From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
The Arkansas Valley Conduit has received $2 million for the current fiscal year through reprogramming of funds within the Bureau of Reclamation, according to Colorado Democratic U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall.
“Folks in Southeast Colorado have been waiting a long time for the federal government to fulfill its promise to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” Bennet said. “Making these resources available for the conduit is crucial to completing this phase of the project and moving it one step closer to completion.”
Earlier this year, the senators backed legislation that loosened purse strings within the Bureau of Reclamation and allowed for transfer of funds to projects such as the conduit, which was first authorized in the 1962 Fryingpan-Arkansas Act.
The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, sponsor of the project, was dismayed when President Barack Obama’s budget submitted to Congress contained only $500,000 in funding this year. More was needed to complete planning and feasibility analysis before the design work and land acquisition can begin.
“Southern Coloradans have been counting on the Arkansas Valley Conduit’s construction for access to clean drinking water — they’ve been waiting long enough,” Udall said.
U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Cory Gardner, both Colorado Republicans, also support the conduit and applauded the news.
“This completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit will ensure the continued delivery of clean drinking water to families, agriculture producers and municipalities throughout Southeastern Colorado,” Tipton said.
The $400 million conduit is in its early stages, having gained approval last year from Reclamation for the 120-mile route from Pueblo Dam to Lamar and Eads.
It would serve 50,000 people in 40 communities by providing filtered drinking water. Most of the communities along the route rely on wells and many of them are facing water quality compliance issues that could force more expensive alternatives to the conduit.
“The support we have gotten from Congress, Gov. John Hickenlooper and James Eklund of the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been tremendous,” said Jim Broderick, executive director of the Southeastern district. “This will allow us to move the project forward as was intended more than 50 years ago.”
Hickenlooper praised the decision: “We have worked closely with all parties to stress the need for this conduit and will continue to support Southeastern and local government in the hard work to bring this project to fruition.”
From Governor Hickenlooper’s office:
Gov. John Hickenlooper today released the following statement on the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to redirect $2 million to fund the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
“The Arkansas Valley Conduit will serve 50,000 people in more than 40 communities in southeastern Colorado. We commend the Bureau of Reclamation for prioritizing this project and thank the leadership of the Department of the Interior, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, as well our congressional delegation for ongoing efforts to deliver funding for this critical project. We have worked closely with all parties to stress the need for this conduit and will continue to support southeastern and local government in the hard work to bring this project to fruition,” Hickenlooper said.
The conduit, a water pipeline originally envisioned as part of the federal Fry-Ark Project legislation in 1962, will assist communities experiencing high water treatment costs by providing water from Pueblo Reservoir. The latest funding will assist with preconstruction costs associated with the 130-mile project.