Senator Pledges to Fight for Necessary Federal Funding for Completion of the Arkansas Valley Conduit
Pueblo – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet will celebrate the bipartisan efforts to bring clean drinking water to the lower Arkansas Valley at a groundbreaking ceremony at the Pueblo Dam hosted by U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary David Bernhardt and Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) Commissioner Brenda Burman. Bennet has worked with local leaders on the Arkansas Valley Conduit and members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation for over a decade to secure federal funding for this important water infrastructure project in the lower Arkansas Valley.
“It has been a decades long fight to bring clean drinking water to communities along the lower Arkansas Valley. Local leaders like Bob Rawlings, former Congressman Ray Kogovsek, and so many other tireless advocates have never missed an opportunity to come together and put aside politics to fight for this project and the interests of their community,” said Bennet. “As a new senator in 2009, after learning more about this critical project from Congressman Kogovsek, my first accomplishment was to secure the initial round of funding for the Conduit. We have to keep fighting to make sure this project has the funding it deserves, so everyone in the Valley, no matter where they live, has access to clean drinking water."
“The residents of the Lower Arkansas Valley are appreciative of Senator Bennet’s ongoing support – he’s been with us since very beginning of his term,” said Bill Long, Board President, Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District. “The legislation he co-sponsored set forth the mechanism that will provide funding for the Conduit. The support of the entire delegation and Senator Bennet’s leadership has enabled us to look forward to the start of construction.”
“As a young boy in the Arkansas Basin, I sold gold frying pans to support the effort that eventually lead to President Kennedy coming to Pueblo to sign the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project into a law,” said John Singletary, former Chair, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “This was the first step in seeing the Arkansas Valley Conduit built. In the decades since, people like Senator Michael Bennet have never lost sight that this project is more than politics. The Conduit is a vision turned reality to help reduce dry-up of farm ground and provide clean drinking water for 50,000 people in 40 communities east of Pueblo.”
Since coming to the Senate, Bennet has fought for, and successfully secured, resources to plan, design, and move forward on construction of the Conduit. The Arkansas Valley Conduit is the final component of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, a water diversion and storage project in the lower Arkansas Valley. Once constructed, the Conduit will deliver clean drinking water to families, agricultural producers, and municipalities throughout southeastern Colorado. Bennet and former U.S. Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) worked together to enact legislation in 2009 authorizing the construction of the Conduit, and Bennet has pushed ever since for funding to keep the project on schedule.
Background on Bennet’s efforts:
- Congress passed legislation Bennet worked on with Senator Mark Udall to authorize the construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit.
- Bennet worked to secure $5 million in funding to begin construction on the Conduit as part of the Energy and Water Appropriations Conference Report.
- Bennet sent a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation with Senator Udall to quickly approve the Conduit’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS) in order to expedite the project’s completion. The BOR signed the Record of Decision in February 2014 after Bennet’s push.
- After the president’s budget included an insufficient level of funding for the project, Bennet led a bipartisan letter urging the administration and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to allow the Conduit’s construction to move ahead as planned.
- Bennet successfully urged the Department of Interior to designate $2 million in reprogrammed funding from Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 for the Conduit.
- Bennet also secured language in the FY 2015 Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act that sent a clear signal to the Bureau of Reclamation that the Conduit should be a priority project.
- Bennet secured an additional $2 million from the Bureau of Reclamation’s reprogrammed funding for that fiscal year, after the project had initially received only $500,000.
- Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit as part of the FY 2017 Energy & Water Appropriations bill.
- Bennet also introduced a bill with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that would allow the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservation District to more easily pay for its portion of the Conduit’s construction costs.
- Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit for FY 2017.
- Bennet secured $3 million for the Conduit for FY 2019.
- In April, Bennet and Gardner wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), urging them to prioritize funding for the Conduit.
- Bennet, Gardner, Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO-3), and Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO-04) wrote to DOI urging the Department to support the project.
- Bennet secured approximately $10 million each year for the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which includes the Arkansas Valley Conduit, in FY19 and FY20 spending bills.
- BOR announced that the Arkansas Valley Conduit will receive $28 million to finalize design and begin construction on the project in the Lower Arkansas Valley.