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The Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) announced on Monday that it will direct $60 million in federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) towards advancing the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC), a 130-mile pipeline project from Pueblo Reservoir east to Eads, Colorado that will deliver safe, clean drinking water to 50,000 people in 40 communities.

“We are working closely with local communities, the Bureau of Reclamation, and our federal congressional delegation to fund this project to help deliver safe drinking water to Coloradans. I am thrilled by this major investment of federal funds in Colorado and this combined with our $100 million in state grant and loan commits will help get this project done,” said Governor Jared Polis.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) has supported this project with $100 million in grants and loans. The Arkansas Valley Conduit project is the final element of the larger Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962. The project has literally been decades in the making.

The 5.5 mile Boustead Tunnel transports water from the Fryingpan River drainage into the Arkansas by way of Turquoise Lake (pictured here).
Photo courtesy of Klambpatten (with the Bureau of Reclamation.

“The SECWCD is thrilled with the announcement by the Bureau of Reclamation that $60 million from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act has been allocated for construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. This follows on the heels of the award of the first construction contract for the Boone reach,” said Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Senior Policy and Issues Manager Chris Woodka.

“This commitment from BoR is a clear indication of their intent to move this project forward to completion, and to direct resources to it so that clean drinking water will be delivered sooner than originally planned,” he added. “We thank each and every one of you for your patience, and your ongoing support.”

In May, 2022, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper requested the additional funding to complete the project. The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is the local project manager and has urged an acceleration of the construction schedule utilizing the availability of funding from the IIJA.  Chaffee resident and Chair of the Chaffee Board of County Commissioners Greg Felt holds the single Chaffee County seat on the SCWCD Board.

“Chaffee County is the third-largest financial contributor to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District Board (SCWCD) through the mill levy,” said Felt talking to AVV last May. “It’s because our property valuations are so high. A lot of counties don’t have much of their county in the district, but we have a lot. We benefit tremendously from the imported water from the Fry-Ark; that’s supplemental water used by our municipalities and the Upper Ark and we’re working with the agricultural community to facilitate their ability to avail themselves of this extra water when it’s available.”

“This is one of the most critical projects that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been part of,” said CWCB Director Becky Mitchell. “It is essential that every Coloradan – including rural and lower-income communities and our state’s Tribal Nations – have ample access to clean drinking water. It is a basic human right. I commend our Congressional delegation, Governor Polis, and the Bureau of Reclamation for recognizing this need and taking action.”

For this final project element, the Bureau of Reclamation will use the newly available federal funding to build the project trunk line, and local providers will use additional non-federal funds to construct the connections to the trunk line.

Featured image: The AVC agreement would store water in the Pueblo Reservoir, built after President John F. Kennedy signed legislation authorizing the Fry-Ark agreement in 1962, Photo courtesy of the City of Aurora.