Western Colorado Area Office

The Western Colorado Area Office consists of two offices, located in Grand Junction and Durango, and several field offices with projects encompassing western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northeastern Arizona. The office is responsible for Reclamation projects and program activities in the Upper Colorado, Gunnison, Yampa, White, Dolores, Uncompahgre, Animas, and San Juan river basins and works with the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Jicarilla Apache Nation, and Navajo Nation, as well as numerous water user organizations.

Navajo Dam Road Closure and Drilling Update

A red and black drill rig is drilling on Highway 539 surrounded by several other work vehicles.  Navajo Reservoir is in the background.
Drill rig taking samples on Highway 539. Reclamation photo

As part of Reclamation's Safety of Dams Program, crews began exploratory drilling in Jan. 2024 to gather geotechnical data on Navajo Dam, located 45 miles east of Farmington, New Mexico. Under this program, Reclamation completes annual inspections and studies in order to identify potential issues that may lead to a corrective action. While all dams have seepage, there has been an increase in the amount of seepage at Navajo Dam over the years which has led to the need for the current exploratory work.

A geologist in a green long sleeved shirt is outside standing at a table measuring a core sample with books and tools around him
Geologist analyzing drilling samples. Reclamation photo

Reclamation wants to identify the source of the seepage and evaluate if new state-of-the-art practices that were unavailable at the time of construction would reduce the seepage.

"This exploratory drilling will give Reclamation the necessary information to learn how best to address the seepage issues at Navajo Dam," said Western Colorado Area Manager, Ed Warner.

Drilling began on the right abutment of the dam and on Feb. 28, New Mexico Highway 539 was closed so drilling could begin on top of Navajo Dam. Highway 539 reopened on May 15, for the busy recreation season at Navajo Reservoir. Drill crews will move to another location and return to Highway 539 and Highway 511 in the fall.

"Drilling at Navajo Dam is time-intensive due to several factors including the sampling and testing process, complexities of drilling angled holes, onsite sample preservation, shipping preparation, and fighting external factors such as high winds, varying temperatures, and traffic control. Drilling is paused every 10-feet in holes that vary in depth from 120-feet to 450-feet to acquire samples and/or complete testing." said Reece Carpenter Resource Division Manager for the Western Colorado Area Office.

Large red and black drill rig operated by two contractors in hard hats on a rocky hillside
Drill Rig taking samples. Reclamation photo

It is anticipated that drill crews will need to complete testing and data collection on 26 or more drill hole locations so that a thorough analysis can be achieved, and the seepage area identified. Due to the complexity of the exploratory drilling, it is expected that crews could be working for up to two years.

The drilling schedule and other project updates will be available on our Navajo Reservoir web page. Road closure information is also available on New Mexico's Department of Transportation website.

News and Highlights

  • Special Use Area – July 2023

    Silt Pumping Plan MapSilt Pumping Plant

    The Silt Pumping Plant parcel located in Garfield County, Colo. has been designated a special use area for recreation. Beginning August 1, selected areas on the parcel will be available for fishing, wildlife watching and limited waterfowl hunting.

    The parcel is owned by Reclamation as part of the Silt Project which includes Rifle Gap Dam and Reservoir. Reclamation manages recreation on the Silt Pump Plant parcel, while the Silt Pump Plant and Canal and lands are managed by the Silt Water Conservancy District as Reclamation’s Managing Entity. The special use area designation document can be viewed on the Document Library site under Miscellaneous Documents.

    Doc Library 

Last Updated: 5/28/24