50th anniversary celebration of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo

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The project got its start with a visit to Pueblo from President Kennedy back in 1962. Here’s the first installment from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. Click through and read the whole article, Woodka is a terrific writer. Here’s an excerpt:

But on that day [August 17, 1962], work began to address the problem. Kennedy came to Pueblo to celebrate the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Act the previous day. Local water leaders will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fry-Ark Project Saturday at Lake Pueblo…

The Twin Lakes Tunnel was constructed by the Colorado Canal Co. during the Great Depression, while the old Carlton railroad tunnel was used by the High Line Canal Co. to bring in water. In addition, Colorado Springs and Aurora were already building the Homestake Project, which would be intertwined with the Fry-Ark Project as both were built.

But the government project, a scaled-down version of an earlier, larger plan to bring water from the Gunnison River basin, represented a larger cooperative effort between farmers and municipal leaders in nine counties.

Since the first water was brought over in 1972, about 2.1 million acre-feet of water has been brought into the Arkansas River basin for irrigation and municipal use. The project also generates electric power at the Mount Elbert Power Plant.

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Woodka details some of the early water history along the Arkansas River mainstem in this report running in today’s Chieftain. Here’s an excerpt:

The Water Development Association of Southeastern Colorado was incorporated in 1946. Pueblo business leaders worked with valley water interests to investigate a Gunnison-Arkansas Project. By 1953, the project was scaled back to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, and the first hearings began in Congress.

During the congressional hearings in subsequent years, the project evolved from one primarily serving agriculture to one that included municipal, hydroelectric power, flood control and recreation as well.

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District formed in 1958.

The U.S. House passed the Fry-Ark Act on June 13, 1962; the U.S. Senate, Aug. 6, 1962. President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on Aug. 16, 1962.

Here’s a short look at Jay Winner, current general manager of the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, from Chris Woodka Writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Back in the 1960s, his father Ralph Winner was the construction superintendent for Ruedi Reservoir, the first part of the Fry-Ark Project to be constructed and his family lived on the job site. His father came back in the late 1970s to supervise construction of one of the last parts of the collection system to be built, the Carter-Norman siphon. The siphon draws water across a steep canyon.

For three summers, Winner, then a college student, worked on the latter project. “It was the most fun I ever had,” he laughed. “I got to play with dynamite.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A retired outfitter, [Reed Dils] is now a Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board member and a former representative from the Arkansas River basin on the Colorado Water Conservation Board. “Initially, the flows got worse,” Dils said. “They (the Southeastern district and the Bureau of Reclamation) had chosen to run water in the winter…

“It became apparent to everyone there was another way to run the river,” Dils said. “Why the Fry-Ark act was passed, recreation mainly meant flatwater recreation. Over time, they learned there are other types of recreation.”

Here’s the release from Reclamation (Kara Lamb):

Reclamation and the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District invite the public to celebrate the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project’s 50th Anniversary at Lake Pueblo State Park on Sat., Aug. 18. The event is located at Lake Pueblo State Park Visitor’s Center from 9 a.m.to 2 p.m.

Reclamation, the District and Colorado State Parks and Wildlife are offering free pontoon boat tours around Pueblo Reservoir and free tours of the fish hatchery located below Pueblo Dam. There will also be historical displays and several guest speakers.

Signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose trans-basin water diversion and delivery project serving southeastern Colorado.

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project provides:

– Water for more than 720,000 people
– Irrigation for 265,000 acres
– The largest hydro-electric power plant in the state
– World renowned recreation opportunities from the Fryingpan River to the Arkansas River.

For more information the 50th Anniversary Celebration – and to see a teaser of the upcoming film! – visit our website at www.usbr.gov/gp/ecao.

More Fryingpan-Arkansas Project coverage here and here.

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Meanwhile, Alan Hamel is retiring from the Pueblo Board of Water Works this month:

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Little did I know how important the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project would be as I was watching the president’s car traveling down Abriendo Avenue that day,” Hamel said. “Look at all that it has done for our basin and what it will do in the future.”

Hamel became executive director of the water board in 1982, and was president of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, the local agency that oversees the Fry-Ark Project, from 2002-04. He is currently serving on the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

More Pueblo Board of Water Works coverage here.

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