It’s possible more federal resources could be shifted toward the Arkansas Valley Conduit next year, but a federal official said budget constraints could mean a hard time funding construction.
That was the wrong answer for U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who wants Reclamation to step up and fund the project.
Gardner questioned Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Deputy Secretary Mike Connor Tuesday about insufficient conduit funding in an energy and natural resources committee hearing.
The 130-mile pipeline was authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. It would serve 40 communities east of Pueblo. A funding mechanism using Fry-Ark contract payments to repay the federal government was signed into law in 2009, Gardner said.
But adequate funding has not followed.
“This year, the administration’s request was only for $500,000,” Gardner
said. “In 2012, President (Barack) Obama actually went to Pueblo, Colorado, where the project originates and stated that the Arkansas Valley Conduit will be built. Is this project receiving the kind of priority it should to be completed?”
Connor said the next phase of the project, a feasibility study, will take $5 million-$6 million.
“Overall, we’re looking at this in bite-sized pieces,” Connor said. “The bottom line is that we are in a constrained resources environment.”
The Bureau of Reclamation shifted $2 million in resources to the conduit this year, and could find money within its budget to do the same next year, Connor said.
He sounded less confident about the future funding of the construction of the conduit, which could be as much as $400 million, saying a state loan and funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Commerce might be needed to get the job done.
“We’re going to have a hard time funding construction,” Connor said. Gardner said the conduit should remain a priority for Reclamation.
“I know there has been talk about cobbling funding together from Commerce, EPA and others,” Gardner said. “But again, this is and has been for 50 years a Reclamation project and we’d like to continue our work together on this.”
This article was written by Chris Woodka from The Pueblo Chieftain, Colo. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.