Filling Lake Nighthorse – A-LP to fire up this spring

After several years of construction, A-LP is getting ready to suck.

Officials with the local water project said work on the pumping plant on the Animas River, immediately south of Durango, is almost complete. Filling of Nighthorse reservoir could begin as early as March.

“We expect to start pumping sometime this spring,” said Barry Longwell, deputy construction engineer for the Four Corners Office of Reclamation. He said pumping could take anywhere from one to three years, depending on river flows. With current conditions, the filling of the reservoir is expected to take 18 months. “The schedule will be dictated by how much water is in the river. We want to get the reservoir filled as quickly as we can,” Longwell said.

Eight intake pumps serve one main pipe leading uphill to the reservoir, located in Ridges Basin. They range in size from two small ones with a capacity of 14 cubic feet per second each; two medium ones, each with a capacity of 28 cfs; and two large ones, each with a capacity of 56 cfs. Longwell said at the most, six pumps will be working at once. The project is allowed a maximum of 280 cfs at any one given time.

The 120-acre-foot Lake Nighthorse has roughly the same volume as Vallecito Reservoir. However, Nighthorse will be deeper with less surface area.

Longwell said project sponsors are currently working out a plan to manage the project once the reservoir is filled.

– Missy Votel