PRIIP: Dr. Morrison Canal rehabilitation project

Dr. Morrison Canal Rehabilitation construction. Removed corroded pipe in center background, removed concrete inlet in left foreground, and Dr. Morrison Canal in left background.
Dr Morrison Canal at failure looking downstream.
courtesy SU Water and Soil Conservation
courtesy SU Water and Soil Conservation

The Dr. Morrison Canal is the largest canal within the Pine River Indian Irrigation Project (PRIIP), which serve 3,100 irrigable acres. 2,250 of these acres are tribal lands and 850 acres are non-tribal. The Canal has failed approximately one mile downstream of the canal heading, making irrigation water undeliverable, and impacting 34 tribal irrigators and 12 non-tribal irrigators. In addition to direct impacts to irrigators off the Dr. Morrison Canal, there are ancillary impacts to the Dry Creek, Goodnight, Potter Pierce, Dale, and Town Ditches which all receive return flows from the Dr. Morrison Canal. The Goodnight Ditch also provides raw water to the Town of Ignacio for lawn and garden irrigation.

The Southern Ute Water Resources Division (WRD) is working to address the current failure and rehabilitate a historically problematic section of the Canal with a long-term permanent fix. Over the years, there have been many repairs to this reach of the ditch by both the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Southern Ute WRD. The repair includes piping approximately 4,100 feet where it is perched on a steep hillside and has failed multiple times. Two 48” pipes will be installed along the problematic reach of the ditch along with concrete inlet and outlet structures, maintenance manholes, an emergency spillway, and drainage to address seepage issues.

The construction for the project will be completed by WCA Construction, LLC; a Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) approved construction company. WCA Construction is highly qualified, having completed the construction of multiple large water resources infrastructure projects.  The total project cost is estimated to be $3.39 million dollars, with the BIA providing $1.5 Million dollars through P.L. 93-638 funding and the remaining funding is sourced from the Animas La-Plata Project (ALP) Resource funds.

The construction for the project has begun, and WCA Construction is prioritizing the failed upstream segment currently preventing water delivery. The pipeline will be constructed as far as possible downstream until the spring irrigation season begins, around April 15, when the construction will be halted to prevent interruptions to irrigation. Construction to finish the rest of the project will recommence at the end of the irrigation season around September 30.

If any irrigators or the public have any questions, please feel free to contact the Southern Ute Water Resources Division at: 970-563-9482.

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