Bennet, Hickenlooper Visit Pueblo to Celebrate $60 Million for Arkansas Valley Conduit from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Denver — Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper joined Bill Long, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board president, Patrick Fischer, Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Area Manager, Jim Broderick, Executive Director of Southeastern Water Conservancy District, Seth Clayton, Executive Director of Pueblo Water, and Rick Jones, General Manager of May Valley Water, in Pueblo to celebrate the announcement of $60 million in new funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to support the completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit (AVC) to provide Coloradans with a secure and safe supply of water.

On Monday, Bennet and Hickenlooper welcomed an announcement from the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) that the AVC will receive $60 million in funds from the BIL for the AVC to expedite its construction timeline. In July, the senators and U.S. Colorado Representative Ken Buck urged the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and BOR to allocate funds from the infrastructure law for the AVC. The Weeminuche Construction Authority, an enterprise of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, has been awarded the contract for this phase of construction of the AVC.

“Sixty years ago, President Kennedy came to Pueblo and promised to build the Arkansas Valley Conduit to deliver clean drinking water to families in Southeastern Colorado. Since I’ve been in the Senate, I’ve fought to ensure the federal government keeps its word to Colorado and finishes this vital infrastructure project,” said Bennet. “One of the first bills I passed helped to jumpstart and fund construction on the Arkansas Valley Conduit, and with this announcement, we’ve delivered more than $140 million to speed up construction and deliver on this decades-old promise.”

“The Ark Valley Conduit is finally getting built! Thanks to our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this project will help provide clean drinking water for Southern Colorado,” said Hickenlooper. 

“We have been working hard to move this project from planning to construction. This announcement follows the first construction contract award, and is a clear indication that the District and Reclamation will continue to partner in this long-time effort to bring clean drinking water to the Lower Arkansas Valley. Our Senators were key to securing the new $60 million in funding for the Conduit from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Thanks to our delegation’s long-standing bipartisan support for this project and the support from the State of Colorado, the conduit is on Reclamation’s front line for construction,” said Bill Long, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board president.

“Now more than ever, people in the Arkansas River Valley understand the immense value of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project and the Arkansas Valley Conduit,” said Jeff Rieker, Eastern Colorado Area Manager. “We look forward to the day when these residents can open the faucet and know that their drinking water is safe and healthy.” 

“As a regional leader in water issues in southern Colorado, Pueblo Water is proud and honored to be a part of this historic moment and help push the Arkansas Valley Conduit forward, and we were glad to join Sens. Bennet and Hickenlooper today to celebrate this new funding for the Conduit. It was 60 years ago that President Kennedy signed the legislation that created the Frying-Pan- Arkansas project. This is a project that all Southeastern Coloradans rely on, and the AVC is the final piece,” said Seth Clayton, Executive Director of Pueblo Water.

“Just a few months before President Kennedy visited Pueblo in 1962 to authorize construction of the Ark Valley Conduit, family farm members from across the May Valley and the Wiley area came together and organized to bring water to the region, and since then, May Valley Water has served our communities. We’re grateful this new funding will speed up the construction of the Conduit to provide May Valley Water members and consumers with safe and reliable drinking water,” said Rick Jones, General Manager of May Valley Water.

“This is one of the most critical projects that the Colorado Water Conservation Board has been part of,” said Becky Mitchell, Colorado Water Conservation Board Director. “It is essential that every Coloradan - including rural and lower-income communities and our state’s Tribal Nations - have ample access to clean drinking water. It is a basic human right. I commend Senators Bennet and Hickenlooper and the Bureau of Reclamation for recognizing this need and taking action.”

The AVC is a planned 130-mile water-delivery system from the Pueblo Reservoir to communities throughout the Arkansas River Valley in Southeast Colorado. This funding will expedite the construction timeline for the Conduit and allow for federal drinking water standards to be met more quickly by local water providers. The Conduit is the final phase of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which Congress authorized in 1962.

Bennet and Hickenlooper have consistently advocated for increased funding for the AVC. In May, the senators sent a letter to the Appropriations Committee to include funding for the AVC in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 spending bill. In March, Bennet and Hickenlooper helped secure $12 million for the Conduit from the FY22 omnibus bill. Bennet and Hickenlooper will continue pushing Washington to ensure Colorado has the resources needed to complete this vital project for the region.

Prior to this announcement, Bennet helped secure more than $80 million for the AVC. In 2009, Congress passed legislation written by Bennet and former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) to authorize a federal cost share for the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit. 

In 2013, Bennet and his colleagues sent a letter to the BOR to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in order to expedite the project’s pre-construction process. In 2014, following Bennet and Udall’s efforts to urge the BOR to quickly approve the Conduit’s EIS, the Record of Decision was signed in February. He joined the groundbreaking for the project in October 2020.