Animas-La Plata Project Achieves Historic Milestone with Start of Pumping Water

First Pump of Water from Animas River to Lake Nighthorse has Begun

Media Contact: Doug Hendrix, (801) 524-3837
Barry Longwell, (970) 259-1110 ext. 1008

For Release: April 21, 2009

Durango, Colo. - With the flip of a switch on Monday, April 20, 2009, the Department of the Interior marked a historic milestone in construction of the Animas-La Plata Project with starting up the Durango Pumping Plant and the first storage of water for the customers of the project. The new state-of-the-art facility lifts water from the Animas River up through the Ridges Basin Inlet Conduit into Lake Nighthorse.

"It gives me great pleasure to mark the start-up of the Durango Pumping Plant - one of the signature structural features of the Animas-La Plata Project," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "This magnificent facility - combined with the other features of the Project - honors the Colorado Ute Tribe's longstanding claims to the Animas River, provides them with an assured supply to satisfy their future water use needs, and supplies water for other municipal and industrial uses in the Four Corners area. Today's milestone for the Animas-La Plata project moves us one step closer to fulfilling a vision so many years in the making."

The pumping plant has a maximum capacity of 280 cubic feet per second (cfs) and features a total of eight pumps that are used to pump water from the Animas River, in sizes ranging from 14 cubic-feet per second (cfs) to 56 cfs. Different pump sizes were installed to accommodate high and low flows in the river and provide backups in case one of the pumps is out of service. In addition, other features of the pumping facility include an intake structure with trash rack and with fish screen, a service yard, and a surge chamber. Also on site is an electrical switchyard, constructed by the Western Area Power Administration, which will provide power to the pumping plant. Prior to operation of the pumps, Reclamation performed extensive qulity assurance testing of the pumps and control systems.

The rate of pumping from the Animas River will be governed by a series of factors, including: downstream senior water right demands on the river; the amount of flow available in the river; seasonal minimum by-pass flow criteria; the design-based reservoir filling criteria; and the capacity of the pumping plant itself (280 cfs).

Building the facility-required placement of more than 20,000 cubic yards of structural concrete placed to exacting design criteria and durability standards. The underground or lower portion of the pumping plant is made up of heavily reinforced concrete that was placed in successive layers on top of solid bedrock. The exposed or upper portion of the facility consists of structural steel including numerous architectural features. Construction of the pumping plant took approximately five years.

"The Durango Pumping Plant was designed to be aesthetically pleasing and blend with the local topography as well as be highly functional and safe," said Rick Ehat, lead construction engineer with Reclamation's Four Corners Construction Office. "The pumping plant facility has been engineered to withstand high groundwater and is compatible with the high river flows." The design also incorporated various features to address issues associated with a former mill tailings site.

During the reservoir filing process the area will be closed to the public. When completed, Lake Nighthorse will impound approximately 120,000 acre-feet (AF) of water and include an inactive pool of approximately 30,000 AF for recreational, fishery, and water quality purposes.

The Animas-La Plata Project fulfills the requirements of the 1988 Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act and the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000. When completed in 2012, the project will provide the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and the people of the Four Corners area with a reliable water supply for their future needs, without taking scarce water resources away from existing water users in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico.

The prime contractor for the construction of the pumping plant was Weeminuche Construction Authority, a minority commercial construction company owned and operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. The Authority has extensive experience in all phases of construction and related engineering disciplines, including: oil and gas field construction, residential and commercial buildings, heavy construction, road building, canals and water systems, sand and gravel, and municipal improvements. Most of the Project features were constructed by the tribal contractors, Weeminuche Construction Authority and Sky Ute Sand and Gravel.

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Reclamation is the largest wholesale water supplier and the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the United States, with operations and facilities in the 17 Western States. Its facilities also provide substantial flood control, recreation, and fish and wildlife benefits. Visit our website at and follow us on Twitter @USBR.