built because of the cost to local water systems, according to a press release from Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.
Greg Felt, who was recently named to the Colorado Water Conservation Board by Gov. Jared Polis, said the $28 million from the bureau is the first step and will allow the project to break ground.
The Colorado Water Conservation Board has also pledged $100 million to the project.
Felt said total cost for the project would be about $500 million. The balance is expected to come from ongoing annual funding.
Felt said the project is more critical now than in the past because drinking water standards have improved since the project was first contemplated.
Many municipal water systems that will benefit from the project are not in compliance due to contaminants such as selenium and radionuclides.
Completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit will give those in the lower basin access to upper basin quality water, Felt said.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Windsor) were instrumental in securing funding from the Bureau of Reclamation.
“We should be proud of our general delegation,” Felt said. “It was a bipartisan effort over decades. My hat is off to the entire delegation for getting this done.”