Fryingpan-Arkansas Project celebrates 50th

Water truly is the lifeblood of a community.

That was nevermore a statement of fact than during the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. It was at that time in history that Arkansas River basin leaders created the vision of a more prosperous future. This future would include a plentiful supply of water through the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project (Project).

The vision became a reality 50 years ago with the signing of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project Act by President John F. Kennedy on August 16, 1962. A special celebration was held in Pueblo. The president recognized the importance of the project and its long history by saying, “When [people] come to this state and see how vitally important [water] is, not just to this state, but to the West, to the United States, then they realize how important it is that all the people of this country support this project that belongs to all the people of this country.”

Since this historic date in 1962 the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project has provided southeastern Colorado with 50 golden years of benefits.

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project is a trans-mountain diversion which supplies southeastern Colorado with supplemental water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses, hydroelectric power, and recreational opportunities. The project also provides flood control and is designed to maintain or improve fish and wildlife habitats.

The project acquired its name from the fact that it collects approximately 54,800 acre-feet of water each year from the Fryingpan River basin on the western slope of the Continental Divide and delivers it via the Arkansas River to the water-short eastern slope.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) began construction on the project in 1964, and continued without interruption until September 28, 1990. Construction is completed on all the water supply-related features that were expected to be initially developed.

There are two distinct areas of the project that are separated by the Continental Divide; the western slope, located in the Hunter Creek and Fryingpan River watersheds, and the eastern slope in the Arkansas River basin. The project consists of diversions, conveyances, and storage facilities. The North and South Side Collection System and Ruedi Dam and Reservoir are located on the western slope in the Fryingpan River basin.

Sugar Loaf Dam and Turquoise Lake, Mt. Elbert Conduit, Forebay Dam, Reservoir, and Power Plant, Halfmoon Diversion Dam, Twin Lakes Dam and Reservoir, and Pueblo Dam and Reservoir are all located on the eastern slope in the Arkansas River basin.

The Fryingpan-Arkansas Project has provided the stakeholders of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District (District) 50 years of golden benefits. Water for growing communities, businesses, industry, and agriculture are the greatest benefits. Nature has also benefited from the project, through the sustention of fish and wildlife, and the economic benefits to the area associated with rafting, fishing, and boating. The project protects from devastating floods and produces clean energy.  

Looking forward to the next 50 years, the project will continue to award southeastern Colorado with these valuable benefits and more. The District and Reclamation are planning the construction of the proposed Arkansas Valley Conduit (Conduit). The proposed conduit is an original component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project but has not been built. When completed, the conduit will deliver clean drinking water to approximately 50,000 people in southeastern Colorado.

The District and Reclamation are proposing to study the enlargement of both Sugar Loaf Dam on Turquoise Lake and Pueblo Dam. Enlarging these facilities could provide additional water storage needed by the region.

Contemplating future energy needs, the district is exploring the possibility of constructing a hydroelectric facility on Pueblo Dam. This facility could generate clean energy to be used to benefit the residents of southeastern Colorado.

Forefathers’ vision and the continued investment and commitment of the citizens of today assures residents an important resource for the future…a natural resource that is indeed the lifeblood of a community…WATER.

The District and Reclamation are planning a 50th Anniversary celebration public event on Saturday, August 18, at Lake Pueblo State Park. For additional information please visit or call the District at 719-948-2400.

For more information on Water 2012 in the Rio Grande Basin, please visit www.rgwcei org or Coming up on June 12 is the Rio Grande Round Table monthly meeting at 2 p.m. at the Ramada, former Inn of the Rio Grande, Alamosa. Everyone is welcome to attend and light refreshments will be served. Please contact Mike Gibson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions or Leah Opitz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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