Animas-La Plata Project: Animas River pumping station to go online today

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The Animas-La Plata hits a huge milestone today as the pumps will will be turned on to start the first fill of Lake Nighthorse behind the Ridges Basin Dam. Here’s a report from Dale Rodebaugh writing for the Durango Herald. From the article:

The project is being built by the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that has been testing equipment at the pumping station for two weeks. “We’re transitioning from testing to the real thing now,” Barry Longwell, deputy construction engineer, said Thursday as he led a tour of the pumping plant. “The reservoir will be filled gradually on an as-it-goes basis.”

The first fill will take 18 months to three years, depending on such factors as the flow in the Animas, the demand of senior water-right holders downstream, the amount of water needed for environmental commitments in the Animas and the capacity of the pumping station, Longwell said. The lake will be off limits until the reservoir is full. While recreation – including boating – is planned, nothing has been finalized.

Eight pumps – two each with a capacity of 14 and 28 cubic feet of water per second, respectively, and four with 56 cfs capacity – will be used. A cubic foot of water per second will produce nearly 2 acre-feet in 24 hours. In a nutshell, the A-LP, as it’s known, consists of the reservoir (120,000-acre-foot Lake Nighthorse), the pumping station and a pipeline connecting the two as well as facilities in New Mexico for partners there, including the Navajo Nation.

All New Mexico partners in the project will draw their shares of water from the San Juan River, of which the Animas is a tributary. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe haven’t specified uses for their shares of the water. The La Plata West Water Authority plans to use water for the dry southwest corner of La Plata County where residents are on wells or haul water to their homes…

“It was important to settle Ute water claims because it gives some security to other water-right holders,” Isgar said. “The Utes have water rights dating to 1868, but while the rights were never quantified and adjudicated (in water court), they gave up those claims for water from the A-LP.” After all, the right to 100 percent of water from streams that go dry in the summer isn’t as prudent as having some water, albeit less, from a reliable year-round source, Isgar said…

The Colorado partners in the A-LP are the Southern Utes, the Ute Mountain Utes, the state of Colorado and the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District. The New Mexico partners are the Navajo Nation, the San Juan Water Commission and the La Plata Conservancy District. The capacity of the reservoir is 120,000 acre-feet but only 57,100 acre-feet of depletion is allowed. The three tribes have a right to 62 percent of the water, nontribal entities 38 percent. Evaporation will account for 2,700 acre-feet a year.

Click through and read the whole article. They’re running video of the dedication ceremonies for the dam last October, they’re running some great photos and there is a timeline for the trials and tribulations for the project.

More Coyote Gulch coverage here and here.

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