Last updated 2:06AM ET
December 13, 2017
KSUT Regional
KSUT Regional
Final Load Dumped at Ridges Basin Dam
(2007-11-12)
(ksut) - HOST LEAD: A monumental moment was reached at the Ridges Basin Dam; the final load of dirt was dumped. The dam is a part of the Animas- La Plata water project.

KSUT's Sarah Baumgartner reports.

PETE EHAT: IN THE FUTURE WHEN YOU'RE LAUNCHING YOUR BOAT OUT INTO THE RESIVOUR OR HIKING AROUND THE RESIVOUR, THINK ABOUT THIS DAY THAT YOU WERE A WITNESS OF THE LAST LOAD GOING INTO RIDGES BASIN DAM.

SARAH: Pete Ehat can already see the future of the now dirt filled dam.

Ehat, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project engineer, welcomed the nearly 200 people as they stood atop of the 273-foot tall dirt embankment and celebrated the final load of dirt being dumped on the bottom of what is soon to be Lake Nighthorse.

With just 57% of the Animas La-Plata project complete at this point, the dam, which is one of the five main features of the project, will be over 5 million cubic yards of additional clay, rock and sand.
Steve Summy, Weeminuche Construction Authority's general project manager for the A-LP project explains the process to an onlooker.

SUMMY AND LADY: BANTER

Summy believes this occasion isn't only to celebrate the final load being dumped.

STEVE SUMMY: THE HAPPIEST MOMENT IN MY LIFE, ON THIS SITE, IS THAT THE MEN AND WOMEN THAT WORK HERE EXPENDED 1 AND A HALF MILLION MAN HOURS AND WHERE 1 THE NATIONAL AVERAGE ON RECORDABLE ACCIDENTS. YOU CAN'T FIND THAT ANYWHERE.

When the A-LP project is completed, the project will provide the Southern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian tribes as well as people in the four corners area with water supply for the future.

As part of the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe is responsible for construction activities, cultural mitigation and the primary contract. The Southern Ute tribe is responsible for all batched materials.

Ernest House, Chairman of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, says that this project between the Ute's and the legislatures in Washington DC wouldn't have gotten done without a lot of paperwork.

ERNEST HOUSE: ON THE INDIAN SIDE OF THIS WHOLE PROJECT IT HAS BEEN A BIG STRUGGLE. I WAS TELLING MY COLEAUGE CHAIRMAN FROST IF WE DO NOT GET ANY WATER IN THAT RESIVOUR, WE ARE GOING TO FILL IT WITH ALL THE PAPER WORK THAT WE HAD TO PUT IN BACK IN WASHINGTON DC.

The inception of the A-LP project has been in the process for roughly 50 years.
The celebration of the last load being dumped into the dam was a bittersweet moment for some ranchers, like Senator Jim Isgar, who had to give more than they received on this project.

SEN. JIM ISGAR: THIS IS NOT THE PROJECT THAT WE HAD ORIGINALLY INVISIONED. ORIGINALLY IT WAS GOING TO BE AN IRRIGATION PROJECT, IT WOULD'VE PUT WATER OUT ON THE WEST SIDE OF LA PLATA COUNTY. AND IT WOULD HAVE ALLOWED US TO KEEP THE BULK OF THAT LAND IN IRRIGATION. YOU KNOW BECAUSE ONCE YOU SIGN TO TAKE THAT PROJECTS WATER YOUR COMMITTING THAT LAND TO STAY IN AGRICULTURE AND YOU KNOW AND THAT'S THE DISSAPOINTMENT ALONG WITH ALL THE CELEBRATION TODAY BY GETTING THE DAM DONE YOU KNOW A LOT OF US ARE DISSAPOINTED THAT WE DIDN'T GET THE IRRIGATION THAT WAS REALLY THE MOTIVATION ORIGINALLY TO BUILD THIS PROJECT AND YOU KNOW THERE'S A LOT OF GREAT LAND OUT THERE ON THE WEST SIDE OF LA PLATA COUNTY AND VERY LITTLE WATER.

Clement Frost, Chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, recognized the ranchers and their efforts in making the dam possible.

FROST: I'M VERY GRATEFUL TO THE RANCHERS OF THE NON-INDIANS FOR GIVING UP THEIR RIGHTS TO STAND BEHIND THIS TREATY THAT WAS PROMISED TO US TO MAKE WATER AVAILABLE TO THE UTE TRIBE AND THEY GAVE UP A LOT.

Weather dependent, Ridges Basin Dam is scheduled to be filled in 2009. The total estimated cost of the Animas La Plata project is $500 million dollars, scheduled for a completion date in 2012 and Chairman Frost hopes to be around when that day arrives.

FROST: IT'S WITH MY HOPE THAT ONE DAY THAT I'M STILL AROUND TO SEE THE WATER TRICKLE INTO THE ANIMAS LA PLATA PROJECT KNOWN AS LAKE NIGHTHORSE.

From KSUT, Four Corners Public Radio, I'm Sarah Baumgartner.

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