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The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a multipurpose transmountain, transbasin water diversion and delivery project in Colorado. It makes possible an average annual diversion of 69,200 acre-feet of surplus water from the Fryingpan River and other tributaries of the Roaring Fork River, on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, to the Arkansas River basin on the eastern slope.Water diverted from the western slope, together with available water supplies in the Arkansas River Basin, provides an average annual water supply of 80,400 acre-feet for both municipal/domestic use and the supplemental irrigation of 280,600 acres in the Arkansas Valley. Total project supplies may be further increased through use and reuse of project water.The project also includes one powerplant with a generating capacity of 200 megawatts.
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The project is divided into two distinct areas: the western slope, located within the Hunter Creek and Fryingpan River watersheds in the White River National Forests at elevations above 10,000 feet, and the eastern slope in the Arkansas Valley. The project consists of facilities designed primarily to divert water from the western slope to the water-short areas of the eastern slope.There are five dams and reservoirs in the project. Ruedi Dam and Reservoir, on the Fryingpan River, is the only one of these on the western slope; the other four are on the eastern slope. Sugar Loaf Dam and Turquoise Lake, Mt. Elbert Forebay Dam and Reservoir, and Twin Lakes Dam and Reservoir are in the upper Arkansas watershed. Pueblo Dam and Reservoir, the largest reservoir in the project, is on the Arkansas River.The Western SlopeRuedi Dam and Reservoir provide storage for replacement and regulation of approximately 100,000 acre-feet of water for the western slope users. This water is used for irrigation, municipal benefits, recreation, and fish and wildlife enhancement.Seventeen diversion structures on the western slope are used to divert water into the Fryingpan-Arkansas collection system. The project includes nine tunnels with a combined length of 26.7 miles. The collection system is divided into two parts: North and South.The North Side and South Side Systems collect the runoff from melting snow in the high mountains. The diverted waters of the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork River Basins flow into the inlet portal of the Charles H. Boustead Tunnel. Boustead has a decreed diversion capacity of 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and conveys all the water from the two collection systems through the Continental Divide to Turquoise Lake.The Eastern SlopeTurquoise Lake and Sugar Loaf Dam are located just east of the Continental Divide, approximately 5 miles west of Leadville, Colorado. The lake provides storage capacity for the regulation of project water flowing from the Boustead Tunnel.The Mt. Elbert Conduit conveys water from Turquoise Lake to the Mt. Elbert Forebay. The Halfmoon Diversion Dam intercepts the excess flows of Halfmoon Creek for diversion to the Mt. Elbert Conduit. Water delivered to the forebay is used for generation of power in the Mt. Elbert Pumped-Storage Powerplant. Water exits the powerplant into Twin Lakes.Twin Lakes Dam is approximately 2,500 feet downstream from the original Twin Lakes. From Twin Lakes, project water is released to Lake Creek and the Arkansas River for delivery to project water users upstream of Pueblo Reservoir, or for storage in Pueblo Reservoir.Project water is released from Pueblo Reservoir to the Arkansas River for irrigation and municipal purposes, to the Fountain Valley Conduit for municipal purposes, to the Bessemer Ditch for irrigation, and to the Pueblo Fish Hatchery for the fishery.Construction is complete on all of the project features that were initially designed. Features that were authorized but have not been built include the Last Chance Tunnel and the Line Creek Intercept (parts of the western slope collection system); the Clear Creek Dam, Reservoir, and Canal; and the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
The Bureau of Reclamation operates and maintains the dams and reservoirs described here. The U.S. Forest Service manages the recreation, fish and wildlife facilities, and resources at Ruedi Reservoir, Turquoise Lake, and Twin Lakes. At Pueblo Dam and Reservoir, fish and wildlife and recreation resources are under the management of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
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The area of the project north and east of the Arkansas River was a part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Following the war with Mexico, Texas claimed the remainder of the project area. Mexican claims to the territory were relinquished in 1845 when Texas entered the Union.Various Spanish explorers visited the project area during the years 1760-80. Lieutenant Zebulon Pike headed the first official exploration by the United States in 1806-07. Captain John C. Fremont and Captain John W. Gunnison directed later explorations. The first permanent settlements were not established until after the discovery of gold in 1859-61. With the mining boom came immigrants who turned to agriculture to supply foodstuffs for the expanding population. Large cattle ranches appeared as the result of cattle drives from Texas.
Studies by the Bureau of Reclamation on a transmountain diversion project began in 1936. Intensive investigation started in 1941, resulting in a potential planning report in 1947 and 1948, followed by a special report in 1949 and official recommendations in 1951.A revised planning report under the name "Fryingpan-Arkansas Project" in 1953 led to congressional approval of the project. In September 1959, a report that supplemented House Document No. 187. 83d Congress, 1st session, recommended Ruedi Dam and Reservoir instead of the previously recommended Aspen Dam and Reservoir.
The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project was authorized for construction in 1962 under Public Law 87-590 (77 Stat. 393), which was amended by Public Law 95-586 (92 Stat. 2485) in 1978. Operation of the project is governed by a set of operating principles originally approved by Congress. The State of Colorado and others adopted the operating principles in April 1959, amended December 30, 1959 and amended again December 9, 1960.
Construction of the project began with Ruedi Dam and Reservoir in 1964. Project water for irrigation and municipal and industrial purposes was available in September, 1975. Power was first delivered from the Mt. Elbert powerplant in 1981. Initial deliveries of project water to the Fountain Valley Conduit occurred in the mid-1980s.
Water diverted from the western slope and regulation of the Arkansas River flows provides supplemental irrigation supplies for 280,600 irrigable acres in the Arkansas Valley. Project water, first delivered in 1975 has enabled farms to sustain and increase the level of agricultural productivity per acre. It permits farmers to diversify the crops produced and to be more responsive to market demands for food and fiber.Because of the ability to diversify crops and meet peak demands, the value of total crop production of the Arkansas Valley has increased. Major crops grown are alfalfa, corn, sorghum, and sugar beets. Specialty crops such as onions, beans, various nuts, tomatoes, and melons are also grown extensively in the valley.
Water for municipal and industrial use was developed by the project to supplement existing supplies and was first delivered in 1975. A separate water delivery pipeline system, the Fountain Valley Conduit, begins at Pueblo Dam and conveys water to organizations and communities in the Fountain Creek watershed on the eastern slope.The cities of Colorado Springs and Aurora have contracted to use the conveyance system of the Fryingpan- Arkansas Project from Turquoise Lake for transportation of municipal water supplies owned by the two cities. Homestake Project water is pumped from Twin Lakes into the Upper South Platte River Basin for delivery to the city water systems.
The Mt. Elbert power generation and transmission system is connected to the Public Service Company of Colorado transmission system at the Malta substation near Leadville. This interconnection with Public Service Company enables Fryingpan-Arkansas Project power to be marketed to Colorado customers through the Western Area Power Administration.
The Bureau of Reclamation has developed recreation facilities throughout the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project in cooperation with the National Park Service, Forest Service, and State and local agencies.The location of Ruedi Reservoir on the western slope provides an exceptionally beautiful background for swimming, boating, water skiing, fishing, picnicking, camping, and general relaxation. The Forest Service has developed and is managing these recreation activities at Ruedi.Dominant game fish found in the streams on the western slope include rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and brook trout. Development of Ruedi Dam and Reservoir has increased the available fish habitat in the area, and the Fryingpan River immediately downstream from Ruedi is known as a gold medal fishery. Operation of the dam has exposed about six acres of gravel, which now serve as a brown trout spawning ground, immediately downstream from the dam. The gravel areas and regulated streamflow have improved the fishery through increased natural reproduction and increased recreation opportunities in the immediate area. The most common big game species are deer and elk; black bears are seen occasionally.Recreation activities at Turquoise Lake include sightseeing, camping, swimming, water skiing, boating, and hunting. Development of the lake has increased the aquatic habitat and surface acreage available for fish. Species in this area include kokanee salmon and rainbow, brown, and lake trout. The Forest Service administers recreation facilities.The Mt. Elbert Conduit permits delivery of up to 3,000 gallons per minute of high quality water to the Leadville National Fish Hatchery. Dominant big game species are deer and elk, which migrate into the Twin Lakes area each winter and scatter throughout the surrounding countryside during the summer. Elk range north of the lakes in winter. Big and small game hunting is allowed, in season, in the areas adjacent to Twin Lakes.Recreation at Twin Lakes and the Mt. Elbert Forebay and Powerplant complex is water-oriented; fishing and boating are the major activities. Facilities consist of a boat ramp, a boat and trailer parking lot, and two car- parking lots with minimum sanitary facilities. Pueblo Reservoir provides water-oriented recreation in the Arkansas Valley. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado State Parks manage facilities constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation including the north and south shore boat ramp, the marina, parking, and the harbor.A combination warm water fish hatchery and cold water rearing unit, managed and administered by the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, is located downstream from Pueblo Dam. This hatchery provides most of the fingerlings for stocking Pueblo Reservoir and other project reservoirs, streams, and lakes.For specific information about recreation at any of these sites, click on the name below.
Arkansas River Recreation Management AreaPueblo ReservoirRuedi ReservoirTurquoise LakeTwin Lakes
The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project has provided an accumulated $16,814,000 in flood control benefits from 1950 to 1999.