Durango Telegraph - Animas-La Plata at a glance
Animas-La Plata at a glance

The Animas-La Plata project was first authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1968. At the time, it was seen as a way of fulfilling a century-old agreement with the Southern Ute and Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes and compensating the tribes for their losses with water rights. When it was first approved, the A-LP project was proposed as an ambitious diversion of water from the Animas and La Plata rivers to a series of reservoirs all over the basin, including the headwaters of Hermosa Creek. However, funding fell through courtesy the Vietnam War, and that project was never built.

Since that first authorization, the project has seen numerous challenges and revisions. In 2000, a scaled-down version, coined “A-LP Lite,” was again authorized by Congress. In recent years, “A-LP Lite” has come into being. The project now includes Lake Nighthorse, a 39-billion-gallon reservoir located 2.5 miles southwest of downtown Durango in Ridges Basin. A pumping plant currently siphons up to 280 cubic feet of water per second from the Animas River and pumps it uphill to feed the reservoir. Water stored in the reservoir will serve yet-to-be-determined municipal and industrial needs in Colorado and New Mexico.

The A-LP pumping plant fired back to life several weeks ago and is currently pulling a small volume of water from the Animas. Once spring run-off hits its stride, the plant will hit full capacity in its quest to fill Lake Nighthorse. The reservoir should be topped off sometime in 2011, according to current projections.

– Will Sands

In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows