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Vermejo Project

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General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits


General Description

The Vermejo Project, near Maxwell, New Mexico, includes Vermejo Diversion Dam, Vermejo Canal, Eagle Tail Heading, Eagle Tail Canal, Stubblefield Dam and Reservoir, Dams and Reservoirs No. 2, 12, 13, and 14, and a distribution system to serve 7,379 acres of land. The project was constructed by a private company, and rehabilitated by the Bureau of Reclamation. Stubblefield Dam and the Eagle Tail Canal Heading are essentially new structures. The project was transferred to the Vermejo Conservency District in June 1996.

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Water for the project is diverted from Vermejo River and Chico Rico Creek. Offstream storage reservoirs are used to store the water, which flows to the land through a privately constructed distribution system.

Facility Descriptions

Vermejo Diversion Dam

The Vermejo Diversion Dam is the headworks for the Vermejo Canal. The 300-foot-long dam is a concrete weir structure with an embankment wing and was constructed by one of the early irrigation companies. The Bureau of Reclamation rehabilitated the dam and modified the canal headworks to provide a maximum diversion of 600 cubic feet per second into Vermejo Canal.

Vermejo Canal

Water is conveyed to Stubblefield Reservoir and Reservoir No. 2 through Vermejo Canal. The canal has an initial capacity of 600 cubic feet per second; the capacity is 300 cubic feet per second at the Stubblefield Bifurcation Works. With the canal flowing at full capacity at Stubblefield Bifurcation, 300 cubic feet per second pass through Stubblefield Inflow Chute and Canal into Stubblefield Reservoir, and 300 cubic feet per second continue to Reservoir No. 2.

Eagle Trail Heading and Canal

Located in the old Hebron Reservoir area, the Eagle Tail Heading diverts the flow of Chico Rico Creek into Eagle Tail Canal. Floods in excess of 300 cubic feet per second, the capacity of Eagle Tail Canal, are conveyed through a 1,000-foot unlined floodway section to the Canadian River.

The 15.5-mile Eagle Tail Canal delivers water to offstream storage reservoirs within the project area. The canal crosses and intercepts the entire flow of Willow and Curtis Creeks.

Stubblefield Dam

Water from the Vermejo River is stored in Stubblefield Reservoir, which has an active capacity of 16,074 acre-feet. The reservoir was created by a modified homogeneous earthfill dam 10,419 feet long with a maximum height of 47 feet above streambed, and a 5,450-foot long dike about 7 feet high. A 300-foot-wide emergency spillway is located at the south end of the dam. The outlet for releasing water to Stubblefield Lateral is a concrete conduit controlled by a metal slide gate.

Dam and Reservoir No. 2

This homogeneous earthfill dam is 10,739 feet long and 17 feet high. The active capacity of 2,883 acre-feet of water is received from the Vermejo River. A 128-cubic-foot-per-second canal outlet on the east side of the reservoir releases irrigation water into the Laguna Lateral system.

Dam and Reservoir No. 13

The reservoir, with an active capacity of 4,951 acre-feet, is formed by an earthfill dam 8,237 feet long and 32 feet high. A 30-cubic-foot-per-second-capacity concrete conduit canal outlet releases water for the No. 13 lateral system.

Dam and Reservoir No. 12

Dam No. 12 was constructed during the earlier period of the irrigation development. The project plan provides for rehabilitation of the dam and reservoir. However, work has been deferred until sediment accumulation in Reservoir No. 13 will necessitate additional storage.

Distribution System

This system of laterals, which range in capacities from 5 to 80 cubic feet per second and have a total length of about 65 miles, has the capacity to convey water from the storage reservoirs to 7,379 acres of irrigable land. Stubblefield, Eagle Tail, and Laguna Eagle Tail Laterals connect Stubblefield Reservoir and Reservoir No. 2 with Eagle Tail Canal, so water from Vermejo River can be used in the Eagle Tail system.

Operating Agencies

The project is owned, operated, and maintained by the Vermejo Conservancy District.

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Development of the project area was first undertaken by the trustees of the Maxwell Land Grant Company in 1888. A supply ditch, known as the High Line Vermejo Canal, was constructed with its headgate on a branch of the Vermejo River near Dawson. This canal was abandoned when the river changed course away from the point of diversion. In 1891, the Low Line Vermejo Canal was constructed at the approximate location of the present Vermejo Canal.

The Vermejo Ditch Company was organized in 1903 and acquired title to water rights, the Vermejo Ditch System, and Reservoirs No. 2, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, and 20. These reservoirs had been constructed in natural depressions within the project area. The system was successively owned and operated by various land development and water user companies until the formation of the Vermejo Conservancy District in February 1952.

Development and extension of the project facilities were continued during 1908-1913. By the end of 1913, the Hebron Dam and Eagle Tail Canal had been constructed to supply the area with water from Chico Rico Creek in addition to the water from Vermejo River. By this time irrigation water was being supplied to approximately 18,000 acres.

Later, certain lands were abandoned because of seepage, location, or water shortages. Occasional floods did considerable damage to the irrigation system, and a flood in 1942 washed out the Hebron Dam on Chico Rico Creek. The irrigation system became badly deteriorated, and many of the farms were abandoned.


In 1947, when less than 3,500 acres were being irrigated, the Bureau of Reclamation was requested to investigate and undertake the rehabilitation of the project.


The project was authorized on September 27, 1950, by act of Congress (Public Law No. 848, 81st Cong., 2d sess. 64 Stat. 1072), as amended by the act of March 5, 1952 (Public Law No. 269, 82d Cong., 2d sess. 66 Stat. 13).


Construction began in 1953 and was completed in 1955. Rehabilitation and construction work on Dam No. 12 has been delayed until needed.

Title Transfer

The United States Congress authorized the transfer of the project from the U.S. to the Vermejo Conservency District with the passage of PL96-550, as amended. The transfer was completed in June 1996.

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The project area has a definite marketing advantage for feed crops as it is located in the center of a range livestock region. Principal crops produced are alfalfa, pasture, wheat, barley, and oats.

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Last updated: May 18, 2009