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A glance at the old Animas-La Plata project
To the editors,
Thanks for keeping the updates on the A-LP project coming. One correction to your recent story, however: In the
history of the project sidebar, you correctly state that the project was authorized in 1968. However, the details of
that incarnation of the project are incorrect.
In fact, the Animas-La Plata project - had it been built as authorized in its gargantuan proportions of 1968 - would
have had as its main feature, the "Howardsville Dam," located a few miles upstream from Silverton. The upper portion
of Baker's Park, from Howardsville to Eureka, would have been a big ice skating rink right now. That's in addition to
a planned reservoir in Hidden Valley (above Turtle Lake) and one at Hay Gulch along with diversion dams and canals.
By no means was the 1968 incarnation the first of the Animas-La Plata Project. The idea of transporting water from
the Animas to the often-parched La Plata drainage was first conceived in the early 1900s, and various studies and
plans were floated in the 1920s and 1930s. Finally, in 1954, the Bureau of Reclamation released a Status Report that
detailed a plan that actually considered placing a dam in the Animas Canyon that would have inundated Silverton. That
was scrapped for the Howardsville Dam and associated projects that were authorized in 1968.
As you stated, the Vietnam War diverted funding away from "reclamation" projects, and then, in 1969, the National
Environmental Policy Act was passed, and three years later, Water Buffalo Wayne Aspinall failed to get re-elected -
three events that stood in the way of constructing water projects. It wasn't until 1974 that someone came up with the
idea of putting a reservoir in Ridges Basin. It was officially proposed in 1979.