The Northern Colorado Water Conservancy celebrates its 75th anniversary

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From the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Pamela Dickman):

The Northern Water Conservancy District formed on Sept. 20, 1937, specifically to build the Colorado-Big Thompson water project to bring water from the Colorado River to what is now the growing, vibrant Front Range.

A small group shared that idea during the country’s greatest financial crisis and during a time of unparalleled drought.

Residents were out of work, families starving during The Great Depression.

Walls of dust were swirling enough to cause pneumonia, to kill cattle to smother crops, to cause havoc during what is now known as the Dust Bowl.

Yet residents had a vision and pushed through opposition, through financial roadblocks to create a then unprecedented contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, to build the $164 million tunnel, reservoir and canal system, and to turn what seemed like an impossible feat of the imagination into the foundation of our region.

“They gave this region the future, a priceless gift that many of us take for granted,” Eric Wilkinson, general manager of the water district, told hundreds at a celebration Thursday — 75 years to the day that the district, now known at Northern Water, was formed.

Just less than 10 years after the district formed in 1937, crafted an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation and convinced voters to support the project by a 17-1 margin, the first drops of water flowed through the Adams Tunnel over the continental divide and into the Big Thompson River.

That foundation of the project still exists with water stored in reservoirs on the west side and throughout Larimer County, including Carter Lake, Horsetooth, Flatiron and Pinewood Reservoirs.

From the Northern Colorado Business Report:

Former U.S. Rep. Hank Brown, historian Dan Tyler and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Mike Ryan were all taking part in the event.

From The Greeley Tribune (Eric Brown):

Northern Water was established in 1937 as the first water conservancy district in the state and was tasked to work with the federal government to contract for and then build and operate the C-BT Project.

That project is made up of 11 reservoirs that collectively divert about 260,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River headwaters on the Western Slope to the Big Thompson River, which is a South Platte River tributary on the Eastern Slope, for distribution to lands and communities in eight northern Colorado counties, including Weld.

When constructed in 1937, the C-BT project — the brainchild of a group of Greeley residents — was then the largest transmountain water-supply project in the state. Its 13.1-mile tunnel at the time was the longest in the world dug from two headings, and in the 75 years of its existence, it’s responsible for much of the economic and population growth in northern Colorado, according to those who spoke Thursday…

Today the C-BT Project — completed in 1957, and spreading over 250 square miles — supplies about 850,000 residents and about 640,000 irrigated farm acres. C-BT water was collectively worth about $500,000 at the time the project was built. Today, it’s worth about $3.1 billion.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

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