- Projects & Facilities
- Dallas Creek Project
Dallas Creek Project
Region: Upper Colorado Basin Region
Dallas Creek Project History (PDF - 38 KB)
Mountain Snowpack Maps for Colorado, Rio Grande, and Arkansas Rivers
Uncompahgre River below Ridgway Reservoir, Colorado
Palmer Drought Index Map
Explanation of the Palmer Drought Index
Reclamation's Upper Colorado Region Water Operations
Reclamation Water Information System
The Dallas Creek Project is located in west-central Colorado near the town of Ridgway. It is named after the Dallas Creek tributary of the Uncompahgre River, which in turn is a tributary of the Gunnison River in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The project area includes most of the Uncompahgre River Basin covering portions of Montrose, Delta, and Ouray Counties.
When the Ute Indians were moved to reservations in 1881, a rush of settlers poured into the Uncompahgre Valley attracted by new farming and ranching opportunities. The town of Delta was founded that year, followed by Montrose in 1882, Olathe in 1883, and Ridgway in 1890. Irrigated agriculture expanded rapidly throughout the valley with the construction of small, privately financed diversion structures. Restrictions imposed by private financing limited these developments to lands close to the streams. In 1912, the Uncompahgre Project, one of the first Federal reclamation developments, began delivering water from the Gunnison River through the Gunnison Tunnel to lands around Montrose, Olathe, and Delta. After the successful irrigation of lands in the lower Uncompahgre Valley, interest developed in constructing a water delivery system for potential farmlands on Log Hill Mesa, south of Ridgway, and along the upper Uncompahgre River and its tributaries.
Construction started in 1978, was completed in 1987, and Ridgway Reservoir first filled in 1990. Production of livestock, predominantly cattle and sheep, is the leading enterprise in the area. Crops consist primarily of livestock feeds such as alfalfa, meadow hay, pasture, and small grains. Irrigated lands in the area also produce pinto beans, malt barley, shelling and ensilage corn, alfalfa, onions, and some fruit. Project water supply for irrigation purposes totals 11,200 acre-feet, the largest portion of which is supplemental supplies for the Uncompahgre Project. A water supply of 28,100 acre-feet is available for municipal and industrial uses in Colona, Montrose, Olathe, Delta, and surrounding rural areas. Recreational development includes facilities for picnicking, camping, boating, hiking, and enjoyment of the scenic setting. Measures to protect and enhance the fish and wildlife resources have been incorporated into the project plans. They include minimum flows in Uncompahgre River, a deer fence along a relocated highway, and acquisition of a wildlife range to offset losses associated with the reservoir. The Ridgway Recreation Area is administered by the Colorado Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation. In 1996, visitation totaled 629,298. For specific information about recreational opportunities at Ridgway Reservoir, click on the name below. http://www.recreation.gov/detail.cfm?ID=59 Ridgway Reservoir is operated to aid in controlling snowmelt floods. Reservoir storage is evacuated to provide space for floodflows if heavy snowmelt is predicted. Although the reservoir is not operated specifically for control of rain floods, it aids in control as storage space is available in the reservoir in late summer when such floods normally occur. From 1950 to 1999, Dallas Creek Project had $53,000 in accumulated actual flood control benefits. Dallas Creek Project In the high mountain valleys of western Colorado, the land is often rich and fertile. But the short growing season and the lack of readily available water make it difficult for farmer to fully utilize the richness of the region`s lands. In addition, the short growing season limits the nature of the crops which can be grown to those which tend to have low value per acre, making it difficult for farmers to pay for the elaborate irrigation systems necessary to bring a full supply of water to their lands. While it is possible to develop these rich lands, the costs involved make it almost impossible without some kind of assistance. In the late 1950s, the Bureau of Reclamation developed a solution to the cost problem, and the Dallas Creek Project was one of many projects to benefit from that solution. The Dallas Creek Project is located on the Uncompahgre River in west-central Colorado. The area served by the project comprises most of the Uncompahgre River Basin and includes lands in Montrose, Delta, and Ouray Counties. The project is named for Dallas Creek, a major tributary of the Uncompahgre River. Ridgway Dam and Reservoir, the primary features of the project are located on the Uncompahgre River a few miles north of the town of Ridgway. Lands served by the project run along both sides of the Uncompahgre River northward from Colona to Delta where the Uncompahgre River feeds into the Gunnison River.(1) Throughout the history of west central Colorado, the junction of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers has been a crossroads of exploration. The first Europeans to arrive in west-central Colorado were Spanish explorers. In 1761, Don Juan Maria Rivera explored the region for the Royal Governor of New Mexico. Rivera`s route took him up the Dolores River and across the Uncompahgre Plateau to the Uncompahgre River. He then continued north to where the Uncompahgre River meets the Gunnison River, near the present day town of Delta, where he carved his initials into tree. Rivera then continued west out of the region. The next expedition into the area was the Dominquez-Escalante Expedition. Padre Francisco Silvestre Velez de Escalante and Padre Antanasio Dominquez left Sante Fe in July 1776, following the same route as River. When the expedition reached the junction of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers, they found the tree where Rivera had carved his initials fifteen years before.(2) By the late 1820`s, after Mexico had gained its independence from Spain, fur trappers were beginning to make their way into the region. One of them, Antoine Robidoux, built a trading post and fort near the junction of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers. The fort, the first of its kind in Colorado, served as a supply and trading post for the trappers in the area, with occasional trade being conducted with the Ute. The post was abandoned in 1844.(3) In 1853, Captain John Gunnison, while exploring a possible rail route between St. Louis and San Francisco, passed near the ruins of Fort Robidoux as he headed west. Gunnison reported that the area was unfit for cultivation. In July 1858, a party led by Colonel William W. Loring left Camp Floyd, Utah, and headed east over Gunnison`s route. Loring disagreed with Gunnison`s assessment of the region. On August 29, while traveling south on the Uncompahgre River, Loring noted that the soil seemed rich, easily irrigated, and that rains were frequent.(4) The gold rush of the late 1850s in Colorado brought hundreds of fortune seekers to the territory, but few prospectors ventured into the west-central region. By 1861, when the Territory of Colorado was created, the areas around the junction of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers was still considered Indian country. In 1863, the Treaty of Conejos made the entire western part of Colorado the exclusive domain of the Ute. However, continued population growth in Colorado brought settlers into direct conflict with the Ute. In 1878, Nathan Meeker was sent to western Colorado to begin the process of removing the Indians from their lands. On September 22, 1879, the Indians revolted, killing Meeker and several others. Troops sent to assist Meeker were also attacked, and 14 were killed. The response to the attacks was swift, with a treaty being forced upon the Ute that removed them from their lands in Colorado to a reservation in Utah. By September 1, 1881, the last of the Ute had left western Colorado.(5) Following the removal of the Ute, settlers rushed into the region to claim the best lands. The first lands claimed were those along the river banks. These were the most fertile and easy to irrigate. As the population of the region grew, towns were formed. On October 1, 1881, barely one month after the removal of the Ute, George A. Crawford, purchased some land near the junctions of the Uncompahgre and Gunnison Rivers, and two weeks later incorporated the Uncompahgre Town Company. The town was surveyed and platted in December 1881, and a post office established on January 5, 1882. On April 6, 1882, the Town of Uncompahgre was dedicated. Because Uncompahgre was too difficult for many to pronounce, the name was changed to Delta in August 1882. The town grew rapidly, and in a short time featured several stores, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, and many homes.(6) Most early settlement in the area focused around agriculture. Although vegetables and grains were grown, Delta County became famous for its fruit orchards, and was second only to Mesa County in west slope fruit production. Ranching was also a major industry in the valley. First introduced in the region in 1882, the cattle industry grew to become one of the most important activities in the area.(7) Population growth placed a premium on the best lands. Lands away from the easily irrigated river valleys needed a source of water. The first irrigation ditch was the Garnet Mesa Ditch, near Delta. Notice for the Garnet Mesa Ditch was filed on November 30, 1881. In March 1882, the Delta Ditch Company was formed to supply water to the Town of Delta. The need for water in the region started a ditch boom, with numerous ditches being built around Delta and throughout the region. An incident that underscored the importance of water to the area occurred on July 2, 1890. Mark Powers caught Charles Bear, president of a local ditch company, digging a canal on Powers` property. When Bear, believing that he should have right-of-way, refused to leave, Powers shot and killed him. Powers was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison.(8) In 1904, the United States Reclamation Service (renamed the Bureau of Reclamation in 1923) began construction of the Uncompahgre Project to irrigate lands along the Gunnison and Uncompahgre Rivers. The project began water deliveries in 1912. The successful irrigation of lands along the lower Uncompahgre Valley stimulated interest in irrigation developments in the upper valley near Loghill Mesa, south of Ridgway.(9) Following the end of World War II, Reclamation began investigations for additional developments in the upper Uncompahgre River Basin (the Uncompahgre Project, constructed prior to World War I, provides water to over 75,000 acres in the Delta/Montrose area in the upper Uncompahgre Basin). Early planning was aimed at developing water for irrigation. One of the first plans, the Ouray Project, was never formally published, but became the basis for future planning in the Uncompahgre Basin. In early 1951, Reclamation published a preliminary report on the Gunnison River Project, an extensive development that included the Dallas Creek Unit which incorporated many features of the earlier Ouray Project. Following publication of the 1951 report, Reclamation looked at several alternatives, including the addition of hydroelectric power development. Problems locating a suitable dam site and potential conflicts with existing water rights caused the project to be dropped from consideration. Another problem that threatened the project was cost. In the high mountain valleys of the Uncompahgre Basin, the cash value of crops produced per acre was much lower than that of crops produced in areas with longer growing seasons. Unless additional revenue could be secured, area water users would be unable to repay project costs. The problem was alleviated in 1956 when Congress passed the Colorado River Storage Project (CRSP) Act. One of the features of the act was that excess revenues from power production at CRSP facilities could be used to help repay the costs of designated participating projects. The Dallas Creek Project was designated a participating project. Following its designation as a participating project, the Dallas Creek Project was given a high priority and concentrated feasibility investigations began. The 1951 report was further refined and published in a 1966 report which, for the first time, included water for municipal uses. The 1966 report was the basis for congressional authorization of the project in 1968. The Dallas Creek Project was authorized by Congress as part of the Colorado River Basin Act of September 30, 1968 (Public Law 90-537), as a participating project under the Colorado River Storage Project Act of April 11, 1956 (Public Law 84-485). The definite plan report was published in 1976, outlining revisions brought about by changing conditions. The final environmental statement was filled in September 1976, and included analyses of the impact of the project on water quality, fish and wildlife, recreation, social and economic conditions, and historical and archaeological resources.(10) Ridgway Dam was constructed in two stages under two separate contracts. Stage One consisted of excavation of the cut-off trench to suitable foundation material, treatment of the excavated surface, grouting the foundation, and back-filling of the trench to the approximate level of the river; construction of the river outlet works including channel excavations, construction of the concrete conduit, gate chamber, and the initial stages of the stilling basin and control house; and placement of instrumentation to monitor conditions within the dam embankment and foundation. Stage Two included completion of the dam embankment, outlet works, construction of the spillway, construction of several access roads, and the installation of additional monitoring instrumentation. Bids for the Stage One contract were opened in September 1979, and the contract was awarded to the Green Construction Company of Des Moines, Iowa. Their bid of $14,997,765 proved to be the lowest of the twelve bids received and less than $50,000 over the engineer`s estimate. The contract was awarded and notice to proceed was issued on December 6, 1979.(11) Green Construction Company began mobilizing its workforce in January 1980, and began operations in February with excavations for the river diversion channel. Excavation of the cut-off trench and for the river outlet works began in March, and the river was directed into the diversion channel on March 12. Installation of the foundation monitoring equipment also began in March. Excavation of the cut-off trench on the right abutment and stripping of the left and right abutments was completed in May, and drilling of grout holes by a sub-contractor began in June. Grouting operations commenced in July with concrete operation beginning on July 31. The cut-off trench was completed to its maximum section in early September. Grouting operations and installation of monitoring equipment continued through the fall of 1980 before shutting down for the winter in December.(12) Green Construction resumed work in March 1981, with the final excavations for the river outlet works stilling basin. Concrete operations resumed on March 23. In early May, a strike by members of the Carpenters Union halted all work on the river outlet works. Placement of zone 1 embankment material in the cutoff trench began on May 14. Placement of zone 2 material began on May 19. Striking carpenters returned to work on June 18, and concrete placement in the outlet works resumed on June 22. Excavations in the outlet works stilling basin was completed in early July, and concrete placement in the stilling basin began on July 22. On July 30, the Teamsters Union went on strike. The contractor replaced the striking teamsters with non-union labor beginning July 30. The river was diverted into a new channel on September 12, and excavations for the cut-off trench across the old diversion channel began two days later. The grouting sub-contractor resumed grouting operations in late September. Placement of zone 3 material around the outlet works conduit commenced in late September, with concrete placement in the outlet works gate chamber beginning on October 20. Placement of concrete in the outlet works conduit and stilling basin was completed in December, and all concrete and earthwork operations were suspended for the winter on December 29.(13) Concrete operations resumed in March 1982, and the final placement of concrete in the outlet works took place on March 23, bringing to a close concrete operations under the stage one contract. The last placement of zone 1 material under the stage one contract came on April 9, followed by the last placements of zone 3 material on April 13. The contract for stage one construction was accepted as complete on April 22, 1982.(14) The bids for Stage Two were opened in July 1982. The winning bid was submitted by Granite Construction Company of Watsonville, California, which bid $44,817,430, almost $13,000,000 less than the engineer`s estimate. The contract was awarded on August 13, 1982, and notice to proceed was issued on September 1, 1982.(15) Granite Construction Company received the notice proceed with work under the contract for stage two on September 1, 1982, and began mobilizing their forces on September 9. Additional stripping of the right abutment and excavations for the embankment started in October. In November, Granite began shotcrete treatment of the right abutment, and in early December, operation of the company`s aggregate plant began. To allow for more thorough geological investigations and extensive grouting of the left abutment, a grouting and drainage tunnel was excavated into the left abutment. Work on the tunnel began in late February 1983 with excavations for the tunnel portal. Excavation of the tunnel began on March 2. First placement of zone 1 material under the stage two contract was initiated in April, and the first placement of concrete in the spillway came on April 28. Excavation of the grouting and drainage tunnel was complete on April 30, and placement of the concrete tunnel lining began in early May. In addition, concrete placement in the spillway conduit and the cut-and-cover conduit, which would provide access to the grouting tunnel, began in early May. Grouting operations on the right abutment also began in early May.(16) August 1983 saw the completion of concrete placement in the grouting tunnel lining, and the beginning of placements in the spillway chute and stilling basin floor. Concrete placements in the cut-and-cover drainage tunnel access conduit began in September, and on October 8, the river was diverted through the completed river outlet works. In late November, Granite Construction began to shut-down abutment grouting operations for the winter, moving their equipment into the grouting tunnel to begin grouting the left abutment from within the tunnel. Grouting operations in the tunnel continued through the winter and were completed in early April 1984. Abutment grouting from the outside resumed in mid-April.(17) Concrete placements in the spillway intake structure and spillway chute and stilling basin walls began in May. The intake structure was completed in October, and the chute and stilling basin in November. Embankment placing operations were shut down during the winter and resumed the following spring. In May 1985, the last concrete was placed in the river outlet intake structure. Embankment placing continued through the warm season and were discontinued as winter approached. Concrete placement in the spillway conduit was completed in August. When embankment work resumed in the Spring of 1986, the embankment was nearing completion. The dam was topped out in early August, leaving only finishing work and installation of the outlet works control gates. On October 20, the iron slide gate that had been used to control river flows through the outlet works was closed for the last time. Diversions were made through a by-pass pipe that had been installed to provide diversions until the outlet works control gate could be installed and tested. Although the dam was complete, finish work, road construction, and clean up continued into the next year. The contract for stage two was accepted as complete on July 2, 1987.(18) Ridgway Dam is a rolled earthfill dam with a maximum height of 399 feet above the lowest point of excavation and a crest length of 2,460 feet. The embankment contains just under 11,000,000 cubic yards of material. The outlet works consist of an intake structure and concrete conduit leading to a gate chamber embedded in the dam. The gate chamber contains a single 5 -foot by 6 -foot high-pressure emergency slide gate. Downstream from the gate chamber, outflows continue through a 64 -inch diameter pipe housed in a 11? - foot diameter access conduit. Just upstream from the outlet works control house, the pipe splits into two smaller pipes. Flows from the outlet pipes are regulated by two high pressure regulating gates which discharge into the stilling basin. In addition, there is a 24 -inch by-pass conduit which begins just upstream of the gate chamber. The by-pass conduit is controlled by a 24-inch butterfly valve in the gate chamber. Downstream from the gate chamber, the by-pass conduit is suspended from the top of the outlet works access conduit. Flows through the by-pass conduit are regulated by a single 20-inch jet flow valve. The by-pass conduit can be used to make releases when the primary outlet works are undergoing maintenance and inspection. The spillway is located near the right abutment and consists of an uncontrolled, glory-hole type inlet, an 750 -foot long, 16? -foot diameter concrete conduit, and rectangular open chute, and stilling basin. The spillway as a maximum capacity of 9,830 cubic feet per second (cfs). The outlet works have a maximum discharge capacity of 1,440 cfs. Ridgway Reservoir has a maximum storage capacity of 84,230 acre-feet (af) with a maximum surface area of 1,030 acres. It is just over 4? miles long and has slightly more than 13 miles of shoreline. There are no Reclamation constructed distribution facilities. Water supplies are distributed through existing facilities or facilities constructed by the water users. Although the project development plan includes construction of a 4,200 kilowatt hydropower facility at the dam, this has been defered pending agreement with a non-federal partner.(19)
Ridgway Dam of the Dallas Creek Project was constructed on the Uncompahgre River in 1987 to increase water supplies for irrigation and municipal and industrial purposes, and to provide flood control. The project also includes recreational development at the reservoir and measures to enhance fishing opportunities on the Uncompahgre River, improve wildlife habitat, and mitigate wildlife losses caused by the reservoir development. No distribution facilities were constructed as part of the project. Water supplies are distributed through existing facilities or facilities constructed by the Tri-County Water Conservancy District or the water users. The Tri-County Water Conservancy District is the general administrative agency for the project and is the contracting and marketing agency for all project water. Water for irrigation is diverted from the Belle Fourche River and conveyed by means of Inlet Canal to Belle Fourche Reservoir for regulatory storage and for delivery to project lands. The Keyhole Unit of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, consisting of Keyhole Dam and Reservoir on the Belle Fourche River in northeastern Wyoming, provides supplemental storage and a supply of irrigation water.
OwnerTitle: Public Affairs Officer
Organization: Upper Colorado Regional Office
Address: 125 South State Street, Rm 7102
City: Salt Lake City, UT 84138-1102
OperatorOrganization: Tri-County Water Conservancy District
Address: 647 North 7th StreetPO Box 347
City: Montrose, CO