02.09.20

Our View: Quenching a decades-old thirst

When President John F. Kennedy vowed in a 1962 speech that people would one day walk on the moon, it took the United States space program less than seven years to make good on his promise. Getting clean drinking water to the residents of Southeastern Colorado has taken a bit longer than that.

Also in 1962, Congress authorized the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, which included a pipeline to provide drinking water to rural communities along the Arkansas River Valley. Kennedy visited Pueblo that year to sign the bill into law.

Yet time passed and, for one reason or another, the Arkansas Valley Conduit never got built. Until now.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner announced last week that $28 million in federal funding has been secured for the 130-mile pipeline, which will serve as many as 40 communities stretching east from Pueblo to Eads and Lamar. The money will come from the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation.

“When you see President Kennedy talk about this pipeline, that was 60 years ago,” Gardner said during an appearance in Pueblo to discuss the project. “To think that it took until 2020 to get this started. ... I don’t know if he thought it would take that long, but the fact is we are actually starting to make real progress.”

File this one squarely in the category of “better late than never.” The pipeline will divert water from Lake Pueblo along a route through the eastern part of the state, with the community of Boone being the first stop along the way.

Because the water will be coming directly from the lake, it won’t have the pollution that flows into the Arkansas River in Pueblo, particularly at the point where Fountain Creek feeds into the waterway. As such, it should provide a cleaner and safer alternative for about 50,000 residents, many of whom currently rely on wells for their drinking water.

While some of us have a tendency to take water for granted, it’s obviously one of our most important resources needed to sustain life. As Colorado’s population increases, so will the challenges of providing enough water, particularly in relatively arid regions like ours.

“This is going to help these communities stabilize their water cost,” Gardner said. “It’s going to allow them to help people talk about moving into their communities and attracting new businesses because they have abundant, affordable clean water. This is going to be a marketing tool for them.”

Getting the Fryingpan project off the back burner required a long and coordinated effort involving many officials at the local, state and federal levels of government. All of them are to be commended for their hard work to make this project a reality.

The last few months, punctuated by last week’s impeachment verdict, have been a tough time in which Americans have been sharply divided along partisan political lines. However, this project stands as an example of what can happen when people put aside their differences and work together toward a common goal.

Like our neighbors to the east, we’ll drink to that.

 

Ag Journal