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Lake Nighthorse Pipeline Project

Project Scope

The City of Durango is developing the Lake Nighthorse Raw Water Supply Line Design Project to solicit proposals for the planning, and ultimately design, of the Lake Nighthorse Reservoir Raw Water Supply Line and Pump Station.

The City would like to improve the resiliency of its water system in the face of drought and aridification, climate change (e.g. runoff timing/volume), aging infrastructure, unplanned mine release, and wildfires, which all impact the ability to fully exercise water rights.

This project will determine the best use of the City's water resources and how to deliver water from Lake Nighthorse Reservoir to Terminal Reservoir. The project also focuses on water rights, stakeholder considerations, pump station location, water quality, and infrastructure design with a strong emphasis on community engagement and support.

The project team will develop 30 percent drawings and technical specifications, a Class 4 Probable Cost of Construction, project schedule, and a phasing plan. This work will then be summarized in the design report. Project workflow

One of the critical success factors for our team will be to identify and coordinate with key stakeholders. The image to the right shows an abbreviated workflow diagram with design, stakeholder engagement, and long-term impacts being interrelated.  Project overview

Project overview diagram

Water Resources

The City of Durango utilizes raw water from the Florida and Animas Rivers. Water from the Florida River flows to Terminal Reservoir by gravity while water from an Animas River is pumped up to Terminal Reservoir via the Santa Rita Pump Station. Both of these water sources have concerns related to their production. Climate change, wildfires, and low flow restrictions have impacted the timing and volume of runoff and the City’s ability to fully exercise its water rights. Combined with the limited storage available at Terminal Reservoir, the resiliency of the City’s water system and the ability to provide water to residents is decreasing. The City owns 3,800 acre-feet of storage rights in Lake Nighthorse. While this significantly increases the City’s water storage rights, there is no way to access the water stored in the reservoir.

The evaluation of water resources will include opportunities for raw water irrigation, and possible supply to Durango Mesa and Three Springs. In addition, possible collaboration, opportunities, and impacts will be evaluated for other reservoir water users such as La Plata West Water Authority, La Plata Archuleta Water Authority, La Plata County, Southern Ute Indian Tribe (SUIT), and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (UMUT).

Public Engagement 

Stakeholders include the larger community of our region, not just city residents: the Southern Ute Indian Tribe (SUIT), the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe (UMUT), and La Plata West Water Authority (LPWWA), Lake Durango Water Authority (LDWA), La Plata Archuleta Water District, La Plata County residents, Animas La Plata Water Conservancy District, and many other water and conservation groups. Local groups such as San Juan Citizen’s Alliance, San Juan Water Conservation District, Mountain Studies Institute, Trout Unlimited and others are also stakeholders in the project.team coordination

The purpose of our partnership with Keystone Policy Center for Tribal and Indigenous Engagement is to provide high quality engagement with tribal nations and additional stakeholders. The intent of Keystone Policy Center’s involvement in the project is to obtain actionable input from tribal nations including, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe, and Navajo Nation on Lake Nighthorse pipeline design, engineering, geographical location, and possible long-term impacts of project implementation. Keystone Policy Center for Tribal and Indigenous Engagement has a proven longstanding record of successful engagement with governmental entities including federal, tribal, state, and local governments.

Stakeholder engagement will take place throughout the project lifecycle. Initial work will include stakeholder communication, building relationships, developing messaging, and understanding potential long-term and short-term impacts to the larger community. In addition to engaging the individual key stakeholders, the project team will host open houses with City staff to share information about the project with the public. Keystone will also host a hybrid meetings, in-person tribal consultations, and periodic check-ins.

history of the water rights for Lake Nighthorse


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