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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

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 draft environmental assessment is available online at http://www.usbr.gov/uc/progact/animas/index.html, under the Environmental Compliance tab or a copy can be received by contacting Justyn Liff at 970-248-0625.

Reclamation will consider all comments received prior to preparing a final environmental assessment. Written comments can be submitted by email to jliff@usbr.gov or mailed to: Ed Warner, Bureau of Reclamation, 445 West Gunnison Ave., Suite 221, Grand Junction, CO 81501. Comments are due by Friday, May 6, 2016. The Western Colorado Area Office continues to work on a recreation lease and annexation agreement with the city of Durango. We are also working on a cultural resource management plan for the reservoir area in accordance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Finally, construction plans and contracts are being prepared for the Lake Nighthorse entrance area and aquatic invasive species inspection station. Construction will begin this spring. After construction, the area will remain closed to public access. This is necessary because a recreation manager needs to be secured and additional improvements need to occur, such as, installation of a boat dock and construction of additional parking.

Construction Update

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. Survey work and construction will begin in May 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 September 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.




Last updated: May 9, 2016