A long-awaited project to expand clean drinking water infrastructure to communities in southeastern Colorado will receive $28 million in federal funding.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit will receive the funds from the U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, announced Tuesday.
The Arkansas Valley Conduit was first authorized by the U.S. Congress in 1963 during President John F. Kennedy's administration but never came to fruition. The 130-mile pipeline will provide clean water to some 50,000 residents in 40 communities in the southeastern part of the state.
"The communities of the Lower Arkansas Valley deserve clean drinking water, which the Arkansas Valley Conduit will supply for generations to come," Gardner said in a statement Tuesday.
The $28 million in funding "will help finish final design, pre-construction costs, and begin construction to get to the first community in need," said Gardner, who's running for reelection.
The conduit will draw water from the Pueblo Reservoir, rather than using contaminated groundwater for drinking.
A cost-sharing plan was approved by Congress in 2009 to split costs by 65 percent federal funding and 35 percent local funding.
Gardner was among Colorado's lawmakers who last year sent a letter to Interior Sec. David Bernhardt, who's from Colorado's Western Slope, urging support for the project during the appropriations process.
"Projects like the AVC are not inexpensive, but they are necessary and just for the health and safety of our citizens," the letter says. It was signed by Gardner, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and Ken Buck, R-Colo.
State lawmakers also praised the project's funding in statements Tuesday.
"Despite being authorized by President Kennedy nearly sixty years ago, Southern Colorado's water needs have been put on the back burner year after year by the federal government," Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, said. "Thanks to Senator Gardner's leadership, we will finally see those promises begin to be fulfilled. This is a big deal for dozens of communities in my district and I'm excited to see the Arkansas Valley Conduit finally move forward."
"Water affects everything we do and the Arkansas Valley Conduit will help expand access to clean water across Southern Colorado. That's a huge win for all of Colorado," said Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, who sits on the state legislature's Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee and the Water Resources Review Committee.