$100 million coming to Arkansas Valley project to continue pipeline work to bring clean water to southeastern Colorado

Shanna Lewis/KRCC News
Bill Long, President of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District speaks during the ground breaking ceremony for the Arkansas Valley Conduit Project that will bring clean drinking water to some 50,000 people in the region. (April 28, 2023)

The Arkansas Valley Conduit project is getting another infusion of cash from the federal government.

On Thursday, the Interior Department announced $100 million to continue construction of the water delivery project that has been six decades in the making and finally broke ground in April

Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper said this money will help expedite construction. 

“Now we’ll have a real runway. Here’s how we’re going to get from here to there. I think it’s very exciting for everybody,” he said.

Sen. Michael Bennet described the funding as the “single largest investment” in the history of the project.

“I’ve fought to ensure the federal government keeps its word and finishes this vital infrastructure project for southeast Colorado,” Bennet said in a statement. “I’m grateful to have helped deliver this new funding to provide safe, clean water to nearly 40 communities and 50,000 Coloradans along the Arkansas River.”

In May, Hickenlooper and Bennet wrote to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton to ask for more money to speed up the project. 

While Hickenlooper wasn’t sure if the letter made the difference, he said the state has developed a good relationship with the Bureau and they’ve been working together to deal with the issues the drought along the Colorado River has brought to the forefront.

“And [The Bureau of Reclamation] is out there trying to solve problems. And we had a problem, so we talked about how to prioritize that and how we can solve it,” Hickenlooper said.

The 130-mile conduit has had strong bipartisan support across the state and would bring water from the Pueblo Reservoir to communities to the east.

Last fall, the project received $60 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law, as well as $10 million in past budget appropriations. In 2020, the federal government authorized $28 million to start the project after then Sen. Cory Gardner, Bennet, then Rep. Scott Tipton and Rep. Ken Buck wrote Interior seeking support of the project.

The project is estimated to cost more than $600 million dollars. Under the 2020 project management plan, the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District estimated the project would be done by 2035. But the hope is that all the federal funding could move the completion date “to as soon as 2028.”