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Lemon Dam is the principal feature of the Florida Project, which is a participating project of the Colorado River Storage Project. The dam is located in southwestern Colorado on the Florida River, approximately 14 miles northeast of the city of Durango in La Plata County. Floodwaters of the Florida River are stored in the reservoir formed by the dam, and regulated releases can provide supplemental irrigation water for 19,450 acres.
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Water is released from the reservoir as needed and conveyed in the natural river channel to the heads of the various downstream canals and ditches that divert the flow and distribute the water to project lands.
In addition to the construction of Lemon Dam, Bureau of Reclamation work included rebuilding the Florida Farmers Diversion Dam, enlarging 3.9 miles of the Florida Farmers Ditch to its junction with the Florida Canal, enlarging 1.8 miles of the Florida Canal, and building a new lateral system to serve about 3,360 acres of land on the southwest portion of Florida Mesa. Project funds were advanced to the Florida Water Conservancy District to rehabilitate, enlarge, and extend the portions of the Florida Farmers Ditch and Florida Canal distribution systems that serve remaining lands on Florida Mesa. The 1,190 acres of project land located in the Florida River Valley will continue to be served by numerous small ditches without the expenditure of project funds.
Lemon Dam is a zoned earthfill structure with a structural height of 284 feet and a crest length of 1,360 feet. The dam embankment has a maximum base width of 1,170 feet, a crest width of 30 feet, and contains a volume of 3,042,000 cubic yards of earth and rock materials.
The spillway is on the right abutment of the dam and consists of an approach channel, concrete inlet structure, concrete ogee crest section, open concrete chute, concrete stilling basin, and outlet channel discharging into the Florida River. The design capacity of the spillway is 9,600 cubic feet per second.
The outlet works is also in the right abutment of the dam and consists of an approach channel, a concrete intake structure, and a concrete-lined tunnel gate chamber for two 2.25-foot-square high pressure gates. The 9-foot horseshoe-shaped tunnel has a design capacity of 910 cubic feet per second.
Lemon Reservoir is approximately 0.5 mile wide and 3 miles long with a surface area of 622 acres. The total capacity is 40,146 acre-feet, of which 39,030 acre-feet are active conservation.
Major rehabilitation of the Florida Farmers Diversion Dam was conducted in 1962-63. This included construction of an earthfill section for the diversion dam approximately 500 feet long at the crest, and construction of an overflow weir, headworks, sluiceway, wingwalls, and fish screens.
During the same construction period, the Florida Farmers Ditch was enlarged and relocated along 3.9 miles, and Florida Canal was enlarged and relocated over 1.8 miles. The first irrigation water was delivered in 1964.
Diversion works, main canals, and laterals were turned back to the Florida Water Conservancy District for operation and maintenance on April 1, 1967. Lemon Dam was turned over to the district on January 1, 1968.
After the territory was acquired by the United States from Mexico, a large area which includes the Florida Project was set aside as a reservation for the Southern Ute Nation. The discovery of gold and other minerals in the northern mountainous part of the reservation led to encroachment by miners and prospectors on reservation lands. The resulting conflict was settled in 1874 when the United States purchased that part of the reservation containing the mineral lands. Following the 1874 purchase, the better agricultural lands thus removed from the reservation were developed and settled. In 1899, reservation lands which had not been allocated to individual Ute members were opened to homesteaders, with resulting settlement and irrigation development.
Project planning investigation of the Florida Project was undertaken, together with a number of other projects in western Colorado, as part of a Public Works Project with an allotment of $150,000 from the appropriation made available under the National Industrial Recovery Act of June 16, 1933. In September 1938, work in progress under the original appropriation was transferred to Colorado River Basin Investigations and was continued with appropriations for that purpose under the provisions of section 15 of the Boulder Canyon Act.
The first reconnaissance classification survey of project lands was made in 1933. A more detailed land classification survey, based on standards in existence at that time, was made in 1942. During 1956 and 1957, the final detailed land classification survey, based on the latest standards, was made.
The first planning report prepared specifically for the Florida Project was completed in 1939, following investigations started in 1936. As investigations continued after 1939, more detailed data were compiled and were used in the report entitled `Colorado River Storage Project and Participating Projects.` dated December 1950. This report, as amended in 1953, and the supplementary report of January 1951 (a feasibility report covering the Florida Project separately) were the bases for authorization of the project in 1956.
The project is one of the initial group of participating projects authorized with the Colorado River Storage Project by the act of April 11, 1956 (70 Stat. 105).
The contract for construction of Lemon Dam was awarded June 30, 1961, and all contract work was completed in December 1963. Rehabilitation of Florida Farmers Diversion Dam and enlargement and relocation of Florida Farmers Ditch and Florida Canal were conducted in 1962-63. Construction of the lateral system, with a total length of 14.1 miles and ranging in capacity from 2 to 50 cubic feet per second, was initiated in June 1963 and essentially completed in November 1964. The Florida Water Conservancy District began rehabilitation of the existing lateral system in March 1963 and completed the work in 1965.
Irrigated lands are used largely for the support of livestock enterprises. Climatically adaptable crops such as small grains, alfalfa, pasture, and corn are the principal products.
Recreation facilities at Lemon Reservoir were constructed by the National Park Service and are operated by the Forest Service.
Lemon Powerplant, completed in 1989, has a capacity of .12MW. The powerplant was constructed and is operated by the the Florida Water Conservancy District under a lease of power privilege contract.
Flood control benefits result from reduced snowmelt flooding due to the operation of Lemon Reservoir. Lemon Reservoir has 39,030 acre-feet specific reservoir capacity assigned for flood control. The Florida Project has provided an accumulated $136,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.