Reclamation Announces Award of Contract to Build Ridges Basin Dam

Media Contact: Barry Wirth, 801-524-3774
Rick Ehat, 970-259-1110

For Release: March 11, 2005

The Bureau of Reclamation announced today that it has awarded a contract in the amount of approximately $84.9 million to the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe's Weeminuche Construction Authority (WCA) of Towaoc, Colo., for completion of construction of Ridges Basin Dam. "This contract," said Acting Upper Colorado Regional Director Darryl Beckmann "is for the single biggest feature of the Animas-La Plata Project, now under construction near Durango, Colorado. The dam will store water from the Animas River in Lake Nighthorse for use in the Four Corners area." Beckmann also complimented WCA's quality of work and progress to date on other features of the project currently under construction.

There are eight general features to be constructed under this contract including: placement of zoned earthfill dam embankment; manufacturing highly engineered sand and gravel filter and drain materials; special dam foundation treatment; concrete lining the outlet works tunnel; construction of a control house at the outlet end of the tunnel; and improvements to Basin Creek downstream of the dam. The work on this contract will be completed in 2008. Additional details concerning this contract, along with other information on the Animas-La Plata Project, are available at Reclamation's web site at by clicking on the Animas-La Plata Project link.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman Selwyn Whiteskunk said, "The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is proud to be given the authority for the construction of the dam and is ready and able to meet this challenge." Chairman Whiteskunk went on to say, "The construction of this feature by the Tribes enterprise, Weeminuche Construction Authority, will be a significant accomplishment in beginning to resolve the two Colorado Ute Indian water rights settlements and will result in benefiting all of the people in the four corners area."

In the fall of 2003, WCA, through an earlier contract, began excavating material from the foundation area of Ridges Basin Dam. Much of the excavated material was hauled to the Basin Creek area down stream of the dam site to be used as fill material for construction of the energy-dissipating drop structures that will control erosion and carry water from the reservoir back to the Animas River.

Throughout construction of the dam, Reclamation geologists, engineers, and inspectors will monitor construction quality and techniques. An independent outside panel of experts will, in turn, periodically review Reclamation's work to insure quality construction and the long-term public safety of the project.

Water stored in Lake Nighthorse will be released from the dam as necessary and will flow via gravity back to the Animas River for use within Southwest Colorado and New Mexico. Water will also be available for pumping from the reservoir to the west end of La Plata County. 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.

Construction of the entire Animas-La Plata Project - including the Durango Pumping Plant and inlet conduit, the Ridges Basin Dam, the Navajo Nation Municipal Pipeline, and the Cultural and Environmental Mitigation activities - is approximately 22 percent complete.

The Animas-La Plata Project fulfills the requirements of the 1988 Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act and the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendment of 2000. When completed, 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.

WCA, based in Towaoc, Colo., is a minority commercial construction company owned and operated by the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. WCA 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.

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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.

Relevant Link:

Animas-La Plata Project Web Site