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header image: Animas-La Plata Project


photo: Ridges Basin Dam
Ridges Basin Dam

The Animas-La Plata Project located in La Plata and Montezuma Counties in southwestern Colorado and in San Juan County in northwestern New Mexico, was authorized by the Colorado River Basin Project Act of September 30, 1968 (Public Law 84-485).In 1988, it was incorporated into the Colorado Ute Indian Water Rights Settlement Act. The Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000 provide for implementation and completion of the project. Approval to begin construction was granted in October 2001 and initial site work began in April 2002.

Lake Nighthorse began filling on May 4, 2009, and filled for the first time on June 29, 2011. The maximum water surface elevation of 6,882 feet equates to 123,541 acre-feet in storage. The Colorado project features were transferred from construction status to operation and maintenance status in March 2013. Work on completion of the transfer stipulations is continuing. An operation and maintenance contract has been signed with the Animas-La Plata Operations, Maintenance and Replacement Association that allows project sponsors to operate Colorado project features.

Lake Nighthorse Recreation

photo: Construction at Lake Nighthorse
Construction at Lake Nighthorse

Reclamation's Western Colorado Area Office released the draft environmental assessment for the Lake Nighthorse Recreation Plan on Friday, March 25, 2016. The draft environmental assessment includes a no action alternative and three alternative recreation plans. The three proposed plans provide different scenarios for recreation at Lake Nighthorse while protecting water quality and sensitive natural, cultural, and other resources while ensuring compatibility with the primary purpose of the ALP Project for municipal and industrial water supply.

The WCAO is conducting tribal consultations with 25 tribes on the proposed Lake Nighthorse Recreation Plan and a cultural resource management plan for the area. The WCAO is currently in the process of negotiating a new Programmatic Agreement (PA) with the Colorado State Historic Preservation Office that will cover Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act compliance for the ongoing operations and maintenance of the Animas La-Plata Project, as well as for the proposed recreation plan. Interested parties are being invited to participate in the development of this document. When enacted this PA will replace the PA that was originally developed for the construction of the project.

The WCAO continues to work on a recreation lease and annexation agreement with the City of Durango.

The recreation plan will not be finalized and released until tribal consultation and meetings with project sponsors have concluded.

Construction Update

photo: Construction at Lake Nighthorse
Road closed for construction at Lake Nighthorse
  • The Bureau of Reclamation is contracting with Weeminuche Construction Authority, a Ute Mountain Ute Tribe construction company for surveying and construction of the Lake Nighthorse boat inspection and decontamination station. Construction began August 22, 2016, the station will be located off County Road 210 at the entrance of the Lake Nighthorse recreation area. The purpose of the station is to prevent aquatic invasive species from being introduced into Lake Nighthorse.

    After construction is completed in fall 2016, the area will remain closed to all public access. This is necessary until a recreation management entity is identified and appropriate recreation facilities are built to provide for public safety and protect resources from damage due to uncontrolled use.

  • The La Plata West Water Authority will be starting construction this fall on a 4.6 mile long water pipeline from Lake Nighthorse to Lake Durango. The purpose of the water pipeline is to meet the current and future needs for domestic water supply in western La Plata County. For more information about the project visit: www.lpwwa.org.




Last updated: September 15, 2016